I’ve got to be completely honest, right now my head is spinning and my legs are a bit gassed. Not only has this been the busiest July on record but we’ve gotten some intensely hot weather recently in the Northeast. Of all the months on the running calendar, I dread July and August the most. The heat takes a real toll on me no matter how easy the pace. Long runs, speed work, recovery miles…doesn’t matter. It’s at this time every year I think of buying a summer home in Fairbanks, Alaska.
For two months straight as I’m lacing up my shoes I dawdle a bit too much before heading out the door, trying to delay the inevitable. These summer runs never disappoint either because very one of them is a battle. Spending that 40 minutes to 3 hours wiping the sting of sweat from my eyes, trying to manage the heat along with fighting back the occasional bout of nausea at times makes me question my sanity. I walk in the house after practically every workout completely drenched. Most days you couldn’t tell the difference between me post-run and me post-scuba-diving.
I’ve got a serious love/hate relationship with my training during this time of the year, emphasis on the ‘hate’. I love knowing the suffering is contributing to the end result but I just can’t get used to the heat. I’m now into the fourth summer of this going back to 2009 when I began running marathons again to qualify for Boston and history repeats itself four years later as I look to get into a more exclusive club. Right now I have less than 14 weeks to get ready for that attempt.
The NYC marathon has some special meaning for me this time. Growing up on Long Island and going to school in North Jersey, NYC has been a been a big part of my life. Many times I took the Long Island Railroad or the PATH trains into the city with friends and family. I remember taking my then girlfriend and future wife to eat at the top of the World Trade Center and then many years later to Tavern on the Green in Central Park. In looking back, the NYC Marathon was the last marathon I ran in my prime. I was 23 back in 1987 when I stood in a crowd of runners on the Verrazano Bridge waiting for the gun to go off. After we heard the gun we all stood in place or jogged slowly for another five to ten minutes before crossing the starting line. I don’t remember any corrals back then and there was no chip timing either. I remember fighting my way through the mass of runners for several miles until I found some room to hit my stride. The memories of that race are really vivid, each neighborhood had such a unique feel and culture. Brooklyn, Manhattan, South Bronx… I can remember those parts of the course but oddly enough I don’t remember the finish line. Maybe there’s a message there, the destination only has as much value as the journey itself.
A lot has changed in 25 years. From the number of runners to the ethnic makeup of the city and I’m excited to see the differences. I’m also different in a number of ways. More experienced, but (hopefully) more humble. Better prepared but with more wear and tear on the body. I can’t remember what I wore that day in 1987 but my race day singlet for Nov 4th is already safely tucked away in my drawer. For this race I’ve completely changed my training plan and I’ve completely changed how I fuel. Now I’m starting to see a difference.
For all my previous marathons I either used a stock training plan, or in the case of my mid-1980′s marathons, none at all. My McMillan training plan was designed specifically for me to get under 3 hours at NYC. Customized for the time, customized for the race and customized for the runner. I’m only 5 weeks into it so far and I’ve run more mileage below my goal marathon pace than during any 18 week training period to date (that’s a good thing… I think). I’m keeping an eye out for warning signs of overuse but so far good results.
In becoming a Gatorade athlete these past two months I’ve jumped into the product line with both feet. I’m not about to advocate to other athletes on products I’m not consistently using so I’m using everything. The biggest change for me was fueling pre-run. Always being cost and calorie conscious, I would often head out for a run on an empty stomach and only then fuel mid-run on my Sunday runs of 15+ miles. That’s changed as I now use either a Prime 4 oz pouch or Carb Energy Chew before I hit the pavement. For most of my key runs I’m also carrying a sleeve or two of Chews for some mid-run carbs. The water in my hydration pack on Sundays has been replaced by Gatorade Endurance Formula. The difference? I’ve hit every key workout even with the big change in routine and intensity. I’m still in evaluation mode but I don’t think this is coincidental, fueling before and during is definitely having an impact.
95 days to go, a 2:59 finish time to get to and the clock is ticking. Let’s get to work.