Why Marathon Training is Hard

21 Oct

My half Iron Man training was so easy. Well, okay, time-wise it took a long time.  Energy-wise it was rough.  And the actual event – 90s in August – was also no picnic.

But the training for my half Iron Man was a breeze.  I lucked into a training setup that only elite athletes can beat.  I showed up at the appropriate time (4 AM, 4:30, 5:00) with the appropriate gear.  The guys on my team always had a plan.  They knew how much we were going to bike or run or swim or what combination of the three.  They determined how fast we went.  Well, they determined how fast they were going to go.  I did my best to keep up.

One of them had a condo with a pool where we swam early morning laps.  They plan our running routes through the ABCs (Allston, Brighton/Brookline/Boston, Cambridge and Charlestown) and I tagged along.  They handed me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while I rode an expensive triathlon bike that one of them owned.  The bike was always immaculate and ready to go. I never changed a tire or cleaned a speck of mud off of it.

At the time, I just thought about how hard the training was. Now, I can’t stop thinking about how easy I had it.

Maybe the issue is that I live alone and I work full-time and I am school part-time in the evenings.  But the long runs for marathon training are hard.  Towards the end, in between dreams of juice and popsicles (I always crave both when running but stop as soon as we’re done) I began making a mental list of everything I will do when I get home:

  • Yoga stretches, some half pigeon hip openers
  • Take a shower
  • Pop ibuprofen
  • Eat a meal (plenty of protein)
  • Ice my knees and ankles
  • Apply muscle rub
  • Eat another meal an hour later
In reality, I get home.  I go through the mail, I clean up and put things away.  I eventually take a shower.  Somehow, an hour passes and I neither stretch (other than the walking I do after the run) nor medicate nor ice or rub.  And I don’t eat. And then I realize I am so hungry and exhausted that I SHOULD eat and then nap so I can enjoy the rest of my day.  But making food or walking somewhere for food seems so impossible.  Which is why, about three hours after a 20-miler, I find myself eating canned light soup or cereal.  Which isn’t exactly what I should be eating.  And doesn’t provide much energy for the rest of the day.
Maybe it would be different if I didn’t live alone.  I certainly know that post-intensive Iron Man days, I showered while the guys cooked banana pancakes.  Then we’d eat.  Peanut butter slathered on the pancakes.  And then I’d have plenty of energy to clean up the kitchen while they took turns showering.  And by the time most people were waking up on a Saturday, I’d have worked out for 3 hours and be energized for whatever the day held.
Tomorrow is my last long run.  This time, I am vowing to do it better than 2 weeks ago.  When it was too hot and we brought too little water and snacks and the last mile of the 21 was beyond brutal.  And then I didn’t fully replenish my nutritional needs until hours later.
Tonight I am laying out the yoga mat in front of the TV. I have leftover chili that can easily be reheated.  I’ve restocked the fridge and prepped some additional snacks and meals.  The ibuprofen and muscle rub are on the counter.  And I’m going to prove to myself that I don’t need the guys to keep me on track.
And if that doesn’t work, feel free to email or text between 11 and 1 tomorrow yelling at me to follow my list.  Because right now it seems so doable, but tomorrow when I’m tired and still have a sinus headache, it will seem too challenging.
Besides, the Iron Man training might have been easy but the actual event was hard.  And there was no family or friends waiting for me at the end.  It didn’t feel too different from our test runs except that there were lots of other people (other women!) and they also had numbers written on their calves and arms and they possessed wetsuits and aero bars.

This marathon training hasn’t been easy.  But it has been fun.  My friend has run nearly every mile by my side and I’m blessed to have her with me.  And knowing that my parents are at the finish line and will make sure I get warm and eat enough and handle logistics will make all the difference. I just have to run.  I just have to cross that line.  And nothing else.


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