I like to run. I've learned that it really isn't about where you're going, it's about the getting there - the how, the why, the who with. This blog is just a little repository for my thoughts along the way; the setbacks, the lessons learned, and the occasional triumph.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

This Might Hurt a Little...

I’m slightly astonished to acknowledge that Chicago Marathon time has rolled around once again. It’s been a very busy summer, filled, for me, with many things that had little to do with running. I’m a little surprised at how humdrum it feels to be marathoning through Chicago again.

This is a small landmark for me, of sorts: My 20th Marathon or Ultra, all since my first in Chicago, 3 years ago.

On the flip side, I think, as much as anything else, all that racing and the training that leads up to it has resulted in a level of burnout that I’ve been feeling lately. (Indeed, I plan a significant change in my running routine beginning in the weeks after Chicago.) I still want to run marathons and ultras – very much, in fact – but I’m admitting that I need a little marathon hibernation to get the spring back in my legs – and my passion – again.

But before all that, there’s the little matter of my 4th Tour De Chicago this Sunday morning. We are finally rid of the oppressive heat that has plagued the race the last two years, but alas, we’ve slipped back to the opposite extreme: start time temperatures are predicted in the high 30s, a frost warning has already been issued for the region, and even flurries are possible on Sunday night. Alack for a simple, dry, overcast, even-keel, 50 degree day.

I can handle the weather, but my expectations for my performance are still low. To be sure, there will be no magical 3:44s for me this Sunday morning. Truthfully, a sub-4-hour result will be a significant accomplishment.

I’ve copped to this already, but my training over the summer left much to be desired. I had interruptions in my schedule yes, but most of my struggles were tied to lethargic, unresponsive legs. Sometimes people call it “Dead Legs”. This has been especially true since my attempt at the Burning River 100 on August 2nd. I felt it before that race, but have been plagued by it since. Even a gentle, weekend 12-miler would devolve into a staggered, helpless walk after 3 miles. There were no other nagging aches or pains, no creaky knees or sore muscles howled at me, the legs just had no life when the time came to do the distance. My weekday runs never seemed to suffer. I even managed my tempo runs without too much undue stress, then the weekend would come and I’d crash and burn. It’s not a problem I’ve ever dealt with before.

In the end, I was forced to take 11 days completely off with NO running at all. I felt the only choice was to think of my weakness as an injury and take the time off to heal. Regretfully, my time on the Disabled List ended only 2 weeks ago. It came during a time that should have been the peak of my marathon training. This can’t have a great effect on my race, but whatever I lost, it must be preferable to the handicap I was fighting before.

The good news, is the extended rest seems to have made a difference. I’ve been far stronger on my runs this last 12 days. If only I still had 3 or 4 more weeks before the race, I think I’d be in great shape for the event. But I’m playing with the hand I’ve been dealt. It’s easy for me to imagine a strong, well-paced race for the first 13 miles, and then a horrible, horrible bonk in the last 6 or 8. We’ll see.

Back in May, my 3:44 was the sum total of 26 miles at 8:34 average pace. Sunday, I’ll be aiming squarely at 9 minute miles. Modest. Conservative. And yet, still, possibly a gross overestimation of my relatively poor condition.

I’ll try to enjoy myself, Sunday. And then the winter reconstruction shall begin.

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