It's time to ask forgiveness from the trail gods for my hubris. A friend asked if I wanted to do a marathon with him. The race? The XTERRA Turkey Track Trail Run, 26.2 miles of mostly single track at 8,000 feet of altitude in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I haven't run a marathon in seven years, haven't sun more than twenty miles a week in more than a year, haven't been healthy for more than four months (I have gout and it's definitely a pain but improving), and haven't a goal in the world other than enjoying my regained ability to cover ground at a slow lope.
Naturally, I said yes.
I needed something to inspire me. I've done marathons and dealt with crowds and overpriced expos. I've done ultras and discovered how wonderful Vaseline can be and that I can run with sore feet for an awfully long time. I've solo-run trails in the Seven Devils, turning 30 or 35 miles in a day, just for the sense of awe-and I plan to do so again. But none of that was getting be past fitness-runner status and that was okay. I like being fit.
But something was missing.
I don't run just to rack miles or add to a marathon total. The Marathon Maniacs run aiming for totals, 3 marathons in 16 days, or 31 marathons in 365 days. Impressive, yes, but no more inspiring than the accumulation of blackened toe nails. Like the folks that keep track of their consecutive days running, the type that say "Oh, I haven't missed a day in eleven years, six months, thirteen days and," a pause to check the Timex, "seventeen hours."
I'm not that Type A.
I also don't like crowds so Chicago or New York are not in the plans. I got my fill of crowds at a couple of Rock 'n Rolls in San Diego. Dodging people for the first fifteen miles (do people lie or what to get into the first corrals - I always give a realistic appraisal of speed and ALWAYS end up passing a butt-load of slow-pokes. It's rude.)
I've done a lot on trails and, given an option, would never run on pavement again. A trail marathon is new but only because I haven't raced one before.
The exciting part isn't the race-it's that I plan on running with a partner. Most of the time, my running buddies are faster than me. If you've seen me run, it's perfectly understandable. In this case, we're pretty evenly matched. And, because I'm coming back from such a long way, I'm more interested in running than racing. (Though I checked the age group results, but only once - it's a habit!)
We'll be training separately since he's in Colorado and it's a bit far to travel just for the weekend long run. We'll follow different plans. I've been here before and I know what works for me. Lots of miles, a bit of speed, steady progressions. I've got time for two full cycles on the speed work - mostly tempo and enough striders to knock the burrs off my form and clean it up. Gradual ramp up on the long run, lots of them, one every two weeks so the legs can recover in between. It's all sitting in a spreadsheet.
Life will happen between now and race day so the schedule will get blown up at least once. Adapt and survive and get to the start line.
After that, it's all good.