Running for It, Week 31: In which it’s all over but the cryin’

A week from now, it will all be over. (If it’s not–if I’m still running in the late afternoon of Race Day, then something will have gone seriously wrong. For example, perhaps I will have been thrown by an immensely powerful wind gust deep into Lake Michigan, forcing me to battle cold and deadly rip currents to fight my way back to the race where–weary and soaking wet–I will have dutifully taken my place at the back of the pack and plodded forward. More likely, I will have overslept and missed the whole thing.)

Anyway, by this time next week, I will be overwhelmed with one or more of the following:

  • triumph
  • exhaustion
  • humility
  • a deep, abiding shame

Or possibly all of the above.

There’s a part of me that is so wrapped up in the minutiae and effort of training that it has not really had time to contemplate what’s about to happen. Unfortunately, it’s a very tiny part of me. The other 97.39 percent of me is cripplingly obsessed with contemplating what’s about to happen, with ridiculous questions bubbling up over and over again inside my noggin.

  • What if I hurt myself between now and then?
  • What if the weather is terrible?
  • What if I oversleep and miss the whole thing?
  • How fast should I run on Race Day?
  • What if I choose a pace that’s too fast?
  • What if I choose a pace that’s too slow?
  • What if I choose a pace that’s just right, and then I’m eaten by a family of bears?

As I said, the questions are a little on the ridiculous side, except for the one about the bears. Here’s the one that worries me the most:

  • What if I’m not prepared?

I’ve been training for a long time. It feels like it’s gone well, but how am I supposed to know what feels right? I don’t have a coach to give me feedback. Sure, I’ve been using a plan devised by an old–and I do mean old– pro, but I haven’t been training with anyone else. Some friends that are marathon vets have given me a little advice here and there based on my Runkeeper stats, but they’re on the other side of the country. They’re not inside my head. (As far as I know, anyway. No, I know they’re not in there. No one could survive such an experience.)

So how do I know what feels right?

For example, I burned it up on my 20-mile run a few weeks ago, going much faster than I ever had before on a long run. And then, these past few weeks as I’ve been tapering off my distances, I’ve been going relatively fast on my mid-week runs and also on my long-ish Saturday runs. For example, on my 12-miler last weekend I was doing better than a 10-minute mile, and on yesterday’s eight-miler at Smithville Lake (the final Saturday long run of this here training regimen) I ran faster than I’ve run in months, even on my short mid-week runs.

look close and you’ll see where I took a wrong turn at the end

Crazy! I don’t know if that was the right thing to do or not. (And I know for a fact that I shan’t be running that fast next weekend. Not even close.) I know that it felt right at the time, but because I’ve never done this before, I don’t know if I’m the best judge of what feels right. What if I do what feels right during the marathon, and it ends up being wrong and I crap out (please, I beg you, not literally) before 26.2?

Then again, here’s the elevation map of the course:

almost as flat as a pancake, but not nearly as tasty

That’s the flattest course I will have ever run. (If I am reading the map correctly, those spikes are bridges over assorted waterways.) Truly flat courses are hard to come by ’round here. The closest I’ve come is my 20-miler, which felt flat, but which actually gently rolled up and down. I can’t compare the two courses, really. They’re just different, is all, and while my performance on one probably says something about my performance on the other, I have no idea what it says.

If I run as fast as I did for my 20-miler, I can probably finish the marathon at around 4:15. If I slow down just a bit, and run about the speed I ran for some of my slower long runs over the summer, I can do it in 4:30. As luck would have it, there are these “Pace Teams” that run at set finishing times, and you can sign up for them when you pick up your race packet. And yes, there’s a 4:15 pace team and a 4:30 one as well. But which one to sign up for? They say to sign up for the slower one and then just run ahead of them if you feel like it. I’d feel pretty stupid if I did the 4:15 one and had to fall back, so yeah… I’ll probably sign up for a slower one, if I sign up at all.

In the meantime, I have only a few runs left before the Big Day: a three-mile and two two-milers. (Running two miles almost seems like more trouble than it’s worth, but so Hal Higdon has written, so shall it be run.) It feels really weird to be running these short distances again–flashing back to the early days of training when that was the best I could do–and in fact, some days they feel harder than they probably should. I’ve been assured by my running friends that that’s normal.

(But then, I don’t know if I can trust the judgment of anyone who talks about me while uttering the word “normal.”)

See you at the finish line, folks. (I’ll be the stinky one.)

3 Responses to “Running for It, Week 31: In which it’s all over but the cryin’”

  1. anne Says:

    Wow - can’t believe the date is almost here! Amazing. Also: be especially wary of any polar bear families you might come across.

  2. JJSB Says:

    Polar bears are tricky. They will hold out a cup of water and then grab you when you reach for it. BEWEAR! (or Bearwear if that suits you better) Also, good luck!

  3. The Other Shannon Says:

    Still inspiring me! I also can’t believe it’s almost time. You’re gonna kick ass and take names. Or kick names and take ass, which makes no sense.

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