Friday, November 12, 2010

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon - The Taper

It is Saturday, November 6th, and I am knee deep in the tapering period of my training for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon being held one week from today. No more hill sprints or speed to work to speak of, and tomorrow's "long run" of 8 miles sounds like a joke.

I've experienced pre-race anxiety before, but not quite like this. This is my first marathon, and there are more unknowns than usual. What if this, what if that? And one thing that's been surprisingly difficult to cope with has been the reminders I hear from those I'm fortunate enough to have supporting me. BQ! I blame myself, of course. After all, I'm the one that foolishly proclaimed my intent to qualify for the Boston Marathon back in April.

Today I sit here wanting to tune out the encouragement I've so appreciated the past few months. I've put enough pressure on myself already. To accomplish this I've decided to stop visiting one of my favorite sites, dailymile. It's not that I don't want to share my thought process or training updates. If I didn't I wouldn't be writing this blog post. It's just that right now I feel I need to focus. Inward. Be selfish, if you will. What does suck is that I already miss interacting with so many good people. Reading about your workouts and being apart of such a great online community.

 creative commons credit: psd
I do want to thank everyone that's supported me the past 18 weeks. From those who have no idea how long a marathon is, to fellow runners that know what it takes to get from there to here. I especially want to thank Hilary, James, Andy and Greg. Each of them in their own way have played a vital part in getting me through this training.

Finally, I'm dedicating this marathon to a very special person, Kym. This marathon represents the final step in a journey she helped me begin and follow to completion. If it weren't for her it's doubtful any of this would ever have happened. Thank you for motivating me and, more importantly, inspiring me, Kym. I am eternally grateful.

I intend to publish this post before I go to sleep on Friday night. I'll have enough things to worry about before I leave for the race on Saturday morning. I'll update it daily throughout the week and try to treat it like a series of dailymile posts. To kick things off, here's a quick status update.

Physically I'm feeling pretty good. With the decrease in mileage this week it's felt like a wave slowly washing over me. I'd reached that state of perpetual tiredness and soreness the weeks leading up to this one, and now those aches and fatigue are dissipating. My legs feel fresher than they have in months, and it no longer hurts to get up out of a chair. My only concern is an injury that's been with me for 3-4 weeks. It started out as what I thought was a lower abdominal strain. From there it made its way down to my hip flexor, and now it's moved even farther south to my groin. It's not painful, but during a run feels tight. Post run there's a mild burning sensation that extends down the inside of my thigh to my knee. Will it be healed in a week, and if not will it affect my race? Time will tell.

Mentally, well, you know know by now I'm a bit of a mess. I still think I'm capable of achieving my goal, but worry about the things I can't control. I worry about the wall, injury, illness, cramping, etc. So, I'll carbo load in the coming days, routinely wash my hands like a crack fiend with OCD, and do my best not to let the unknown consume me.

T-7, Saturday, November 6
4.03 miles, 30:06, 7:28/mi avg

I ran four miles in about 30 minutes flat. Hal said he didn't care how fast I did the workout, so I just started out slow and ramped it up from there. What I liked about this run was the the overall average pace: 7:28/mile. I've been a little concerned about the start of the marathon, going out too fast and/or not going out fast enough. If I can replicate this run over the first four miles of the marathon and then settle into my race pace of 7:30/mile I'll be ecstatic. The temp was 33°, which was, hopefully, a little cooler than what we'll get on race day. Still, I was pretty comfortable in shorts, a long-sleeve tech shirt and pullover. I'd just prefer to keep it to one layer.

T-6, Sunday, November 7
8.11 miles, 1:09:29, 8:34/mi avg.

Today marked the last "long run" on the training schedule. At only 8 miles it was the shortest since week # 3 of my training. Hal once again counseled to keep the pace a minute or two slower than marathon pace, so I did. I ran through the Brookstone, Silver Hills and Overlook neighborhoods, much as I have the past couple of months. There was a pretty steady wind coming out of the northwest, but it wasn't awful. This was one run I wished I had brought along an iPod. I could have used the distraction. Anyway, still feeling pretty good. All showered and shaved, and now enjoying some steel cut oats with strawberries for breakfast. It's the first time I've ever made them, and they're not too bad.

