I registered. Bib number 130. Portland Marathon 2007.
I was naive when I said I'd never train for another marathon.
When I said it, I hadn't yet known the xhilarating thrill of standing at the starting line with 10,000 other athletes, and yes, I said other athletes. I am an athlete, and if you doubt, I offer this as Exhibit A.
Told you so.
Neither had I watched in amazement as a field of elite runners zoomed past me in a course loop and had the incredible awareness that we were in the same race. Had I already felt the emotional rush of escorting a friend as he crushed every challenge life threw at him to cross the finish line with courage and grace I would have never said never again. Yes, I was naive.
For the next few weeks, I've been forbidden from walking by dictate of my physical therapist so until the prohbition is lifted I'm going to haul my phatgirl self to 24 Hour Fitness and do some cross-training in the pool and on the machines. I'm also going to take the lessons I've learned and apply them liberally to my next round of marathon training. Lessons learned from my mistakes. As always.
Mistake One: I overtrained.
I started into a marathon training program after less than a month of making the leap from couch to street, and nearly every mile I walked I pushed and pushed hard. My LSD walks were done at the same pace as my tempo walks. Case in point, in planning to walk a marathon pace of 15:30-16:00 mpm I should have technically averaged 16:30-17:00 on my LSD walks. Instead, my paces were 16 miles (14:43), 18 miles (14:21), 20 miles (14:41), and 19 miles (14:48), and the training sessions between 3 and 10 miles averaged between 13:12 - 14:31 mpm. The reason wasn't because I underestimated my speed but because I was always going anaerobic.
In "Marathoning for Mortals,"John Bingham gives clues to what it looks like to be in the anaerobic zone. "Your sentences get short. You can hear yourself breath. You work up a sweat. You get red in the face. You're worn out at the end of the workout. You suck air." I sucked air. I sucked air all the time. I could never understand why it was that people would turn around and look at me when I was still ten feet behind them. I couldn't figure out how they always knew I was approaching until I walked one day without my Ipod. I was sucking air like a guppy that had ventured out of its fishbowl. [Side note: Since I was seldom in the slow fat-burning aerobic zone that could have also played a part in the lack of weight loss, though time will tell on that one.]
Lesson: I will prepare to begin training for a marathon now that I have a base of activity and am in relatively fit condition, and I will strap on my Garmin heart monitor and walk tempos at tempo and heed the SLOW in LSD.
Mistake Two: I didn't listen to my body.
My ankle began whispering discontent when I walked my 14 mile LSD. My shoelaces were too tight. It casually mentioned discomfort at 16 miles and at 18 miles it throbbed in misery. I just need to walk it out. When it came time for my first 20 miler the ache in my ankle got a case of serious ugly (nod to Laura from Project Runway) and toward the end of my second 20 miler it screamed bloody murder. Anyone's feet would feel like this after 20 miles! I didn't listen all those times just like I did my best to ignore it's continual nagging in the two weeks prior to the marathon, but on the day of the marathon it would be ignored no longer and slapped me upside the head and made me whimper like a puppy.
Lesson: I will listen to my body. When it says "ouch" I will pay attention. I will slow down and warm up rather than hurry to work it out. At the end of a session I will consistently rather than sporadically take time to do my stretches.
Mistake Three: I didn't choose a training program that was a right match.
There was nothing wrong with the training program I followed for someone who had actually moved before beginning it, but considering my state of full-throttle sedentary non-motion, it wasn't the plan for me. I shouldn't have done two 20 milers and I shouldn't have done the last one two weeks before the marathon. Too much, too close together, too soon before the marathon.
Lesson: I will follow the half-marathon and marathon training programs designed for walkers in Bingham's book that include only one 20-miler three weeks before the marathon.