I’m three weeks away from running my next marathon, the Loch Ness Marathon in Inverness, Scotland. This will be my 23rd marathon, and I’ve just wrapped up the crazy training with my taper ahead of me. Taper is traditionally my favourite part of marathon training – well, second to running the actual race itself. It is the point at which you have completed the really hard work to prepare for a 26.2 mile journey, and you get to ease up for a few weeks, allowing your body to rest, repair and relax before you ask it to again push the limits on race day. Yesterday’s 20 miler was meant to be the peak of my training this season, my fourth summer of marathon training in the Cayman Islands – which is about as ridiculous, crazy and hot as it sounds – and I came up short. Twenty miles turned into around 17 thanks to a torrential downpour ahead (which makes for dangerous conditions when road running in Cayman). I was stopping to take a photo of a rainbow when my husband pulled up in his car, having seen the deluge that awaited me ahead, and gave me the option of calling it quits. I have yet to get in two 20 mile runs for a marathon training cycle. *Sigh*
Considering I almost called it at mile one due to heavy legs, I was very happy that instead of wrapping it up (very) early, I instead gritted my teeth and stretched my effort into another 16+ miles. Would I like to have made it all 20 miles? Of course! But sometimes, you have to change things around. So I decided to be happy with my run and head home rather than have a potentially dangerous and buggy (when/if the rain let up) finish to cap off my week of training.
This summer, and in fact this whole year, has been an adjustment of expectations and efforts. With my mom’s cancer diagnosis, I’ve experienced a feeling of apathy that I have NEVER before encountered in my life – not feeling like doing anything on many days, including getting up and going through the motions of just basic day to day tasks. Work has been difficult; I don’t have my same level of focus and ability to concentrate right now. All of this has also spilled over into my running, with me not having the same passion to get out there and put in miles as I normally would. In addition, the regular travel back and forth to see my mom precluded establishing any sort of true running routine, not to mention that when I am there with her, it has become increasingly difficult to get out and run because the amount of assistance and then care she has needed has gone up exponentially. We have not been able to leave her alone for more than a few minutes at any point since June. What I also didn’t realize was how much the actual travel takes a toll; trust me when I say it’s more than you would expect. The last almost 10 months have taken a toll mentally, emotionally and physically.
Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way as I don’t know how long my mom will be around. Running absolutely takes a back seat to being able to see her when schedules allow.
Oh, and did I mention another bulging disc in my back? *Sigh*
Yes, it has been a year of having to adjust effort and expectations. I think if I hadn’t signed up for this race, I wouldn’t be looking at a fall race at all. But somewhere, I’ve been able to somewhat manage a training cycle, even if it isn’t where I would normally like to be for the first race of the season. Until June, I hadn’t had a 100+ mi month since September 2017. And until mid-July, I wasn’t really consistent with my mid-week running schedule. So somehow in the last 6-7 weeks, I’ve managed to find a spark inside myself and commit to being as ready as I can for Loch Ness.
So when my 20 miler fell short yesterday, I could have been crushed. But in reality, I ran a solid 20 miles just two weeks prior, a fantastic 19 miles three weeks prior, and a challenging 18 miles the week before that. I’ve been working as hard as I can in my circumstances to be as ready as possible for this marathon. I could have been upset about not hitting that 20 mile mark for my last ‘big’ run this time around, but I still put in 17+ miles on a day when I didn’t originally think I could go two miles. So if we are looking at the mental game of running, I think I’m there. Physically, I know I will be able to go the distance. Inspirationally, I have my mom and my brother who are also with me on this horrific journey I never imagined we would be experiencing. We are all slogging along, doing our best, trying to remain hopeful even in the moments when hope has taken the week off.
Will the Loch Ness Marathon be a fast run for me? Who knows? In all honesty, who cares? I am ready to run to honour my mother, enjoy the Scottish Highlands and find some contentment and release in a sport that I enjoy. That time goal will still be there another day, when I am mentally and physically ready to commit to putting in the effort to get there. It’s just not this time around. And I’m ok with that.
Now bring on the taper!