September 05, 2011

Time to taper!

Last week's 110km brought the distance run in the past 9 weeks to 936km, or a weekly average of 104km. The Bellingham Bay Marathon is now 19 days away, and it is time to taper, give my body a rest to gear up for race day. My program has a three-week taper, beginning this week with a decline in volume to about 90km. That may not sound like much, but after last week's 110, I sure will be able to tell the difference of running 20km less.

I have often heard from friends that they don't like the taper as doing less training makes them restless. I am the opposite, as I love easing off the training volume. I have thoroughly enjoyed boosting my running mileage to a new level. But it has also left me tired, and I cannot wait to put some laziness into the next three weeks.

In the taper, you can feel your body absorbing all that training, and slowly but surely recovering to reach a peak by race day. Meanwhile, your mind gets filled with that mix of excitement and nerves about putting all that hard work to the test. I love the taper because it means I get to race soon. Few things are as exciting as racing a marathon. You never know how the day will unfold, and one must expect the unexpected, even if it is all about executing a detailed plan you have made over the previous months of training.

I feel very prepared for this marathon, my 14th and my 10th in six years, as my training has gone well. There is no guarantee I will run a PB -- it has been three years since I last improved my marathon time. But that is what makes it special. While I have the lofty goal of running 2 hours anything one day, any improvement in my 3:07:10 PB from the 2008 Victoria Marathon will be a good outcome.

My hope is, of course, that I will smash that time, and that's what I'll be gunning for: my race plan calls for a 4:22 pace, a magic number that has been swirling in my mind for the past nine weeks. In an effort to help visualize race day, a recommended performance tool for all athletes, I have been writing a mile-by-mile visualization of the Bellingham Bay Marathon with the help of course maps, profile, etc. It's about 11,000 words so far.

I stopped a couple of weeks ago, focusing on finishing a novel (my first which I began working on a year ago) because I felt tired, tired, tired from the training and felt that the visualization was suffering from my exhaustion. I had also received positive and encouraging feedback on the manuscript for the 55,000-word novel, titled From my Mother 

Cover of my first novel
The story is about an experienced marathoner, named Nadia who, as she embarks on her biggest challenge yet, a 100-kilometre ultramarathon, has plenty of time to think about her maternal grandmother, who immigrated to the Netherlands in the early 1950s, escaping Czechoslovakia after the Communist coup d'etat. As the ultrarunning granddaughter struggles with unexpected obstacles in the longest race of her life, Nadia realizes those of her grandmother must have seemed far more insurmountable. She also realizes the ancestor she has always felt so close to is surrounded by mystery.

After completing a second revision of this manuscript, I am now rewriting a few parts based on the feedback from the readers and am hoping to complete my first work of fiction before the marathon.

I do want to complete the pre-race visualization as well as it has been very helpful to pour over the course maps, profile and landmarks, while reading up about the area as I imagine what ideally happens where and when. I was hoping to publish it before the race but I don't know if that is feasible. However, less running means more time, and energy, for writing so I will try for sure.

I am certainly not the only writer who uses running as a way to both inspire and work through manuscripts. The other day I read in The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates, "Running! If there's an activity happier, more exhilarating, more nourishing to the imagination, I can't think what it might be. In running, the mind flies with the body; the mysterious efflorescence of language seems to pulse in the brain, in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms."

"In running, 'spirit' seems to pervade the body; as musicians experience the uncanny phenomenon of tissue memory in their fingertips, so the runner seems to experience in feet, lungs, quickened heartbeat, an extension of the imagining self. The structural problems I set for myself in writing, in a long, snarled, frustrating and sometimes despairing morning of work, for instance, I can usually unsnarl by running in the afternoon."

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