I’ve made it! The completion of my 20-mile run on Saturday marked the end of the major training of this cycle, and now I’ve got three weeks of tapering before the big day on March 18. I’m looking forward to the rest and recovery as my body (hopefully) makes the transition to peak fitness. I feel like I’ve graduated, or have at least reached the second semester of my senior year – all the hard work has been done and now I just need to keep things together for a few more weeks.
The last 20-miler went just about as well as I could have hoped. Despite strong winds I finished at a 7:14 average – essentially race pace. I used the run as a dress rehearsal – I carried as many gels as I will need during the race (four) even though I only used two on this run. I experimented with safety-pinning one of the gels to the inside of my shorts and tearing it off mid-run (the other three fit in the pocket). I focused on starting comfortably and finding a steady, manageable pace. And it went off without a hitch.
The long runs have probably been the most rewarding part of this cycle. When I look back, my main worry as I started out was making it through the 20-milers. In my past running life, I’d never made it through a 20 without a season-ending injury. This time around I had five on the training plan and I had no idea what to expect. But they went well, and I felt so good after the first two that I extended the next two to 22 miles. And then there was this last one, which came at the end of an exhausting week and still managed to be the fastest.
Part of what makes me so happy to be at this point is that I’ve never been here before. The taper can be seen as a hard-earned reward for the months of rigorous training, and yet I’ve never tapered for a marathon. Like I mentioned above, both of my previous marathon seasons ended in early injury, and although I ended up running both races I wasn’t prepared for them. What would have been my taper weeks were filled with doctor visits and rehab as I struggled and fought to just make sure I could get to the starting line.
This time is different – I’ve made it through uninjured and now I can celebrate a successful training cycle and approach the race with confidence. I know I’ve done everything I could to prepare and I feel good about where I am.
As nice as the rest will be, it’s also a bittersweet moment for me – as I noted a few weeks ago, I have really been enjoying the training over the past few months and it’s going to leave a bit of an empty spot in my life as the mileage ramps down. But maybe I can finally spend some time on some other projects, like the backyard garden I promised my daughter we’d prepare over the winter.
In an upcoming post I’ll talk about my taper strategy (yes, I’ll actually still be running – hard, at times – over the next few weeks), but for now I’m going to enjoy the simple but profound pleasure of having made it this far.Bike: 17.7/296.3 miles Run: 39.4/359.7 miles