Week Two: Baltimore Marathon Training

After a successful first week, the second week included a ramp up in mileage as well as the introduction of a strength and core program to help me manage the leg pain from the knot in my calf. Last week was like the first week back at school: a quick review of the fundamentals, bright and shiny goals, some room to get used to a new schedule. This week wouldn’t be too different, but it required a little more effort and dedication. The weather is expected to stay pretty hot and particularly on the days when I can’t opt for an easy or recovery pace. That means I will need to wake up early once or twice. But, just as I do when I’m running a long or hard race, I have to focus on one mile at a time. I’m not looking at the end of the week and getting nervous that I have to run 20 miles, wake up early, and do a new challenging workout. I’m focusing on one day at a time. The end goal will always take care of itself if you do the work leading up to it.

My Planned Training Schedule: June 22 – 28

  • Monday: Cross-Training
  • Tuesday: 3 easy miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 10:59)
  • Wednesday: 5 medium effort miles (Goal Pace: 9:07 – 9:35)
  • Thursday: Strength/Core: Iron Strength Workout
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 8 long miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Sunday: 4 race pace miles (Goal Pace: 9:06)
  • Total Mileage: 20 miles

My Actual Training Schedule

Monday: Swimming (front crawl and breast stroke), 25 minutes. 10 minutes pool running. I really had no idea what kind of cross-training I wanted to do. It was over 95 degrees outside, so I was grateful that I didn’t have to run. I also hadn’t foam-rolled in several days, so again, I was happy that I didn’t have to run. This was what I wanted out of a training schedule. But I also didn’t feel like getting wet in the pool, so that really left me with the option of trying out the Iron Strength Workout DVD. Fortunately, having Twitter and a mass of runners who are as addicted to it as I am, I posed the question of swimming or doing a DVD. I immediately got an answer from one of my favorite “run-preneurs,” Erica Sara, who encouraged me to go swimming and her rationale reminded me that I really only have access to the pool for swimming laps for about two more weeks before I move. So I did swim laps, as tiring as it was to do for 30 minutes. I wanted to quit and just do 20 minutes– if you’re not used to swimming, it can be a really huge endeavor! But I stuck it out, made friends with the people who saw my Nation’s Triathlon swim cap from one lane over, and called it good when two swimmers who clearly didn’t know the rules of pool etiquette cavaliered the two lap lanes. 30 minutes, in and out. Day 8 was done.

Tuesday: 1.56 treadmill miles at a 10:54 pace at .5% incline. Some days, during marathon training, things don’t go as you had planned. Today was that day. If today had gone as planned, starting last night, I’d have fallen asleep exactly at 9:30 when I went to bed. I’d have actually gotten out of bed at 5:30AM exactly as I had planned to do after 8 restful hours of sleep and I’d have gone for my planned easy-pace 3-miler. I’d have gotten ready for the day and went to work, after which I’d have gone to the happy hour event I’d planned to attend. Instead, what happened was that I didn’t fall asleep until almost 11:30PM. I woke up at 7AM and rushed through getting ready for the day and getting to work on time. Because I didn’t get my run done, I couldn’t attend the happy hour and, when I got home and suited up for a run, a huge storm blew through and I had no choice to take my run to the gym where, at mile 1.56 on the treadmill, the belt suddenly stopped working and I had to get off. If things had gone as planned,  I wouldn’t have had 12 flights of stairs to walk after some flooding from the storm in the elevator shaft rendered the elevators in my building useless. And I also might have missed the most spectacular post-storm sunset I have probably ever seen. Days like this one makethe case for getting your run done early, but sometimes that’s just not how it goes. Always do what you can and enjoy the rest of the journey.

Wednesday: Rest day. When Wednesday came around, I was really lagging in motivation. I felt I could manage an easy 3-miler, but not 5 miles at a medium effort pace. I don’t know why that number seemed so high. I realized that I needed to just suck it up and get it done and I got as far as strapping on my Garmin watch and lacing up my shoes. But then I ran into some pool-goers, draped in beach towels and wearing swimsuit covers, as I got off the elevator and felt the sublimely warm breeze and heard the sounds of kids playing in the pool echoing through my apartment. With my move coming up in 2 weeks and a rainy, cool weekend on the way, I knew I would much rather hang out in the sun for an hour than go for a run. Usually I know the difference between when I am being lazy or when my heart is not in it and this was a case of the latter. So, I took the evening off. This meant I’d have to run my 5 miles on Thursday– my planned strength and core workout day– and the remaining 1.4 miles from Tuesday’s interrupted easy 3 miles on my planned rest day in order to get all 20 miles in for the week. Did I feel guilty? Sure. But I had a good base from racing this spring and it was “only” week two. While I don’t want to start implementing bad habits, there will be more days like this with more or less compelling reasons to ditch running. Maybe the pool wasn’t a good excuse to skip, maybe I’m making this a bigger deal than it is, but I have no regrets either. Today, enjoying the pool on a beautiful day before I lose my access and the weather soured was a more enjoyable way to end the day than running. On to the next day!

