This morning I did an extra-long, pre-holiday endurance swim of 4,000 yards. For the curious, that’s 2.27 miles and just short of an Ironman swim distance. Had I known beforehand, I might have done the extra 250 yards to get me to there. When I was heading back to the locker room, Pool Guy called out, “Great Swim!” It was indeed.
Speaking of Ironman, it’s been years since I rode 112+ miles on my bike, but I rode over 100 miles twice this year (in the Twin Cities and Death Valley) and they felt pretty good. Just like this morning’s swim, they were shorter than the full Ironman distance and they weren’t races, but the distance is in my legs for sure.
One thing I’ve never done is run a marathon. I have run a couple half marathons and 18.6 miles around Hamilton Harbour, but I always balked at running a full marathon. At first my thinking was “26.2 miles is a long way, and I’ve never raced half that.” During my first half-marathon, I distinctly remember thinking midway through that “two hours of pain is more than enough, thankyouverymuch, and I can’t imagine racing hard for a full marathon.” After my first half-ironman, where I raced hard for almost six hours, that complaint doesn’t hold up very well.
Announcement #1 — the small announcement: After years of saying that I didn’t want to run a marathon—all of those protestations were true, by the way; I wasn’t just being coy—I’ve decided that next year I will run my first marathon. For one thing, I’m pretty sure that I’m at the point in my conditioning where I could race one and not just run it. I mean no offense to the people who run marathons with the primary goal of finishing them, but when I toe the line at the start of any race, I’m in it to finish as high in the standings as my body and mind will let me. I wasn’t in the right place mentally to do this in the past, but I am now.
I’m still mentally preparing myself to run uncomfortably fast for an entire half-marathon next March. I’ve been changing how I talk to myself during my tempo runs and mile repeat workouts on the high school track. Gone is the self-doubting question “Will I be able to hold this tempo for 13.1 miles?” In its place during each lap is “Here’s another quarter mile at 7:00/mile pace. I can do ten seconds slower than that for ten more miles.” Even if my brain is not completely sure I can do it now, I know that my body can. I’m going to fake it ’till I make it, and I’m going to keep visualizing success over the next three months until it’s time to do it for real.
Also, there are a couple of marathons that I would like to do someday (“bucket list” stuff, if you will, although I hate the term). One of them is the Boston Marathon, which I’ve watched every year but one since 1998. (Here some photos and reminiscences from 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2012.) The day of the race is my favorite of the year, and each time I watch it I get a little twinge of envy, wishing I were running with that crowd. But usually, it’s just that: a twinge. That all changed one day after work last summer during my long run, which took me along the Boston Marathon route. As I was running past the Natick Common, which is where I almost always watch the race, the church bells started ringing. Instead of drawing everyone outside as the lead runners approached, they were simply announcing the hour, but they might as well have been tolling for me. I’m pretty sure that was the moment when I actually decided to make the jump to a marathon. (The other is Big Sur, which just looks ridiculously beautiful.)
Despite a few people trying to convince me to run Boston next year for charity, I knew that I didn’t want Boston to be my first marathon. I want to enjoy Boston when I do it. Well, as much as you can enjoy a multi-hour throw-down. I also kinda want to see if I can meet the qualifying standard. Plus, I plan on doing more triathlon next year, and I want to focus my training appropriately. So I’ll be running the Bay State Marathon in October—a couple months after the end of triathlon season—in “scenic” Lowell. (Why do I sign up to do long-distance running events in blue-collar, post-industrial cities? Why not?)
Announcement #2 — The BIG announcement: Now we come back to the beginning of this post. I have improved my swimming. I have a solid base for cycling. I’m moving up in distance to marathons. Moreover, I had a good half-ironman experience; my diabetes is in a pretty good place; and the idea of doing triathlon for 12+ hours doesn’t really bother me.
I’m going to do an Ironman . . . in 2014.
As much as I would love to do a full iron-distance event next year, I’m just going to have to accept the fact that the age on my calf will read “40″ when I finally do my first. I’ve thought long and hard about when to try it. As with the marathon, I want to do well. That’s going to involve some additional endurance and strength work over the next two years. I will be racing next year, and those races will mostly be longer distance events, but I’m saving the big one for a bit longer.
Who knows what will happen after that?
Well . . . I have goals. . . . But that’s all I will say on the subject. Let’s get through one Ironman first.