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12+12 and Close to Burnout

October 23, 2010

Little G and I are scheduled to run our first test race, the Halloween Half Marathon, next week. We didn’t want to squeeze in another 20-miler, because we ran 23 last Saturday (plus 6 the day before), and we’ve both learned after a few years of running that our legs do better with fewer miles on them. We decided, instead of throwing this week away, or doing a mid-distance long run, that we would do a divided long run instead. The back-to-back 12-milers would be a decent number of miles, but wouldn’t be quite as exhausting on our legs as being on our legs for 3+ hours. Though this article in Runner’s World says the benefits of such a workout are derived from the second run being run on tired legs, and that t’s every bit as effective (and physically draining) as a 20-mile run, we were convinced that after running 23 miles last week, running two runs of half the distance would be a piece of cake.

I did my first 12 while Little G was at work yesterday. I didn’t leave the house until after 8, and the fact that the sun was out while I was running just completely sapped my energy and motivation.* Though the distance was short and should have been easy to complete, I found myself starved for distractions. A friend called while I was out, and I switched the ear buds from my ipod to my phone and was thankful she was content to let me continue our conversation for the next three miles. At mile 8 I called the Boss, who was waiting for an oil change on the family car, and talked to him for a few minutes.** Anything to make the miles go by.

I was decidedly nervous about the fact that the first 12, the one on fresh legs, was so unexpectedly difficult. I figured the second 12, logically, would be near impossible. But at least today I could look forward to Little G’s company; we each ran a mile to our meeting spot and then set off from there.

It was still dark at 6 o’clock and for most of our first hour; we ran through darkened streets watching our footing and heading always for the next water fountain, as the brief cold snap we felt a couple of weeks ago has ended and the heat is pressing again. We both felt sluggish, and slow; we’re thankful for the race next week, for the chance to run toward a finish line, a medal, a goal.

Though it’s only sixteen weeks, these marathon training seasons always seem to draw a lot from me–I get to the end of that fourth month feeling drained of motivation, hearing my knees click, dreading the darkness of run o’clock and the absolute monotony of early eight-mile runs. I’m thankful that in my sport, as in nature, seasons are afforded me, that after months of the same routine I’ll stand in the still quiet of a dawning Sunday and face the darkness of the next 26 miles, the absolute unknown of what my body and my mind can face and conquer.

Until that test arrives, though, a good challenge awaits me in this next 13.1, my favorite distance. I’m praying for a safe, wise race, that I’ll feel myself at tempo pace without hurting my chances for a steady and strong 26.2 one month later. I’m so thankful for this race, at just the right spot in the calendar to inject a little excitement into our otherwise plodding routine.

This week:
M: resting sore ankle
T: easy 8 in 1:20 (10:05 avg)
W: easy 8 in 1:22 (10:15 avg)
F: long 12 in 1:56 (9:45 avg)
Sa: long 12 in 1:59 (9:59 avg)

*It’s the sunlight. I hate running in sunlight. Visors, hats, sunglasses–they do nothing for me. The fact is, I embrace the darkness when I run, and running in daylight, unless it’s in the 50s, is difficult at best and torturous at worst.

**”How are you talking if you’re running?” the Boss asked, after establishing that I was, in fact, not home yet, but still out on the roads. “Um, like this . . .” I said, not sure how better to explain it. “Then you’re running too slow,” he said. “I can’t talk while I’m running.” “Then you,” I said, “are running too fast.” He reserves the right to disagree.

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