Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Wisdom of KB

I really haven't told too many people that I'm training for the marathon. In fact, my blog has about 5 loyal readers, and I'd say maybe 10 people in total even know it exists. Of course, it's possible that some weary internet traveler may have stumbled on my writings, but after a picture of missing toenails, I may have lost this portion of my audience.

My closest friends here in the Windy City know about my undertaking. When I told one of them, she looked at me cynically and said, "Are you crazy? People aren't meant to run 26.2 miles."

Alright, not the boost of confidence and support I would have liked. And of course, she does in fact support me in my endeavor. Nonetheless, I hate to say it, but she's right. It's just not meant to be.

I'm reading a book about marathons (courtesy of my thoughtful and ever-supportive sister-in-law) by Hal Higdon, who is basically a marathon god. If you google him, you'll find him all over the net, with his training guides, classes, forums, and a litany of running successes. Truth be told, he's not a bad writer, either. Go figure.

He was commenting on why most training programs only take you up to 20 miles. He said that "20 miles is the marathoning wall," and the reason behind this is that at approximately 20 miles, it's estimated that the body has run its glycogen stores dry, and begins to metabolize fat for energy, which is far less efficient. He also makes note that for established runners, this happens at about 2 hours. Right. So... am I running out of glycogen at 2 hours (aka 10-12 miles) or at 20 miles? Where's my wall?

That's one obstacle our body presents us. The there's the wear and tear. Let's reflect on my run yesterday. I did everything I know how to do to make this a successful run. I mentally prepared for my run all week. I ate primarily carbs the day before(including a pasta dinner) and drank plenty of water. I woke up 35 minutes before I started running and ate a granola/nut/dried fruit bar for quick metabolize-able energy. I ran early to avoid heat (started at 0615) I hydrated adequately on the run. I used "goo" packs ever 5 miles to replete my electrolytes. I obeyed my walk/run pace, and as I got tired near the end I allowed myself to walk a little more frequently. I did my best to set myself up for success. The only thing I forgot was my pre-run ibuprofen, which I am certainly missing today, but I'll survive. When I returned from my run, I drank a vitamin water and ate a protein bar, and was sure to stretch well.

In total, I ran 19 miles yesterday. My training program only wanted me to run 18, but a friend who has run many marathons suggested that I get to 22 miles before the race, not 20. So I am advancing my runs a little rather than adding in an extra run, and therefore keeping myself on schedule for my taper.

When I got back, my legs were totally exhausted. Just absolutely spent. Then I started to survey the injuries. When I took my shoes off, I had blisters on 6t of my toes. My right upper arm is scraped and irritated - it seems the underwire of my sports bra does not lay flush on that side, and while each individual swing of my arms provided no pain, 3.5 hours caused an abrasion on my skin. And this was just 19 miles. There's 7.2 more to go on game day.

My friend is right. Humans are not meant to run 26.2 miles.

But we do it - or at least try to. Hal Higdon makes reference in his book that even as a professional runner, there have been many marathons he was unable to finish. While this sort of scares me, I also find this really refreshing. I mean here's a guy that's dedicated his life to running, and even he falters at times. He also comments that marathons now are far different. In fact, the Chicago marathon has over 40,000 participants, and 40% of those are often first time runners. He states that although the average marathon time has lengthened, the success rates for the number of people are finishing are far higher. For first time marathoners that use a structured, paced training plan, the success rate is like 99%. It's all about what your goals are - for most people running marathons today, the goal is to finish, not to log a record breaking time.

I got to thinking about this yesterday. I ran 19 miles in about 3.5 hours (210 minutes). That's 7 miles left to go. If I walked the rest of the race at a 20 min/mi pace because I was too tired, I would add another 140 minutes, for a total of 350 minutes or 5.8 hours. That is STILL within the required finish time for the marathon. Now I don't think I'll have to walk the last 7 miles - that's clearly not what I'm saying. I'm just looking at my goal: Finishing. And at this point, even in the worst case scenario that I can do no better than what I did yesterday, I'd still do it. And even if it took me 5.8 hours, I can still say I did it... and not many people can say that.

I'm impressed with myself for many reasons throughout this journey. From the second I considered running a marathon, I was doubtful I'd ever be able to do it. Yesterday, I ran 19 miles. That's insane! Also, my determination has been constant throughout this process. While I'm a very driven person, this is a long goal with a long training program, and I think it's easy to fall off the wagon. I have not missed a single training run since May, and I've logged every single mile outside and not one on a treadmill. To date, that's 323.06 miles. I find the fact that family and friends will be here to cheer me on as motivation. They're coming all this way to support me - I've got to live up to my claims! But no matter how you slice it, this is for me, and while I'd usually rather jump in the lake around mile 15 rather than continuing to run, I keep going... and each week, I keep surprising myself. I figure I'll run with it.

Complete, not compete. 34 days, 19 hours, 5 minutes.

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