Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When it's no longer about having fun

On December 3 I am running the Sacramento International Marathon, my latest attempt to run a decent 26.2 miles. I'm back to try yet again.

In the last five years I have run four marathons, San Diego and San Francisco in 2001, New York in 2005, and Lake Placid as part of the Ironman, and crashed and burned training for the Rock and Roll Marathon in 2003. My problems basically boil down to two things; 1) I have not been strong enough to fight through the mental and physical pain that hits around the 19-20 mile mark, which is compounded by the fact that; 2) I end up hurting myself training for the race after I have done a few 16+ mile runs. This exacerbates problem 1.

It's five weeks to go before Sactown, and I have done a 15 and 17 mile run. So far, so good. If I can nail a 20 miler two weeks before the marathon, and overcome problem number two, I think I can tackle number 1.

Which raises the question of my goal for the race. I have waxed poetic about the need to have three goals in a race, each increasingly hard so, at the very least, you will have some level of satisfaction after the race. Plus there is always the philosophy repeated ad nauseam that "the journey is more important than the destination." All of this is true, but not for this race.

December 3 all boils down to one thing - breaking 3 hours, 30 minutes. Since 2001, this has been my marathon goal. I came closest at San Fran '01 when I was on 3.24 pace until I blew up mentally with 6 miles to go and crawled home seven minutes too late. All the formulas (e.g., double your half marathon, add 10 minutes, the Yasso workout) all indicate I should be able to it but I haven't. And I really really want to do it. I feel like this is the key to the rest of my endurance kingdom, the sub-12 hour Ironman, the sub 90 minute half marathon, the five minute wall squat, etc.

So I say shove it to the "fun experience", the "personal best", the "competitive positioning in my age group." None of it matters. On December 3 it all comes down to three digits. I will judge myself by the hours and the minutes.

All or nothing.