Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Burning Down the House

You see it happen in team sports all the time. Your team progresses, plateaus, and then management blows things up while fans suffer through some lean “rebuilding years.” At some point, “But we’ve always done it this way,” just isn’t good enough anymore....

“Glad you’re feeling good,” my coach said on Sunday night. “Just don’t be surprised if the mileage catches up to you,” he added. That night, staring at the 81.5mi on my training calendar from the last six days and the 78 miles ahead, it already had.

Let me back up.

Six weeks ago, no, farther back than that. After I crossed the finish line at Marine Corps, I basked in my PR for a few days but dealt with this lingering feeling of, “What else….” As in, “What else can I do to lower that PR? Really lower it.”

So I tore it all down and began to rebuild for the one race that has owned me in both previous attempts: Boston.

For starters, I hooked up with the previously mentioned coach whom I met when I went to running camp nearly two years ago. I explained to him that while I’d seen results from the same plan tweaked slightly for each marathon, I felt stale. Cue that 81 mile week. I started running six days a week instead of five. I started running longer strides at the end of workouts. I started a new core routine. And I started to see results.

Then, I changed my diet.

On day 3 of “clean eating” I felt anything but. A dull headache spread across the back of my eyes and my head may as well have been the Golden Gate Bridge when the fog rolled in. I trotted out onto the golf course after work to tackle ten miles. At 2.5, I slowed…and stopped. Hands on head, trying to wring the haze out. I could have slept then and there.

So, I changed when I ran.

I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00 to run instead of being at the mercy of my work schedule. But with my energy levels steady thanks to the new nutrition plan, I actually sprung out of bed when the alarm went off. I could get up and run fresh instead of having a day of working and commuting hanging over my head.

I discovered that the light-headedness I sometimes felt the first four miles when going long came from an insulin spike due to the food I consumed prior to my run. I also discovered that a hardboiled egg, handful of raisins, and spoonful (or two) of almond butter are the perfect fuel sources for me when going long.

And so the rebuild began to take shape.

After several runs of wanting to hang up my shoes for good, the fog lifted and carried with it the dull headache. The 2:00 p.m. crash disappeared. I started sleeping better, deeper, and waking up refreshed. My legs recovered faster, and now feel powerful. And though I feel fatigued at the end of the week, I can still grind out my new Friday run and tackle an even longer run on Saturday.

Now, 8.5 weeks remain in this grand experiment until that fateful blast of the gun on April 15. Until then, it's a steady consumption of miles, whole foods, and heart for this runner.

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