Well a lot has happened since my last post. The hard month of training I had planned for September did not really materialize, I injured my ankle and missed out on a couple of weeks of speedwork and tempo runs. But I was able to keep at it and finished up the training program strong. I'm still feeling a little sick of running, but not as bad as it was at the beginning of September. A week or two off now and I'll probably be itching to get back at it.
Today was the day of the big race, my "A" race for the year. The weather for the Denver marathon this year was the polar opposite of last year, with temperatures at the race start in the 50s and mid 60s for the finish. It was maybe a little too hot for a fast run, but I did not really feel the temperature as a problem. My race started off strong, with mile splits in the 7:20 range. This put me right where I wanted to be for my finishing time, which I hoped would be in the 3:15-3:20 range. At 10 miles I was still feeling pretty good, so I reevaluated my pace and decided I could push a little harder to get closer to 3:10 (the coveted Boston qualification time). I was able to drop my splits into the low 7's for a few miles, but by mile 17 it was apparent that I just didn't have it in me today. I kept pushing hard, but my miles slowed to 7:30s and then to 8 minutes by mile 20. I crossed the 20 mile mark in 2:27, so I knew that if I could keep it together and run around 45 minutes for the last 10k I'd be flying. The thought that I had less than an hour to go kept me going but by mile 22 it was apparent that I was bonking hard (running out of energy during a marathon, usually the wall comes around 22 when all of the glycogen stores have been used up). My legs felt like cement, and I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other for the next 4 miles. I ended up crossing the finish in 3:20, a personal best by 12 minutes! So despite the struggle at the finish I am happy, I went out to leave it all out there on the course and I did. I think with better pacing I could have hit the 3:15, but I am happier with the experience I gained out of this race. I think the Boston qualifying time is possible in the next few years, with hard training and a flatter, faster course, but at this point I am somewhat relieved as I wasn't even sure I could afford to run Boston this year.
With that race, my hard training is over for the year I think. I may try a 5k again this winter, but the main goal is just to hit 2008 miles this year (I'm at 1857 now). Next year perhaps a half-marathon is in the cards. I realize this year just how long the marathon really is, it is an unforgiving race that can humble even the best trained athletes. Usually when I start the race I question briefly why I have signed up for such suffering, a thought that is easily dismissed in the early miles. But by the time 20 miles rolls around, you are really questioning the sanity of such a decision. Unfortunately, by then it is too late to turn back.
The highlight of the experience this year was having my parents here to cheer me on. This is the first time they have seen me race and I am happy that they got to experience the true test of my abilities: the marathon. I was not looking very pretty as I struggled to the finish line, and so they got to see the sacrifice of the sport for what it is. Seeing them cheering me on as I raced for the finish line was truly a blessing, and I hope that they will be able to join me for more races in the future.
I will close this lengthy post with the reason that I run, which was part of the race application form: I run because it's not easy. A simple statement of a simple truth. When I am out there giving it my all I am not coasting through life, I am living it. The pain I feel is a confirmation that I am alive, and that my body can accomplish great things with hard work and perseverance. Running is hard because it is supposed to be hard.