This whole way of living is still pretty new to me, as I spent the first 39 years (or 86%) of my life as a dedicated couch potato. So 2017 was meant to be a year of recovery from a persistent foot injury. I wanted to take running less seriously, compete less, and heal. I also wanted to spend more time on other, low impact sports like cycling.
It's been a success, my foot feels 100%, as does my body. My stress levels are lower, and I'm pretty sure I've struck a good balance between training and recovering. I'm sleeping better than ever, my nutrition has been on point and I'm generally relaxed as much as one can be in the modern world.
And so it would seem that I'm approaching my marathon this weekend in perfect form to adhere to my mission of participating not competing. I'm injury free, fatigue free and objectively fitter than I was when I qualified for Boston in 2015. I haven't raced since April 2016 and it's been a nice break. My conundrum comes in the form of unexpected fitness and the twinkling of a desire to run hard. Should I stay true to my original intention of a relaxed marathon where I soak in the environment and chill out or should I push and go for a personal best marathon time?
While I did follow a training plan, it was one designed to emphasize rest in balance with effort. My mileage peaked much lower than it has in the past (around 85km per week) and I didn't get up to 6 runs a week until the last 6 weeks of the training block. With that in mind, during this plan the speed returned as the body felt good. The long runs felt relatively easy despite the fact that I never really looked forward to doing them. I didn't exceed 35km on any single run and while I did some race pace running within the long runs, it was never very focused or intentional. Despite or because of this new training approach I'm 3 days away from the Victoria marathon in wonderful shape. One of my running friends commented to me a few days ago that this may be the first time I've actually marathon trained. What I think he meant was that in my previous marathons I've always muddied the waters with other races and I've usually peaked early in terms of optimal fitness. This time it seems I'm peaking close to race day.
I do. have some doubts for sure. Mainly:
- Is my fitness a paper tiger? While I feel fit, it's possible I'm confusing being uninjured and healthy with peak fitness. Has my lack of long runs, high mileage and race pace running during long runs left me short of where I feel I am. Often marathon training is threading a fine line between peak fitness and injury, and I'm pretty sure I never approached that line.
- Am I mentally ready? No matter the race distance there comes a time during the competition where everything hurts. Since I've been approaching my year in a very relaxed state I'm not entirely sure what level of suffering I'm willing to endure. It may be that my relaxed attitude will pay dividends on race day, it may also mean when 34km comes along I'm more inclined to slow down. I have no idea which way that will go.
- I've been dealing with post long run nausea. On 3 or 4 of my long runs I've had some pretty severe post run nausea resulting twice in some rather unpleasant vomiting. Part of any marathon training program involves trying new foods to see if they work (before race day) for you. I've tried Tailwind, Scratch Labs and Cliff Blocks all of which I think were the root of my stomach problems. I know intuitively I don't do well with simple sugars and the cessation of each of those seemed to result in nausea free runs. However it's occurred to me over the past couple of days, and I hope this is pre-run jitters, that I do have two rather large kidney stones still lodged in my left kidney which my doctor and I decided to leave there. I recall the first time I passed one I had incredible nausea (in fact, that day roughly two years ago was the last time I was sick) so part of me wonders if one of those little calcified demon stones has decided to start shaking loose. I really hope not. If so, it's out of my hands. I've had them for years and my doctor advised that they may stay there for years without budging. Lets hope thats the case.
It can be said that sports is half mental or maybe as Yogi Berra said "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical." Part of me thinks I'm wrecking a great year by considering a PB attempt. But as of today a bigger part of me thinks the fun will come in the form of pushing my body to the limit at a time when it feels this good.
Am I overthinking this race? Absolutely. Ultimately it will be what it will be. The worst case scenario is that I go out at the start line hard and fall apart like a Halloween Piñata at the point when the race gets real. Maybe I'll have my first DNF. Maybe I'll be walking at 34km. But that would only serve to provide a good war story. I don't need to qualify for anything, I've already done Boston. I don't need to prove anything, ultimately nobody cares about my race times except me. So maybe the fun is in the effort. In the risk of a bad race. Come Sunday I'm likely to find out.