Week Three: Baltimore Marathon Training

Heading into Week Three, I realized the honeymoon phase of marathon training was quickly ending. I’d experienced lagging motivation last week to and the quick realization that I needed to be doing more strength and core work. My TFL on both sides and my hips were sore from a heavy weekend of running. I wasn’t alarmed by this, but it was a reminder that injury will plague me if I don’t do better on my core work.

I am also in the process of moving to a new apartment and I’m experiencing some associated nerves about the new change. I’m really excited to move into my new home and relieved that I will have a better commute to and from work, but moving into a new place brings more baggage with it than you realize. I love change; I thrive on the possibility that comes with change. But it also reminds me that my life is uncertain, too, and I’m not where I thought I would be not that long ago. Maybe that’s why I run and train so much: right now, training is the only thing in my life that I can count on. Well, marathon training and God, but I always consider him to be a given. If I am training for something, I am the only person in charge of the outcome and even that has some element of chance. Moving nerves and uncertainty are nothing I can’t get past, but it does expend some emotional energy when right now, I need all the energy I can get.

My Planned Training Schedule: June 29 – July 5

  • Monday: Cross-Training, 30 minutes
  • Tuesday: 3 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 10:59)
  • Wednesday: 5 medium effort miles (Goal Pace: 9:07 – 9:35)
  • Thursday: 2 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 10:59) and Iron Strength Workout
  • Friday: Rest Day
  • Saturday: 9 long miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Sunday: 4 miles at race pace (Goal Pace: 9:06)
  • Total Mileage: 23 miles

My Actual Training Schedule

Monday: Swimming (front crawl and breast stroke), 30 minutes. 5 minutes of pool-running. After a weekend of rain and with temps hovering just under 80, getting into the ice cold pool water was a bigger challenge than actually getting something done in it. I had to keep my head above water while I warmed up with a breast stroke because the water was so cold I thought the shock would drown me. I’m not a swimmer, so I got tired pretty easily. I’d swim maybe 100 yards and have to stop to catch my breath. It’s amazing how much swimming takes it out of you! I felt pretty humbled. I alternated the front crawl and breast stroke, but my arms were getting the brunt of the work. It wasn’t until I decided to try pool running did I realize that I had forgotten my water running shoes. I didn’t think this was a big deal, but when I noticed the pad of my right big toe was shredded and bleeding, it became a big deal. I don’t care how “senior citizen” it makes you feel, but I’m going to say it loud and proud: NEVER GO POOL RUNNING BAREFOOT. Just put on your aqua socks and run like the clash of the elements.

Tuesday: 3 easy pace miles at 10:18 average. Tuesday’s run was sort of a mental game. In Arlington, the Mount Vernon Trail runs along the Potomac River and, depending on where you are along the east side of town, the trail is hilly in some areas and flat in others. If you head north on the trail, it has some slight grades but if you head south, toward Alexandria, the trail rolls a little more. I chose to head south because I need the hill training for Baltimore. My goal pace was anywhere between 10:37 and 10:59– easy miles. As I was running, my paces were dipping into long run pace territory which is faster than easy run pace territory. I tried to back off, but it felt like trotting to go any slower. It’s hard to run slow. It’s hard to hold back. So, I let my paces drift between 10:31 and 10:09…whatever. Just as I was thinking to myself that maybe, just maybe, I was undershooting my goal pace for the marathon if it felt almost too easy to run these paces, I realized that I was breathing kind of hard. A little too hard for what was supposed to be an easy pace run. Was it the hills? Why was I breathing so hard for a 10:09 pace? If I am this tired running a hilly 3-mile out and back at 10:09, there’s no way I can sustain a 9:06 for 26.2 miles in 15.5 weeks. It could also be that my legs are tired. I haven’t foam-rolled longer than a touch-up roll in days and I haven’t done any strength-training for awhile. It’s just one run, but there was plenty to pay attention to. Tuesday reminded me that I needed to focus.

Wednesday: 5 medium effort miles at 9:12 average, 0:47 second full-arm plank. Wednesday’s run felt like one of those final pushes before much-needed time off the trails. The evening had a dense, warm, mugginess from an earlier rainfall. I was tempted to make like last Wednesday and go to the pool again…Lord, was I tempted…but I also knew that this weekend’s move could potentially throw off the opportunity for make-up miles, especially hard miles. But tonight’s run was hard for another reason (earmuffs, gentlemen): chub rub. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. Why– seriously, why– is there a need for inner thigh fat? I mean, anatomically, why is it there? And why is it just fat and not muscle? I’ve heard people say it to me before: “Sara, you’re tiny… yeah, but you run like all of the time… you don’t need to lose weight.” Maybe that’s all true (I doubt it), but when I run in shorts in the summer, it feels like I’m holding a balloon stuffed with flour between my legs. I mean, come on, WHY is it there!?!? It has the power to derail my run when the Body Glide that I layer on wears off and I see people glance at it as I’m running toward them and no matter how I change my form, it’s always there. It’s hard to feel like a badass on a tough run when that is going on. But whatever, I am not the architect of the human body and I certainly didn’t put myself or my genetic code together. I’m proud that I got my run done and that I didn’t give up when it got hard to maintain pace over the last mile, but just being honest here when I say that overcoming obstacles to train for marathons is not always about fitting in 5 miles in the middle of a move or a tough day at work or a fight with your kids or spouse. More often than not, marathon training is about bitch-slapping little devils like inner thigh fat out of the way every damn time so you can get your miles in. On that run, it didn’t matter that I’ve put in hundreds of miles training for marathons and half-marathons. On that run, I hated my body for not adapting to those hundreds of miles by clinging to something that’s physiologically unnecessary.

