Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reflections on my marathon training

With one week to go before my taper begins, I am generally pleased with my condition despite the recent setbacks. I know that I am in better shape than last year and I showed it in my time trial so if I bomb on race day, I will be disappointed but not crushed. No matter what, I can say that I have set at least 2 PRs for the marathon distance in 2009. Including the cutback weeks for tapers and race weeks, I have averaged slightly over 40 miles per week over the past 15 in spite of illness and failure to finish 4 planned long runs. My median mileage over that same period was 46/wk and included 5 weeks at 50 or over and a high of 63. I did not keep a log last year but I know that this year's mileage is a great deal higher. Still, I am somewhat frustrated that my health is still not perfect. I know that my neurotransmitters are no longer low but if I had a medical report, I don't think it would show significant improvement in my thyroid and adrenal function since last Fall. It has now been almost 3 years since the initial diagnosis and many times I have thought that I am one step away from bringing it all together and getting in balance once and for all. Each time, I was rudely reminded that it was not so. Just how far away am I now? I'm not sure and I will get some answers both on race day and in the medical report.

Let me take you back to 2005-06. Without powerful adrenal stimulants, I was nearly bedridden and only if I took the precise amount (neither more nor less) could I do some light workouts. Often those workouts, which usually lasted about 10-15 minutes, would leave me exhausted for several days. I started small with my goals. First, it was being able to go 20-30 minutes a few times a week. Then, it was getting back to respectable shape to compete in 5Ks, 10Ks and if I really push it, maybe a half mary. My highest aim was to finish a marathon in less than 4 hours and get back to where I was before the energy crash in the shorter distances (sub-20 5K). Last year, I achieved both of those "highest aims" but I want more. I don't want to be one of those people that consistently set new goals and obsess over continuous improvement even though they are already excellent runners with little potential for further improvement and little to gain by reaching 100% of their potential versus 98%. How much more fruitful will life be for a 2:40 marathoner if he can reach his limit of 2:36? FYI: You need a 2:22 just to make the Olympic trials and that is light years away. I think my lifetime goals are fairly moderate considering my potential if I can stay healthy:
Mile: 5:20, 5K: 19:00, 10K: 40:00, Half: 1:30:00, Full: 3:10:59 (Boston qualifier)
Let's say that I break 19 for 5K or run a BQ within the next year or two. I certainly will not stop training and striving for improvement but I will be satisfied by maintaining that level. I really don't know what my limits are because I've never trained at 100% balanced chemistry. I do think that I could have run under 4:50 for the mile in high school and probably faster in college but I hope to have the wisdom to know what my true limits really are in this, my 2nd running life. I know of runners who have run a BQ then become obsessed with getting under 3:00. Many end up injured or burned out within a few years. Fewer accomplish that goal because in some cases, it is very close to, if not beyond their limits. In this running life, in spite of illness, I broke both the 22 and 21 minute barriers for 5K with relative ease. Getting under 20 was hard. 19 will be even harder because I am getting closer and closer to my limit. I don't like to say anything is impossible but getting under 18 is highly unlikely. I'll be 30 next fall and probably have about a 5 year window of improvement for 5Ks and 10Ks and maybe 10 years in a marathon. Yes, I will train hard for all distances but when I get close to my limits, I vow that I will not obsess about cutting off a few seconds per mile when the risk outweighs the relatively small reward. My current focus is on the marathon because that's where my greatest potential for improvement and greatest reward exists. There is no prestigous event that I could enter only by breaking the 40:00 barrier in a 10K. I hope to run 3:35-3:40 in my second marathon and figure that a downhill course (2000-3000' elevation loss) could be worth up to 10 minutes so a downhill 3:10 may be equivalent of a flat 3:20. I may be within 15-20 minutes right now. Still, that is a significant amount of time. Even 15 minutes is almost 35 seconds per mile. To achieve this, I'll need to be healthy for at least a year and average upwards of 60 miles/wk during that time. I believe that is possible for me but if it's not to be, I certainly won't let it ruin my life. That would be ridiculous.

No comments: