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in a good place

January 31, 2009

It may not last, but at this moment, I’m in a confident, good place in my training.

It’s true, every 20 miler has gotten progressively slower. But I think that’s a function of my running with Natalie, who’s recovering from her 70.3 (I can’t even comprehend that kind of endurance event). And I’m thankful for her company; she’s a steady pacer and good conversation for many miles, an unflagging, happy partner on the road.

I’m happy to do most of my training by myself. I pace myself, I recover and run slowly when tired, and run fast when I feel like it. I wrote my own training schedule , fitting it around my life. I also tweak it myself, doing the workouts when I feel like it, pushing myself most of the time but occasionally giving myself a break or swapping a rest day for an easy day when I need to.

But I’m blessed with happy running friends, too, with whom I can run on occasion. This switches up my training and helps me run faster without burning out. In addition, it helps me glean great training tips and keeps me motivated along the way to greater goals.

I’m one 50-mile week away from taper. Though I know some would consider 50 miles extremely light for marathon training, I’m going to have to trust them to do the job for me for my first 26.2. Anything higher would have risked injury–even this mileage level is leaving me close to burnout. And it’s my first marathon. I don’t intend to race it, but to treat it as a learning experience. I intend to put in more miles, more speedwork, and more varied training, if I ever decide to race another.

Though I intended to do more speedwork, I think in the final balance I was wise to shuck it in favor of easier miles that would be easier on my legs. Risking injury wasn’t worth speed, not for this marathon. Increasing mileage was the primary goal, and doing speedwork was an additional stress that I had to sacrifice to the higher purpose of running the race at all.

And I didn’t shirk on my long runs or my daily mileage, though it was more than tempting. The darkness is pervasive at 5 o’clock, even in Florida.

I’m thrilled that I scheduled four 20-mile runs, and I’ll be even more thrilled if two of them end up crossing the 20-mile threshold; last week’s was 21 ½ and I hope to make it to 23 next week. I’ve learned more about fueling and pacing from those runs than I can put in these entries, and the confidence that I’ll have at the starting line, knowing I’ve covered that distance, is intangible but real.

Finally, looking at my pacing for those longer runs is giving me the additional confidence to know that the projected times I’m looking at on the marathon pace band I intend to wear on race day might be achievable. To run 9:30 miles, then 9:15, and then sub-9 at the end of a 20-mile run is encouraging and instructive–pacing and fueling well are key.

Can I keep my mind from playing tricks on me during three whole weeks of taper? It remains to be seen.

Today, I’m in a good place: thankful for good training, good friends, for running.

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