Sunday, December 03, 2006

You believe in miracles...Yes

The impossible can happen. The Washington Generals win. Charlie Brown kicks the ball. A Democratic Presidential candidates from Massachusetts runs an intelligent campaign. Beth acts magnanimous on Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

It happened today. 25 years after my first race in high school indoor track, I shocked myself by finally calling on mental strength that I had given up on ever tapping, and shattered the 3 hour 30 minute barrier at the California International Marathon by over two minutes.

While I felt more mentally prepared for this marathon than any other, it was a Mark Allen, the six-time Ironman winner and god, interview I listened to yesterday that added the icing on the cake. His two thoughts ; pain is only a momentary feeling and can pass, and endurance events are when you discover what kind of person you are.

When my calves started to get predictably tight and cramp at mile 12, Allen's words got me through the pain. When my right quad started to go at mile 22, I just focused on the moment, temporarily abandoned my numbers game (e.g., only 4 to go, that's a short run in Golden Gate Park) and concentrated on the moment. And with 2 miles to go, when I began to contemplate walking in some freakish 2nd grade deja vu (Laurel Pines Country Club, Maryland, summer of 1972 I quit the two-lap test to qualify to go off the diving board with 10 strokes to go), I shut off my mind and just ran.

I was extremely ready for this race physically. My training went well, I didn't get sick and I was rested. But I can say that about San Francisco Marathon 2001, Vineman Half Ironman 2004, Wildflower Half Ironman 2006 and Lake Placid Ironman 2006. I was ready for each of those. But when fatigue and/or cramps set in, I gave in. Maybe not completely like at Wildflower where I only walked from mile 11 to 12, but on some level. In short, I have never gone to sleep after a race over a half marathon thinking I pushed myself further than I thought I could. I have never tasted the satisfaction of real achievement.

Until today. Running strong the last ten miles (I basically ran even splits the entire race) went against everything I have ever done in a marathon. When I ran under the finish line clock at 3.28.05 (I'm guessing 30 seconds to start) I was seriously choked up, like the last scene of Field of Dreams. Or the latest sappy AT&T commercial.

I am not sure if today was an aberration. But in every race I ever do again I want to recapture the feeling of the California International Marathon, December 3, 2006.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

24 hours to go

24 hours to go until the California International Marathon and I am, without a doubt, the most prepared, physically, mentally and emotionally that I have been for a marathon. It is not a question of will I break 3 hours 30 minutes, but how good will I feel I doing it.

The rational for this confidence.

1) By the numbers. I am coming off three-to-four months of very consistent training, including:

  • averaging 38 miles a week running only four days a week (the big five being 46, 42, 42, 41, 41)
  • long runs of 11 miles a week (the big five being 19, 17, 16, 12 and 12)
  • running a 12k race two months ago at 7.01 pace (the day after a hard 10 mile run)
  • running my final long run, 19 miles, at 3.25 marathon pace despite purposefully trying to run slower than 3.30 pace the entire time
  • I have run every single step the last four months faster than eight minute/mile pace.

2) The focus. There is something to be said for running races for fun. However, there will be no distractions tomorrow. If I start to feel discomfort, I am not going to justify slowing down as a search for more pleasant feelings. It's all or nothing.

3) Camaraderie. Rather than seclude myself in my hotel room in Sacramento (as if the cultural wonder of the state capital isn't enough of a temptation), I am going to hang out with members of the SF Tri Club. I can now comfortably admit that I am one of them.

4) The course.

Nuff said.

5) Inspiration. A month ago, Lance and my dad put on performances for the ages at the NY Marathon. Lance broke three hours, my dad nailed four hours and thirty nine minutes in his first marathon after only two years of running. I am taking the baton and will bring it home in style.

6) For fallen comrades. OK, this is exaggeration. I signed up for the race with two co-workers. Ari succumbed to a bad ankle, and Gina. Well Gina ran a great half marathon, and then crumbled under the expectations of the marathon. God bless her.

7) Positive thoughts. I am not inherently a positive person. The glass is half full but I don't think I necessarily will do a great job of chugging it. No more. There is no chance I will fail to achieve my goal of sub 3 hours 30 minutes. Failure is not an option.

8) The clock. I will be an endurance athlete for the rest of my life but the window is slowly narrowing on achieving my time-related goals.

The big four are

Half Marathon: 1 hour 29 minutes (best is 1.32)
Marathon: Qualify for Boston/3 hours 20 minutes (best is 3.37)
Half Ironman: Five hours 29 minutes (best is 5.47)
Ironman: 11 hours 59 minutes best is 13.28)

No more time to screw around.

It's over. Eight ball corner pocket. The fat lady is singing.