I can tell you exactly when it happened. It was January 22 and I rode down the backside of a hill on Cabell’s Mill road somewhere around 4.5 miles into an easy 12 miler. The sun wouldn’t rise for another hour and the temperature wouldn’t make it into double digits all day. My breath plumed in front of me, a soft halo of white steam in my headlamp, and I had to keep covering my left eye with a glove to keep my contact from hardening in the cold. That’s when I knew I had entered new territory.
Not because of the conditions, but simply because of a realization, a rededication to myself, to the process, to life really. I had looked back at the past few weeks of my training log and saw a day or two that had a goose egg where an 8 or 10 should have been with the explanation that I had to work late. I took a look back at RunDanRun’s post about Dathan Rizenheim’s “Whatever it takes” article as well as a similar post on dedication from my Ironman friend, Caroline.
I had hooked up with my coach with the idea of breaking out of a training rut and elevating my workouts. The status quo wouldn’t work anymore and it was time to both demonstrate and commit to that.
This morning, two-plus months since that day, I trotted to a walk and pulled up at the bottom of our stairs to unlace the house key from my shoes. I took a pull on my water bottle, still filled near to the brim, and gave a little shrug. Six miles felt so unsatisfying. But such is the dilemma of the tapering runner.
I sat down to a too-big breakfast and logged my measly miles for the day both in the Google Doc I share with my coach and the online running log I also keep. To reassure myself that it was in fact ok to turn in less than double digits, I scrolled back through the neat rows and blocks of miles that represented the proverbial “hay in the barn” that would mark my build up to next week’s Boston Marathon.
Beyond that January 22 run, I zeroed in on the week of March 4, the first full week of the month. If ever there was a monster month in my marathon training, this was it. I had just come off of being sick for four days and wasted little time getting back into the swing of things. That week kicked off what would be the first of three consecutive 80+ mile weeks.
I drifted through days, only feeling truly energized for the 70-90 minutes I ran in the morning, collecting sunsets, split knuckles from the wind, and clearing the remnants of illness from my lungs at stoplights. Each week I reported in to my coach and he buoyed my spirits as I lamented about how hard it was to peel myself off the couch just to go up to bed on Thursday nights. “You sound like a marathoner in training,” he said as we shared a laugh.
And so it went. The days and weeks turned over and I wore the rubber off the soles of my shoes and the excess fat from my bones. When finally, the last 80 mile week (318.5 miles for the month) was behind me and I strode confidently into a down week and now into this taper.
Readers of my blog know that the training image I like to use is one my Uncle passed along a few years back, and it’s that of fashioning a sword in your training. The idea being that the base miles are the sword itself and the speed work delivers the slippery, sharp edge. I still have the race to run, and fully recognize that there are no guarantees on race day, particularly in the marathon. But when I look back at the last four months and where I stand today, I know that when I toe the line next Monday, I’ve got a big god damn sword and I’m ready to unsheathe it.