Note 1: I just shelled out $4.99 to Universal Sports in order to watch the New York City Marathon. It said that fee would give me access to multiple feeds. Instead, after I paid I got an Asics commercial and then a black screen saying "Competition will resume shortly." Um, what happened? Did everyone pull over at the side of the road for a breather? Ugh!

Note 2: Crap. Just as I got the feed Haile pulled out with a knee injury.

Note 3: Disappointing to see Shalane fade at mile 24, but impressive to see her battle to the finish and take second. And even though an American male didn't place, it was still fun to watch Gebre Gebremariam pull away the last couple of miles and enjoy his victory. A contrast in comparison to the women's winner, Edna Kiplagat, who barely showed any emotion.

T-5, Monday, November 8

One of the first things I've been doing the past few days the moment I wake up is check the 10-day forecast for Chickamauga. I didn't put much stock in it 10 days out, but days 7, 6 and today the prediction hasn't changed. Low of around 43° on race morning with a 30% chance of showers. Unless it's a downpour, which seems unlikely, it should be ok.

My choices this morning were to take an additional rest day or run 3 miles in the 32° temperature. I chose the former for a couple of reasons. First, it hardly seemed worth getting out there for just 3 miles when it's this cold out, and second because I figured my groin injury could use the morning off. Besides, it's not like I won't be doing anything today. I'll hit the gym later for a strength and core workout.

I'm trying to heed Hal's eating advice and not consume too much this last week. I don't weigh all that much, but at this weight I can tell the difference a pound or two makes. Since I'm not running as much I've cut down on my portions and effective today will not be allowing myself cookies, candy, etc. That last part won't be easy, but my mental makeup will ensure I follow through. When I set my mind to something like this I know I'll comply.

Weights Workout

I think this is the last weights workout I do before the marathon. The next regularly scheduled one would be on Thursday, and since I should be resting from Wednesday on it's probably best to skip it. If I do anything it will be restricted to upper body. I hope I've pushed myself enough in this department to make a difference come race day. I'm no infomercial model, but it's kind of cool to see the definition on my abs.

2x12: Chest Press (120), Lat Pulldowns (90), Leg Curls (90), Leg Extensions (75), Calf Raises (120), Arm Curls (55), Diverging Seated Row (75)
6x30: Abdominal Crunches (90)

T-4, Tuesday, November 9
3.14 miles, 28:56, 9:12/mi avg

Who knew getting in a 4x400 workout could be a challenge at this point? The plan called for these intervals to be run at a 5k pace. I actually had to look that up to see what it meant. Apparently, my pace should have been around 6:46/mile, though in reality it was all over the place. It's been so long since I've raced a 5k and I've grown so accustomed to 800m intervals that I didn't know how to do it.

My first interval was - as my daughter would say - an epic fail. I'm sure I'm supposed to spell that in some quirky, ironic fashion, but that'll have to do. Since I've run intervals in this neighborhood before I thought I had a good idea how far 400m would be. But the light on my Garmin never turned on. Finally, I just stopped and found that instead of hitting my lap button to start the intervals I had pressed the start/stop button. Argh. I took a short breather, started the watch again and then pressed lap.

My first official split pace was 5:47/mile. Yikes! Way too fast. Hal said I should be taking it easy and come away from this workout feeling like I could do a lot more. So, I slowed things down and my next split was 6:23! Still too fast! On my third one I did better - only 6:54 this time, but the last one I still went too fast at 6:21.

Oh well. It's in the books and I don't (yet) feel any worse for the wear. One thing I was thinking about in the midst of all this was how this effort might translate in a 5k. There's plenty on the schedule in the coming months, so I think I'll look for one with a certified course and see what I've got. I'd love to legitimately break 20 minutes. The 19:55 I used to have on my PR list was held on an uncertified course widely thought to be short.

