Thursday, November 11, 2010

Breaking out of my Comfort Zone

The other day someone asked me if I run marathons.  I replied with one of those, "Well, um, not really. Marathons kind of scare me.  I've run a few marathons, but haven't run one in a few years.  I run anything over a marathon, but marathons are short and fast, and that kind of scares me." They gave me that odd look that people often do when I describe a marathon as "short and fast" and scarier than a 100 miler.  Well, to someone that likes a race with over 20,000 feet of climb, marathons, as a race, are short and fast and do scare me.  The thought of a half marathon is less scary for some reason, but the thought of a 10K or 5K is downright petrifying.  I don't think I've run a 5K since my last cross country race in college; it's been a good 15 years.  So, my goal for 2011 (besides placing in the top 5 at Western States) is to run a road marathon.  Fast.  Well, as fast as I can.  I'd like to run a 3 hour marathon.

Dad and I (ten years later)
I've run 4 marathons.  My first was Big Sur in 1998, which I ran with my dad.  It was fun.  We finished together in 3:34'ish, and it wasn't so bad. My dad--who started running later in life (mid 40s) and is a pretty speedy old fart with a marathon PR of 2:55--didn't think his daughter--who took the only year off of running in her life during her first year in grad school and had started training in January for an April marathon--would be hard to keep up with, so didn't train too intensely for the occasion.  Let's just say that I was still cracking jokes at mile 24, and dad had stopped laughing.  But, we finished together, and it was a beautiful marathon and really fun experience.

My second marathon was the Asunción Marathon in Paraguay in 2002.  I was in my 3rd year of Peace Corps, and living in the capital at the time, thus used to dodging buses and inhaling diesel fumes.  It was an experience, and very Paraguayan (the organization of it--or lack thereof--was quite different than one might be used to or expect, which made it that much more endearing).  Again, I ran around 3:30, and wrote a letter to Boston to ask if I could use it as a Boston Qualifier, being that it wasn't a certified course.  They agreed, and my 3rd marathon was Boston in 2003.

Training for Boston was a hoot.  I was backpacking my way home from Paraguay, and thus got to run my way up the coast of Chile, into Argentina, and Peru (not literally, I traveled by bus, boat and plane).  I ran 3:12 at Boston, motivated by the huge crowds and water stops, and the intense contrast to the marathon I had run in Paraguay to qualify.

At some point, I wound up in DC, so ran the Marine Corps marathon in 2005.  I had a really good first 23 miles and was on 3-hour pace.  I had never experienced the "wall" before.  Wow.  It really does exist.  I now respect the wall, and what zero intake of calories during a race will do to you.  I staggered in in 3:17 with a (really hot) marine helping me up that last little hill.

Not long after that trail running entered my life, and not long after that the VHTRC and my ultra-running friends.  I jumped into my first 50 miler at Masochist in 2006 and haven't looked at a marathon since.  But that needs to change.  I plan to step out of my comfort zone in the next year, or so (see, I'm already pushing it back) and train for a road marathon PR.  It's not just about running a marathon.  I can easily do a marathon on any weekend and I often run that distance or longer for a training run.  It's about putting myself out there and going for 3 hours.  Eeks!   I'm already making up excuses to get out of this.


Ronda said...

Love it! Sign up for Vancouver Lake 1/2. A few of us are running it. You need to come along and WIN...make us look good just by the company we keep. Though I am thrilled you are stepping outside the box I will really have trouble keeping up with you on your easy run day. :)No doubt you will exceed your own expectations!

amy said...

Um, I think VL 1/2 is the week after HURT? I'm just guessing that's not going to happen. I'll come and cheer you all on instead. :)

Hone said...

Marathons are a tough distance. I have not run one in 3 years. So I am also due and think I will run L.A. this spring. It is good to mix up the distances. It keeps running fun.

I saw that there is a marathon in Hawaii a few days after the HURT. I also looks like a good course for a PR. Ha!

Olga said...

You are braver than I am. I had the NY resolution to run one this year - and couldn't muster the training:) Next year, though, I just have to figure out when to squeeze it in. Much eaiser in PNW with a marathon every weekend within 3 hr drive. You go, girl! At least you gave me food for thought:))

ultrarunnergirl said...

Too funny. It is kind of amusing to be scared about a marathon when we run 50K often. But, I felt the same when I decided to run Marine Corps Marathon this year. Sadly, I got injured before I could chicken out. Good luck!

sea legs girl said...

Amy -

This really happened: two days ago I was telling SR that you were a good example of an awesome runner who didn't run intervals. Then he asked what your marathon PR was. I replied you were too cool to run marathons ... :). Or, ehem, anyway, I think it is fun and actually important in training to try new things all the time. I will be fun to follow your suffering.

Oh yeah, and I'm glad at least someone knows what I have been talking about the like 20 times now I have alluded to "the wall". The one thing I have learned is the first half of a marathon is all about strategy, the second half depends on what your training has been like and how your nutritional/hydration status is.

Melissa Schweisguth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Wow, nice job at JFK! Hope it was as fun as it was fast!