Thursday Things

1. Since I saw no fewer than three anxious posts about the forecast for marathon day on social media on Monday, I would like to offer up an annual reminder that weather forecasts attempting to predict what wrath the atmosphere may or may not unleash on us are rarely accurate beyond the next 48 hours and are not worth the angst they create.

If you could get certified in worrying, I assure you that I would have the highest level of certification possible. I worry about everything. I worry about work. I worry about my health. I worry about other people’s health. I worry about my safety. I worry about other people’s safety. I exists in a constant state of, at best, low level anxiety. I am very, very good at worrying. But even I don’t worry about the forecast for marathon day (anymore) two weeks in advance, because, after years of tracking the forecast for marathon day to prove how useless of an exercise that was, I have enough data to even convince me–ME! A girl for whom no amount of data or facts can assuage her anxiety that bad things will happen–that the forecast is not worth worrying about.

Exhibit A: 2014.
In order to prove my point, I started tracking the forecast for marathon day in 2014 (Oct. 12) the day it became possible to do so in AccuWeather. I wrote down the date I read the forecast, the forecast’s prediction, and, closer to the race, which forecast I used (AccuWeather, Weather Underground [Wunder], Weather.com, WGN, and NBC Chicago.). Behold:

Aug. 31 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 1 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 2 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 3 — Sunny. 58/45.
Sept. 4 — A chance of rain. 58/45.
Sept. 5 — Mostly cloudy, a little rain. 58/45.
Sept. 6 — Mostly cloudy, a little rain. 58/45.
Sept. 8 — Clouds and sun. 56/38.
Sept. 9 — An a.m. shower; partly sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 10 — An a.m. shower; party sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 11 — An a.m. shower; party sunny. 56/38.
Sept. 12 — Cloudy with a little rain. 56/40.
Sept. 13 — Cloudy with a little rain. 56/40.
Sept. 14 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 15 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 16 — Sunny. 71/50.
Sept. 17 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 18 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 19 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 20 — Sunny and warmer. 69/50.
Sept. 21 — Mostly cloudy. 62/48.
Sept. 22 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 23 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 24 — Sunny. 67/49.
Sept. 25 — Clouds giving way to sun. 62/46.
Sept. 26 — Clouds giving way to some sun. 62/46.
Sept. 27 — Clouds giving way to some sun. 62/46.
Sept. 28 — Mostly cloudy. 62/48.
Sept. 29 — Sunny. 71/43.
Sept. 30 — Sunny. 72/50.
Oct. 1 — Mostly sunny. 60/37.
Oct. 2 — A little rain in the morning. 61/44.
Oct. 3 — Partly sunny with a shower. 66/52.
Oct. 4 — Cloudy with a few showers. 70/51.
Oct. 5 — Heavy showers in the morning. 64/46.
Oct. 6 — Rain tapering to showers. 67/56.
Oct. 7 — Partly sunny with a t-storm. 72/54. (Accu)
Chance of rain. 68/57. (Wunder)
Scattered t-storms. 70/52. (Weather)
Clouds part following an overnight frontal passage. 67/52. (WGN)
Scattered t-storms 70/52. (NBC)
Oct. 8 — A thunderstorm possible. 69/55. (Accu)
Partly cloudy. 68/54. (Wunder)
Isolated t-storms. 68/52. (Weather)
Cloudy w/ a few pds of showers/t-storms possible for CM 70/50. (WGN)
Isolated t-storms 68/52. (NBC)
Oct. 9 — A morning shower possible. 68/55. (Accu)
Partly cloudy. 66/48 (Wunder)
Few showers. 67/50 (Weather)
Turning cooler with steady easterly wind. 66/48 (WGN)
Few showers. 67/50 (NBC)
Oct. 10 — Partly sunny. 68/55 (Accu)
Clear. 64/52 (Wunder)
Partly cloudy. 66/46 (Weather)
Lingering clouds and possible showers exit area early. 67/49 (WGN)
Partly cloudy. 66/46 (NBC)
Oct. 11 — Partly sunny. 65/52 (Accu)
Clear. 64/50 (Wunder)
Sunny. 67/46 (Weather)
Becoming mostly sunny. 66/45 (WGN)
Sunny. 67/46 (NBC)
Oct. 12 — Partly sunny. 65/51 (Accu)
Clear. 63/52 (Wunder)
Sunny. 66/46 (Weather)
Pleasant for mid-October. 67/46 (WGN)
Sunny. 66/46 (NBC)

Please note that a mere five days before the race, every outlet was predicting thunderstorms. Did it storm on race day in 2014? No, it did not. It was sunny that day, and, according to the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Media Guide’s Historical Weather Conditions section, there was a high of 64 and a low of 45. Weather Underground came the closest to getting that right, and when did they get it right? 72 hours before the race. This is not an anomaly, either. The same thing happened in 2013 (please see this blog post, and then this blog post, for evidence), and for all I know it could’ve happened in 2015 and 2016 as well – I’ve stopped paying attention.

