Hi guys - Yes, no matter how many marathons you run, you will never, ever figure it out so that it will work every time. Just when you say "hot dog, that's the key", the hammer will fall the next time you do the exact same thing and you're thankful to be dragging your tail across the finish line. No matter what I tell you, no matter what your friends tell you, no matter what you read or hear, it won't be easy. What works for me (not much lately) will not necessarily be your answer and what works for me today will, for sure, not necessarily work for me tomorrow. That is the oft-repeated voice of experience. I don't say this to scare our new virgin marathoners just coming into the sport...as a matter of fact, that's one of the tempting lures of endurance events. When you line up at the starting line, you're just not sure what the end of the racing road will deliver that day. You can't predict what lies 26 miles, 50 miles, or 100 miles away, at least not any more reliably than your local corner bookie can predict who will win the next big ball game.
But, one thing is definitely set in stone if you want the odds to lean in your favor before you lace up your shoes on race day. You have to do the work. You have to get out and train. You have to make it so your body knows what to do, what to expect, how to react. Your body will learn from every run you do, even the crappy ones. It will learn when you feel great, just as it will learn when you drag yourself around the training run. It will learn something when the sun shines and it will learn something different when it's as dark as a black hole. It will learn in the heat and as much as I really can't convince myself, it will learn in the biting, numbing cold.
After you put in the training, then, like I said, it still won't be easy, but you will have built up your body both physiologically and mentally to accept the challenge of completing an endurance event in good shape. You've given your body the opportunity to succeed - still no guarantee, but you can rest a lot better at night when you know you've done all you could. But it is pretty fascinating that just by lacing up your shoes and going out and doing a few miles CONSISTENTLY that you can alter how your body uses oxygen, blood, glycogen, fats, proteins, etc and now you can do distances that at one time seemed possible much more in your head than in your legs. To me, as a coach (more as an experienced advisor), the most important thing that makes a long distance athlete is not doing the event itself, but rather getting through the weeks and weeks of the doggone training without looking for ways to cut corners.
As the winds of winter begin to blow mildly enough to remind me what's about to come, I wrote this post more for me than for you, my readers. At times I feel like I've still got some smoldering sparks in my legs. Not for speed, and not for crazy distances. But enough to still be a member of the endurance club. I will fight not to lose that membership. Many of my friends, both closely and peripherally, are very good ultrarunners, so if I find myself not being able to do "what the big boys do", I feel a chunk of ol' Al is missing. Logically, I know that's not the case, but there it is. So, I know I have to do the work, plain and simple. That's the pearl of any training plan...doesn't matter if your goals are fast, slow, long, short. Know your limits and progress smartly to them, not past them. Go past the breaking point and you'll spiral down in flames. I don't know what will happen to this "maturing" body if I try to do the work, but I definitely know what will happen if I don't.
So, with modest goals, I'll keep on truckin', hope for the best, and one major factor that keeps me going is that I know I'll see you on the roads - AL
Be sure to read this week's TRAINING WITH AL about dressing in the cold
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