Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Training Wall

Most long distance runners can tell you a story about how they hit the wall during their race. Some hit it first during a half marathon. Some do after 30km of running and some never really seem to hit it at all. I've been lucky in a sense since I haven't had to deal too often with the wall. My first marathon saw me hit it head first and the wall caused me to question my resolve to finish the race and even to enter future races. I did cross the finish line proudly but not without a significant amount of pain and what seemed like a superhuman effort to keep going. Fast forward to today and it seems that ever since I started following a training plan the wall has been easier to deal with. The race day mental game is one that can be conquered during those lonely training runs in the dead of winter or early morning when everyone else is sleeping. The training is probably having me more prepared for race day as well. Someone once told me that during a race you race up to when your training runs out and then you just slug it out. My last 2 marathons I didn't feel that my training ran out, I felt ready and thoroughly enjoyed race day. Of the approximate 1200 kms required for my training plan, the last 42.2 were definitively the most enjoyable and memorable ones. To a properly trained marathoner, race day is a crown to the achievement that is the training cycle and should be celebrated as such.

This training cycle, I seem to be hitting the wall hard during training. My individual runs are fine once I get started but sometimes I feel that running is starting to get in the way of my life :) Often I have to give myself an extra kick to get out there and do my training runs. As I can start tasting the home stretch of my training, I am realizing that the weeks of training for a marathon and the feelings one goes through are pretty much identical to the race day mental games, but on a longer time scale. I caught myself last week discussing my training schedule with a colleague and I even uttered the words "Maybe I should quit running". This is the wall talking. I should not listen! I remember thinking the same thing around km 30 in my first marathon. Just like a smoker resolving themselves to quit a bad habit. Of course, I can't imagine my life without running, but maybe, just maybe, I ought to take it a bit easier. Of course I want to qualify for Boston someday and I feel that the sooner it happens the better that will be and I can always relax after, but on the other side I'd like to be able to stay up late on Saturday nights and have a drink with my colleagues once in a while after work without worrying about the impact on my training :)

The remedy for the training blues? More training. And quality training. Today, I took the legs out and unleashed them for a long tempo run. This is by far my favorite type of run. I feel like a jockey taking his favorite horse out on the track for a speedy session. The legs going full tilt, the feeling of speed and power resulting from each step is something that I find very addictive and fulfilling. At 4:31m/km for the tempo portion (total of 21.1km in 1h39m24s) this was my fastest 10k in a while and would have been a PR if it was a half marathon.
Look at all the green on the map. I could get used to speeds like this. If I can do two of those in a row, a BQ is within reach. With 5 more weeks of training and proper tapering, I think I am on the right track. Runs like the one I did today are the perfect remedy to break down that wall.

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