What’s Worse?

Week 10 in the NYRR NYC Marathon training program. 6 weeks to go. I am discouraged. Here’s why.

I got an alert 2 weeks ago that my “training program may be too easy” based on my pace and rate of perceived effort for a morning run. Well it was cooler and it was only 4 miles –  and that helps – but truth be told I had wondered myself if the program was too easy. Up to that point I had been feeling great, regularly exceeding the training program goals. Nonetheless I went ahead and had a few email exchanges with “Coach Matt”. He asked me for more details about my running history, but once provided Coach Matt vanished. No matter, I clearly had things well in hand.

That Saturday I had a “long run” of a mere 11 miles to complete. Piece of cake. Before the program I had been running at least 13 miles and as many as 20 almost every Saturday since March. For the first few I even did no fueling at all- just go run. Pretty decent times, too. 8-9 minutes per mile. But after a few difficult outings and horrible leg cramps I reckoned that I should take this fueling thing more seriously. I started bringing water and Gu with me, consuming them on a practiced schedule. I also made sure to start early in the morning once it started getting a lot warmer.Unfortunately I was out of town for that 11 mile Saturday so I was unable to get running until 2PM. It was hot. I hadn’t eaten a meal in 14 hours although I did have a bagel at 5AM and half a banana before I went out. Still I felt really good and was running an 8:30 clip despite consciously trying to keep my goal pace of 9:13. Nine point nine miles later I was completely out of gas. I trudged back to the house in defeat. So much for too easy, idiot.

The next weekend I was facing a 14 mile long run. Determined to correct the mistakes made the week before, I started reading up more on fueling and pacing and heat and distance. That’s when I stumbled upon the concept of “over-training”. I wondered – is that a concern for me? All those extracurricular long runs I had done; all the off days I refused to acknowledge. Maybe over-training was  the reason I couldn’t even do 11 miles when previously I had run up to 17 miles despite the heat and with no fuel whatsoever. Good God I have overdone it and I will never be able to recover in time to run this race! Ok so  it turns out that over-training is a somewhat nebulous diagnosis, and my training during the week seemed fine.I approached the weekend confident that I would be right back on track.

Once again I was traveling and couldn’t begin my run until the height of the afternoon sun. But this time I ate my regular breakfast, I ate a bagel an hour beforehand and I consumed 10 oz of Gatorade on my way out the door. I watered and I Gued right on schedule. I ran slowwwww. Everything was by the book and seemed so smooth until mile 13. And then kaboom. Over. Done. I ran/walked/staggered the last mile home at a depressing 15 minute pace with serious doubts that I can actually do this.

Was it just too hot? What about those other days I ran 13+ miles when it was hot? What if it is hot on marathon day? Am I just not prepared to run later in the day? What if I start with the last wave of the marathon which doesn’t go off till late morning? Should I be eating more or maybe eating less or eating different things? Or have I simply overdone it and need to cut back, or will cutting back now just reduce my capacity come race day? Man it was so much easier when I used to just go out and run.

So my question is, what’s worse: joining the race and quitting halfway through or dropping out beforehand after telling all these people that I’m running? It’s not like I can pretend I was never seriously considering it. Hell, I even have a blog about it.

12 mile run tomorrow morning. Early. Fingers crossed.