Two weeks from now, I’ll be a few hours into five days of enjoying this view.
I will have completed my fifth marathon earlier that morning, shortly before 11:00 a.m. if all goes according to plan.
Waiting for me at the finish line in the morning and sitting next to me on that deck with a beer in hand in the evening will be my best girl, traveling from Missoula, MT to ring a cowbell in Eugene and deal with whatever the aftermath is as we relax for a few days at her family’s cabin on the McKenzie River after.
With all of this in mind, I had planned on coming back here for the first time since my recap of my fourth marathon, four months ago, to talk about how, closing in on Eugene, I’m feeling pretty good. Real good. So good that as I’ve thought about marathon #5 and what training has been like and what I hope to do out there on April 28, I have kept coming back to something Faith would offer when asked how she was doing on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Five by five.”
It has definitely been a five by five last few months. After CIM in December, I came home, put away the Garmin and ran some slow, easy miles for a month or so. Then, around the time I discovered this fellow runner/blogger’s kickass training log template, I started thinking about what needed to happen to make my sub-4 dreams a reality in Eugene. As I came home from each run and dutifully logged my miles and pace, I realized that wishing to get speedier wasn’t working and that if I wanted to run faster, I had to start running faster. And while I still haven’t made it to a track for what might pass as proper speed work, I have gotten faster over the last three months, and my training log has the numbers to prove it. My six mile run commute home from work serves as a great tempo run and what used to be a race pace I was happy with is now slower than my slowest easy run pace. What I’m saying is that, at times in spite of myself, I’ve made progress.
And jumbled in with getting comfortable running faster and dabbling in fartleks and strides, some other cool stuff happened that further stoked my running fire.
Nuun decided that for some reason they like hanging out with me in a stinky van for a couple of days and asked me to run with them again this year. The Ragnar course I chose to tackle out of several equally appealing options? Las Vegas. Obviously, Las Vegas. Given that this is going down about three weeks before my 35th birthday, there’s been some talk of friends joining me post-relay for some Vegas early birthday fun. Come with if you want! I’ll be the one limping from table to slots and then back again.
About the same time the Nuun extended the Ragnar invitation, they also asked me to be an official ambassador for the company. I was all, “Wait, what? I totally thought we were already going out! Was I wrong? How embarrassing.” They went and made our relationship status internet official and not coincidentially, evidence of our true love has almost completely taken over my kitchen.
By March, things were looking good. I was adding mileage, feeling great and registering for marathon #6 in December. I figure that driving rain and 35 mph wind can’t possibly strike two years in a row, so I’m gonna go back to Sacramento and see what I can do on a dry course.
Eight weeks out from Eugene seemed like a good time to see what my race legs were capable of, so (thanks to the McMillan Running Calculator) with a kind-of-sort-of-not-really goal of 1:18-ish in mind, I made a whirlwind 22 hour trip up to Seattle in early March to run the Hot Chocolate 15K. The quick trip was an excellent opportunity to see (and stay with) one of my 2012 Ragnar teammates, Dawn. And further proving that all the cool runner girls live in Seattle, I met Andrea, who was so instantly likable that I felt like I’d know her much longer than oh, say ten minutes.
As luck would have it, Molly (that lovely little cabin creature I mentioned and showed you up above) was also in Seattle that weekend and managed to rally some troops to come out and cheer for me. There was even cowbell! And signs. Oh my… the signs.
A word about the second sign. It was created (with a little help from his mom, Michele), by Molly’s six-year-old buddy, Jack. I’m not sure that he even knew who he was out there cheering for or why, but he made the hands down, best sign I have ever or will ever see on a race course, or maybe just the best sign ever in the history of signs.
That line at the bottom? This is what it says:
“Run fast like a cheetah!! Go to be the fastest!!! You know what is up. You know what it is, Jenny.”
Take a minute and let that soak in. Go ahead.
“You know what is up. You know what it is.”
If that’s not some Zen Buddhist shit right there, I don’t know what is.
I didn’t hit my 1:18 in Seattle, but I did run the 15K in 1:24, which I was actually pretty happy about. I came back from Seattle ready to tackle the last eight weeks of marathon training with some laser beam focus. After all, I knew what was up. AND what it was.
March into April was good stuff. Throughout this entire training cycle I wasn’t racking up as many miles as most marathon training programs call for, but I felt okay about it. With CIM as a base to build on, I wasn’t worried about not having the miles in me to endure at Eugene. March was my first 100 mile month in… ever, I think. It felt really good to see that number in the March column of my handy training log.
And even nine short days ago things were right on target. I ran 20 miles last Friday evening in intermittent rain and loved every minute of it. It was the perfect confidence boost that I needed before beginning the three week taper to Eugene. One of the best parts about those 20 miles were that I did them with next to no pain.
Yep, there it is. That’s where we start to go off the rails and what I wanted this post to be becomes what it just ain’t. See, a few weeks ago, I started noticing that my right leg hurt while running. Not the old shin pain that I had years ago before I learned to buy running shoes for function not fashion and not my IT band, which sometimes gives me the tiniest bit of grief. No, for the last few weeks the front of my right thigh has hurt while running and sometimes walking. Exhaustive interneting has me convinced that it’s a hip flexor deal and it probably is a result of several things. Maybe that 100 mile month was too much after lower mileage February and January. Maybe there’s a flip side to the running faster coin. Maybe I’ve been too damn vocal about my extraordinary lack of injuries the last several years. Whatever it is, my leg hurts.
But like I said, 20 went great nine days ago and I gave myself a few days off to recover and stretch it out at yoga. When I hit the road again last Tuesday, five miles were miserable, slow and painful. Three miles two days after that were even worse. To be clear, I’m not in debilitating pain. Nothing is broken or torn or incapacitating to the point of not being able to run at all. But running is not going how it should be 14 days out from a marathon. So, Friday morning I made my first ever appointment with a physical therapist and plan on telling her when we meet in two days at 7 a.m. that I need her to be my best friend for a little less than two weeks and I need her to fix me.
At this point, getting good and not hurty before April 28 is the priority. That might mean that the godawful five miles I ran a few days ago will be my last until I cross the start line in Eugene. That’s sort of terrifying, but not as scary as the thought of not even making it to the start line.
The last few months have been about getting my head and my legs in the right place to both enjoy Eugene and also to leave it feeling successful. Things were looking pretty damn five by five for a while and now it’s a little more like three by four… or something.
Disappointed and a little worried? Yes. Throwing in the towel? Not a chance. And now, 1500+ words later (God bless you if you’re still with me and absolutely no hard feelings if you quit several hundred words ago), I’ve barfed all this out here and this is where I’m going to leave it.
PT on Tuesday. No running until someone smarter than I am tells me it’s okay. Stretching, yoga, foam rolling, icing and RESTING. No bitching, no pity parties, no taking stupid chances. All of this to say that despite a little veering off course, I’m pretty sure I still know what is up and what it is.