Week Four: Baltimore Marathon Training

How I wish moving was as simple as Merlin made it! Photo Credit: Disney.com
How I wish moving was as simple as Merlin made it! Photo Credit: Disney.com

After two and a half weeks of successful marathon training, in week four, I’ve come to what I hope is my only bump in the road. For weeks, I’d been anticipating a move to a new apartment just 10 minutes away from where I currently live in Arlington. I’ve moved during marathon training before– I moved from Lincoln, Nebraska to Arlington, Virginia during marathon training at about this same time last year. To me, as far as marathon training, this move from Crystal City to Rosslyn would be a piece of cake in comparison. I was wrong, and the impact colored my week.

My Planned Training Schedule: July 6 – 12

  • Monday: Cross-Training
  • Tuesday: 3 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 10:59)
  • Wednesday: 6 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: 11 long miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Sunday: 4 miles at race pace (Goal Pace: 9:06)
  • Total Weekly Mileage: 24 miles

My Actual Training Schedule

Monday: Okay, so Monday was pretty easy as far as deciding what to do for cross-training: I’d be spending the day lifting heavy boxes, pushing furniture into place, reaching to put things away– all sorts of functional training! I think at one point, I decided that I could definitely squeeze in a swim at my old apartment pool and then go home to a new place where I could sleep soundly and start adjusting to a new normal. And perhaps I could have done all that if the day went as I expected it would. Everything that happened on Monday, if they had each happened one thing at a time, might have been a minor inconveniences, but put all together on top of the fact that I was emotional as hell, made for the worst moving experience of my life. I started a list of everything that went wrong, because I hope to laugh at it one day, but I just don’t think I can make light of the day. It was that bad. Let’s just say that 1) 4 hours of sleep before a move sucks, 2) If I still have a dog next time I move, I will kennel it, 3) Loading dock reservations are as useless as board game dollars, 4) Any change is hard, and this change was inexplicably hard on me, and its inexplicability made it worse, 5) It’s a very bad day when 20 minutes on the Metro feels like a 60-minute spa treatment, and 6) Moving is not as bad when you let the movers move literally everything, even your breakables and the random assortment of stuff you swear will only take one car ride to transport. Note to future self: IT WON’T.

One lovely hour of deep sleep between 4AM and 5AM the day after moving is like stopping mid-Ironman to eat a Skittle.

Tuesday: Rest. I think calling Tuesday a “rest day” is a bigger lie than WMD in Iraq. As if not getting enough sleep the night before was bad, Monday night into Tuesday morning, I got literally one hour of sleep. I had to wake up early to get the dog back to the old apartment where I figured he’d be okay spending the day since it’s his “territory” and not chew my boxes inside out,  and due to a parking snafu at my new apartment, my old apartment was the only place I could park for free. I had to shower for work at my old place without a shower curtain (awkward and hilarious) and, while I got to work on time and just fine, two days without sleep on top of a move made my famished muscles tremble all day. I didn’t eat breakfast because I was nauesous, and when I finally ate, that pushed me over the edge and I ended up leaving work for the day. I didn’t have much else to do at my old place to close out (and thank the Lord above I didn’t have to clean an inch of it either!!), but I had a substantial amount of items that I didn’t want the movers to move (bad call). I was weirdly homesick and sad to be leaving my old apartment. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve seen my view and it’s amazing. I love the pool and listening to kids playing in it all summer. I loved spending hours upon hours at the pool in the sun. I had just come around to that place as I was leaving, so it was hard. But deep down, I know this new place will be great for me. I have a really good feeling about it, that good things will come from it, that I finally have that cozy, snug bachelorette-pad feeling that I didn’t have at my very white, huge old studio. I’ll miss that place, but I’m looking forward to making a new home for myself. And getting back to my routine.

