I used to be terrified of sharing my goals before races, fearing I’d put unnecessary pressure on myself to perform at some arbitrary level. After detailing my training for the National Half Marathon last March, though, I learned how gratifying it can be to celebrate a goal achieved with the people who have watched you fight to get there.
This week, after a painful but ultimately life-changing Marine Corps Marathon, I learned how powerful it can be to have a large group of friends to share your pain, comfort you and encourage you when that goal escapes you. Your kind and supportive comments affirmed my pride in my finish and served as a sort of virtual bedtime story to calm my angry ego. You all made me get weepy all over again throughout the day. Thank you. I’ll need that support as I shop for my next marathon.
That’s right, marathon — I’m comin’ back for more!
I loved the suggestions that I cash in on this round of training by running the Richmond Marathon Nov. 14. Sadly, I’m going to be at a weekend-long training session at Whitetail, where Steve and I are members of the Mountain Safety Team. I checked out Philly (sold out), the North Central Trail Marathon (sold out) and several other fall/early winter marathons in the region. None seemed just right, so over a delicious (and easily digestible) dinner at Olazzo, my favorite Italian restaurant, on Sunday, I told Steve my tentative plan: The National Marathon in March.
Here’s why: Conventional wisdom suggests waiting at least day for each mile of a race’s distance before attempting another race of the same distance. But a lot of coaches and doctors say if the marathon left you taxed, either injury-wise or illness-wise, you should think about waiting six to eight weeks instead. My legs feel remarkably good, but my poor body is beyond taxed. I will spare you the gruesome details, but suffice it to say my digestive system could probably use a good rest.
I’m still casually shopping around for a fall marathon in the DC area that might fit the bill, but I’m currently feeling really good about maintaining my current fitness level, maybe tackling the YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase Turkey Chase 10K on Thanksgiving and a half-marathon after that. The 2009 National Half Marathon was a special race for me. It was a victorious race in my new home city, and I truly felt like I owned the streets of DC that day. I like the course, too — it’s got some hills that will truly test your legs and guts, but it somehow manages to be a fast race course overall. And I run my best when it’s almost uncomfortably cold, so the winter training schedule suits me (remind me I said that when I’m tackling 20-milers in an ice storm, OK?).
Running close to home also lets me carefully manage my food intake before the race. Running with my digestive system is like playing Russian roulette – I never know which long run or race day will be the one when I’ll to unfairly take a bullet. But some things are in my control, and I can do my best to create an environment for success.
I’m still up for other suggestions for races in the DC area in late November, December or January. I’m up for traveling a few hours, but not much more, and would like a course that’s flat and fun (because after Sunday, don’t I deserve that?).
My goal for this next marathon is to start running roughly 9-minute miles, and to hang on as long as I can. I have no grand illusions of breaking four hours, but I would like to arrive in the neighborhood of a four-hour finish, whether it’s 4:05 or 4:15 or even 4:20. Secondary goal: Actually get some use out of my perfect marathon playlist. Oh, did I not mention that, in addition to a stomach malfunction, the day included two separate iPod malfunctions? Ugh.
Definition of irony: My race-day photos usually make me look like an exhausted victim of some sort of awful digestive distress, or perhaps of a violent carjacking. Yet in my race photos from the Marine Corps Marathon, when I was actually the victim of some awful digestive distress, I look … kind of awesome! I made a point to smile at the obvious photo stops. But even in the candid shots, I’m sporting this stupid grin, or at least a look of quiet amusement. I take this as a testament to just how badly I wanted this race to be a joyful one. What’s more, I don’t look a bit hunched over – rather, I look strong and healthy. I’m trying hard to erase the mental image of me hunched over at a porta-potty and replace it with what’s captured in these photos: a strong runner who’s smiling and running strong through a painful day.