Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Teg Tackles Twenty-Six (.2): Approaching the Mountain

Matt Tegenkamp has run 12:58, been an oh-so-close 4th at Worlds, and won a grip of US national titles… so naturally it’s time to take on the new challenge presented by the marathon. Between now and his debut at the distance — Chicago, October 13th — he’ll be sharing insight into that journey. This entry looks at the line of thinking that brought him to the foot of the 26.2 mile mountain…

Acquired Desire: The marathon, for me, has been an “acquired” desire. The process of training and racing for soooo many miles scared me — rightfully so, with my history of nagging injuries.

However, there has always been this deep down question of, If I did a marathon what could I run? That question has been stirring since 2007, after watching my first Chicago Marathon live. And I’ve continued to predict my finish time after every 26.2 I watch. The internal debate finally came to a head this spring when my coach Jerry Schumacher and I had a long sit down on how I wanted to tie up my athletic career. What came out of the discussion was that I needed a fresh new focus, an unknown, to provide motivation and hunger! So here I am, less than four weeks away from my debut marathon in Chicago — a chance to prove to myself that I can conquer the 26.2 distance.

The Foundation: Race day will always be an unknown, that is the beauty of sport, but I will have no doubts about my preparation leading into the #Chimarathon. The reason for this confidence in training has to do with 13 years of developing the aerobic system, gaining strength, and pushing the intensity threshold under Coach Schumacher’s system. Jerry’s training philosophy is volume based — the more you run the better you get — and I have been doing it for years. Consistency is key: volume of 100 miles, long runs turned into tempo efforts, threshold repeats of 10-14Xmile, and crazy track fartleks… year after year, like clockwork. The foundational training is not event specific. Coach’s outlook: developing aerobic capacity is how to improve athletes’ performances! Period.

You can imagine my attitude doing all this crazy marathon based work when I was focusing on a 5k…like, Seriously, is this really necessary? My race is only THREE MILES! It got to the point that I would tell myself, There is no way you are putting yourself through all this suffering and torture without racing a marathon one day!

Focus On the Process: So, I’ve got the internal desire to race the clock. I am physically prepared. And, I am mentally solid! The marathon build has really high points and equal rough patches but I choose to focus on the overall process and not dwell on any one workout. My mental state has been pushed to the limit in training but is always repaired once I walk through the door at home. I have an amazing wife and two wild young boys that take up all my focus when I am not running. They are just as excited about this process as I am, its amazing how much a difference it can make having a “team” of support surrounding you!

All this said… I can’t wait until taper mode. 10 days and counting!

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