Running Fiesta

Writing and running in Austin, TX.

It’s Hard Out There for a Noob

I guess you could say it was a quiet week. For the first time since I started the Rogue Fall Marathon Training program on May 1st, we had a “recovery week”. For that week only, they dropped our weekly mileage down from 40 to 30. Every single weekday run was noticeably shorter, and the weekend long run was only 10 miles!!!

The impact of all that extra rest was incredible. I felt like I barely worked out. (Which is clearly a sign that I’m losing my mind, because the week’s runs were still 5, 5.6, 4, 6.2, and 10 miles. And don’t jump on me math nerds–that’s basically 30, okay?)

Droning on about running “only 30 miles” might sound like bragging, but what I’m really trying to say here is that this long, high-mileage, frequent-speedwork program is kicking my butt.

And I don’t think it’s just me.

All of my regular running buddies have commented that our Tuesday morning training group is noticeably smaller than it was at the start. It’s only been 2.5 months, but runners are dropping like flies. And who can blame them? This program is hard.

I guess my first clue that Rogue wasn’t really beginner-friendly should have been the “New Rogues” orientation session. They asked how many of us thought we would do the Beginner program, and about half the class raised their hands.

Then they followed with, “We recommend the Beginner program to those of you still in your first 1-3 marathons.”

Hrmm. Nervous-making.

But then, at our first long run, the same coach announced, “We expect most of you will run a 10-11 minute pace.” Well hey, that doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe I’ll do okay here after all.

Then we actually hit the trail. I spent those 5 miles turning blue and listening to E talk about her good friend J who just did a Half Ironman. Yep, I was definitely going to die.

(On the bright side, both E and J–and the other J who I met on our second long run–have since become good friends. A shared love of mimosas can overcome many athletic differences.)

Fast forward to Major Clue #2 that I was out of my league. About a month into the program, they sprung a two-mile time trial on us. The idea was that if you tried to kill yourself for 8 circuits of a track, you could then adjust that time to get your predicted MGP, or marathon goal pace.

First off, they’re smoking something, because there’s no way in hell I’m running 10:30s for an entire marathon. You just don’t carve over an hour off your finish time in a single year.

Secondly, I’m not actually sure that 10:30 is the right estimate. By the time J (the not my boyfriend, not the Ironman J–I’m taking nominations for nicknames for the 3 Js) and I gasped our way across the finish, the coach was so busy recording times of faster people that she didn’t see us finish and couldn’t give us our time. The girl in front of us said she finished in 16:30. The guy behind us claimed 18:30. We split the difference and…guessed.

Not long after the time trial came Major Clue #3. On a 12-mile long run called “Big Fire” (let me tell you, these people sure know how to build up your confidence with the route naming), the same J and I were knocking out 12-minute miles. Slow for sure, but given the 6 straight miles of steady elevation gain (the Fire?), we weren’t unhappy. And we certainly weren’t last.

What we were was too slow to get any water. They actually ran out of water before we got to the last water stop. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Rogue, but nothing says “you’re too slow to worry about” quite like leaving us to run the last 5 miles in 80+ degrees with no water.

Well, fine. We love you, too.

So far, they’ve run out of water for the slower people twice on long runs. Their answer to our complaints is often that we need to carry our own water bottles. Umm, okaaaay. This is only insulting because we DO carry our own water bottles, but somehow 10 ounces just doesn’t last 16 miles. Perhaps J and I will get a baby jogger and take turns pushing one of those 10-gallon Culligan jugs down the Town Lake hike and bike trail.

Ahh, venting feels good.

But now that I’m done with that, I’m going to return to my earlier statement: I still love Rogue. Signing up for this training program has been one of the best decisions of my life. I’ve made new friends, started up the blog again, and found something relatively healthy to obsess over when my OCD tendencies need some occupation.

I’ve also discovered that–knock on wood–my legs do seem able to handle higher mileage. No, I don’t think I’ll cut an hour off last year’s time, but I really think I might shave off 30 minutes. And that thought is just plain exciting!

My ultimate evaluation of Rogue’s marathon training is that it’s good for two types of people: 1) already fast people who are obsessed with getting faster and 2) people like me who aren’t fast but who are, at least, obsessive. In my humble opinion, it is NOT good for people who don’t have at least one marathon under their belts.

Now let me defend that last statement.

As we’ve gone through this process, those of us at the back of the pack have struggled equally. These runs are LONG. And HARD. And (unfortunately) THIRSTY. But those of us who have already tackled 26.2 know that they are also, to some extent, unnecessarily so. I can tell you from experience, you absolutely do not need to do this level of mileage if your goal is simply to conquer the distance. From what I can tell, the Rogue philosophy is “show them twice as much pain as they’ll see in the actual race, and the marathon itself will seem easy”.

Again, this is a nice enough philosophy for experienced marathoners, but I’m personally terrified that the first-timers around me will ultimately decide this is just too hard. After that, how will they ever consider taking on the marathon again? Time magnifies all memories, and a month from now a tough run might be recalled as a near-death experience. (Hey, sometimes I feel like that in the middle of the run.)

And that, to me, would be the biggest tragedy.

The main reason I write this blog, and the main reason I can’t stop myself from talking about running long after my audience has lost interest, is that running has brought so much joy to my life. So much in life can seem so difficult, and I just feel like having an accomplishment of undeniable magnitude under your belt, an accomplishment like a marathon, can give you a foundation of self-esteem that sticks around when all reason for confidence is gone.

Not to be melodramatic, but if you can run a marathon, you also can finish a big project at work, or handle a family crisis. Ultimately, you can build the life you want to have. What did I start to do just a few months before getting out of a bad relationship? Run. What helped me finally, after years of issues with food and image, accept who I am? Running. Who knows what running could do for you?

In the end, running a marathon shows you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you have endurance. And that at the end of every ordeal, there’s a finish line. So I say GO for that finish line. And who cares if it takes you 6 hours to get there?

2 comments on “It’s Hard Out There for a Noob

  1. Emily
    July 20, 2010

    Such a great evaluation! Feel special to have made the blog, had to point out you were not blue, maybe only a slight shade of light blue! Mimosas on sat to commiserate and recognize our insanity are def in order!

  2. Jeanine
    July 26, 2010

    I feel special to make the blog as well!!! My nickname – Jolly J. Fitting, no? Oh, yeah, I do curse, bitch and generally whine a lot, but USUALLY I am jolly. Just not at 5:30am!LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog post. And you are right – it shows us we can endure anything! 🙂

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This entry was posted on July 20, 2010 by in beginners, motivation, Rogue.
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