1. I had arrived at the most punishing four-week phase of my marathon training. The bad news was that I needed to run 10 and 20 miles on consecutive days, with speed and hill workouts interspersed throughout the weeks. The good news was that Stephen, who had become involved in the nutritional side of my training, insisted that I drink chocolate milk, which apparently science has shown builds muscles in this very limited context. 2. What I've learned about marathons is that there's a much larger degree of unpredictability than in a half-marathon. When you're training for a half, you can do a training run of 13.1 miles and feel pretty confident that you'll be able to do the same (or better) in a race of the same distance; with a marathon, however, it's counterproductive to run the full 26.2 at any point before the actual race -- it's too punishing on your muscles, no matter how much chocolate milk you drink -- so you just have to trust that whatever plan you're following is going to pay off on race day. 3. You do get acclimated to longer distances, though. I probably would have shuddered a year ago at the thought of running ten or twelve miles, whereas in my current condition, these distances are actually a relief (if I'm not going too fast). 4. Dread is an important part of training. Now that I've finished my most recent 20-miler, which I had been dreading since the previous one, I can now focus on dreading the 8 x 800 workout slated for next Sunday. These workouts are called "Yasso 800s," named after the guy who figured out that if you plan to run a 3-hour marathon, you should be able to run ten 800s at a 3-minute pace (with a three-minute resting lap between each interval). (Or if you want to run a four-hour marathon, the same rule applies but with four-minute 800s.) Thankfully my workout plan peaks at eight Yassos, which I know from having already done seven is hard enough, chocolate milk notwithstanding. Eventually the dread will end; I'll probably miss it, to be honest.5. There are some amusing things that can happen on a twenty-mile run. Yesterday, for example, I passed a pair of what I assume were "army reserve" people or whatever it is that requires you to hike up and down the riverbank in camouflage with a backpack. Anyway, about three seconds after I passed these two guys (and they were men, as far as I could tell), one of them said "see you later" to his friend and I heard his running footsteps behind me. As if he was going to pass me while carrying a backpack! These military types have no humility, I thought, as I quickly dusted him, even though I was supposed to be running pretty slowly, like 7:45 miles. I felt a little embarrassed by my competitive instinct, but then again, I reconsidered, he started it. 6. Yesterday, for the first time, I also tried one of these carb/protein/caffeine/chocolate "fueling gels" designed to keep you from "hitting the wall." That's another difference between a half-marathon and a full, apparently. When I ran the half, I didn't even bother with water, because I find the stations too distracting, like you have to weave in and grab a tiny cup like you're at the dentist or something, and half the time you end up dropping it and then you feel bad for littering. But every article I've read says a "fueling strategy" is a "must" for a marathon, so I'm trying it out. I also know from the first two marathons I did in my twenties that hitting the wall is excruciating -- like seriously the worst feeling -- so if I need to eat some chocolate-flavored goo along the way, count me in! I ate one yesterday around mile 16 and was hoping for a Popeye-level burst of speed, which didn't happen, but I finished pretty strong, so on the whole I think it's a good idea. The manufacturers of these things recommend that you eat one every half mile, but like most "manufacturer's recommendations," this strategy, I'm pretty sure, would make you sick and angry and poor if you actually followed it. 7. It's sort of like the wash-rinse-repeat advice you always see on the back of shampoo containers, when it should really say: "This chemical sludge is useless and you never need to buy it again, much less pour it over your head. Save your money for the overpriced but delicious organic chocolate milk that comes in glass bottles." 8. Undeterred by the torrential rain and the bitter cold, buds began to swell on our camellia. 9. Today was supposed to be warm and clear, but that forecast turned out to be only fifty-percent correct. Lately I've noticed that the forecast will include an expected range -- today was a low of 44 with a high of 57 -- but when I go out for my run at 7:15, the actual temp will be lower than the given range. Today was 40, for example, which meant cold-weather gear again. I saw many desperate souls in shorts and t-shirts on my run; I understood why they had made a bad choice, but was relieved not to have done it myself. (I say this more frequently as I approach fifty than I did when I was approaching thirty, by the way; I can only imagine the confidence I'll have in twenty more years.) 10. I mean, it was still beautiful -- especially in the park -- but I wish the weather channel/web site wouldn't get my hopes up like that all the time with their optimistic/inaccurate temperature ranges. 11. Flowers -- irises and others that weren't irises -- were peeking out through the heather and evergreens all over the landscape. They didn't mind the cold. 12. The daffodils were gossiping about each other and getting their feelings hurt and/or validated. 13. With three miles down, I only had two to go. Today was an easy day. 14. I stopped for a few seconds under the weeping cherry, which made me feel a little dizzy, but also like I was almost flying.