The Painkiller from Clare and Don's Beach Shack that derailed my Thursday run. A sign of things to come?
The Painkiller from Clare and Don’s Beach Shack that derailed my Thursday run. A sign of things to come?

Thursday: Rest. Thursday was a great example of why it’s best to get workouts done in the morning. Also, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my move was going to be a hard one. I’ve moved before— anyone who has knows what it is like. You start off thinking it will go as smoothly as blowing your stuff like dust over to your new home, but it’s a lot of lifting and carrying and pushing heavy and awkward items and walking around with them. I figured that I should save my strength and thought that if I could get my 2 easy miles done over lunch, that would be good enough. But in my line of work, the day before a long holiday weekend is usually when The Man drops a huge game-changing bit of public policy, so I was unable to steal away for the day which also went longer than usual. When I left the office, I was expecting to take the train home, lace up, and run 2 miles. But the Metro had other plans and, as I was walking out of the Farragut West station to grab a different line home, I ran into a friend and the evening evolved into one that included fish tacos, painkillers, and a fried Oreo sundae. Just as well, I thought as I went to bed. I’d added the 2 extra miles to start transitioning to higher mileage weeks and maybe the extra rest would be good going into my move.

Friday: Rest. Friday was a designated rest day that I spent enjoying the pool. The day was expected to be overcast and, when there was sun shining through haze, I didn’t need another excuse to get outside.

Saturday: 9 miles at an average 9:56 pace. Even as I have lived in DC on and off since 2006, the Fourth of July in our nation’s capital is still in my mind a little bit like Disneyland’s Main Street USA where there’s people out and about town, the stores are open for business and people are buying like money is printed in basements, everyone is dressed for a good time, and red-white-blue banners and streamers drape across the streets which, of course, are playing renditions of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Sadly, this is not what our country’s birthday is like in our nation’s capital. Instead, on Saturday, it poured off and on throughout the day. The trails were empty under gray skies, oppression was alive and well in the form of dense mugginess, and I had to run through two security checkpoints established at the perimeter of the city. The city had a strange empty feeling to it, and the National Mall was not as busy as I’d have thought it to be. Much of it was blocked off for the fireworks, but it was still very quiet. No loud school groups or bus tours. People there were oddly respectful and there was also no hum of traffic. I got to run down streets that are usually swamped with cars. I was uplifted, however, at the sight of so many people wearing red, white, and blue clothing. I did consider dressing in those colors for my run, but I thought it was too cheesy. I regret not doing that though. Next year, if I have a long run scheduled on the Fourth of July and I am here in DC, I will wear a patriotic costume on my run. You read that here first: I will wear a patrotic costume and run through DC on the Fourth of July. Because it should be a little more like Main Street USA in DC on our nation’s birthday, right? I think so anyway…naive as that might sound.

Sunday: Rest. The big day of checking into my new apartment had arrived. The night before went rather late, and I woke up with a hangover. Whoops. The day was also perfect, weather-wise. Of course it was. The first day of moving and the sun was beckoning me to drink it in next to a shiny, cool, aqua pool. There was just no way I– a total pool rat– could let it go, so I took my breakfast and a book to the pool for two hours before the moving madness ensued. And madness it was. By the time I left the pool, picked up my keys, gathered paint supplies from the Home Depot, and slapped a coat of Behr Tibetan Temple on my living room wall, my head was about to split in two. Apparently, painting a wall is both quite the physical workout (hello abs) and neurological maelstrom. While getting in 4 pace miles was on my schedule to do between 7 and 8 that evening, having a dura pulse seismically along the midline of your brain has the tendency to derail any physical activity more strenuous than breathing. With a long day ahead on Monday, I begrudgingly took the cue to call it a day.

Recap: I have mixed feelings about how this week went.  My goal for marathon training is to, at all times, take life by the horns and throw it to the ground; put my run ahead of everything else and start making it a priority. While the front part of my week went great, Thursday and beyond took on a life of its own. I had some control over some of what went on, but other times, I let go of the wheel. Thursday night was a blessing– I was really bummed about having to spend a major holiday alone, and God blessed me with plans. Same for the holiday. Moving is not only physically demanding, but emotionally and mentally challenging. I was feeling homesick for the pool I’ve loved spending time at, unsure that my new home would be good for me, and handling things one item at a time. I didn’t meet my running mileage goal for the week, but I walked between 5 and 15 miles each day over the course of the long weekend and I know that has to count for something, too. I did only what I knew I could do going into a move and I took care of my heart and soul by putting time with friends ahead of training. That may come at a price later, but I had a good weekend. That was priceless. Face forward.

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