Wednesday: Rest. By the time Wednesday came around, I was craving my normal routine. I hadn’t run since Saturday and, even though one of those days was a specified cross-training day and I definitely think that all the miles walked and boxes carried adds up to something, I was concerned that residual exhaustion would derail my mileage ramp-up. I had fallen 6 miles short of my 23-mile goal last week and, I was facing 26 miles in Week 4. I also needed to foam roll like my life depended on it: I woke up Wednesday morning with a sore left glute. Clearly, I had over-exerted myself the past three days. But I have come back from worse, too. Given everything that had gone on, I decided to push back my runs for the week. My typical Tuesday easy run would happen on Wednesday, my 6-mile medium effort run would occur on Thursday, I would take off Friday to rest, and continue my weekend running as scheduled. If I stuck to that timeline, I would have 24 miles logged for the week. And there was always room to add 2 easy miles if I felt like I needed it. However, when I got home from work and saw the disarray that my apartment was in, I felt the exhaustion crawl back over me. There was so much work to do. On top of that, I couldn’t find my Garmin.  Even wrestling into a sports bra was exhausting and I realized that, if the past two days were full of as much nonstop running as there was nonstop walking/carrying/lifting, today would be a rest day. It just hit me that I needed to let my body rest from the move before jumping back into a strenuous training routine. To be honest, I don’t know if this will set me back more or if it’s the right thing to do in the long run. All I know is how I felt, so I just have to hope that my body told me the truth. However, I did have enough energy for a dance party in my new living room. When in doubt, dance it out!

Thursday: 3 easy miles at 9:53 average pace. By Thursday, I was still feeling achy and sleep-deprived from the move and I still hadn’t found my Garmin, but I was ready to get back on the trails. Call me crazy, maybe I am, but 24 miles was still my goal for the week. Instead of varying my runs, I decided to let myself off the hook pace-wise. If I could hit a medium-effort pace, great. If I couldn’t hit race pace, fine. I found myself in cram mode as well: in order to succesfully get 24 miles this week, I’d have to run 6 miles today, 3 Friday, 11 on Saturday, and 4 on Sunday. It felt do-able but stupid. It’s not a good place to be in. Common sense told me to just take a break, heal and rest, and get my life back together so I can snap back into place next week. But I was at the bottom looking up at a gradual hill of weekly mileage. I needed those 24 miles. At the end of the work day, however, I was feeling exhausted all over again (shocking). I’d been sleeping well the past few nights, but I think a full 12-hours face down in bed this coming weekend is what it will take to get me upright again. Still, I knew I couldn’t skip my run. Even though I had gotten plenty of movement in with the move, I was still in need of training my muscles to run. So, I let myself run whatever I felt like running. I wanted to run 6 miles, but my muscles were stiff and my Garmin, which I found buried in my car, was critically low on battery. I also ran without music– I needed quiet time. I’m fine with the paces that I ran and my splits for this run– I also took a few hills to start preparing for running long runs on hills. 3 miles was all I had, so 3 miles is what I ran.

Friday: Rest. I had basically every reason to run on Friday. I even brought my stuff to work so I could run over lunch as I was expecting a friend that evening. Why didn’t I run then? Frankly, the mental space just wasn’t there that day to get it done. Running is about making the mental and emotional committment to run. It’s not like I decided to just skip it, but it had been a long week already. I just…didn’t run.

