May 17, 2012

Marathon recovery & what's next?

Luka the 75-pound lap dog
I like to recover from a marathon with a complete break from running for at least the first week. Daily walks are on the menu instead, a normal part of life anyway given our four-footed kid Luka. We take him, or he takes us, for a hike along the local trails for about 45 minutes twice a day.

My body has felt surprisingly good in the week following a 3:00:29 marathon. After an eight-day break I was keen to try an easy jog. I headed out on one of my usual routes and enjoyed a nice 10K. I am planning to take it easy a little longer; this week I am certainly sticking to a relaxed pace.

As of next week, VFAC's John Hill starts coaching a 10-week clinic of Wednesday evening runs in Squamish for the Squamish Titans. His program is geared towards the Squamish 10K on August 5, a race that has naturally become a fixture on my schedule. As part of the 10-week clinic, the Titans are also organizing weekly tempo runs on Monday, beginning on the 21st of May.

I am keen to increase my speed, including over the 10K distance. For that I need more intense speedwork than I have been doing in my marathon training, so it's not surprising that my 39:39 10K best is lacking the 38:40 estimate of Merv's running calculator and the 38:28 estimate of McMillan's for a 3:00:29 marathoner.

In the three years I have raced the Squamish 10K, my fastest has been 40:14. I definitely want to run 39, but 38 would be better:-).

Focusing on 10K speed with the Titans under Hill's guidance will be a nice two-month 'break' before I get stuck into the preparations for my next marathon. I have yet to decide, but am eyeing one at the start of December.

A Toronto wedding coincides with the October 7 weekend of the Victoria marathon, a race I love and received an invititation for the day after Vancouver. I have done Victoria twice (in 2008 and 2011), running PBs both times on the mildly undulating course. The event is superbly organized and I highly recommend it. I hope to run there again in 2013.

The Toronto marathon on October 14 also offered me a spot, which is very tempting and I am seriously thinking about a way to extend our stay after the wedding there until then; I am not sure that I can.

Then there is the option to return to Bellingham in late September. I very much enjoyed that race last year.

Even before I ran 3:00:29 on May 6, I knew what would be next; the finish would mark the beginning of the next phase in the ongoing quest to improve over the 42.2K distance. "The desire to run comes from deep within us—from the unconscious, the intuitive, the instinctive. And that desire becomes a passion when the runner learns to race,'" Dr George Sheehan wrote in This Running Life.

Just 11 days ago, I wondered if I could do a Sub-3 marathon. In 11 marathons over five years, all between 3:06 and 3:15, a 2:59 seemed so close and yet so far away. The longer it took, the harder it seemed and the more room opened up for doubt.

Yet with each marathon I also found at least one reason to believe I could get closer to my dream goal. I had a gut feeling I could do it. Friends encouraged, yet nothing helped more than coming across runners with performances I could relate to and who had made such, or an even bigger, level of progress.

When I was interviewing women for Running Shoes Are a Girl's Best Friend, my first book, one of the questions was, What's your best memory/experience involving running?

In January 2008, Elizabeth Bennett told me: "There are too many to recount. Recent ones include running a 9-minute marathon PB to run 3:00:38 in the 2007 Canberra Marathon and then to break 3 hours a couple of months later and run 2:59:38 in the 2007 Gold Coast Marathon."

Her response gave me both goosebumps and hope; I had just run 3:08:48 in April 2007, in that same Canberra marathon, though then didn't know Elizabeth. And here was a longtime runner, a marathoner, who had just made a giant 9-minute leap to my dreamtime; it was possible. I filed away that knowledge mentally.

As nearly three years passed, and I had only managed to get 1 minute closer by running 3:07:10, I read Kathrine Switzer's Marathon Woman at the end of 2010. Switzer is of course most famous for being the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with an official entry in 1967, though organizers weren't too pleased when they realized K.V. Switzer, racing with number 261, was female and tried to stop her.

Yet I also found out that Switzer, after completing that first marathon in 4:20 in 1967, gradually kept improving her time until she ran Boston in a 2:51 PB in 1975. While I didn't expect to be able to get that fast, it reinforced my hope that I might be able to run 2:59.

Another piece of Sub-3 inspiration filed away for future reference, just like the fact that Switzer clocked up to 110 miles a week in preparation for her fastest marathon. She ran daily.

I love the focus that training for a Sub-3 marathon, a stretch goal, has brought to my running. Now, I am 30 seconds away. While you haven't run Sub-3 until you do, I am now absolutely certain I can.

"When we are enthusiastic, we develop a determination to equal the endurance of our muscles, a fortitude to match the courage of our hearts and a passion to join with the animal strengths of our bodies... Behind the enthusiasm, behind the inspiration, behind the passion, there must be the will. We can choose. We can decide. We can will to do it our own way. When we do, nothing can prevail against us," wrote Sheehan.

On pace for a faster time ...
Having just sped up by a whopping 5:37 on my previous best, and most recent, marathon, I know I can go faster. The big question is, how much faster?

There's only one way to find out...

No comments: