What Dreams May Come
By: Luis Gutierrez
I’m a little under a month out from what will be the longest race of my life: The Austin Marathon.This being my first marathon, I’m eager to get to the starting line and race knowing that I’ve put in miles and miles of work, but I’ve also had recurring doubts about the completeness of the “little details” of my training. Sure, I’ve had my marathon pace workouts- some ending better than I expected and others being nothing but a middling, maintenance-type run. I’ve lost track of long runs where I’ve finished fast and felt good and there a couple of over-distance long runs that are helping with my first-time pre-race confidence.
The stuff I’m deliberating, though, are the peripherals that I tend to ignore: the rest I wish I’d gotten more of, the fluid intake during and after practice, the strides and drills, the core work, and the nutrition aspect of training. I can’t help but think to myself every couple of days, “did I soak my shoelaces in honey long enough yesterday?” or “how should I rest my head on my pillow when I’m sleeping to maximize my recovery?” If it sounds like I don’t have faith in my training, let me quell that notion quickly.I can only think of a few other races in my life that I’ve been as or more ready to run. With the others close to seven years ago, I’m foaming at the mouth to get to this one and see what I can do with a solid block of training behind me. I know I’m stronger than ever before in terms of aerobic capacity and I’ve spent the last three months mentally preparing myself for the best-case and worst-case scenarios.
The lingering uncertainty comes from the fact that the marathon is a distance I’ve never raced and even if I had run one or ten before, it would still be a monster with unknown threats. I’m well aware that somewhere along the 26.2 miles what I don’t want to happen can happen, and I’m trying to lessen that possibility. But like I’ve already pointed out, this will be my first marathon and without a doubt, it will hurt. Not only will there be very experienced and talented runners up front, but the course is also deceitfully hilly. I can only hope for the best and make sure I’m ready to handle anything.
The one confidence booster I continue to fall back on is the mental toughness factor. Over the past two months, I’ve worked grueling two and three week stretches at a job that would ordinarily seem, and is in the slow season, like a walk in the park. Unfortunately, I’ve had back-to-back busy seasons and have had multiple week periods where I’ve put in between 60 to 70 hours a week. I’m an assistant manager at a small, college text-book store so the end and beginning of school semesters have always been a time where I renounce any normal human daily tasks such as cleaning, paying bills, staying in contact with friends and family, and eating meals at regular intervals, but since returning to training seriously, I had to figure out a way to sustain the mileage I was running, get in workouts, have time to shower, and take in proper nutrition so that I wouldn’t completely break-down. Running during a “lunch break” wasn’t a possibility since we have no scheduled breaks when we’re so busy. The solution was to wake up an hour and a half earlier at 5 or 5:30 depending on the day’s workout to make sure I was at work at 8 am. Trying also to complete a second run in the evening was more difficult as there were days where I was standing for 10-12 hours straight. There is a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and best of all, a toaster oven in our kitchen at work so all of my meals were scarfed down at the store, mostly while standing. A lot of it was mental toughness, as I knew I had to continue training since I was in the peak mileage weeks of my marathon build-up. It was hard getting in my second run of the day at 9:30 pm, eating dinner at 11, and then going immediately to sleep, only to wake up at next morning to repeat the day’s process over again. I did it, though; I ran mile repeats and a ten-mile tempo both at 5:30 in the morning before the sun was up. Sure, the training and work schedule weren’t ideal. Far from it, but I didn’t have much of a choice. Those days are over, though, and I couldn’t be happier to resume a normal human’s schedule. I have time to train, relax, spend time with my wife, and see the sun. Hopefully, when I’m in the middle of the Austin Marathon, when it gets tough and I’m not sure whether to bite or just slow down, I’ll think back to how I felt on some of those days and I won’t think twice about just pushing through the pain.