Monday, May 6, 2013

Looking Down from Above

Have you ever spent months working on a big project, and felt burned out before the project even ended? Or drained and worn-out because of how much time you invested in it?

That's how I was feeling post-Eugene. Don't get me wrong, I love running. But between Eugene '12, Chicago '12, and Eugene '13, I've been in training mode for the last 16 months. And being in training mode for that long is just draining. (You like that rhyming there?? No? Alright, I'll just go in the corner and laugh to myself then.)

You know what else is taxing? Training for a goal and not meeting it. After missing the BQ (Boston Qualifying) standard in Eugene, my first thought was to sign up for a summer marathon so I could get one last chance to try to qualify for Boston '14 (the cutoff is in September). However, I felt that I needed a break before I could even think about starting training for another marathon. I wanted to get my head in the right place before I start the next round of training (which, in case anyone's wondering, it's the Marine Corps Marathon in October).

My time off from running allowed me to catch up on my life and wrap my head around the race. 

I finally went to First Thursday for the first time (after living here for a year and a half)...
A whole exhibit on chickens! Only in Portland... (Go watch the first episode of "Portlandia." I would post the clip, except it's unavailable on YouTube.)

Mural in the Pearl. Even on my break from running, I can't escape Pre!
I caught up with plenty of friends (which may or may not have entailed happy hour and brunch), and went to a fine Cinco de Mayo festival (just fine though -- what kind of CDM fiesta has Chinese food for sale??). I also worked on my thesis, which needed to happen because I hadn't devoted as much time to it as I should have due to marathon training.

I also wanted to take a step back to find out what I did wrong so I (hopefully) don't make the same mistakes in Marine Corps. After all, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  Thank you all for your comments and advice! Would you believe that this was the first time I've ever taken a good, hard look at my running to see how I could improve?? Once I took a step back, I felt like I was on the roof of a building and getting an aerial view of the sport of running and my race history. And in a way, life in general.

-I had delayed runner's high. Not qualifying created a runner's low (if there is such a thing), but once I broke past that and started appreciating the PR, the runner's high set in. And to be honest, part of me is still amazed that I ran a 3:08 marathon.

-I have an issue with pacing. I get too excited at the start of the race, fly through the first half of the marathon, and then have to slow down in the second half. Steven had a wise suggestion for preventing this -- start in a slower corral.

-After reading Kat and Erin's comments on my fueling, I thought about my fueling strategy, and realized that it was quite flawed. For some brilliant reason, I thought that two gels (220 cals altogether) would be enough for 26.2 miles when I had been consuming that many calories on my 20-21 mile runs. Furthermore, I didn't consume anything in the final 10K, when I was probably in greatest need of glycogen.

-Runners typically prioritize the races on their calendars, and one way of doing so is by classifying them as A, B, or C races. The most important ones are A races, and the least important ones are C races. If I shell out money for a race, I want to do well in it, and so it becomes an A race. I know that after a marathon wears you out, it takes a while to get back to normal. For that reason, I don't schedule races for a few weeks post-marathon. (Except for free, untimed fun runs -- those are my C races.)

-Marathon training is like a job, in that it consumes a large amount of time. (Between warm-up stretching, running, cool-down stretching, foam rolling, long run planning, pre- and post-long run food prep, etc., I wouldn't be surprised if training took up at least 15 hours/week.) If you're going to perform your job to the best of your ability, you need some time off. I'm not talking about 1-2 rest days/week, because that's simply a weekend for the marathon training job. I'm talking about a full-fledged, leave-the-trainers-in-the-closet break that lasts multiple days. In a full-time job, you typically receive a block of paid time off that's meant to be used for recharging your batteries (or so that's my view). Why should marathon training be any different?

-More importantly, I concluded that I wanted to register for a summer marathon so I could have a do-over, and prove to everyone (but mainly myself) that I am capable of doing what they believe I can do. I thought that if I did that, then I could erase the sour memory that not qualifying at Eugene created. But  erasing the memory would mean erasing the whole experience. Maybe I didn't BQ. Maybe I spent the second half thinking that it was the worst race ever. But I set a new PR and learned so much from this race. And life isn't about erasing the bad events. It's about learning to take the bad with the good, and using both to become your best self.

(I should confess that I ended my complete break from running on Saturday so I could join the Front Runners for their Saturday morning fun run. I hadn't been able to join them for a few weeks, and so it was nice to be able to return to the group. I kept the run to a conversational pace, and it felt good.)

1 comment:

  1. So good to read this. I'm so happy that you've taken a step back and have examined your Eugene experience from a better, more "detached" (yea, right!) perspective. Races are always good learning experiences--even the ones that go well--and it sounds like you've gotten a lot of learning fodder in the past week that'll inform your MCM training and race experience in the fall. You should be so effin floored with running 26.2 miles in 188 minutes. Seriously. As my dad would say, "I wouldn't even drive 26 miles if I didn't have to!" :) congrats again on an awesome training cycle for Eugene and a rockin' PR.