Going to Meet the Man With The Hammer

Paul Fournel’s writing is now on my “must read” list.  Just one quote, heck, one concept I found in random googling really caught me this fall.

I want to go searching for the man with the hammer.

I’ve spent years dialing back my run speed, safely running slowly to increase distance, to increase stamina, to complete half ironmans and marathons, to stay in zone 2 or below, and shockingly enough, my legs adapted.  My pace slowed.  I was able to go further, but even on shorter runs, my pace and turnover became laughable.

This marathon cycle, I realized that the other component of “lots of easy miles” has to be “a little speedwork”.  Just that one day of making my legs move 5k speed or faster for a short amount of time really helped me figure out that I’m not a terrible runner, I’ve just not been training properly to give my legs the speed to go fast.

So, with this awesome base under me for the marathon, now that my legs feel recovered, I am prepared to meet the man with the hammer.

So, way back in the day (hi there, 2010!), I had I set a big scary goal of a sub-2 hour half marathon.  I trained really, really well and mostly hit my paces spot on, but then I got stupidly sick the week of the race.  I probably shouldn’t have run, but I shoved down some behind-the-counter mucinex and got through the race in 2:19, which was about what one could expect on a hilly course, when I was taking cough drops like shot blocks.

I gave the 13.1 distance a-go one more time in the fall, banking on Olympic Tri endurance + 3 weeks of specific training, and got myself a nice shiny 2:08 PR.

I haven’t race-raced a half since.  I’ve run the distance a lot, but it’s either been a training run, off the bike, pacing someone else, just as a fun run, or sometimes, just because it’s Thursday.  I do believe it’s time to change that, if only to have some more recent data for calculations so McMillian doesn’t tell me I should be running a marathon in over 5 hours because my best half in the last 3 years, which was part of a 20 mile run, was 2:25.  Heck, my half marathon split at the marathon was around 2:20 (and that was running pretty comfortably).

So, while I didn’t think I was ready to run as fast as I did during this cycle to chase a 4:40 marathon, I started this cycle CERTAIN I’m not ready to train to run as fast as I need to go to sub-2.

But y’know what?  I’m not sure how fast I’m ready to run.  I surprised myself with by holding 10 minute miles over double digits fairly effortlessly, nailing my speedwork paces spot on, and finding two 5 mile tempos with sub-9 minute miles as planned.  I don’t know where my limits lie unless I go out to meet the man with the hammer.  So that’s what I’ve been doing – spending a short ~4 week cycle doing some stupidly fast (for me) run training, and then toe the line at 3M Half Marathon to see if I can outrun that jerk.

I’ve already signed up, and I’m not wasting a 100$ late entry fee on prancing comfortably to the finish.  I don’t plan on trying to run safe, I want to run for at the very least, a PR (2:08:07).  I want to have photos of the worst pain face I’ve ever made in my life at the finish.  I want to go out aggressively, and see if I can hold on.

A goal – 1:59:59.

B goal – PR (sub-2:08:08)

C goal – to have given everything I have at finish

I’ll be happy with anything, A, B, or C.

Regarding my A goal, 9:09 is a terrifyingly fast pace for my brain for 13.1 miles, but this first race of 2014 is to see what my legs and lungs have got.  That’s what this training cycle and race will tell – how fast the man with the hammer runs, and if I can beat him to the finish line.

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Space Coast Marathon – Leah’s Recap

The Before:

This was a fantastic training cycle.  I finally got my run love back, and felt like I really nailed two month of marathon training.  Harder, better, faster, stronger, baby!  Taper took an interesting turn.  My runs were fantastic (as they had been) the week before, to the point where it made me a little worried because normally everything goes to crap.  My last run, a 5 miler with 3 at marathon pace, went so smoothly it was scary.  Then, the normal taper mess started to settle in, and since it was so late in the week, it was REALLY scary.

Thursday, I only ate one big meal and one plate of deserts.  This made my body just a little off.  I also made the mistake of wearing boots instead of more reasonable shoes.  I didn’t figure I would be on my feet much, but I guess it was enough that my feet were cranky after that day.

Friday, due to long security lines and being dumb, all I had was some beef jerky and airplane snax until about 6pm.  After eating a giant (and pretty unhealthy) dinner and a large beer, and heading to the hotel room, I was convinced I was getting sick.  I slept incredibly fitfully.

Saturday, my ankle hurt after my 1.5 mile shakeout run, so much so that I was really worried that I’d not be able to start the race.  Joel kept being all excited, and all I could do was hope he wouldn’t have to race without me.  Around 9pm though, I figured the best thing I could do was shut my brain off, sleep as long as possible, and let my ankle knit itself back together.  And I did.

Sunday, race morning, I woke up, put my compression sox and shoes on before I left my bed, and touched my toes down… still cranky, but much less so.  I would start, at least, I knew that.  I got my bar down and munched on some cereal, skipped my normal starbux (just didn’t seem like it would set well).  We got there, used the portable facilities, walked around, watched the half marathoners start, jumped back in the porta-potty line again, walked around, and then got in our corrals.  My husband was starting with the 5-hour folk, and I filed in next to the 4:40 pacer, and then we were off.

The Good: Mile 1-10

I walked as long as humanly possible.  I didn’t want to feel the hurt any longer than I had to, if I was going to.  Finally, I was about to get trampled if I didn’t, so gingerly I tried and *cue angels singing* my foot was ok.  I thanked the running deities or whatever higher power is up there looking out for babies and drunks and idiot marathoners a lot in the first mile, which ticked over in around 10:35 – under marathon pace, but not too much so to worry me.

