Tapering always leave me with lots of time to think about the weeks that went into training for the race I'm about to tackle. This training cycle has been particularly long. Planning for 2 spring marathons felt like a super idea back in the fall. I could build on the success of the first one and really set myself up for a fantastic summer of training. What I didn't realize is that without much downtime between the 2 races, it would mean that I would be in a really long training cycle, falling right back in the thick of things right after Los Angeles. I've been effectively in ramp-up training mode for almost 6 months!
I've touched on the dollar costs of running before, but lately I've been more concerned about the other sacrifices runners must do to reap results on race day. The training regiment necessary for a stellar race day performance requires these sacrifices.
We have to learn to resist that snooze button and get our butt out there early otherwise there won't be enough time to rack up the mileage that the training plan demands. If we delay our runs too long into the day we'll have to deal with hotter weather, making us sluggish and turning our otherwise enjoyable runs into a tough slog to the finish. I consider seeing the sun rising a rare privilege, so as an early morning runner I've been really lucky to witness this natural spectacle many times this year.
Being able to wake up early and deliver a good training session requires some discipline on the evening front as well. Runners will often have to turn in extra early to ensure they are well rested for their run the next day. This has earned me the nickname of grandpa quite a few times here around the house and some joking about being close to my pumpkin time when my eyelids start getting a bit heavy :) I have to say no to going to the late show at the movies and skip on lots of social outings or shows that would take me too late into the nigh.
The time commitment alone is monumental to train for a marathon. I'm averaging about 10 hours a week on the road, that doesn't even include time preparing, fueling up and doing laundry. Trust me, the laundry heap alone is quite the task, especially in winter :) You can be as good a multi-tasker and time manager as you want, a 10 hour a week deficit over 24 weeks is a lot of time to make up. I am lucky to have a supporting crew that is willing to put up with the time commitments and sometimes mood swings that training (and especially tapering) can bring about.
We also have to watch what we eat. Too little of this type of food and there won't be enough fuel for the ride. Too much of other types of foods will mean extra weight, making our journey to the finish line slower and tougher than it needs to be. I didn't count the amount of carb-loading dinners I had, but with 80-90km a week and two runs of over 25km during the peak weeks, there was enough to go through all the pasta combinations. I also switched to Sushi and that worked quite well even if the folks at the all you can eat sushi restaurant look at me funny now.
There's also some things that are not permitted until a satisfactory performance like alcohol. I don't seem to be able to train properly after I drink, even if it is just one. Still, I really like mixed drinks and consider myself an apt mixer, so this one was a bit difficult for me. Throughout my training cycle, I would allow myself one alcoholic drink per week, the evening after my long run. More often than not a Cosmo, mixed just the way I like it.
We also ask those around us to make sacrifices when they spend an otherwise fine day around smelly athletes trying to recognize us in the crowd so they can cheer and give us that extra boost of energy needed for peak performance.
Despite all these sacrifices runners are a grateful bunch. Always thanking mother nature when conditions are favorable. I also like to hug race volunteers at the finish line but for some reason the favor is not usually returned : -)
Reflecting on the last 6 months of ups, downs and in-betweens, there is one thing that is sure in my mind: Running has made my life better. Like an old friend that is there when I need it, running helps me through the rough patches and makes the happy times happier. I know I can count on it. Even if I have a bad training session, I got out there and gave it all I could. I committed and delivered to the best of my abilities and the feeling of accomplishment that running gives me is priceless. The Endorphins are just bonus points ;)