Well, my quads are wrecked but the upshot is that Ross is having a ball since he can now run faster than me, and even with mum getting a head start, my five year old is currently 3 for 3. Just for fun, I tried flexing my quads today and apart from a pathetic little tremor, nothing happens. Seeing as I couldn’t walk properly for days following my first attempt at the marathon–which was twenty years ago–I am actually doing pretty well. It would be nice to be running again in 10 days or so.
Such a funny sport, this marathon stuff. You train so hard for weeks and weeks. You become consumed by running, pace and mileage, bordering on obsessive about all things pertaining to training, then you run for 2-3 hours (or 4, but you get what I mean), in which time you may or may not perform to your potential and the result is that you can’t run at all for at least a week, maybe 2.
I was in the zone this time. In July I had the Victoria marathon in the back of my mind. Last year’s race was fun and so fulfilling being a part of Team Jack and raising money for the Vancouver Children’s Hospital to help kids with cancer. I definitely went into last year’s race mother tired, undertrained, sick but otherwise completely inspired and full of purpose. I really only remember smiling the whole way and finishing in 2:56. After that bout of 42.2 I started to wonder if there was a faster marathon in me still. To be honest, if I have a weakness as a runner, I believe it’s in my relentless introspection into whether I have the ability to master the long distance race.
So when Marilyn called me up in August and told me she was going for a fall marathon and did I want to come along for some training, I jumped right on board. With several 2 plus hour runs under my belt I felt ready to ramp things up and set some serious pace goals. For eight weeks I ran hard, got lots of rest, was careful, did a ton of pace work at 3:50/km, bought L glutamine and recovery drinks, sucked back double latte Gels like they were going out of style, drank vitamin C, wore out several pairs of NB 759’s, got a black toe nail, got massage, wore a good luck bracelet that Maia made me, got up at 5:30AM to run, did a mix of trails and road, paid attention to breath and biomechanics, stretched lots, ate well, drank lots of water, took my multivitamins with iron, kept a log, planned out my training and just plain enjoyed the process.
At first the mileage and long tempo runs felt like they were going to break me down, but my body adapted really well and within 3-4 weeks I was able to sense the strength and endurance increasing. Running with Marilyn was pure fun; we have the same cadence and stride length, she’s positive and a hard worker and she came with the added bonus of a Garmin. I felt like I had my own personal running robot to run with and I mean that in a totally good way. it’s been a while since I had a training partner to share workouts with and I was feeling rested for the first time in ten years, since neither of my kids have ever slept terribly soundly until they started school, and Ross just started kindergarten: lo and behold, he’s sleeping solid nights and wow, I feel like a normal human again. I no longer need Starbucks at 6AM, and sorry for the aside, but I now know why every time I ever went to the playground with my kids while they were little, every parent there was trying to negotiate swings and slides and strollers and ladders while holding a cup of caffeine.
I tackled the two week taper as calmly as I could, always hard to back off when the going is good, and even after all these years the taper never gets mentally easier, just saner. All I can do is set the schedule, be careful and follow through.
Race weekend in Victoria is always a blast. It’s like Hawaii World Champs without the heat, humidity, underwear run, 10 000 dollar bikes, tans and extroverted semi naked athletes running around. (So maybe nothing like it, just a parallel perhaps). The conference centre buzzes, nervous runners file in and out, and people discuss weather, their taper and their goal times. After Maia’s early morning soccer game, I headed down to pick Marilyn (and her attached bag of meds and walker: I’ve had bikes, strollers, skateboards and stationary trainers in my car but never a walker!) for our gig at the Speaker’s Series at the race expo. Now this was fun! I had assembled Marilyn, and past multiple marathon winners Cheryl Murphy and Suzanne Evans, and acting as the talk show host I got to ask the questions this year.
In the afternoon, I continued to watch the live coverage of IM World championships on the computer, getting final inspiration from the gutsy efforts of the male and female winners as they ran to the line. Little did I know that the next morning, I would be thinking constantly about Mirinda Carfrae and her 2:55 and convincing myself that if she can do it off the bike, I can do it as well as I could.
So this is where I continue with the abridge version of what happened in the marathon because it’s about the same as last year. I knew right off the bat that I wasn’t on fire. I started out in 4 min/k pace and that was what I had that day. After 24km, things started getting hard, my legs resisted the pace and from 27-37km, well that was a hard 10km stretch. I kept on my gel schedule, used all my mental and emotional tricks to keep the legs turning over as well as I could. One step at a time, one corner, one block, thinking about little Ross and my dad at the finish, positive thoughts, another minute….on and on and on until the last wonderful 2k stretch down Dallas, through James Bay, through the cheering crowds that seem to propel you forward. The sun came out, it warmed up and finally there was the Wax Museum, the finish line and Steve King’s comforting voice calling me in. End result was third place and first master. Although it was a slow day and I did have a little sufferfest out there, pulling myself back into third in the late stages of the race was still very gratifying, mainly because I actually got to ‘race’ and use my competitive spirit. But I got almost the exact same time as last year. Go figure.
As my brother Dan stated, fresh off his own tough Hawaii Ironman day the day before I raced: “None of these events get any easier. You just have to set out to enjoy them as much as possible, so when everything goes well/or not you realize and appreciate the achievement and what you overcome to complete it.” Nice perspective Dan!
Thanks PowerBar for the gels, NB for the awesome gear, the Goodlife Fitness Marathon Committee for a First Class race and to my Dad and my friend Ros for helping with my kids so I could pull this one off.
And to all you runners put there…nice work!