Dreams or Goals?

577994_10202517766969514_1160631632_nIs my upcoming marathon a dream or a goal?  I knew I had to register, train, and get on the ALZ Stars charity team after I had the dream about the purple balloon.  But I have a plan.  A training plan (Run Less, Run Faster) to which I am a slave (just ask anyone who runs with me – do I mess with the pace or distance set in front of me in black and white?!).  Sixteen weeks of speed workouts, tempo runs, long runs and cross training.  There were a few weeks that I had to dial it back until my Achilles quit being angry with me, but I could probably still count on one hand the number of runs that I missed or manipulated.  I’m a very goal-driven, results-oriented person (anyone out there agree with my self assessment?).  I’ve been dreaming and playing around in my mind with the specific goals I’m going to set for marathon day…12 short days from today.  I think I’m ready to put them in print – which of course means that I’ll be held completely accountable to them. Gulp…here goes.

images (1)My ultimate goal is to do the best I can and completely enjoy every step (yes, even the painful ones) of the 26.2 miles.  Hopefully I can heed my own advice and not run farther than that (the tangents – stick to the tangents!).  I have done the training.  My body is ready.  My mind is ready.  Show me the starting line and I’ll show you how I can get to the finish line.  I know I can do it.  I’ve done it before.  But I want to do it better.  I want to do it smarter. AND I want to party all the way from the Metrodome (yes, I still call it that) to the Capitol.  Come party with me (and bring purple balloons!).

Smarter.  My next goal is to run smarter than I did last time.  I’ve trained very differently this time around than two years ago.  Last time, I found a plan online and I strictly ran mileage.  I was a complete stranger to interval training (heck, I was a complete stranger to the marathon too…and not all that well acquainted with running in general yet at that point either!), and I didn’t know or understand how and why varying pace matters.  I didn’t know what a tempo run was.  I hadn’t been on a track since high school.  When my feet hit the marathon course, they ran away with me.  I ran fast in the early miles because I felt really good and I was excited.  Then I shuffled and I walked the tough miles (that would be about miles 23-25) because I’d pushed too hard and hardly had any fumes left to go on.  I know more about exercise physiology.  I know more about training.  I’ve been on a track many times this summer, and run intervals every week.  Tempo runs? Every week.  Pace?  I stick to my prescribed paces (determined by my 5K and half marathon times) like glue.  Now I know to start out slow and smart.  Pick up the pace later when I’m still feeling good.  I practiced that in my last couple long runs.  My goal is to run smart. I’d also like to run fast, but smart first…then fast!

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Time?  Of course I’ve mulled the numbers.  Last time I was free of pretty much any time goals, as a finish was a PR (that’s one of the many beautiful things about a first marathon!).  I did say I wanted to come in under 4-1/2 hours – I figured if Oprah Winfrey could do that, so could I.  4:21:23.  That was with two port-o-potty stops and more walking than I’d like to admit to in miles 23-25.  My training has been completely different this time.  I’m faster.  I’ve had my bad foot reconstructed.  I’m healthier.  I’ve built my endurance to the point where I’ve pushed past 20 miles more than once – and felt fan-freakin-tastic each time.  BUT, I know how hard 4:21:23 was.  I know how much it hurt.  I’ve been hesitant to get too overly confident, but it’s time I own up to what I think I might just be able to do, although it certainly won’t be easy.  I want to break four hours.  I just might do a cartwheel across the finish line if I do that – wouldn’t that be a great finish line photo?!  Don’t hold me to that cartwheel, but…if the weather and conditions are good, if I get good sleep in the days leading up to the marathon, if I’ve eaten right and restocked my energy reserves, if I hydrate and fuel during the marathon just perfectly…if all of those stars and planets align on October 6…I think it just might be possible.  I’m not shooting for a BQ (not yet anyway!  that’s 3:45 – crazy!), but something with a 3 as the first number would put me over the moon.  Sarah Palin broke four hours in a marathon – I’d like to think I could keep up with her!  I’ve got back-up goals as well, in case the stars and planets are a little off kilter…so 4:08 (which represents the comfy pace I’ve had during my two 20+ mile runs) and 4:15 (which represents just enough of an improvement over my last marathon finish to think these months of crazy training have made a difference) are my #2 and #3 goals…in case I have to modify expectations along the way.

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I can’t believe I’m in Week 15 of my 16 week training plan.  I can’t believe that it’s almost 10 days out…the point at which Marathon Day appears on the 10 day forecast and I can refresh it and obsess about it multiple times each day.  I’m in the middle of the taper period and I’m restless and anxious.  I just calculated tonight my year-to-date mileage and determined that I’ll hit 1000 miles during the marathon.  I’m receiving notifications of contributions to my ALZ Stars charity team left and right and being absolutely blown away by the generosity of family, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers.  THAT’S what I’ve really got going for me as I set my goals (with my plan and my deadline)…this is for my Dad.  Memories of him bring tears to my eyes in about 3 seconds flat.  There’s more to this marathon than the 26.2 miles I’ll cover on October 6.  There’s more than the almost 1000 miles it’s taken to get me to the starting line.  Marathon training has allowed me to get stronger mentally and physically.  It has empowered me to feel like I can make a difference, when I felt so helpless watching my Dad progress through the stages of Alzheimer’s Disease in the last years of his life.  It has been my therapy, and an important part of the grieving process.  Thank you all for being so supportive through the whole process…humoring me by listening to me talk about running and marathon training when I know you really aren’t interested…donating to my ALZ Stars charity team…running and biking training miles with me (extra kudos to those who have joined me at – or before – sunrise!)…or those who have simply sent positive energy and prayers my way.  I can feel it all, and I’m exceedingly grateful.  Thank you for being on this journey with me.  I’ll do my best to not let you down.  I’ll keep moving forward.

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