Photo: Outdoor Alabama, Flickr Creative Commons
One may think, Jacob, you just ran a marathon less than a month ago and, despite horrible weather and your near drowning from rain, you dropped about 30 minutes off your best time. One would be factually accurate in thinking this, but that misses a few key issues. The first of those reasons being that tennis season started up just as I needed to resume serious training for this race. Normally, I'm off work and able to start running by 3:30. With tennis practices four days a week, I'm lucky to get started before 6 p.m., meaning I'm finishing even my shortest runs during the week in the dark. Getting up earlier isn't an option. I'm not going to run unlighted dirt roads in the dark at 4:30 in the morning just so I get home earlier. I'd need to be in bed by 8 every night to make that work. Back in the fall, working in training was easy. I'm actually having to work to find time for my runs now. I also should really be resting my right knee. I tweaked it on my second 20-miler of the fall. I took a week off and was able to continue running without swelling or pain, but it still gets a little stiff and clicky after my longer runs each week. I really need to spend a month where I don't run farther than three miles and spend most of my time on the bike to let it recover. Running 50-mile weeks is the opposite of recovery. Finally, I have no way to adequately train for this race. True, the highest point in Alabama is 2,000 feet lower than the highest point in Georgia, but I also live (and train) more than 2,000 feet below Alabama's highest point. The elevation difference will matter. In addition to the elevation, I have no way to match the terrain. Most of the land near where I live is pancake flat. Luckily, if I run near the river, which isn't far from where I work, the elevation drops around 100 feet and turns into rolling hills, some fairly steep. Still, there's never an extended climb of more than a half mile and usually much shorter. Even if I could find some really good hills to train on, I can't match the terrain. There just aren't any rocks. I've got a good trail that I do some of my runs on, but the soil here is so free of rocks that you're just running on dirt. It's relatively smooth and level. I'm not having to navigate rocky trail and only at the back end of that trail where the trees change from pines into swamp-loving deciduous trees do I even have to worry about roots. There is no way I'll be prepared for the terrain of the Cheaha course with its single track and mountain.
That doesn't mean I won't try, of course. It doesn't even mean that I won't meet my goals. That knee really isn't that bad. I just want to rest it, and I will after this race in a month. After this race, I don't have any race plans until late May and nothing that requires much in the way of long runs. And the terrain? I'm okay in the mountains and my speed expectations for this race are pretty low. Unlike that Jacksonville Marathon where I know the weather, the terrain, and the flatness match that of my home, I understand that I have no real way to know what I should be capable of so when I go out there. I'm going to run when I can, walk when it gets steep, and finish. I can do that.