Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Operation Bubble Wrap

How is it April 1st already?  Seems like just last week I was stressing out over how I was ever going to heal enough in time to train for Boston, and now it's less than three weeks away.  (Well actually it was just last week I was stressing over healing in time for Boston).

At this point, all of the hard work of training is done.  I topped out last week with a 40+ mile week, my first 40 mile week all season, and possibly ever.

I'm proud to say that I maintained discipline during this whole training season, and stuck to my objectives.

  • 10% weekly mileage increases each week, with a scale back week every 4th
  • Run only every other day, and if I have to run two consecutive days, one needs to be super easy
  • Don't "make up" miles if something got thrown off course
  • Don't compare myself to others
  • Don't get caught up in other peoples' paces or distances
  • Don't jump up the long-run distance too drastically
  • Be flexible, back off or switch days if something doesn't feel right
  • Don't take risks with bad footing.  The treadmill is my friend.
  • Don't squeeze in one extra long run to catch up (from starting my training late)
  • Cross train
Sure, some of the weeks got a little screwy with some weather challenges or physical issues, including surgery at the end of February (not running related, believe it or not!).  But I maintained flexibility and sought out alternatives to make it work.  If I couldn't run, I substituted it with a hard effort on the bike trainer.  (Seriously, if you haven't checked out Trainer Road, it's a real suffer fest.  No really, they have a program named Sufferfest).

I feel like my plan was validated when I just read this article in Runner's World about mistakes to avoid while tapering.  Two of them seemed directed specifically at me:

  • Playing long-run catch-up. Whether an injury or life detour got in your way of getting in all your planned long runs, squeezing a long run in the weekend or two before your target race can leave you fatigued on race day with your best efforts already exerted. It appeases your mind but can negatively affect your performance. It’s better to go into the race with a shorter long run or fewer long runs than to cram them in last-minute to reach the magic number of long runs on paper.
  • Jumping up in long-run mileage. It can be tempting to jump up in miles too dramatically (ex: from 16 to 20 miles) in the final phases of training to reach the magic number (20) but when you do, you risk injury, fatigue and a suffer-fest. There’s nothing worse than to go into the marathon just after a humbling long run. It can really mess with your mind and your body. It’s not about reaching 20 miles; it’s about toeing the line as strong and recovered as possible in that given season. One of my best marathons was done on one 16-miler. The foundation of training is more valuable than one or two long runs.

The second bullet is particularly directed to me.  After my last long run of 16 miles (a pretty big jump from 13) I was feeling pretty confident.  This past weekend was the last "big" run before tapering, and everyone was doing the 21 miles on course from the start line in Hopkinton to Boston College.  In my heart I knew I could do it, but I was only supposed to run 18.  I nearly convinced myself to run the whole 21, until two days before, when it occurred to me, that I had nothing to gain by running those extra 3 miles, but a lot to lose if it didn't go well.

I referred back to my original list of cardinal rules, and stuck to my plan of 18 miles.  Mom dropped me off at the Dunkin Donuts in Ashland, exactly 3 miles into the course, and I just hopped right in with the thousands of other runners out on the course.  The whole day was a positive experience.  It was my first time on the course since last year's marathon, and I'm glad I got that out of the way.  All the ruck marchers were out, carrying heavy sacks and waving their flags that are banned from Boston.  The Boston Fire Department bus dropped off their runners and then leap-frogged us the whole way to BC.  I stopped and offered my condolences to them and thanked them for their service.  I overheard many people thanking the veterans for their service as well, and was amazed at the generosity and spirit of everyone out on the course.  It was truly a special day and reminded me that although Boston is still raw, it's full of humanity and hope.  Okay enough of that, I'm going to make myself cry.

As we huddled in the Dunkin Donuts in Brighton for warmth and caffeine, we all congratulated each other for finishing our runs and pondered the next few weeks.  Chances of injuries are decreased at this point since our mileage is backing down, but the real concern is sickness!  There is so much going around right now, and I'm doing everything in my power to avoid any unnecessary contact with anyone or anything.  I'm also a bit of a hypochondriac during marathon training.  Over the last month or so, I've diagnosed myself with clots in my legs, a collapsed lung, an aneurysm, and several stress fractures.  Oh and some grave illness they were talking about on The Doctors, which I can't remember.  Poor Kristen has to hear it every time, too.  She's used to my panic texts, which go something like, "I think I have a sore throat. Not sure.  Might be thirsty. What should I do?"  I think that has happened 3 times in the last 3 weeks. I did have some legit tenderness where I've had multiple stress fractures, so that as you can imagine thrust me into major panic mode.  I backed off for a day, and then it was fine.

Yesterday I went in for a pre-marathon cortisone shot in my heel, which will hopefully ease my foot pain through the marathon and beyond.  The next couple weeks will be focusing on sticking to my plan, not trying anything new and foolish, listening to my body, and hiding from everyone.  No you cannot borrow my pen, shake my hand, or take a sip of my drink (even if you swear you're not sick).  This my friends is a germ-free zone.

Stay safe, stay healthy my friends!

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