Saturday: 6 easy pace miles at 10:18 average pace and 90-minutes of stand-up paddle-boarding. Saturday morning is usually reserved for long runs because I have learned over years of marathon-training that getting it done first thing on the weekend is the best course of action. Otherwise, it just overshadows the weekend. I decided to take this course of action, however, when I saw that the local boathouse in DC had one spot open for a stand-up paddle-boarding orientation class this weekend and it was the last one until the end of August. Stand-up paddle-boarding is a bucket list item of mine, and I’ve been wanting to learn how to do it for about five years now. Given that it was my first weekend without the pool, there was no way I could let it pass me by. If I tried it and loved it, I planned to get a season pass so I could be out on the water every chance I got until summer ended. So on Saturday morning, I walked the 30 minutes over the Key Bridge into Georgetown. The C&O Canal trail, one of DC’s most popular trails, starts here and it was full of runners and bikers. I felt guilty that I wasn’t one of them, but once I got to the boathouse, I forgot about my run. For the next 90 minutes, I was out on the Potomac River learning the basics of SUP and I have to be honest that it was the most fun I’d had in a very long time. No, I didn’t fall. No, it’s not as hard as it looks. Standing up on the board was the hardest part, really, but moving through the water wasn’t terribly difficult. It was blissful, really, just gliding along down the river with the DC skyline in front of me. I didn’t want to leave. Later that night, I decided to attempt a 6-mile easy pace run. I went out rather late, but once I was on the trail, it didn’t feel hard at all to run. There was no pain in my calf, my form and breathing felt right. I sort of felt like I’d had enough cross- and strength-training accomplished this week that any hip imbalances were corrected. It was a relief, really, to run without my calf hurting. The week, despite its awfulness, was turning out to be a pretty great one.

Sunday: 11 long-run pace miles at an average 9:59 pace. Sunday morning, I woke up feeling unbelieveably sore. I’d gotten about 9 hours of quality sleep, but I felt achy all over. There was just no way I could run that morning. It’s dangerous to feel that sore and not have gotten in a long run, arguably the most important one of the week. I wanted to skip it. I had every reason to. I thought about how nice it was the night before to sit outside on my new patio in my new patio chairs sipping a beer with the smell of citronella wafting around me, listening to the sounds of my new neighborhood, and I almost skipped my run. I figured I’d had a long hard week and I earned it. But, I also knew that if I didn’t, I would be ending this week having only run 9 miles. I couldn’t have that. It just….couldn’t be that way. Some runs are like that: very bleh and meh. I think, when that happens, you have to zone out and just be blank. Literally a robot. You can’t let the emotions of a bad attitude dictate your course of action and it doesn’t help to try to get your mind in a positive place either. That’s not real. You just have to do it. So, I started my long run at 6PM that night. It’s no fun cramming a long run into your weekend: this is the one instance in which I strongly advocate for morning runs. But I was able to get this one in because there was shockingly low humidity and no rain on Sunday and it was light outside until late that evening. Because I knew that I was walking a fine line of scrapping the whole run out of both exhaustion and lack of enthusiasm, I compromised by telling myself to take it slow. My legs were quite achy anyways, and all I was after was running 11 miles without quitting. I knew if it was starting to feel too hard against my will, I would quit. All I wanted were the miles. I left my debit card at home so I couldn’t be tempted to hop on the Metro or call a cab. I really didn’t want to do this run! A funny thing happens when you let things go like that: I started running faster. I was thinking I could run around the end of my pace range at 10:36 for all 11 miles and be fine with it, but I was starting to run paces toward the front end of my long run pace range at 9:36 and it felt easier to run it that fast. The last mile, what I call the “endurance mile,” was difficult, but it was also one of the faster miles, too. And I ended it on the same hill as the Marine Corps Memorial sits on. I’ve run up that hill to finish the Marine Corps Marathon. I was shocked that my end pace was faster than 10:00. What a great way to end an incredibly exhausting week.

Recap: I think it’s pretty clear how I feel about this week: I’m glad as heck that it’s done. I’m all moved into my new place, I battled several days of insomnia, and I still got in 20 miles this week. Luckily, I’ve just finished the first quarter of training, so if everything had gone worse, I could have made it up just fine. But this is still a critical point at which my mileage is about to peak and I needed to do what I could. Life is always going to get in the way during marathon-training, and I knew this week was coming. I know I handled it the best way I knew how. I didn’t stick to my consistent routine and I fell short of my 24 mile goal, but I think that the walking and process of moving and cross-training accounts for something. If it didn’t, then I was exhausted for no reason. Next week, I am looking forward to getting back on schedule with training and continuing my push up. I’m looking forward to really making the Iron Strength Workout a core piece of my routine, and I am ready to tackle longer distances now that I know how to focus and be present in my run. I have proven that I can do that. Week Four, it’s been real. Seriously.

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