Monday, November 14, 2011

Salty Chocolate, and Don't Say You Can't

I dug into these chocolate covered pretzels by Snyders in the car this Saturday afternoon, and found a delightful combination of sugar and salt in each bite.

And that’s about the end of this review, because the reason I was eating them in the car on Saturday afternoon is that I knew I’d need some salt and sugar on the drive back from the Richmond Marathon.

Yes. Marathon. I did that $%^*.

Now, you might think “wow, that’s amazing,” or you might be one of my friends who has done 5+ marathons who is instead just thinking “so, did you sign up for the next one yet?”. But what I hope nobody is thinking is “I could never do that.”

The sad thing is, a spectator said that to me as I was walking back to my car. And I told him that was nonsense, because I had just done it with a bad kidney and asthma. Oh, and I broke a vertebrae 13 years ago, which resulted in permanent muscular structure changes in my back.

I don’t want to make this a post how anybody, baring severe physical disability, can train to run a marathon – you can instead read Susan’s post about how anybody can do an Ironman. What I do want to write about is the test that training for a marathon – not racing one – puts you through.

And what it does is test your physical and mental strength. Over and over and over. There’s no way to find out just how training for a marathon will do this to you without actually going through it. Of course, other undertakings are more difficult, and believe me, after finishing three degrees at MIT, I know what difficult means. But it’s a different kind of difficult that challenges what you thought you could do from the start of the training cycle 16-20 weeks before the race.

Now I know people go and run marathons without doing more than a handful of 10 mile training runs. They really miss out. They never get to find out what they’re truly capable of putting themselves through, and that is where the real stuff happens. Not on race day. In the four to five months before race day. I had a blast in the process (sick and twisted, I know), but there were a lot of times that I had to do ridiculous things to stay with the training plan.

  • A trip to Hawaii in July when it never drops below 75 F and it’s humid all day? Still have to run.
  • An Olympic distance triathlon immediately followed by a cross-country business trip? Do the 12 mile training run on a Wednesday morning, which involves waking up at 4:15 am before going to a full day of work.
  • Torrential downpours for weeks on end making everything muddy? Go run 13 miles and find yourself completely beaten down, covered in mud, unable to fathom how you’ll ever run twice that far, and then hop on the Metro at Bethesda to get home (that did not make me popular with my fellow riders).
  • Heavy rain during a track workout? Hey, it just means you don’t have to shower afterwards. Get on with those 1000s at lactate threshold already.
  • The coach for your training group schedules you to swim an hour and then immediately run an hour to simulate the hunger you’ll encounter during the race on Friday? Get on it. Then do the prescribed one hour swim and one hour bike on Saturday. Oh, and this is all before a 21-mile training run on Sunday. How the hell is that possible after the workload from the previous two days? Well, just start putting one foot in front of the other. And go.

And now I know I can do all these things. And more. Could you? Almost definitely. Will you do it? That’s up to you. You have to want it, obviously, since it’s not easy. Are you scared to find out that you can’t? It’s possible, and in fact, I think many people avoid challenges because they are afraid that they’ll find out what they can’t do.

That’s lame. You’re far more likely to find out what you can do. So even if you don’t decide to train for a marathon, try something else that you think is impossible today. You’re more likely to find out what you can do rather than what you can’t do.

And there just might be chocolate covered pretzels at the end.

(I’m writing about the actual race on Wednesday because that’s an entirely different set of semi-serious thoughts that generally don’t appear on this blog. So be ready for that awesomeness. I’ll even tell you my time.)

28 comments:

  1. I LOVE this post, Victoria! Its so true, the marathon is hard but training for it is so much more the challenge. It takes a lot to really commit to training and see how far you can make yourself go. Congrats on making it through.... did you sign up for that next marathon yet?

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  2. Amen. This is part of why I love the training cycle almost more than race day. You learn so much about yourself and what you can really do. Well said.

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  3. Great job on your race! Those pretzels are amazing. I also just tried the white chocotae covered honey wheat. I ate the entire bag in one sitting. Oops.

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  4. What a great post. I'm on the edge of committing to a marathon and I know it would be a great (but hard) journey.

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  5. Great post!!! This is so true and I love the points you made here! Congratulations!!!!

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  6. I love this post and it is so well timed since I just made the decision to run my first marathon! Eeek! I'm sure I'll return to this post when things get tough (and I know they will).

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  7. I love this post! Doing the tri thing is something I thought was impossible but now I'm really looking forward to. :)
    Congrats on your marathon!!

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  8. Congrats on the marathon! Great post, very inspiring. I have yet to run my first marathon, I'm thinking sometime next year :)

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  9. I'm so proud of you for doing it up. You need awesome and seriously an inspiration for everyone!

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  10. I'm so excited you are going to do a race recap. And you basically summed up why I love marathon training.

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  11. Great post! You've managed to put into words why running a marathon is the easiest part of the whole process. And why I keep signing up for them again and again.

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  12. Everything you said is so true! Great post. Can't wait to read your race recap. Congrats!!

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  13. I agree. I've come to understand that the toughness is in the training day after day. Race time is just your chance to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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  14. Great Post. It is so true.. the training is the hardest part and the races are just the treat at the end. Congrats!

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  15. WHOOP! I love this. I think chocolate covered pretzels would be the best thing ever after a race besides chocolate milk of course. ;) You have to replenish that salt and sugar right? So true about what you said about training. The best part is is that it's all worth it. Congratulations on such a great race!

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  16. Beautifully written, Victoria! And congratulations again, a thousand times :)

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  17. Woo-hoo! Just excited again that you ran a freaking marathon. I like this - ANYONE can do it, as long as they want to train and commit.
    Chocolate covered pretzels at the end are clearly genius as well!

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  18. This post is SO dead on! I feel like you've said what I've tried to say so much better than I could say it. That's why I love running, it's not like basketball or singing, you don't have to have a natural talent, you just do it. I understand that it's not appealing to some people, but I can't stand the "I can't run" attitude. Running a marathon takes a lot of commitment but it's worth it!

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  19. HUGE congrats! Maybe we will run into each other yet - I know Taneen quite well!

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  20. This is really wonderful, and incredibly motivating. I look forward to when my thesis stress is over soon, so that I can get back out there and motivate myself to run again, because I know how proud I was earlier this year when I was running halfs.

    Are Hannah and I the only non-serious athletes commenting on this? Oh well, at least I'm motivated.

    And eep, hearing about kidney trouble always makes me nervous:/

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  21. Great post. It is the mental aspect of training for a marathon or triathlon that is the best. Physically you will get stronger and faster but can you take the mental beatdown and turn it around? Can you apply that beat down to your other aspects of life: children, spouse, work, family/friends?

    That is why endurance sports is like no other.

    Again, great post.

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  22. Thats amazing congratulations..im over my injury now so im going to start training for londonmarathon!!

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  23. Well done! :)

    I'm seriously toying with the idea of starting to train for half marathon....

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