Thursday, September 8, 2011

another training post: on relinquishing goals

Training has officially gotten rough, and I think I'm now at the point where I can expect to feel tired, sore, even slightly sick as often as not until the marathon is over.  Tuesday I made my first attempt at a run since Saturday's 16-miler - I believe I wrote about how short, slow, and unpleasant that was - and it left me feeling tired the whole day.  I postponed Wednesday's run to the evening, and by midafternoon I was feeling reasonably good. 
Last night's run went very well, in part because it was done an easy treadmill.  I ran seven miles, and although I cramped a bit around mile three, I slowed down briefly and then felt fine.  I took a break at 4.5 miles because the treadmills only let you run for 59 minutes so I'd need to take one at some point, and then I ran the last 2.5 miles faster.  The last mile of the run I felt extremely strong and fast (although I happened to be running next to a mirror, and I did not *look* very fast).  The worst part of the run was coming home to an exceptionally painful shower and difficulty sleeping due to friction burns.
I'm not sure if I'll run again before Saturday.  I could run tonight, although I would prefer to do yoga, and I dread aggravating my skin further.  I could run tomorrow morning, but my long run is Saturday.  I feel like it's kind of pathetic to not be getting in at least 3 weekday runs, though.
The biggest obstacle I'm having in my training this time around is my own expectations.  The first time I trained for a marathon, four years ago, I'd never done anything like it, and as long as I was able - somehow - to get through my longs runs, I felt like I was on track.  I was slow, but many of the other runners - and the only other marathoner - I knew were slow.  It was hard, but I was mostly just surprised that I could do it at all.
I'm much stronger now.  It's easy to forget that.  But my long runs involve more hills and much less walking.  I haven't been timing myself, and I didn't time myself last time, so I don't know if I'm faster.  But one of the most vivid memories I have of that training cycle was sitting down on the side of the road and crying twelve miles into my first fifteen-miler because I was so tired and in so much pain and had so far still to go - and I've now passed the fifteen-mile mark in this year's training with no such episode, so I'm at least mentally tougher.
But I keep comparing myself to other people, or to how I would like to be.  I read all these running blogs, written by people who are much stronger and faster than I am.  These people eat twenty miles for breakfast on Saturday and then run five miles on Sunday to "recover", and they don't seem to suffer from sore, weak, or tired legs in the days after their long run, or the inability to sleep through the night without waking up to eat, or anything else unpleasant.
Of course this comparison is unhelpful (except insofar as I can learn from their experiences).  I'm not running to be as fast and strong as other people, or even as fast and strong as an arbitrary measure of how I "should" be.  I don't know what I'm capable of at this time and on this course, since I haven't run a marathon recently or here.  And I'm not advanced enough as a marathoner to reasonably set a goal on this race, other than to run strong, do my best, and not let the race beat me.