The Nine Inches

“No matter how it’s run, whether it’s uphill, downhill, or flat, a marathon is 26.2 miles, and you have to respect the distance. There are a lot of guys who are going to be in great shape. I just want to run my own race, relax, stay in the mix, and be ready to react. That’s the beauty of racing. You do all your training to prepare the rest of your body, but coach Joe Vigil used to say what counts on race day is the nine inches above your shoulders.”
Meb Keflezighi, 36, winner of the US Olympic Marathon Trials.

Love the quote and I think it resonates on so many levels. Not only would you need some common sense and keep a level head during the race but also in the preparation for the big day. Like many, I’ve been often caught in the thrill of logging workouts after workouts in the name of umm…. working out. The purpose and goal of the workout seemingly lost in the whole scheme of things. It’s an easy vicious cycle to be caught in. Here’s why. After several weeks adjusting to the increased stress of training, the body has finally adjusted. It becomes easier for you to check off the miles, hitting the pace and so on. All well and good.

That’s when things can swing the other way. Unchecked, the body may be stressed to the point where even a 15K feels like late miles in a marathon. The legs may be feeling OK but the heart rate reading is just telling a different story. You find it increasingly difficult to roll out of bed. The niggles are taking longer to go away. You get a bit of the sniffles. Now, you know where this is headed right? You don’t need medical nor physiological explanations to tell you that these are warning signs of burn out. You feel it. Choosing to ignore or ride this wave may not be doing your training or race preps any good. Remember that the pros have a team to make sure they don’t get into this situation, from a coach, a masseuse, dietitian, and the luxury of naps a couple of times a day (in a RunnersWorld article written about their training – will try to look them up again – the Kenyans nap twice a day). Contrast to working stiffs in Malaysia who spend 3 hours a day caught in traffic, long working hours, late dinners, it’s so darn easy to get into a rest/sleep deficit. As dedicated, passionate, hardy and resourceful endurance athletes are, the whole mix is as delicate as a lit match among drums of fuel. There’s the risk of premature peaking to contend with.

It’s 2 Sundays to race day and it’s time to start my own recuperation mode. Last week has been so tiring that I abandoned my plan to run a fast 21K as part of the Brooks Half Marathon simulation as the final long run. Instead, I’ll be taking 2 days off running and thereafter sprinkling a few 8-10K tempos right up to the end of next Sunday. In his marathon taper article Pete Pfitzinger mentioned of a 11-13 mile run the Sunday before the race and it’s certainly something I’ll be doing, provided I’ve rested up.  Hopefully all these will allow me to finish the race on the 26th, as Pfitzinger put it, “pleasantly exhausted” :) .

Originally published: February 12, 2012

Advertisements