Thursday: 5 miles at medium effort pace. 9:21 average pace. Lingering lack of motivation carried over from Wednesday into Thursday. I don’t know why running 5 miles felt so huge to me, but it did. But I had a mileage goal for the week, and I knew I had to start ramping up soon, so frankly, there was nothing more I could do but suck it up and get the run done. I will say, though, that skipping my run on Wednesday to hang out at the pool was a good call. Thursday was overcast and gloomy and it even started to sprinkle on my run. The run itself felt hard– my paces dipped under 9:00 a couple of times and, while that was exciting for me, this was supposed to be a medium effort run, so I had to slow it down some. Energy management, though, is something I need to work on. Because I went fast, by the last mile, I was hurting. I’d gone from around a 9:08 to a 9:37 which doesn’t sound like a huge drop, but even going that pace was difficult. Marathon-training is about training to push yourself when you are tired and want to quit, and me oh my, I wanted to quit. I wanted to stop right at 4 miles and make up the extra mile tomorrow. But I knew I wanted this, so I pushed on and practiced positive thinking. It really is the little moments that make the big moments really great.

Friday: Rest. Today was meant to be a makeup day for the 1.4 miles I lost out on on Tuesday. However, with a move coming up (and U-Haul closed at 7PM) and a minor crisis that took away my U-Haul run, it just didn’t happen. I think that might have been for the better: with 8 miles to run the next day and 4 miles at race pace the following day, I saw 1.4 miles as an easy supplement to a lot of running. 1.4 miles of active recovery, an easy add-on to what I had planned. And I could get my weekend runs done on fresh legs.

Saturday: 8 long-run miles at average 9:49 pace. Saturday morning was very rainy and cool. It rained so much that roads were washed out and the Potomac River was swollen almost over its banks. I was fine with the rain: not only did I have to spend the weekend packing my apartment, but I also got to sleep in again. That doesn’t happen very often during marathon-training in Washington, DC. When I did head out for a run, it was during the only break of the day. Rain spit from the sky for about the first 2-3 miles of my run and it was pretty windy. The trails were not very crowded. I was fine with taking an easy pace– long runs are about endurance, not speed. I ran the Mount Vernon Trail across the Arlington Memorial Bridge into DC and back up the other side of the Potomac to the 14th Street Bridge. Running through that area comes with the advantage of awesome views, but the disadvantage that you have to stop for traffic lights quite a bit. Right before I closed the 4th mile, I got a series of Charlie Horse cramps that were so strong I had to stop. It felt like running when your leg has been asleep. I felt the cramp in my ankle at the same time I felt it in my glutes. I pushed through– which was difficult, given that it felt my legs would buckle any second– and the cramp went away about half a mile later. At that point, though, I was flying. I think the adrenaline rush from the rain that was now pouring from the sky and just the fact that this run was executed nearly to perfection that took over. I had to tell myself to slow down because this was, after all, a long run. When I finished, it was absolutely pouring rain again. I felt like I could have kept going longer– everything felt “on.” My form, my breathing, the way my legs felt doing all the running and my core was just upright. I think, if I run the Baltimore Marathon the way I ran Saturday (except faster, of course), I will be on top of the world. The runs that feel easy and fresh and light, that’s what keeps us coming back for more.

Sunday: 5.44 easy-pace miles at 10:43 average pace. Sunday was a planned race pace run, but I decided on an easy pace run instead because my current running shoes were still soaking wet from the previous day’s rain, so I had to wear an old pair of shoes. Also, because some of the paces I had run during my long run were below race pace, I didn’t want to add race pace on top of what I’d done yesterday. The weather was cool and with low humidity– it felt like early fall. I decided to add the additonal 1.44 miles to this run because, well, I had really no choice if I wanted to finish the week at 20 miles. I took the same Mount Vernon Trail to Arlington Cemetary. Some of my paces, though, were within long run pace range, so I had to back off. It was one of those runs where I didn’t have to spend my mental energy thinking about maintaining a hard pace or my emotional energy being comfortable with the pain. I just ran, like I was out on a Sunday walk. The trail was beautiful in the fresh green and pale blue sky flecked with golden sunlight. Running doesn’t always have to be badass— it can be as easy and enjoyable as just getting outside and being part of the world, enjoying the blessing of movement.

Recap: Overall, I’m fairly happy with how this week went. I dealt with some lagging motivational issues and finished the week in that sweet spot of running perfection and accomplishing goals. Nutritionally, I need to do better with my diet. Breakfast and lunch were great, but as soon as afternoon hits, it’s like nutritional mayhem. I also need to get back into incorporating mroe strength and core moves into my runs. I think my success in running a great mid-week medium effort run, a perfect long run, and the well-oiled machine feeling of Sunday’s run were all creditable to the minor strength and core moves I’ve been doing, like hip dips, farmers walks, lunges, and cross-training with swimming. I know from experience that this will not last long unless I work to maintain it. Next week, I’ll only see a one-mile increase in mileage before my next bump up. I also have a move this coming weekend into the fourth week. I’ll need to focus and commit even more now so I don’t miss a day. But with two weeks under my belt now, I feel blessed and happy that my first two weeks have gone so incredibly well. If the rest of training goes this well, I will have an amazing training season!

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