Well, the time is nigh. As I lie here, recovering from a run gone terribly awry, I am acutely aware of the fact that my marathon is now only a week away. Or, 6 days, 16 hours 12 minutes and 25 seconds according to my Runkeeper countdown. At this point, I’m in to the taper period, having done all I can to get me where I’m going. But has it been enough?
As a marathon newb, this is the question that plagues me before, during and after every run. And my answer to that question tends to vary frequently and wildly between ‘Hell yes! I’m ready!’ and ‘No! I’m never, ever, going to make it’. Today, it’s hovering somewhere between the two…
About a month ago, when I wrote my last post, I was much less positive than I am now. I’d been struggling with the intense heat and humidity to complete my long runs, having to duck out of two of them early, and running at a much slower clip than I would have planned on for those I did finish. While a part of me knew it was the conditions that were messing me up, it was really hard to ignore the nagging doubt that I just wasn’t cut out to run a marathon. Combine that with my irrational fear of the temperatures continuing to rise right up until race day, and I was something of a wreck! But, of course, that was never going to be the case. Just after that post, the weather started to break. And with the lower temperatures came a renewed ability to run, and to push myself to further distances, faster than I’d been running the shorter ones. And so, during the last few weeks before tapering, I managed to finally break the 30km barrier, knocking out a 32km and 33km run at roughly the 6 minute/km pace I was hoping to achieve on race day. Not only that, but I also managed to run a half-marathon distance training run in under 2 hours, which is only the second time in my whole life that I have managed that. And I felt good afterwards! Clearly, the training, even though not ideal, was raising my fitness way up.
These successes led me to a much more positive outlook for race day. Having done 33km, I felt that 42km is doable. Tough, sure, but doable. So as I entered my taper, I felt ready. Until I got sick. Which was on day 2 of my taper. Nothing serious, just a sore throat, virus-y type thing. All things considered, the taper was the perfect time to get sick, so I wasn’t worried. I skipped my midweek runs, waited to feel better, and by this morning, I thought I did! So I woke up, happy and ready to go out and tackle the 21km run I had scheduled.
Upon stepping out my door, I became less happy and more nervous. The temperature and humidity had spiked again. I started to sweat as I made my slow warm up jog to the river. I wasn’t feeling as high on energy as I usually did, and suspected that the virus wasn’t clear out of my system yet. Things were suddenly not looking so great…
By 3km I was already struggling. I paused to chug some of my water down. Then I persevered until the Zeigelhausen bridge at 4.5km, where I paused again, ready to break down. My heart rate was soaring, I couldn’t control my breathing, and I was fighting a battle with my pessimistic side, who was loudly declaring that my week off meant I had lost it, and that it was going to stay hot until race day, meaning I was never going to make it round. I steadied myself for a bit and decided to make a course change that would take me away from the direct sunshine, and up into the cooler, shady hills. This made me feel positive once more. I love hill runs, especially when I’m worried about failing. Walking up hills is tough enough, so stopping doesn’t make me feel bad the way it does on the flat. So I took off and started over.
2.5km later, I was done. Exhausted, upset, and on the verge of a meltdown. My breathing was shallow and my heart rate still soaring, even after walking for a few minutes. My run was over. All I could do was walk the 3km back to my house. I was back to the Michelle of a month ago. Defeated by the conditions (and the tail end of a virus), headed home much sooner than planned.
This time, however, I was determined not to sink into negativity. I don’t have time for that. I immediately emailed some of my support crew (as I was walking home, feeling sorry for myself), and they all rallied to confirm that I was ready, and this blip was just a result of the heat and the virus. I then showered, ate, and consigned myself to rest in bed, which I clearly needed. I’ve yet to extract myself from there for more than tea and water runs for the past 5 hours. And now, I feel better mentally, if not quite physically. I’ll continue to take things easy this week. Maybe head out for a couple of short, gentle runs to keep the legs ticking over, but nothing extreme. And I’ll eat healthily and keep an eye on this virus. I’m sure it’s mostly gone, but I’ll be taking no chances. Oh, and I'll also be obsessively weather stalking Cologne all week. Right now, no crazy hot weather is predicted. A high of 19C, which is drastically better than todays high of 26C. Phew!
So, I guess that’s it! Hopefully, in one weeks time, I’ll be kicking back in Cologne with Anne, Melissa and Luis, a beer in one hand, a burger (or similar) in the other and a medal round my neck. I’ll keep you posted ;)
Also: I’ll be raising money for Cancer Research UK with this run. If you’d like to sponsor me, visit my just giving page here. Thanks!!!