Sunday, November 15, 2015

What if I just kept posting old Breakaway things?

When speaking marathon-speak, you have to act like it’s not weird at all to be talking about traveling on foot the kinds of distances most of the rest of the population only uses when describing how far away the next town over is.  This, above all else, is key.  It’s not weird.

Aside from that, marathon lingo is easy to pick up because most of the key phrases are comically self-descriptive.

Your long run is the run you typically do on the weekend to build up your mileage.  This is the bulk of your training and most likely your longest long run will be twenty miles, though Breakaway’s plan went up to twenty-two.  Used in a sentence: “Hey, man, how was your long run?” or “What’s your long run this weekend?”  

A drop-down week is a week in which your mileage is less than the week before.  Though your overall progress is upward, toward longer runs, your body needs time to recover, and thus the typical cycle is to increase your mileage for a few weeks and then drop down for a week, meaning both a shorter long run and a smaller overall weekly mileage tally.  Drop-down weeks result in paradoxical statements, such as, “Yeah, it’s a drop-down week so my long run’s only 14 miles.” 

An ice bath is what you take after your long run.  Because your legs are put through quite a bit of stress and pounding during a twenty-or-so-mile run, you will have likely done enough harm that you will be in pain for the next day or four.  To minimize muscle damage, it is advised to follow your longer long runs by (no, I’m not making this up) soaking your legs in a bathtub of cold water and ice for ten to twenty minutes.  This is infinitely more torturous than the run itself; you’ll be hard-pressed to find an ice-bather who can’t top his worst bad run story with an even more awful description of what it’s like to sit in an ice bath.  (Note:  Not all marathoners take ice baths.  Your author takes “cool water baths” because she read online they’re just as effective and really, she’s fine believing that even if it turns out that’s not entirely true.) 

A foam roller is a foam roller.  You roll your muscles over it to work out stiffness and kinks.  This hurts worse than an ice bath.

Splits are the times for your individual miles, or mile-increments, during your run.  Your aim is to have a “negative split,” meaning you get faster as you go.  For instance, if you ran twenty miles in two and a half hours and your first ten miles were in an hour and twenty minutes and your second ten miles were in an hour and ten minutes, then congratulations, both on your negative split and on being faster than I’ll ever be.

Gu is the brand name of a flavored, gel-like substance that you swallow mid-run to deliver nutrients to your body because you are not physically capable of storing enough energy to keep yourself going through all those miles and your body will start digesting itself if you don’t eat (or something like that).  The word “Gu” is used generically as a term for any gooey substance sold in one-serving packets, much the same way people use the word Kleenex to mean any facial tissue.  It comes in assorted flavors and you’re advised to “shoot” one Gu packet every forty-five minutes during exercise, although I would ask that you bear in mind that recommendation comes from the people who make Gu.  You can use your long runs to test your Gu needs (and flavor preferences), but be sure to complain a lot about having to eat it, even though it’s quite tasty.  (Oh, please, like you’re not hungry enough to eat damn near anything after 16 miles anyway.)

And lastly, the most important word in any marathoner’s vocabulary is gossip.  Because when you’re training for a marathon, if you’re running with other people, you will be in their presence for hours with nothing to do except put one foot in front of the other.  It’s best to come equipped to talk about other people’s secrets; if not, you’ll be spilling your own.  Some of the most revealing conversations I have ever had have come in the middle of grueling umpteen-mile runs, when physical duress had stripped away the mental defenses of both me and the people I was running with.  

A friendship forged through marathon training is unlike any other friendship, for, as they say, it is during long runs that shit gets real

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