Minneapolis Marathon Training: Week Two

This week’s mantra. Just because you haven’t yet, doesn’t mean you never will.

Heading into Week Two, I was ready to start pushing the envelope a little more. Week One was all about getting back in the game; Week Two, I intended to start making progress towards my goal to finish Minneapolis in four hours. I was still concerned with pushing it too hard and getting injured or burned out, but I’m trying to incorporate more strength-training and cross-training that will not only help prevent injuries but make me stronger.

Unfortunately, Week Two saw a few derailments….

Monday: 3 miles at .5% incline and 9:22 pace; spin bike for 30 minutes of hills at Level 12. Today was my cross-training day. I have never really been good at cross-training while marathon-training, but I am determined to incorporate that more into my training plan for this race. After an easy-paced run at a speed that still feels challenging in my early training days, I hopped on the bike for 30 minutes, starting out first at Level 9 and bumping it up to Level 12 when I realized I was pretty much wasting my time on a leisurely ride. Having gotten a great quad burn and 60 full minutes of cardio, I skipped the weights area.

Tuesday: Rest. Oh boy. Tuesday was just….NOT a good day for me. Once in awhile, I have a hard time dealing with the residual emotions from having lost someone I loved right after I lost my dream job and then having to leave a city I had built my life in and come back home when a long and heartbreaking job search didn’t yield anything better. I struggle daily to find meaning in all of that.  I knew that a 6-mile run was what I needed to get my head back in the present so I can continue moving forward with my life, but Tuesday was the anniversary of one of those things that happened and I just wanted to be still with my thoughts. I’m not afraid to lean into my emotions, but I feel guilty about letting something I can’t control that is in the past affect my run, especially when I knew it was just what I needed to shake the funk, but I haven’t totally let go of what happened yet and slapping another Band-Aid on felt disingenuous to me. But, as Sheryl Crow says, “Every day is a winding road. I get a little bit closer to feeling fine.”

Wednesday: Speed work day! Incline at .5%, .5 mile warm-up at 9:13; 3 x 800’s at an 8:00 pace with 3 x 800’s at a 10:00 pace, 1 x 800 at 9:13 and 1 x 800 at 12:00. 1 mile walk at 3.5. Leg presses at 80 pounds to Mumford and Sons “Little Lion Man,” 40 chest flies, 40 shoulder presses, 40 lat pulls, 40 bicep curls, 20 triceps dips, 40 squats with 15-pound dumbbells, 30 dead-lifts with 15-pound dumbbells, 20 oblique crunches. Okay, so I was pretty much in beast mode today to make up for Tuesday’s unplanned rest day. A blanket of fresh snow had fallen overnight, so that took my track speed work off the table. I had to move it inside to the treadmill where I quickly learned how awful treadmill speed work is. I have a feeling that I warmed up too fast because I was quite winded heading into my first 4 x 800 at an 8:00 pace. The first one went well– the time seemed to go fast and I loved the feeling of flying. I slowed to a recovery 10:00 pace for another half mile and round two seemed a little harder, but it was manageable. At the end of it, I was pretty tired and my legs were feeling more like jelly when I started my third 800. This one was TORTURE. I don’t feel like I was panicking, and I kept telling myself, “Don’t quit, Sara, it’s only _ of a mile more/_ more minutes.” But I was breathing like a psycho in a way that would make everyone on the crowded treadmill section look at me like a chump.  I slowed way down to a 12:00 recovery pace and, when my 4th 800 came, I only got through one-tenth of a mile before I realized my legs really were going to give out underneath me and my vision was blurring, so I slowed to a 9:13 pace. I didn’t like that I slowed down, but I didn’t give up and get off the treadmill either. Treadmill speed work is a jerk.

The leg press machine is my best friend.
The leg press machine is my best friend.

Thursday: 3 miles at 10:41 pace and .5% incline. Thursday was an even worse day than Tuesday. I had a scheduled 6-mile run but could only edge out 3 miles because the weight of everything that happened that afternoon was incredibly heavy. It would have been a much better day for a rest day than Tuesday, so I made a mental note that, even when I “think” I can’t run, I should just run anyways because something always comes up where I need a day to deal with other things. This 3-miler, which I would have preferred to run outside in the unseasonable warmth but opted for the treadmill because I didn’t feel like “traveling” anywhere, I was fighting back tears of pain and anger and sadness almost the entire time. The pace was insanely slow for where I would have preferred to train, but I was an emotional wreck and thought that a run was better than no run. All I wanted was Thursday to end. I went to be very early that night.

