Friday, May 22, 2009

Best Laid Plans...

4 weeks to Grandma's Marathon. Probably my favourite road marathon. Dublin, being my first one, will always be memorable, but the whole Grandma's experience is hard to beat. 2005 was my first US marathon and my first BQ. 2006 was a blast running with Jodee - well, the fun started once we decided her BQ was not going to happen and we'd just take it easy and enjoy it (she has qualifed for Boston pretty much every marathon since!). 2007 was my PR when I had as much fun running as I've ever had. Susan joining me for a sprint at mile 23 really spurred me on for the final few miles. I decided to skip it in 2008 given my focus on trail races. Though I actually ended up in Ireland doing a triathlon that weekend!

I decided in January that I wanted to try for a marathon PR this year and Grandma's seemed as good a chance as any. So I signed up and tried to plan my training around the race for the first 6 months of the year and then focus on trail ultras for the remainder. No triathlons at all on the calendar this year. But there was a trip to Argentina, the opportunity to run a new 50K in Virginia that I couldn't resist having loved every minute of the races I'd done there in '07/'08, and of course Chippewa take 2. So, not quite ideal preparation. Still, my grand finale of training was planned 4 weeks out - i.e. this weekend - the inaugural Stillwater Marathon includes a 20M race which seemed like an ideal test. I wasn't quite sure about splashing out $60 (or more? I don't even want to know...) but figured the pre-race 'race' experience would be good.

The past few weeks my running has been up and down. Despite a great result at Chippewa I wasn't particularly happy with my run. I say that with a fair amount of hesitation knowing that I'd personally like to strangle a race winner if I heard them say that. But I just didn't expect a 4:40 to feel as hard as it did. I had not really predicted the toll constantly rolling hills would take. Still, I recovered well and have gotten in some decent tempo runs since. A ridiculous work schedule and two trips to Ireland, where I am this week, hasn't helped but after finishing up an 8M run Tuesday night in Galway and seeing my average pace at 7:21 I decided it was a good omen for Stillwater since that was my goal pace... the extra 12 miles would just come together, right?

Somehow, it took all of 10 minutes for that plan to fall to pieces. My friend Deirdre was telling me a few weeks ago about the Burren Marathon - in a beautiful setting in Co. Clare - so I had checked it out at the time knowing that I'd likely be back over here this week - and was sort of relieved to see registration was already closed. It came up in conversation again on Tuesday as one of the guys I'm working with here is running the 10K (Dee is running the half). So I guess it was on my mind when I got back to the hotel after my run... I checked the website again and for whatever reason decided to email the RD about a late entry... sure enough I got an email back at midnight saying to call the next day "to sort it out". OK then, I guess I am running a marathon this weekend rather than a 20 miler - and not just any marathon, this one has a few nice hills and a bit of off-road action...

It ended up being a good thing since the next day work issues determined that I needed to be here through the weekend rather than travelling back so I'd end up missing Stillwater anyway. See, it's possible to make any idea sound like a good one if you try hard enough :)

There is even a "Risk Assessment" attached to the event plan on the website with the following Associated Hazards:

1. Slippery grassy route
2. Cliff ledges
3. Rocky shoreline
4. Traffic on public road

Definitely a good idea. Except for number 4 - close the roads please!

In case you're not convinced check out the views I'll get to enjoy along the way (note - in order to attempt to become a runner in Ireland one always has to assume blue skies)...

Where are the roads?