Exhibit B: My complaints about the heat wave.

As you may recall, I posted this screenshot last week, complaining about the weather:

forecast

I would now like to present you with another screenshot of AccuWeather’s forecast, taken a week later:

forecast

There are a few things I’d really like to draw your attention to here.

Thing #1: Tuesday. As you can tell, the high on Tuesday most certainly was not 79 degrees, even though they said it would be less than a week before.

Thing #2: Wednesday through Monday. While the details (sunny and hot) were all correct, the predicted high temperatures themselves were off by anywhere from four to seven degrees. These are temperature differentials marathoners will absolutely split hairs over, so this is not insignificant.

Thing #3: Friday 9/29 and Saturday 9/30’s details. While the predicted high for both of these days has gone up, rain has been taken out of the forecast entirely. This is something else marathoners split hairs over, so once again, not insignificant.

I think people forget how much the forecast changes from day to day–do you remember the specifics of what kind of weather was predicted for today this time last week? Because without that screenshot, I sure wouldn’t–and this lack of knowledge, combined with taper crazies, leads to panic. So I am here, fellow marathoners, to assure you as a professional worrier, that you do not need to worry about the forecast for race day. (Yet. If the forecast is bad on the Thursday before the race, then you–and I–can definitely start worrying.) Although, I will offer up another friendly reminder: you can control so many things on race day. You can control your pace, your hydration, your nutrition, where you decide to run on the road, your clothes, your accessories, your aid station strategy, how many selfies you take per mile. You can’t control the weather, no matter how much you worry about it, so instead of losing the precious hours of sleep you need leading up to race day tossing and turning and refreshing your forecasting app of choice, figure out how you’ll need to adjust your race plan in light of the forecast, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you were never going to win this race anyway, and even if you had huge goals (a BQ, an enormous PR, etc.) that the weather may sabotage, your life will go on. Your family will not love you less if you don’t BQ. Your training partners will not abandon you if you don’t run your fastest time ever. Your nonexistent sponsors will not snatch your livelihood away from you if you don’t have the race you wanted to have. It’s one long run on one long run day. You will be okay if it doesn’t go the way you envisioned when you signed up.

I would also like to take one moment to point out that we had seven consecutive days where the high broke 90 degrees. I would be exceedingly okay with never experiencing something like that, particularly in late September, ever again.

2. Since I already touched on the topic of taper crazies: guys. I do not feel ready for the marathon. Not even a little bit. This is the first year that I’ve gotten to taper and instead of feeling immediate relief that I could finally cut back on my mileage, instead felt instant and unrelenting panic over how little time I had left, and how none of that time really counts as training. Taking off almost the entirety of the week before Labor Day killed me. I’ve missed so. many. miles. this season: 47, which, when you consider that I’ve been averaging 20 miles/week, is nearly two and a half weeks of training. Two and a half weeks out of an 18 week program that’s really 15 weeks + three weeks of taper. Two and a half weeks out of an 18 week program whose 15 weeks of “real training” start with seven weeks of fairly low mileage–all of which I completed just fine, of course–leaving just eight weeks for hard training, of which I missed a QUARTER. I have been a very bad runner and added miles during taper (I KNOW, I KNOW. But I only added two last week and two this week, none next week, and I only added them to my mid-week long runs, and my midweek mileage was STILL lower than CARA’s training program AND Hal Higdon called for on those same weeks anyway, so just…leave me alone. Haha.), which kind of makes me feel better, but also makes me feel worse because now I’m worried that I’m screwing up my taper. I just really, really wish I had more time.

3. When my tomato plant started ripening the tomatoes it had produced back at the beginning of August, it also stopped blossoming. I had at least a dozen blossoms on my plant when my first tomato began to turn red, but all of them shriveled up without turning into fruit. That was fine by me–I had 42 tomatoes on the plant at the time, which seemed plenty sufficient for my tomato-consumption needs.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I went outside to pick the most recently ripened tomatoes last Thursday and discovered several tiny baby tomatoes AND new blossoms.

