Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Little Engine That Could

Well, the endurance experiment I conducted on myself earlier this fall was a partial failure; but it was also a partial success. My ultimate goal is to complete an Ironman-distance race in 2016, the year I turn 55 (gasp!). In order to test my mettle, I decided to return to a marathon this year--2007 was the last year I ran 26.2 miles at one time. I finished the Indianapolis Marathon in a respectable 4:03:24, missing Boston Marathon qualifying by so little that it still hurts. And speaking of hurts, a few months later the second metatarsal in my left foot snapped from overuse, which meant had I made Boston I couldn't have run it anyway.

Funny how things have a way of working out.

Ultimate goal in mind, I decided to train for a half-Ironman distance triathlon while also gearing up for a marathon, just to see if I could. If you're wondering how that went, re-read the first sentence of this blog.

Because Facebook is such a public forum, I'm sure most of you know that I posted a big, fat DNF at the Steamtown Marathon, Oct. 13. I'm still not certain what happened to me that day, but I do know I missed out on a gorgeous medal and a quick, downhill sprint to the finish. We still made sure to stop by Bingham's Family Restaurant on the drive home for lunch and a piece of pie. Maybe we'll return to Scranton in 2015 for some unfinished business; we'll see.

For redemption, I bumped my entry into the following week's Empire State Half Marathon to the full distance. I have to credit Richard Gardner, who planted the idea that I should look at Steamtown as a training run and finish the unfinished in my hometown. And thanks to my hubby, who never says no, but only asks if I'm up to the task, whatever race it happens to be. 

It's a rarity for me, but I didn't run the Empire State Marathon for the time; I ran it for pride, for self-confidence and for all my friends and family who were rooting for me to get it done. Five hours after I began, I finished that sucker, even though the last 8 miles were a real struggle. I saw many supporters on the course, at water stations, directing traffic, just watching, which certainly helped.

Special thanks to my work buddies, Dawn (with her daughter Ava) and Trisha for waiting patiently for me at the finish line, holding the best sign I saw all morning:

"Remind me never to run a marathon again; a half, sure, but not a full," I told my husband and two good friends a few minutes after I finished.

Two days later I was already investigating which marathon to conquer in 2014 (you knew that was coming). While I fully intend to return to Northeast Pennsylvania to get that Steamtown medal, for next year I'm leaning toward the Harrisburg Marathon. Many factors point me in the direction of the capital of Pennsylvania, not the least of which is timing. Although I followed an 18-week training schedule for Steamtown, as opposed to the usual 16 weeks, a few more weeks for a few more long runs--20-23 miles (the real hard work of marathon training)--would have helped. Harrisburg is held Veteran's Day weekend, even more time to fit in three more long runs, especially if I start in May or June.

And just like 2013, I will be training for a long-distance triathlon (or should I say two triathlons). Sept. 13 and 14, you'll find us in lovely Sackets Harbor for the Incredoubleman Triathlon. A sprint distance race is on Saturday, while the 70.3 starts 24 hours later. This will be an adventure, sure, but completing this challenge will further solidify my desire and confidence in my ability to race that day-long, 140.6-mile tri in 2016.

Sure I've lost some running speed since turning 50, but my endurance is better than ever. I just hope I can find adequate time to complete the training required. Since we're talking a little under three years from now, I have plenty of time to figure it out.

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