Back on Halloween, my husband and I were training for a marathon together and then the next day, he went and fought a bear. This resulted in three fractures in his leg. So, not only was he out of the Space Coast Marathon four weeks later, he also was sidelined for the Woodlands Marathon (and the whole 3 month training cycle before it) coming up the last day in February.
I had some history trying to train for a marathon by myself, and it wasn’t pretty. I had two attempts, which started with fits and starts and quickly fizzled into an Olympic triathlon plan and then next time pacing Zliten’s first half instead. The third time I limped along, getting a 20 mile run cobbled together from mileage before and after a half marathon race, and two other long runs, but overall, I had poor and inconsistent training. While I had a blast, I walked at lot of the second half. After I got over the high of “I want to run all the marathons” post race, I kind of vowed not to do another marathon before Zliten was ready because I would much rather spend those long training runs with him. And now… I had to deal with it all by my lonesome.
My training that last month was OK, but inconsistent, and riddled with questions and uncertainty. Everything just felt… off. I lost most of a week to nursing what I thought was something major but ended up just being muscle soreness. I felt a little disconnected from the process and just kind of went through the motions to prepare for a race.
That showed up during the marathon itself as well. I let my head get the best of me during a lot of the hard parts instead of digging in. I had actually planned to hang with Zliten at least during the first half as my race plan, and when that removed itself from possibility, I just never really got over that. Running by yourself for five hours (I mean, surrounded by people, but strangers) is just plain rough if you’ve had a constant run buddy for, like, 3 years.
After that race, I took 9 days with no running, and the next 5 with very little, and set my decision point at the end of December. Was I going to go for the marathon or drop to the half? The first thing I had to decided was if I hated running enough to train for a marathon without a partner. I was very gentle with myself that month. I took no electronics on my runs. I ran whatever pace, whatever mileage, and whenever I felt like. I found a weird and wonderful routine over the holidays of lazing around all day, and running for the hour or so before sunset almost every day.
I felt a lot of run love come back by the new year, but the longest I was able to drag myself outside was 12 miles. Every time I attempted a long run I got bored, or hungry, or ran out of time, or just plain didn’t want to run for more than 2 hours over Holiday break. This didn’t bode well for running the marathon.
I did some soul searching and figured out that dropping to the half marathon felt like giving up something I wanted to do, and not just a weight off my shoulders. I made a hard and fast rule with myself that I had to get in some quality long runs in January or I had to give up anyway. I wasn’t going to run a marathon on a long run of 12 miles.
The weather didn’t really make things easy. Neither did some major shakeups at my job. The first weekend in January we had freezing rain for the entire thing, so I toughed out a 15 mile treadmill run in my living room. It wasn’t *that* bad, and I’m sure I’ll repeat it again over the summer when it’s 90 fucking billion degrees out, but it wasn’t something I wanted to make a habit of in my life.
Then, the next weekend, allergies were so high I feared the outdoors, plus I was in the maximum point of uncertainty and depths of deep depression about what was going on at work. I tried the treadmill trick again and failed miserably at 3.5 miles and 2.5 miles on two successive attempts. Then, I went and got rip roaring drunk on a Sunday because life was awful and forgot to take my allergy pill that night, and I have no idea how I made it through work the next day but oddly enough, things started to look up.
I remembered that whole “stress is stress, whether through training or life” thing, and called that Saturday – Friday my rest week at 21-ish miles during that period of time. By the end of that week, things weren’t totally OK, but getting there, and I shoveled myself out the door that weekend with a plan to get at least, like, 17 miles. With victory chips and beer waiting for me if I succeeded.
Finally, it all clicked. The stress from work clearing, the rest week lifting some fatigue, a decent day outside. I not only did 17, not only did 20, but I did my longest training run ever of 21.3 miles (albeit WELL above marathon pace) simply because I was happy to be out doing it. I only quit because I started feeling some deeper fatigue than normal and didn’t want to sideline myself if I pressed on. Break on through to the other side, I was back on track.
The next week, I peaked my run mileage at 48, and had another slow but phenomenal 20 mile long run in almost 4 hours of pouring rain that ended at the pho place near my house. I still felt good last week, so I celebrated my last week before taper with 48 more miles, and a much faster 18 mile long run (10:54 pace vs 11:44 pace the week before) which gave me some confidence that maybe, just maybe, if I show up and then stay out of my own way, I might have a PR in there after all.
That’s a lot of words about a training cycle that was fraught with peril and on the rocks for a bit, but ultimately seems like will end with a solid foundation to run on Feb 28th. If I complete what’s planned, I’ll have long runs of 21, 20, 18, 16, 15, 12, 11, and 10. I’ve had 3 weeks of 33+ and 4 weeks of 40+ miles. I also conquered running alone and have learned some things from it:
Running by myself…
…is a great place to think things through. I had so many conversations with myself and people at work in my head on runs, and I ended up figuring out where I really stand on a lot of things. Also, those runs went by so, so quick. When I used to need to get ready for a meeting right after lunch I’d skip my workout to do so – now I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
…is a great opportunity to do whatever the fuck I want most days. Running with Zliten, we’d have to establish a route, distance, time, and pace goal parameters before the run. By myself, I can shovel myself out the door not knowing whether I’m going to run north or south, 1 or 11 miles, or whether I’m going to have splits in the 12s or the 9s. Hell, I stopped and played on the swings at the park one day during a run. I can show up and see what happens.
…is great mental training for the race. Running 4 hours by myself means it won’t be a shock on race day. I have to motivate myself every day, I won’t rely on anyone to do it for me at the race.
…is fantastic when I truly want to be electronics free, since I pretty much could only pry my husband’s garmin from his cold dead hands (and he’d probably just use a phone app to track pace/HR or something as back up).
…means I get to talk about my run as a story, and we’re not both like “yup, uh huh, I was there, remember…” and also hear about how he killed it that day doing something else.
…is really helping me embrace my “run as travel” mindset, and not just clocking miles on a watch. Taking the emphasis off watching a watch has allowed me to consider running as commuting, where before, I wouldn’t have done that because the stops or crazy terrain would have fucked up my splits. I don’t give a rats ass about my splits if I can’t see them until after the fact.
However, Zliten’s making a comeback. He is up to 30 mins on the treadmill or track, and should be running outside before the end of the month. We even got to run together last night! It was weird having company but then it was awesome. While I’ve enjoyed running on my own for the last few months a lot more than I thought I would… nothing beats a run buddy!