Why little girl, you look so scared!
I suppose a #tbt post from Clove is appropriate in two ways; first in that it’s a near 13-year throwback, and second in that it’s Clove. While I may have been absent from Salty Running, I haven’t been absent from my own salty running; just not in a position to document it properly.
I dug this picture out of the bin of actual printed pictures not too long ago. The story: DB and I are on the way to the start of the Tucson Marathon in December 2001. This was my 17th marathon, and praise the God that I believe in and all his heavenly angels, the one at which I finally – finally! – qualified for Boston for the first time.
What is the fear? Fear of failure for sure; remember, this was my 17th marathon, and likely my fifth or sixth attempt at a BQ. Fear of pain; after all, these races do hurt. But most of all, it was the fear of not being able to do it, which is different from the fear of failure. The fear of failure is simple, I think; defined by a clock or a time. The fear of not being able to do it is a longer, more extended terrible feeling. The fear of getting out there and finding out that it really is too fast; of knowing by mile 8 or 10 or 12 that you’re just not going to be able to hold that ridiculous pace.
While I had made the attempt several times, this was the first BQ race that I had sucked it up and trained for. I did a weekly Yasso 800 workout, and I did a weekly workout at marathon pace. But I was still struggling with how it was all going to “come together.” I knew that I could run faster than marathon pace – for a mile or two – and that I could run at marathon pace – for a few more miles – but now I was supposed to do WHAT?!?!? Run at this “marathon pace” for how long? And trust that all that work, combined with the rest of a taper, was going to make it feel relatively manageable for at least the first 17 or 18 miles?
And there you have that wide-eyed look of fear in the picture, along with the butterflies (nausea?) in my stomach.
It did all come together that day, complete with a full onslaught of tears when I saw the finish line: 3:38:17. It was huge. And back then, you could still register for Boston in December, which made it an even bigger deal – I was just four months away from my dream marathon!
Fast forward almost thirteen years. I decided earlier this year to take a year off from 100-milers and make a solid attempt on one last marathon PR before I turned 40. (Yes, I know women PR after 40. But my greatest love is ultras, and while I needed a mental and physical break from the distance, that’s where I intend to put my focus again). Having not trained specifically for a marathon in five years, and knowing that my training would need to get shaken up to get me anywhere near a 3:15, I actually signed up for an online coaching program and followed it to the letter. The program consisted of Tuesday speedwork (constantly changing intervals); Thursday tempo run either at or faster than marathon pace; and a long run with actual prescribed paces. I upped the ante just a little bit by turning my long runs into progression runs. I started the program in May, and I have completed every single workout but one at or faster than the prescribed pace. And that one was on a suspiciously measured course in London.
I have run in the rain, the heat, and the humidity. I have run on hills and gravel in Rome (because when in Rome, training does not stop). I have run at altitude in the Grand Canyon. I have run in the midst of some overwhelming personal and professional struggles, and I have run with the sheer joy of feeling “fast” again. But now we are in the final stage of the taper. Everything hurts. Running feels awful. And once again, I am faced with incredible fear of not being able to do it.
I’ve been blessed to run under 3:20 five times. 3:19:02, 3:19:35, 3:17:29, 3:17:05; 3:18:37. I’ve been there, and I know my body can do that. And I’ve still been able to run sub-3:30’s in the past couple of years eight weeks post-Burning River, but one can’t deny the benefits of simple high mileage training. No, the most simple fact of the matter is this: I am wide-eyed and scared again. Once more struggling with the feeling that I can run faster than marathon pace – for a couple miles – and I can run at marathon pace – for a few more miles – but that now I’m supposed to do WHAT?!?!? Run at this “marathon pace” for how long? And trust that all that work, combined with the rest of a taper, is going to make it feel relatively manageable for at least the first 17 or 18 miles?
Trust me, Salty readers, I’m going for it. I am going for the 3:15 and hanging on. And I’ll be ecstatic with the 3:15; I’ll be happy as a pig in (mud) with anything that’s a PR, and I’ll still feel like it was worth every oxygen-sucking step for anything in that 3:20 window. But I’m that wide-eyed scared little girl in that picture again, really hoping this thing works.
(PS: Trying to “test your fitness” at a half marathon midway through your training cycle is a great idea. Doing it the week after a 50-mile trail race is a bad idea. It will not improve your confidence. And you should know better.)