After last week’s trauma, I decided I was going to recommit to the trail no matter how cold it got and that I was going to stick with my training plan. Unfortunately, transitioning from the treadmill to the trail is harder than I thought. Little did I know….
Monday: 3 miles at an average 9:38 pace (splits at 9:11, 9:12, and 9:49). First run back on the trail since marathon training and, boy, it was TOUGH. From the moment I took off, my legs felt stiff and heavy. I was breathing laboriously. What used to be an easy distance suddenly felt incredibly impossible and I couldn’t believe I had run 10 miles just 24 hours earlier. I had to make a promise to myself that my training days on the treadmill were over.
Tuesday: 6 miles at an average 10:14 pace (splits at 9:45, 9:25, 9:38, 9:52, 11:56, 10:37). Today was my first day at work with a standing desk— my request. All day, I felt circulation rushing through my legs. I have yet to see how this will affect my running, but perhaps I will live longer. On my run, my legs still felt like cement pylons. There was an incredible headwind of 20 mph for the first mile or so that picked up when I turned around at 3 miles and then it was literally in my face the whole time– turned around and BAM. Wind. In my face, pushing me backwards. I tried to remind myself that, since my next half-marathon is in Nebraska and my next marathon is in Minnesota, race day conditions could be windy so I had to find a way to adapt. But what doesn’t kill you pisses you off instead, and I found myself walking in the fourth mile. I think the combination of headwinds, rolling terrain, and my frustration with my very heavy legs was too much.
Wednesday: 3 miles at an average 9:56 pace (splits at 9:51, 9:45, and 10:12). The curse of the treadmill has continued. In addition to feeling like I might be getting shin splits, my legs were heavy. I can’t shake off this weighted running feeling and it’s completely frustrating to have worked hard for two weeks and to put out pace times that, for me, are much slower than I know I can run. I know it takes time for speed work and strength-training to yield results, but I’m more frustrated at the fact that I feel more like a novice runner and less like a four-time marathoner. At the very least, I shouldn’t be exhausted and fighting back angry tears of disbelief that my body is not doing what I have trained hard for it to do at the end of only 3 miles. I had planned to go to the gym and hop on the speed bike for 45 minutes after my run, but I decided to can the cross-training. In fact, I decided to take all strength exercises off the table this week and move my hill workout planned for tomorrow to Friday. I think my legs need a break.
Thursday: Rest. After nearly a half-week of disappointing runs coupled with that shallow, painful feeling in my shins and mild soreness in my quads, I need a day to regroup. I stayed in, iced my shins with a bag of frozen peas, and wore compression socks all night. I’m so insanely frustrated by this awful week of training. My attitude was along the lines of, “Screw this effing sh*t.” The thought of getting back out on the trail to churn out another (for me) slow pace that made me feel heavy and clumsy was physically nauseating. To think that I’ve been a runner for seven years and I’m now training for marathon number 5 and I’m no better off now than when I started makes me insane with anger. Running can be a real asshole some days. Or, in my case, three days in a row. Maybe seven years in a row?
Friday: Rest. Shin splints are evil. But I decided I needed to let my legs rest more than I needed a 3-mile run.
Saturday: 50 minutes of hills on the spin bike at Level 12. What was supposed to be a 6-mile run turned into a spin bike workout. The dull ache in my shins wasn’t completely present today, after two days of rest, ice, and compression socks, but I admit that the fear of “what if they come back?” was getting to me, so I decided to bike it out low-impact style. I will also admit that I was not feeling it. After three weeks of strength-training, cross-training, speed work, and running, I just didn’t want to face another slow-paced run with heavy legs again. I know results don’t happen overnight, but there’s some reason for my sluggish paces these days and I’m starting to feel burnout creep back in at the thought of fighting hard off the track to meet my pace goal of 8:00-8:30 and not being able to deliver that on the trail. I can’t understand why something I started doing seven years ago hasn’t resulted in improvement. It’s like my legs don’t want to fly; it’s like the more I run, the worse I get at it. I’m walking a thin line right now.
Sunday: 6 miles at a 10:30 pace. All morning, I kept putting off the 12-miler I was supposed to do. I knew my run was going to suck, I was scared about shin splints coming back, and I knew my demons were waiting for me on the trail. But I knew I had to go out there and run something. The first three miles, in 21-degree weather, went by fairly easily. I could actually feel a little pep in my strides, like my old self was coming back. I even ventured out into a new part of town that I wasn’t familiar with and found a new running trail that’s not too far from my apartment where I could run if I just needed to get in a quick 3-4 mile run. But, around mile 3, I could feel my engine running out of gas and I looked at my watch and all I could think was, “I’m only halfway through!!?!” My second split was a 9:10; my third split was 10:38. How could I have slowed down so quickly? It was so defeating. For the next 3 miles, I walked the hills and tried not to think about my pace, hovering somewhere around 11:00. For a THREE-MILER. For me, that’s a devastating pace. But I just…..didn’t have anything. I tried to envision my breath breathing life into my dead legs, I thought perhaps it was all too much in my head and tried to move faster but my breathing was out of pace and out of sync, I had to “buy” 2 miles since my out-and-back planned route turned out to be good only for an out-and-back 4-miler. It was terrible. I wanted to quit a hundred times, especially since I was basically running back and forth past where my car was parked (that’s another thing— I hate driving to go run somewhere). Driving home after the run, I was not proud. I was annoyed.
This week, I was supposed to run about 36 miles. I only ran 18. And it was the most frustrating, annoying, hair-pullingly humiliating and angry week of training ever. I’m not planning on quitting– I just officially registered on Friday. But I need to get to the bottom of why my legs are rebelling, why I can’t control my pace or my breathing. I swear, there is joy to be found in this because I have felt it before, and I want it back. And I want to get better than the results I am producing because I know my intentions are better than this. I know I am better than this by now. I’m going to figure this out.