With only 3 weeks left until the big race my training plan is finally entering “taper mode.” My mileage is set to gradually decrease for the remainder of my training so my body can (hopefully) recover from all the punishment I’ve put it through over the past 4 months.
This final “build up” week didn’t go entirely as planned. That’s not to say it was bad week of workouts. It just wasn’t exactly ideal. I injured my left knee last weekend at the second combine for the Phoenix. It wasn’t anything serious at the time, so I kept playing and thought nothing of it. On Monday, I felt some lingering soreness, but still shrugged it off as normal. By the end of my 8 mile workout that night, it started feeling worse. My next run on Wednesday felt much better, but then my knee pain reemerged near the end. I ended up having to skip my Thursday run. I was scheduled to run 6 miles, but bailed after 0.25 mi. Every stride felt like someone whacked my knee with a sandbag. I had to make the call that those 6 miles just weren’t worth the pain.
My last run of the week, and longest ever, was scheduled to cover 22 miles Saturday morning. That was farther than I was originally supposed to go. The standard plan I’m using (which I modified months ago) topped out at 20 miles. I wanted to try to prepare myself a little more by going a little farther. Decent idea, right? I didn’t make it 22 miles. I ended up having to stop after 20 mi and then I walked the last 2 miles back to my house.
I have three theories as to why I couldn’t go the whole distance:
1. Once again, I started out too fast. It’s a simple concept, I know. Conserve energy early on so you have more to work with at the end. My problem is that I have a habit of wanting to go all out from the start. I have a lot of energy right now, so I can do more right now. Clearly the wrong way to run a marathon.
2. Fuel consumption. I finally figured out a good food source to use on the run. I tried to make my own energy bars over the past few weeks, but they turned out to be too difficult to eat while running. So, I settled on GU gels. These turned out to actually be pretty tasty and very easy to eat and keep down. My problem here is I don’t think I had enough of them. Ideally, you want to eat something every 45-60 minutes during strenuous exercise. I had tried to hold myself to eating once every 10 miles. That worked out to two snacks after 1.5 and 3 hours, respectively. I’ll have to modify that plan to eat a little more frequently.
3. Persisting knee pain. Given a day or two of rest, it feels deceivingly good. However, as the miles pile up it gets progressively more sore.
This final stage of the plan could not come at a better time. I’m beginning to feel burnt out. I’ve started admitting that I don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve started asking ow anyone could possibly find this sport to be enjoyable. 18 weeks is a very long time to devote yourself toward one goal. This endeavor has strained me both physically and mentally. These distances have grown so large that I’m beginning to lose all joy in running. The shorter runs are feeling more like chores than valuable “me time” and the long runs are pure torture. I’m hoping these next three taper weeks will help to restore the joy I once use to take in running. This marathon training is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I still want to see it through, just to be able to say I did it. Beyond that, I don’t think I’ll ever want to run another marathon. As my chemistry professors in college used to say, “If this were easy, everyone would do it.”