Margot is starting to grow into her baby clothes, at least the legs, not so much the arms. Although I’m told she’s not happy being clothed. Like Matthew McConaughey playing bongos, she prefers her birthday suit. Who doesn’t?

I’m still committed to running a marathon next week. Given my condensed training schedule, rather than taper this weekend, I went for an 18 miler today. Nothing like a marathon on the calendar to scare yourself fit. 

I wasn’t confident that ten weeks of training would prepare me to complete a twenty-six mile run, but I know I made progress toward improving my fitness and I feel so much more confident after completing 18 today.  I could still drop out of the full marathon at the expo and sign up for the half marathon – a distance I could complete with much more certainty.  But the deal isn’t about certainty.  The deal is to try to run twenty-six miles.

That lack of certainty is partly why I enjoy running marathons.  Even when I’ve been one hundred percent prepared to complete the distance, when the only question was how fast, marathons are never a sure thing.  Although medically defined as obese, completing this marathon is as plausible as when I toed the starting line in competitive shape at my fourteen previous marathons. Anything can happen in a marathon over the course of three, four or five hours.

The two photos below are of me completing my first marathons at 16 and 18 years of age.  I ran my first Dallas White Rock Marathon before watches had been invented, but I figure I might have run it in under four hours. Seriously, I think they didn’t post my time because in 1978 they didn’t have an age group for 16 year olds. I wasn’t supposed to be there.

Running my first marathon with high school buddy, Mike O’Neill
Running my second marathon with my college dorm mate, Johnny Martinez

It’s ridiculous for me to estimate what my pace will be without more running under my belt, but I did start wearing a watch a few weeks back and today’s 18 miler was good to set expectations – and I like to play this guessing game ahead of marathons. If I’m smart, I’ll start out behind the 5 hour pace sign and run a solid 11:30 pace the entire distance, speeding up slightly the final 10K if I feel strong.

If you know me, then you know I can be somewhat delusional about my prospects, so I’ll start out a bit too fast for myself. I suspect I’ll run the first 10K at a 10:30 pace, slow down to 11 minutes for the second 10K, and run the final half at around an 11:30 pace and finish at four hours and fifty minutes (4:50) – give or take fifteen minutes. I’m usually pretty good at these estimates, historically within about 15 minutes, with the exception of those four-hour-plus times listed above. Like I said, lots can go wrong in a marathon.

Two things generally lead me to catastrophic failure in a marathon. Heat and a calorie/electrolyte deficit, or you could say nutrition plan. The impact of either of those conditions might be mitigated if I went out slower. The result is generally the same, severe cramping in the final 10K that leads to walking a bit. Not overly concerned about the heat in October. Temperatures should range from 55° to 70° for my five hours under the sun. Might rain. Ideal running weather.

Maintaining form in that final 10K is so hard because of the nutritional math involved in running beyond three hours. It’s physically impossible to not fall into a calorie deficit after three hours. You’re burning calories faster than your stomach can digest new calories. You can drink sufficient electrolytes if you’re disciplined about it. Best you can do on calories is to get in enough very, very long runs (3 hours or so) as part of your training to teach your body to adapt to efficiently burn stored proteins and fats. Or run so fast that you finish under three hours. Before today, my longest training run was two hours and I’ve never run a marathon under three hours.

I’ve never had speed as a primary goal in a marathon. I got comfortable enough, and fit enough, that I was usually confident of finishing. My goals have always been around managing my calories and electrolytes so that I feel comfortable the entire distance. Running at a sustainable pace is part of that just as success in the nutrition plan leads to a faster time. This time around, simply completing the distance in under the six hour cutoff time is my only objective, but I still have to manage those other aspects of the race – pace, electrolytes and calories.

I’ll comment afterward on the viability of training for a marathon in only ten weeks in my post-race report. I lost zero weight the first four weeks, and dropped my attempt at dieting. I lost a few pounds after that, apparently it takes time for the metabolism to kick into gear. No where near my goal of twenty to twenty-five pounds, but I feel like I’m able to run this heavy after having sufficiently toned up. Planks and squats probably helped as much as running.

I don’t consider it a failure that I didn’t achieve my weight loss goal. I see it as I lost a few pounds. Likewise, I won’t be at all upset if I drop out before finishing. I know the odds are long. My goal was to try to run a marathon, so I’m going to try. You can track my progress at this site. My bib is 123. See you next week after twenty-six miles.