T-3, Wednesday, November 10

An easy 3 miles on the schedule today - if my marathon were on Sunday, that is. Since it's on Saturday I've moved up things up and will take today and tomorrow off instead, with a 2-mile shakeout on Friday. I think I'll get that in after arriving in Chattanooga, checking in and picking up my packet.

T-2, Thursday, November 11

I can't remember the last time I didn't run for two days in a row. Fortunately, I have a lot to do today in preparation for traveling to the race tomorrow, so I haven't thought about it much. Still, it's weird.

I've been carb loading since yesterday, and though I've been eating a lot it hasn't felt like enough. So far my carbs of choice have been whole wheat bagels and bread, oatmeal, quinoa and potatoes. Today I'll be introducing pasta when I take my daughter out for lunch, and will likely follow up with more of the same for dinner. The challenge has been keeping my protein ratio where it needs to be. For example, I really wanted a latte this morning, but passed since I'd already had peanut butter on my bagel. Fortunately, I'm not having to stray too far from my usual diet. I'm no health nut, but for the most part my everyday eating habits are shaped by running.

I've been thinking a lot about my race strategy. Initially I wanted to aim for steady splits the entire race since it's a relatively flat course. I noticed the other day, however, that there will be a couple of pace groups. My latest plan is to start with the 3:20 group for the first 3-4 miles and then pick it up from there until I hit my desired average of 7:30/mile. I figure this will keep me from going out too fast, which is something I have a habit of. I'll try to maintain that pace thru miles 21 or 22, and if I feel good try to pick it up the last few.

T-1, Friday, November 12

Today I travel to Chattanooga for the race. I'd thought about sleeping in and then hitting the road, but was up on and off all night. At some point I reasoned it would be better to get up early so as not to screw up my sleep schedule. I'll already be losing an hour to the Eastern time zone, so when I saw 4:30 on the clock I rolled out of bed.

For the road trip I figured I could use some new music. I went to the Amazon MP3 store and browsed through some of the albums on sale for $5. I'm not normally a "greatest hits" kind of guy, but made an exception for The Cars and Jimmy Cliff. Also, I picked up the Underworld's latest release, which I've been intending to buy at full price anyway. I noticed they had A Twisted Christmas by Twisted Sister, but those days are long gone. I'm not linking that one, so if you want a copy you'll have to degrade yourself to find it.

Yesterday I took my daughter to lunch at the Olive Garden. We parked in the Arby's parking lot next door. On the way out walking back to our cars we had to cross over the grassy median separating the two. I was paying attention to something she was telling me when all of a sudden my left leg stepped into a hole about 12"-15" deep. I didn't fall, but felt it tweak my groin. It didn't hurt, though I wondered how it might react after sleeping on it. So far it doesn't seem like a setback.

T-18 Hours, Friday, November 12
2.08 Miles, 18:52, 9:03/mi avg

I got into town around 12:30 and drove down to the Battlefield. I needed to give my lunch a little time to settle, so I drove around the course for a few and visited the Wilder Monument. The best way I can think to describe it, is that it looks like a tall rook. I climbed the stairwell to the top and took in the view, which was very nice.

I drove down the road and parked in a a recreation area parking lot. From there I ran around a section of the course in the shape of a triangle. I kept the pace slow and mixed in a few strides, per Hal's recommendation. A few times I slowed down to a walk and just took in the scenery. Not a bad way to officially wrap up the training.

When I got back to the parking lot I noticed a car next to mine with plates from my home state, New Hampshire. A few minutes later the owner, Kevin, showed up and we chatted for a few. He, too, is running the marathon tomorrow, and it's his first. Pretty ambitious considering he just started running in January.


  1. Nice to see your summary here Drew, was wondering where you were on the DM. Best of luck, your taper experiences and emotions sound pretty typical, where the smallest thing is blown out of proportion. Don't worry about it, you'll have a successful race based on the strong training you've put in. Best of luck! And thanks for the mention, honored, as always.

  2. Best of've worked so hard, now just get in the zen and enjoy it!