Training for the TC Marathon

Around mile 5 of my long run this morning [Friday, when I wrote this — having WordPress troubles], I said to myself, “Self, training for a marathon is as worthy of being recorded on your blog as is climbing a mountain or sitting on your ass reading books in Pokhara.”

I agreed with myself, because I’m like that and because this might be my sole attempt at a marathon; or maybe I’ll fail and have to try it again; or it will be hell but a few months after the race I’ll forget the hell and consider committing to another. In any of those cases, I’ll want to be able to read a bit of the journey again to remember it, to improve on it or to swear off running forever. Thus, I write.

Emily and I registered to run the Twin Cities Marathon. It’s scheduled for October 9th. That is the same day as the Chicago Marathon, which was Emily’s sentimental favorite for our first run. I tended to agree, not least because I spent a lot of cold marathon mornings and long days being a nerdy ham-radio operator at various medical stations along the route. But we were far too late to register for Chicago, and since October is a more pleasant time than the official holidays to see my family in MN, we diverted to the TC race.

Training began on June 18th with, for me, the running of the summer half marathon, Longest Day of Trails, here in Port Townsend. I had not been training, but I finished within 2 seconds of 2:00. Not my fastest time on a half, but not my slowest and a respectable kickoff to training to double that mileage.

We each came up with a training plan. Emily is following one from a well-timed issue of Runner’s World. The same issue brought our marathon and its coincidental scheduling with our preferred Chicago run to her attention and led her to register us. Her plan came highly recommended by Wild Bill of SAR and Rainier-climbing fame, who took to marathons a few years ago and runs them as regularly and impressively as people I more historically envied consume bottles of fine wine.

My schedule came from that guy who wrote the book on marathon training, the one heavily involved in the Chicago Marathon for years. He publishes a few variations online. I found one that seemed to fit my pre-training race mileage, if not my lackluster weekly training mileage. With a few modifications to fit my work schedule, trips we have planned for the intervening months and shorter races that I could run locally along the way, it got added to my Google calendar, and I try to do what it tells me to do.

That brings me to today, the end of the sixth of sixteen weeks of training. In general, I’ve been adding mileage by increasing my weekly long run by one mile one week, by a second mile the second week, and then dropping that significantly the third week. In between, I do some hills, some intervals and some shorter pace runs — as time allows. I know I should do those more religiously, but I can’t run in the afternoon as well as in the morning with an empty stomach, and I leave for work early and work long days.

Last week’s long run was 17 miles, or 16.98 due to Garmin’s tendency to retroactively knock a couple hundredths off what it tells me on my wrist. This week’s was 18 miles, and next week it drops to 13. They’re all hard, except the first several miles when my heart rate stays low and it feels easy.

Today I made several mistakes, including selecting a hilly midsection of the course to do something more entertaining than last week’s back and forth on a lovely trail that is unfortunately too short for these runs (around 7.3 miles end to end). I also failed to eat enough carbs last night, failed to run early to avoid the recent, sudden onset of summer on the Olympic Peninsula, drank too much water while not processing any of it, and ate an apple from the tree in our yard too late in the morning, just before the run. The apple wasn’t processed either, as became clear when I spent the afternoon stumbling between the couch and the bathroom vomiting everything I tried to consume to refill my tank.

It was my slowest long run to date at around 11 minutes/mile. I walked big sections of it, especially from mile 15.5 back to the car. And I ended up short by four tenths, though that I can blame on a closed trail area and an aggressive owl, though the trailhead signs warned of such. Not my best showing, and I wasted the afternoon in misery instead of stopping by the office to get some quiet Friday work done or grocery shopping. I’m eating and drinking some now, though I’m still four pounds lighter than yesterday.

One positive thing is that I have time. This training schedule has me running 20 miles three times, I think, before tapering down for race day. If I need to repeat the 18-mile run and not get to 20 miles as early, that’s probably okay. My goal in running this marathon is a finish I can enjoy after running with reasonable style. A chip time of 3:something sounds great, but it’s unnecessary and less important than not being miserable.

So, it just can’t be like today’s run. Except the shoes. I went to the closest running store last week and had them fit me for a pair of shoes, which were worth the one-time payment of full list price.