I had to decide between the strategies of following the pacer, watching my watch, or running by feels.  Well, the pace bunny took off a little too fast (he was wayyy ahead of me even though I was running under 10:41 per mile), and while my ankle seemed like it was going to hold, my body was definitely a little *off*, so running by feels meant I slipped to around 11s.  So, early on, it was watch-watching, and trying to keep that pace group in my sights and not let the next one (4:45) catch me.

At the turn around (6.5 miles), I saw Joel just a bit behind me, and looking good.  One quarter done.  Right on pace.  Let’s do this.  Hopefully all these niggles work their way out for a while.

I finished mile 10 still on pace, but the hurt never got better.  I wasn’t feeling as if I was pushing the pace too much, it felt just fine aerobically, but I think my gait was just a little off from babying my ankle, so that made things ache differently.  I also really regretted having my handheld because it annoyed me from mile 1, and I was barely even drinking out of it, the temps were good and the aid stations were plentiful.

The Bad: Mile 11-15

I was hoping to get my second wind, but passing mile 10 just made me mentally implode a bit, 16 more to go and I was already in a lot of pain.  I kept going as fast as I could, but I was seeing more 11′s when I looked down instead of 10s, and picking up the pace was harder.  I passed 13.1 exactly on pace (2:20), but just after the mat I pulled over to the side, stopped and stretched out my aching back of my legs, and then tried walking.

Well, the good news is that walking didn’t feel ANY better, so I picked it up again.  Around mile 14, I decided to ditch my water bottle and was struggling with getting it out of the holder, and who pulls up right by me?  Joel!  He helped me get it out and carried it (I told him to ditch it but he held it anyway).  I was REALLY REALLY in a hole then, and was convinced I’d busted my goal down to JUST FINISH SO I GET THE DANG TOWEL AND MEDAL.  I might have done worse if he hadn’t shown up.  He was having fun, enjoying himself, talking to people, having smiles for the both of us, while I tried to not cry and grunted and did everything I could to follow him.

Also, somewhere in there, my mp3 player decided to default to random on my playlist and cut my volume in half, and I couldn’t fix it.  Super annoying.

The Ugly: Mile 16-20

Finally, I had to stop and stretch, I told Joel to go on ahead and  I would catch up with him.  I stretched, walked for about .05 of a mile, and then got running again.  And I did catch him, and decided that I could make it a mile running again before I had to do that again.  When my watch dinged 17, I did the same thing, and 18, and 19.  These miles were slow, but I was moving forward and as I got closer to 20, my mood improved.  As we hit the last turnaround, and then the 20 mile split mat, Joel had to stop and stretch out his knee, and finally, I started feeling better and getting that second wind I was waiting on.

He happened to mention that we needed to pick it up if we were going to make sub-5 hours, and I asked if it was ok if I ran ahead, he said yeah, and I went.

The Awesome: Mile 21-26.2

Something clicked in me that I wanted to get in sub-5 more than I wanted to not hurt.  So, I took off, running as fast as I could reasonably at that point and asked myself if I could make it 2 miles without a break.  Let me tell you, if you want to feel awesome about yourself, run a ~11 minute mile pace around the 5-hour marathon finishers.  It’s a lot of people walking dejectedly.  I passed, no lie, hundreds of people in that last 10k.

I passed mile 22 and found strength for one more.  At mile 23, I felt some major cramping in the back of my body, so I stopped to stretch, walked for about .05 of a mile, and then started the 5k push to the finish.  I told myself that I could slow down for mile 24 if I needed, but I couldn’t stop, and I was just so dang ready to be done, I didn’t.  I finally picked back up to marathon pace, and the mile markers said 25, and then 26, and then I was running faster, and then I rounded the corner and saw the finish line and I was passing people, and in my mind I was sprinting like Usain Bolt and I crossed the finish line.

My garmin said 4:59.

The After:

I got my medal and towel and had about 4 cups of water and then sat down the first place I found space and I think I would have cried if I had the hydration to have tears.  I told Joel that the last 10k was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and even now that the pain has faded, I still think that’s probably accurate.  I snapped out of it a few minutes later and went to go watch for Zliten to finish, and hoped I hadn’t missed him.

I stumbled back over to the finish line and some couple took pity on me and let me sit where they were standing and I waited… and waited… and then I was about to go check with medical (he said his knee was hurting) and I saw Zliten round the corner and cheered my arse off for him as he crossed the line.  Then it hit me, I had finished 18.5 minutes earlier and we were even at mile 20.  Sorry Joel, I wish you would have been able to run it in with me, but I ROCKED that last 10k.

I hobbled over to find him at the finish and then we plopped down and stretched and recovered.  I finished in 5:02:35, and he finished in 5:21:07 (his goal was to at least beat my time from last year, which he did!).  I’m about 1% pissed that I couldn’t have found 2:36 in there to at least finish under 5, and 99% incredibly proud of that last 10k.

I had two post race beers, and was ready to eat right away, so my tummy cooperated with me.  I didn’t eat as many of my chews as I had expected, but I took in gatorade at just about every aide station.  I might have done better if I had more calories in the messy middle miles where the world was ending, or it might have upset my stomach and I’d have done worse.  You never know.

Then, we went and played by the Ocean.

Recovery was not so bad.

Overall – I am happy with marathon #2.  It’s progress.  It’s a 21 minute PR from last year.  I fell apart in completely different ways and places from the first one.  It’s a distance I’m still trying to figure out, and I’m looking forward to more opportunities to do so.  I get the first part, I actually get the end now, I just need to figure out the middle when there’s 10 miles to go and it hurts and that’s just a long time to be hurting.  My training cycle was awesome, and I fully believe that a 4:40 was within my grasp if everything would have gone well, but my A legs didn’t show up that day.  C’est la vie.  I’m not done with marathoning, and my run love is back hardcore, so I’ll get another shot soon.

What’s next?  Well, stay tuned.

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