Tuesday, March 1, 2011

One Sixth Sense

Perhaps it is just the cumulative effect of the winter, which really seemed to kick off in earnest way back when on Boxing Day, but it seems to me as if it has taken far longer than two months to reach March 1. Or maybe this year was just a Leap Year to the Nth degree or some such thing. Whatever the reason, I would be less than forthright if I did not admit that from my selfish perspective happiness is February in the rear-view mirror - and I am an Aquarian (or at least I was until they added a 13th Zodiac sign. Now? Who the hell knows). 2011 has finally confined its first sixth to the history books. Hooray.

Sixty days from today I shall compete in my first - and barring a full frontal lobotomy being on my dance card at some point thereafter - and only marathon. The way the training schedule is set up for this undertaking places the week's longest run on Sunday. Lucky for me that I am not a religious man. In view of how much of my Sunday is occupied by running ever-increasing distances in the hope of being prepared to run twenty six and a hairball more two months from now, I have little to spend in a dialogue with the Almighty. Besides, as I have noted here previously, the two of us have an understanding. I do not spend any time in his house. He returns the favor. Nary a complaint to be heard by either of us.

The weather was so terrible this winter that I was forced to spend all of January and February running on a treadmill as opposed to outside. The only exceptions to that rule were a 5K race I ran in over Valentine's Day weekend and my 8 mile training run on Super Bowl Sunday. While the former went off scot-free, I bit turf during the latter while attempting to navigate my way along one of the many streets in my little town to which the DPW applied the "Summer Will Be Here Soon" theory of ice removal. Not fun. I really loathe running on the treadmill. It would have to be much more fun than it is just to be considered boring.

Yet I have come to embrace it as a necessary evil. In fact this past Sunday although it was quite a nice day 'NTSG I fulfilled my training obligation of a 12-mile run indoors on the treadmill. The thinking behind the decision (giving the word "thinking" its broadest possible interpretation) was simple. These runs are for training purposes, not for fun. The best way for me to wrap my head around them is to treat them like work. They are something that has to be completed. Running outside in the good weather is a pleasure. The purpose of these runs is not to promote pleasure but rather to prepare me for what I hope shall be a quite pleasurable experience.....or at the very least one that I live through long enough to talk about afterwards.

I recognize that there are inherent advantages to running outside, which is why I am very much looking forward to the two half-marathons I am running in between now and Marathon Day. However I have come to embrace the fact that the treadmill demands from me a certain amount of discipline that I might otherwise be able to shade a bit when I run outdoors. My goal is simply not to survive this experience but - since I plan on making this my first and last best shot at it - completing it at something close to the four hour mark. In order to do that, I will have to be able to turn - on average -twenty six miles back to back to back to back at or about a 9:00 per mile pace. Sunday, I completed twelve miles in 101 minutes. While recognizing the fact that I ran a distance that is less than one-half the marathon distance, I am nevertheless pleased by the fact that I covered that distance at a pace that would enable me to complete the marathon in or about four hours. As I add distance weekly, I am working hard to maintain pacing so that my body gets accustomed to the discomfort associated with running as hard as it can mile after mile.

Here on the first of March I feel in my gut as if my preparation for this endeavor is on target and appropriate. The rest of that story - the important parts of it - will be written sixty days hence. It is on May 1 and not March 1 when I will find out whether there was in fact a method to my madness or simply madness busting out and going solo.

-AK

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