Monday, April 6, 2009

Dress Rehearsal for Eugene Marathon

When my coach, Olympian Lynn Jennings, and I first went over her marathon training plan for me, she told me: “Long runs are a dress rehearsal for success at the marathon.”

Well, we had a major dress rehearsal on Saturday, and it left me slightly worried. Lynn and I roadtripped down to Eugene, Oregon, where my marathon is on May 3. The plan was to run the first 22 miles of the race to make sure there were no hidden surprises. We were especially curious to see the “hill” at mile 5. Almost everyone I know who has run the Eugene Marathon calls it the “hill,” complete with quotation marks, because it’s not really all that serious of an incline. The rise just stands out in comparison to the rest of the pancake-flat course.

We had schemed about the trip all week, down to gaining access to a friend’s in-law’s house so I could do my obligatory ice-bath soak before our two-hour drive to Portland. The one missing piece of the puzzle the precise, turn-for-turn marathon route. LJ had downloaded the course map off the race website, but it didn’t list every street name and the scale of the map was miniscule. We were left guessing details for the first part of our run. We thought we were on the right track, but around mile 3 we hit the first of three fairly significant hills. No quotation marks—these were actual huffing-and-puffing climbs.

Finally, a little over four miles into our run, we realized we were off course. We hooked back up with the course about six miles into our run, just past mile 7 of the marathon. We lamented we had missed a big part of what we’d come down to see—the infamous “hill”—but knew we couldn’t loop back to run it given where we’d parked LJ’s truck. We continued on the course, by this time having sped up to marathon pace—8:45 or faster.

We had about 9 miles under our shoes when we looped past the starting area, famed Hayward Field, where LJ had locked her bike. She hopped on her bike and continued cycling alongside of me for the rest of the run. I ran 13 miles at marathon pace, averaging 8:37. Yes, it’s a pace that would secure me in the sub-4-hour zone, which is my overarching goal. Yet it didn’t feel as easy and as natural as the last few embedded marathon pace pieces I’ve done. Like last Sunday, I did 10 miles at 8:32 pace in an 18-mile run, and I felt like a million bucks when I got home.

But I have been trying to assuage my concern by reminding myself that I racked up 71.5 miles (!!) last week, far more than I’ve ever run in seven days. And a lot of those were hard miles, like last Tuesday’s track workout. Also, as Lynn pointed out, it can be tough to run through an unfamiliar place. (We were fishing our way around a lot because of the imprecise map, plus it was only my second time to Eugene.)

Maybe, when I face facts, the reason the 22.2-mile run felt challenging is because it is. It’s tough running a long distance. Come race day, I’m just going to have to trust in my training—our dress rehearsals--and in myself.


Photo above is of LJ (right) and me post-run.


Unknown said...

you'll kill it, sbs. especially because your marathon is on my birthday. :)

fisher cat said...

No question, running (even some of) the course in advance will give you a huge advantage come race day. 8:37 for 13 miles is incredible!! Congratulate yourself and trust in the training. (and yeah, 71 miles is about, um, 50 miles more than I do in a week - you're very inspiring!) keep blogging to us, it's keeping me motivated too :)

CatSaint said...

You can totally rock it on marathon day! It's all in your head. You are so freakin' fast these days! csl

Carolina John said...

geez, 71.5 in a week in strong! that's crazy nuts. the dress rehearsal sounds great, i'm sure you'll have fun at the eugene marathon. may 3rd will be here before you know it!

silly aunt sarah said...

nice post. sounds like you got all the of the bugs worked out so you can enjoy the marathon, especially with rested legs.

Julie said...

First of all - that "hill" is NOTHING so don't even think about it!! Just a zit in the road...
Second - girl, you have been training perfectly, doing it all right. There are just times when your body just needs a little rest (um...walking all over the zoo on Sunday was NOT a rest!!)

DO NOT let the negative feelings creep in (been there, done that, ruins everything). I have a lot of faith that not only will you get your "under 4" race, but that you will be running another big marathon out east next April. No pressure, but I'm putting $$ on ya'! said...

You will do great, Sarah! Come race day and everything all marked, you'll just get on that course & get it done! You've made all the proper investments in your training & that will pay dividends on May 3. When I find myself struggling at any point during a run, I remind myself I'm making a deposit in my ability that I will withdraw at my next race! And, look at the big picture - 71 miles???? You are no slacker, sister! I do hope you rest adequately & let those muscles recover! Way to go! You are such an inspiration!