Something happened...and I don't know WHAT it was. But it was good.
The last week of training has been probably the best, most interesting, most thought-provoking week I've had all year. Outside of getting my miles up over 50 for the week (with 2 rest days) I feel like something happened. Some sort of synapse-related, lungs/legs THING happened this week. I've been really working this year to build speed and get my body to latch onto the next level, and this is something that mentally I'm slightly angsty about, given the little aches and pains I've been managing in the foot/other areas of my legs over the last month or so.
There has been such a mental push this year to MAKE it to Boston. I mean, I've been trying since I was 17, but this year feels different. A BQ time (3:05, 7:01 pace) is something I feel is well within my reach, but it is a PUSH. There's no way around it. There's no way for my body to get there without making changes. It is not enough anymore to just put in a training cycle at easy run pace and rely on long slow runs to get me over the hump. It's just.. not. I've never been a believer that your legs will magically do something for you on race day that you haven't learned how to do (or at least very close to it ) in training, over and over again. I guess my style tends to link up more with the concepts of "race simulation" type runs that get your head and legs wrapped around the idea and FEEL of running faster, comfortably. It is working for me, both mentally and physically. But there's obviously a drawback to that, and it's the risk of getting injured. And that's something I've wrestled with over the last 5 years pretty heavily. (both in theory, and in physical consquences of dealing with injuries)
So what HAPPENED this week? Well, Wednesdays are my typical double-day with 5 miles in the AM and 5 miles in the PM. It's a great aerobic day of teaching the legs to recover but also to run in the heat of the afternoon while they are tired. My first 5 in the AM felt fine, and I took it easy. But in the afternoon something was firing in the legs that I couldn't ignore. First mile in 6:45, which was reasonable given the climb to get out of my neighborhood. But once that ticked over I found another gear, and another, and another. I knew I was pushing hard but I felt like I was in control. I wasn't DYING. I wasn't in oxygen debt. I was just, hauling. The last two miles were both sub 5:55 pace, and that's something that has never happened during a training run before. Ever. College included.
Was it maybe a bit unsafe? YES. I felt guilty about it actually. I felt like there was no way I WASN'T going to pay for that in some way. I felt like I was setting a bad example. I felt like it was unnecessary... but I couldn't ignore what was happening. My legs felt invincible. There was still gas in the tank even. I was shocked. It felt weird to be laughing at myself (outloud) and awkwardly fist-pumping, alone on some random neighborhood side-street where I finished up. And it was then that I uttered out loud the words that have stuck with me all week: "I guess it's possible". I rode the high for the rest of that evening. I guess it's possible. It's possible to not see light at the end of the tunnel for weeks on end of nose-to-the-grind training and injury freakouts, and then all in one moment come shooting out of the tunnel like an out of control rocket with a smirk that won't go away.
This last Saturday I put in 15 miles at 6:50 pace, which was another distance/pace season best and certainly a best over the last SEVERAL years. I think I still had those 4, simple, intoxicating words filling just about every breath. I guess it's possible. It is now. I know it is. Did I wake up this morning with doubts? YUP. Sure did. That's what it means to be a human, and to wrestle with the day to day fears and struggles. But I got out the door, with a bit more pep in my step to start this new week, knowing that if I can just manage the balance for the remainder of these 11 weeks I have a real shot at doing something special in the marathon this year. And if that doesn't happen, at least I can say I laid it ALL out there and did everything in my power to ready myself for the task. No regrets.
It IS possible.