I don’t know if this was brought on by the heat wave or if tomato plants normally get a second wind towards the end of the season. Either way, I now have more tomatoes than I originally anticipated (and will no longer have an accurate count of how many tomatoes my plant produced as a result, since I don’t know how many I’ve picked/eaten at this point). I’m pretty surprised that a plant that looks half dead managed to pull off such a feat, but I’m not complaining.

Speaking of my tomato plant, I am kind of eagerly awaiting its demise (don’t tell it I said that), because after I pull it up, I plan to plant tulip and daffodil bulbs in the bathtub for next spring. It needs to get a lot colder before I can plant any bulbs, but that hasn’t kept me from daydreaming about what I want my tulip and daffodil garden to look like. Since my Netherlands trip has, once again, been delayed by a year–but mark my word: I don’t care who’s getting married in April of 2019, I am not. going. No one’s wedding will derail my thrice-rescheduled Netherlands trip!–planting tulips in my own backyard seems like the best way to get my tulip fix.

Please, shower me in your stories of being undertrained for a marathon and having the race of your life. I need all the encouragement I can get.

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6 thoughts on “Thursday Things

  1. I’m a big weather-fixator-on-er. I think it’s just something I use to keep my mind occupied as I wait what feels like forever for this race to finally get here. You are so right though – 10 days is a long-ass time in weather forecast world and so much can (and will!) change. Although my fear is with how things have gone lately it will change for the worse, but again, that’s just fear, not fact. I’ve been looking at the forecast for 10/8 for the last week or so (again, keeping that mind occupied!), and it has literally been different each day I’ve checked it.

    I have some undertraining stories for you.

    An old friend of mine ran her first marathon last year on almost no training. I think she did one 20 miler, a couple half marathons, and maybe a handful of other runs that summer. For her FIRST marathon – and she still ended up running like a 4:30. I have to add the caveat that she’s an avid Colorado hiker so she was probably in really good shape
    from that, but still. I also know someone who decided to run a marathon two nights before the race. A friend of hers offered up a bib so she just said, “okay.” She had been running regularly but nothing longer than like 13 miles. She said she ran the marathon originally intending to drop out midway through but she felt good so she just decided to finish – and she also ran like a 4:30.

    Two things here: first, I think we overestimate how much training is necessary to get through a marathon (notice I said “get through”, not PR/run fast/race). I’m also feeling pretty underprepared (my highest mileage week was 42, 2 weeks ago, and last week was supposed to be my peak and I only ran 35, for example). But I also continue to surprise myself with how much fitness I’ve managed to maintain on low and infrequent weekly mileage. I mean, I got through my 20 milers and my 18er fairly easily and other than the heat they didn’t feel much harder than any other time I’ve run that long. I’m certainly not getting faster, but my endurance is holding up surprisingly well. I think the key here is to stay confident in your endurance, but don’t overestimate your speed.

    There’s also something to be said about that devil-may-care attitude of these folks who run marathons severely undertrained or at the last minute. Since they’re not worrying and obsessing over their preparation, they don’t psych themselves out or trip up mentally and that helps them in the end. And they also aren’t going in with high expectations – usually they are happy just to finish.

    You can do this. Take walk breaks if you need to, start SLOW, you will get to the finish one way or another. Just don’t take no for an answer.

    • This was super helpful – thank you for your anecdotes! I really like the endurance vs. speed thing. I haven’t given up the ghost entirely on the idea of a speedy-for-me marathon (at some point…I have sincere doubts “some point” will be next Sunday, though), but if I can’t finish fast, I want to at least finish. I know I’m much more satisfied with my races when I go in with low expectations, and that’s probably going to be really key in light of my training and the forecast (fine, I’ve been looking at it, too, and it’s not really improving. I’m not losing hope yet, though! There’s still plenty of time! Haha. And I’m also not really worried about it – I figure if I could handle a 20 miler in 88 degrees and full sun for the last 13 of those 20 miles, I’ll probably be okay at the marathon.)

  2. Coming from someone who has overtrained for at least half of my marathons, I think you are in a good spot by being slightly undertrained. Your legs and mind will be fresh. As Hanna said, start really slow and then see what happens. Fingers crossed for mid-40s at the start! Good luck!

  3. My banana pepper plant produced a round of peppers a month or so ago, and then nothing. But now it’s on it’s second round of peppers. (Meanwhile, my poblano plant produced one crop and then died.) My okra plant is also on it’s second wind. My tomato plants just seem to be on a steady decline.

    • Huh. Maybe this is A Thing, then. I’ve sure learned a lot about vegetable gardening this year! My tomato plant DEFINITELY looks like it’s seen better days, too, but I figure as long as it keeps churning out red tomatoes, it’s at least doing a good enough job for my purposes.

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