Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Victory Lap?

Sponsored by an ambulance service?!
With the Boston Qualifying time under my belt and my registration confirmed, I was still inclined to get out and run one more marathon in 2017.  After running four last year, the itch lingered and the office was clearing its throat for me to start burning through the vacation days I had piled up.

I had a strong interest in returning to Nashville to get another massive bit of bling and take a shot at winning my age group in a smaller, now-familiar race, but Portland beckoned as well. With Portland, there was also the opportunity to visit a city that I had heard so many positive things about.

With Boston 6 1/2 months away friends have been regularly asking what I was going to do to get ready for it and I openly admitted the possibility that the motivation may not be there since racing there might be the cherry on the cake. I have actually wondered how many more marathons I'd want to do after next April. I've thought about being a pacer in future races but have said more than a few times that it would be tempting to treat Boston as a victory lap and that there was just a remote chance of me going back regularly or annually after doing it in 2018.  I have not expressed the recognition, however, that training at the pace I have throughout 2017 was not going to be sustainable and that I would have to take some kind of break between now and the end of the year before bearing down for the new year.

That retreat had already begun in earnest since qualifying. I have not been running as much or eating as carefully as I had through the year to this point. In September, I made my mileage goal only on the very last day on the month.  So this morning, I lined up for marathon number ten with plans to maintain the pace I kept in August with a bit of help from being on a relatively flat course at sea level.  I started out well though I needed an early bathroom break (my fourth in all of the races I've run in the last 7-8 years) and kept a strong pace through the first third of the race.

The recent lack of hill training made its point to me around the 13K mark but it did not put too big a dent in me.  I stayed on target pace for the race up until the 30K mark and felt the legs go tight and felt an unfamiliar compression (it seemed) on my lower ribs. From that point on, I laboured and lost in range of 5-6 minutes over that last stretch of the race and finished with a 3:34. Not feeling the pressure to run faster, I focused on remaining comfortable and steady for the last 12K and still felt that I could get close to the qualifying time.  Being passed by the 3:30 pacer was demoralizing but I did what I could to keep pace with them.  However, according to my GPS, I somehow ran an extra 600 metres, which did not help.  The tightness I experienced is rather unusual as I'm more accustomed to having a flabby, weakened feeling set upon my legs when a race takes its toll on me. On top of the achy legs, is soreness in the arms from pumping through the way I did.

So the day winds down with a bit of clock watching due to a flight delay while the rose I received for completing the race dries. It was a fun race and I am abundantly amused that the race finisher T-shirts were sponsored by an ambulance service, a reminder that this is the original extreme sport.

Mentally, I did not have the focus I had in August, or the confidence that I had then either. I was quite possibly cocky, rather than confident and I was not telling myself to have fun and to succeed as I did in August.  Instead, my mind was a less-focused blankness and I did not assert myself in this race. I was rather withdrawn from my fellow racers, as was the case in May this year.  The question is whether the mental aspect is something that will come to be or if it is something that I can force myself into.

Still, managing my third best marathon on a day when my fitness was not at its peak is an assuring indication of what my body is capable of.  With a few nagging aches to look after and a light racing schedule for the rest of the year, it will be time to ease up a bit, rest my body and mind and start to ramp up the training for Boston as winter sets in and I prepare to make my next marathon a more meaningful and memorable one.

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