Monday, December 15, 2008

The Best Laid Plans.. REALLY...I had EVERY intention of doing regular postings during the course of my training cycle for the California International Marathon, but life always seems to get in the way. Clients, training programs, maintaining some vague semblance of a social life, and the distressing, but overwhelming urge to sleep on occasion prevented me from being diligent about regularly posting. So, I will try to synopsize how training unfolded from mid-September until race day.

Given the kind of schedule I have, I found myself logging most of my runs in the middle of the day for the majority of my training. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem, but it was unseasonably warm in San Francisco for pretty much all of September, October, and part of November. Global warming, anyone? It's kind of hard to 'celebrate' the great weather when you haven't seen weather like this in San Francisco like....ever. Also, the heat/humidity ABSOLUTELY made running a beast every single time I stepped outside.

Setting aside the challenges associated with the heat and humidity, I began to find myself virtually always running on fumes after about 6 weeks of consistent training. I knew I wasn't getting enough sleep during the week as this training cycle fell right in the middle of the busiest time of year for me in terms of personal clients. This meant getting up at 6AM most days to work with clients and meeting with clients again in the evening after 6PM or so. It's virtually impossible for me to go to bed any earlier than 10PM, but that's really what I needed to do. Unfortunately, it almost never happened. This meant my recovery was frequently compromised and I didn't feel terribly sharp for most of my key workout. Nevertheless, I soldiered on. I had already booked the hotel and paid for race registration.

In mid-October, I went on my first vacation in over four years. The two weeks prior to my vacation was nothing short of RIDONKULOUS! (Forgive me...I just discovered this word and I can't fully explain why this word works for me.) To summarize, I was burning the candle at both ends and in the middle. I felt like crap as soon as I got on the plane. I tried deluding myself for awhile that all I needed was a couple days of rest and I'd be feeling sharp again.

Within 24 hours of arriving in Kauai, my immune system completely collapsed. Did I mention this was my first vacation in four years? Did I mention I was also training for a marathon? I had no choice but to laugh lest I drown in my own tears. Despite my compromised immune system, I was still determined to get most of my training in.

What unfolded was the most UNPLEASANT stretch of running I've had in years. I've had more than my fair share of runs that didn't go so well, but this was RIDONKULOUS (Ok...this is REALLY the last time I'm using this word for this posting...maybe.). Literally, every single run felt crappy from the get go. Granted, there was SIGNIFICANT heat and humidity to contend with in addition to my compromised immune system, but after about 4-5 days of this, I really thought maybe it was time to hang up the running shoes and try ultimate fighting...or professional wrestling.

By the time my vacation wrapped and I was en route back to San Francisco, my confidence was shaken about tackling California International. But, I held to the hope that better weather and an improved immune system would help me get back on track. The weather was still warm when I returned to SF in late October, but cool in comparison to what I endured in Kauai. By the way, if you're going to be sick as a dog, Kauai's not a bad place to convalesce. I should also mention that I had already been sick once before during this training cycle....and I pretty much never get sick. Overtraining, anyone?

I earnestly continued with the training despite everything recognizing that I really only had about another 4 weeks of quality training left and just about every run counted at this point. The fatigue that haunted my training from the beginning never really dissipated, but it had been 3+ years since I had attempted anything like this, so in some respects it was no real surprise.

My confidence was already dipping a bit and a 2:39:59 was beginning to seem like a pipedream. About a week before my biggest long run of the season, I blew out my right ankle in the middle of a pace run. This setback initially seemed devastating. But, after wincing in pain with each step I realized the ankle wasn't broken. I managed to painfully jog all the way back home and attacked the ankle with ice, compression, elevation, etc.

Given where I was in my training, it really wasn't an option to take time off...unless the ankle was actually broken which wasn't the case. I bought a bulky ankle brace that provided the support and comfort of an iron boot. It wasn't fun to run in the brace, but it provided what I needed for the next couple weeks.

Finally, my biggest long run of the cycle arrived. 22 miles with 12 miles near my target pace. I took the day off before this run to allow myself some extra rest/recovery and slept well the evening before. I woke up feeling fairly confident I could pull this one off despite yet another day of unseasonable heat/humidity.

I consciously held back A LOT the first 8 miles to marshall my resources for the 12 miles at target pace. Things went well and the 12 miles at target pace were a tad slower than my target pace, but given the heat/humidity it was right at the level of effort I would need to run a 2:39:59 on race day. The last two miles of the run were hell on earth, but fortunately I just needed to get these miles in, pace was virtually irrelevant.

I had survived everything...a 3 year layoff from marathon training, two nasty colds, a blown out ankle a week before my biggest long run, but was I really ready for this?

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