Running on Tilt

Cramming for 26.2


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When I was in high school and college, I was repeatedly told by teachers to get a good night’s sleep on the eve of a big test. The implication was that staying up all night and cramming would do more harm than good. This was bad advice. By cramming, I was able on several occasions to turn what would have been a D or an F into an A or a B. Like many of my classmates, I procrastinated to the point where cramming was the only way to learn the material on time.

The advice would be better suited for a marathon. I need to do a 20 mile training run, but pulling an all-nighter and doing that on the eve of the race would be about the worst thing I could do.

Though I didn’t allow myself to get out of shape over the summer, I had a few weeks of light mileage due to heat, sickness, traveling, or simple lack of will during what is after all a season known for vacation. Having put it off as much as I could, I began my marathon training in earnest with the Bronx half on August 15. I’d run that race in February of 2009, and in more difficult conditions this time I was able to run 6 seconds faster at 1:29:24. I ramped up my mileage to 50 a week, and a month later at the Rochester half, I clipped nearly four minutes, finishing in 1:25:38.

With a mere 23 days to go before November 7, the taper will begin soon. Over the last few weeks I’ve entered the equivalent of the all-nighter phase of training, getting into 60+ territory, rededicating to planks and push-ups, and going on a coconut-juice bender.

The 6.5-mile run to or from work has become a run to and from work, or a run home from work with a six-mile extension through Greenpoint and Maspeth. On Rust Street by the train tracks in Maspeth, and among the many auto shops on Metropolitan Avenue, you see the occasional hot dog stand.

A recent Sunday morning 19-mile jaunt with the North Brooklyn Runners took me over the Triboro Bridge and around Randall’s Island. Looking out from the perimeter of that island is disorienting -- it is hard to tell what part of the city you are seeing, as if viewing the city from the inside out.

When running high mileage, it is easy to let the non-running parts of training slip. But with the pressure on to get the training in now, I am again planking, noticing above all else as I try to avoid the task at hand the dust bunnies on the wood floor that need to be scooped up and tossed out.

Getting the nutrition right, admittedly a long-term project, seems like it could help. Dan Gercke recommended a few coconut-laden suggestions, and given the improvement that guy has made, I bought a number of different kinds of coconut juices, studying the nutritional facts of each to see which had the least amount of sugar. A few different canned brands, including Goya, use Thai coconuts, contain 80% coconut juice, and are supplemented with sugar. Vita Coca and Naked, more expensive brands in rectangular cardboard packaging, both list only coconut water as ingredients, and use Brazilian coconuts. Despite listing the same single ingredient, the Vita Coco box claims to satisfy 230% of the daily recommended vitamin C intake, while the Naked satisfies 0%.

There are many methods of procrastination, indeed, and maybe a coconut juice binge is just a futile attempt to re-experience the magical powers of Mountain Dew for fueling a night of studying. But that dreaded 20+ mile run can’t wait any longer, so I’ll be suffering a bit this weekend. I want to run a good time at the marathon, but I also want to have a good time, and getting in as much training as possible before the taper should help me do that. No matter how much one prepares, though, that messed-up feeling from pulling an all-nighter awaits us all in the latter stages of the race.