The Storm Before the Calm

stormy beach

So it’s the peak week of marathon training, and I’ve been sitting on my tush a lot, drinking water like a camel, and eating carbs like there’s no tomorrow. Sounds like the perfect recipe for pushing through 40 miles of training in seven days, right?

Too bad there hasn’t been much training occurring. In fact, only five miles of actual training have occurred within the past four days, and the last .25 miles of that I was walking while concentrating very hard! on keeping a certain sphincter closed until I reached our porcelain throne.

Since that run four days ago, I’ve been sitting on said throne a lot, eating a copious variety of bland crackers along with jellied toast (because really… can anyone actually ingest dry toast?), while trying to decide if this is a virus, stress, or bacteria.

Too bad for me, I did not take the advice I offered earlier this summer to a fellow runner thinking about training for a half marathon. I told him to build an extra week of “nothing” into his training schedule—in case he would need to recover from an injury, or was overly fatigued, or was (God-forbid) sick.

Actually, it was not a conscience decision not to include an “emergency week of zero training.” One day in July, I looked at the calendar and figured out  I was supposed to already be in week one of training… oops!

So I learned this lesson the hard way, but there have been a few other lessons I’ve learned during the past 14 weeks. In case you’re ever contemplating training for a marathon, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learned, the things you won’t read in the waiver you sign when you register, stating you realize you’re likely to die sometime during this process (ok… slight exaggeration).

First and foremost, marathon training becomes your life. No, seriously… your life. Of course I had heard that marathon training takes a lot of time. “Absolutely!” I thought. Half-marathon training takes a decent amount of time, so obviously the full deal is going to require even more time.

It wasn’t bad at first. But then the mileage started to grow, and I now spend an entire Saturday engaged in training oriented activities. I spend the morning running, much of the afternoon icing and recovering, and the majority of the evening eating. All of a sudden it’s 11pm, and I’m wondering where the day went.

A couple weeks into training, I was missing get-togethers with friends in order to get miles in. I obviously haven’t been writing even though I have several posts scripted in my mind. Daniel recently started talking about a possible transition for our family; my response was, “I’m not considering any decisions until after November 10th.” Also, he’s been not-so-subtly dropping hints about resuming work painting the living room which hasn’t seen much action since mid-July, coincidentally shortly after training started. Again, my reply has been “after the marathon.”

A pool of lollipop loveliness I stumbled upon one day. Yes, I did clean this up before the marathon, but I confess, it took me a day or two to find the time to do it.

I truly see real life beginning again after November 10th. In fact, even though I’ve been pretty much couch bound for the past couple of days, I feel oddly happy and light, probably because I am a few pounds lighter, but I think it’s mostly because running isn’t running my life.

The second lesson I’ve learned that you won’t find on any marathon homepage is that you need to hire a personal chef to successfully complete training. Recently someone mentioned to me that she guessed I’m eating a lot right now. As she continued calculating how many calories I burn, her eyes began to light up as she equated the number of expended calories to the corresponding number of bowls of ice cream.

I know you won’t believe me (and that’s ok, because I wouldn’t believe me either), but eating has been one of the hardest aspects of training. The extra bowl of ice cream or half dozen cookies that supplemented my diet during half marathon training no longer cuts it. It’s now an extra full course meal shortly after a mid-long run. It’s not unusual to find me eating barbequed chicken at 10am. I crave burgers and cheesesteaks in large amounts (except at this exact moment in time). Don’t worry, dairy farmers, I’m still eating large amounts of ice cream, but it’s gotten more complicated than a bowlful of already prepared frozen goodness.

The last thing… (Well not the last lesson, but I won’t bore you with things like not bothering to paint your toenails because there’s no polish that can take this kind of abuse, or lessons about “Bodyglide”—not!! found in the “intimates” section of the pharmacy as one uneducated pharmacist turned bright red showing me where/what she thought it was.) …the last thing I would highly recommend you have for marathon training is a coach, aka a personal cheerleader, aka a “doula.”

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Whatever you want to call this person, it’s incredibly helpful to have someone to help you through the tough weeks, to kick you out the door when you really (I mean Really!!) don’t want to go. Someone who will say “tisk, tisk – you slept through your alarm, now when are you going to run today?” when you had convinced yourself that ditching that short run really wasn’t that big of a deal.

Daniel has been that person for me. He’s been amazing! If he ever leaves computers, personal training might be in his future. I’m truly thankful for all of his support—including countless hours of childcare.

(Although when he told me he thought I could continue training during this current bout of GI issues, I did have to explain to him that running can lead to lower GI problems naturally, so running with already “overly-active” GI issues wasn’t a good idea. To which he replied, “That’s why you should ride bike. Running is so bad for you,”—not helpful.)

Daniel will be at race day, and I’m counting on him to help get me through this. He asked me what he should tell me if/when he sees me hitting the wall. I told him, “Don’t tell me I’m doing a good job because I won’t feel like I’m doing a good job at that moment. Just remind me over and over that ‘there is an end’.”

There is an end, and it’s in sight… 17 days to go. Whoo Hoo!

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This post was written last week as I sat on the couch, and while I was able to get in all my miles for peak week, my knee started “acting up” for the first time during training after my 20 mile run/walk on Sunday. We’ll just have to wait and see exactly how this ends.