Friday: Rest. Friday was the king of terrible days this week. It was so bad that I didn’t choose not to run– things were so messed up that day and I was so upset by it that I couldn’t run. I had drained myself of any energy to do anything more than just freak out. Sometimes life just takes too big of a bite.

Saturday: 6 mile tempo run at an average 9:38 pace at .5% incline. 80-pound leg presses to “1957” by Milo Greene30 bicep curls, 30 shoulder presses, 30 dumbbell rows, 5 minutes of ab work. Saturday morning, having been rocked by a tumultuous week, I woke up tired of carrying such a heavy burden of a terrible week that has shed a little too much light on how things just don’t feel normal right now. I tried to put a positive spin on my day– got to work applying for jobs and then hit the gym. The weather was perfect on Saturday and I felt a little bit guilty about not taking advantage of it, but all I wanted was to just concentrate on running and not waste time finding a good place to run. I don’t live near a trail where I can run 6 miles easily or that isn’t near work and work was the LAST place I wanted to be anywhere near after the week I’d had there. So, I flipped on “Friends” on TBS and ran a tempo run starting at 10:00 and moving down to my last mile at 9:13. The last mile was hard to get through, and I’ve run faster than that before, but it still was a challenge to get through. I had to pep talk myself, reminding myself in a larger sense that, even though it hurts right now, small steps add up to something big and that the pain won’t last forever. Some things are just worth getting through so you can get on to the next thing. I just hope that, where I’m at right now, is the last mile because I know life is hard and it doesn’t go your way, but man, I need a break fast.

Polynesian Pizza. Payback for Saturday's 6-mile tempo run and carbing up for Sunday's 10-miler.
Polynesian Pizza. Payback for Saturday’s 6-mile tempo run and carbing up for Sunday’s 10-miler.

Sunday: 10 miles at a 9:54 pace at a .5% incline. As a marathoner, I know this is an ironic statement, but something about weekly long runs freaks me out. Long runs present an optimal time to face your demons. I’m always worried about failing so badly that I can’t look running in the face again. I face demons of wanting the prize without doing the work. Having gone through a lot recently, I made a rule for myself not to listen to any music that evokes a lot of emotions but, during a December 20-miler turned 18 miles before the Run for the Ranch Marathon, at mile 15 a song came on my iPod that took me back to some of that drama and it wasn’t long before I was in “angry-crying-don’t-want-to-effing-do-this-sh*t-anymore-my-life-is-hell” mode. Yeah. Tough to come back from that. So, I kept putting off Sunday’s long run until I finally realized that I just needed to do it, so I went to the gym and decided I would hold a 9:50 pace– 40 minutes slower than my goal race pace of 9:10. The first 5 miles went well. The pace was not wearing me out, but I felt like I could have run it a little bit faster. The second half of the run was really where I got the opportunity to practice something that I have expressly made a goal to work on in running: staying present. But how do you “stay present” when you’re on a treadmill for another 5 miles, running in place and facing the option of getting off and being done at any second? It’s a mental exercise. But I found a new mind trick: every time the treadmill would tick off another hundredth of a mile that I had just run, I would count. So, when I was on mile 4.78, I would think, “22.” When mile 4.77 came, I counted, “23,” then “24” at mile 4.76. So much like people tell you to count to ten when you are trying to calm down, this helped me to stay present and it also felt like I was counting toward something. If I counted with the treadmill, “78, 77, 76,” I instantly felt the weight of, “Oh my gosh, I have so much left in this mile,” and not, “I’ve already run .23, .24., .25 of a mile.” I felt like I was gaining something by counting that way, plus doing math while you are running has to have some sort of a mental benefit, right? By counting that way (and counting my cadence which was about 14-15 steps per hundredth of a mile), I didn’t think about the big picture of meeting my goals, I didn’t think about my post-run dinner and Epsom salt bath that I couldn’t wait to get in, I didn’t think about anything except what I was doing in that moment. Except for a few moments around mile 1.5 when I thought about a work project and felt myself panicking with dread about my job and the issues I’m having with it, this was a near perfect 10-mile run.

So, I ended a very emotionally-challenging week at 26 miles, or 1.5 miles more than last week. It should have been a 35-mile week, but I’m not going to focus on the should-haves. I learned a lot this week: don’t take a rest day when you are fairly certain you can run, that any run is better than no run, that life will sometimes sneak up and you need to handle it when it does but try again tomorrow. Life is always going to have its day in court, but know when life is an excuse and when it really is something that needs to be handled. And when you need to take pause to handle it, get right back at it tomorrow.

Week Three will have better weather, so I can finally get back out on the trails, and my goal will be to meet each of my running goals and not do a lot of rearranging.

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