Week Five: Baltimore Marathon Training

As I started this week, all I could be grateful for was that the disaster of Week Four was behind me and I could get back into some semblance of normalcy. I’m all moved into the one place I am paying rent to, there are no more boxes cluttering up my 471 square feet of space in this world, and I have a predictable schedule again. For the foreseeable future, nothing is in my way. Which might be like saying “perfect game” in baseball. But at least the move is behind me. But it turned out to be one of those weeks in which I would stand astonished and say, “What the heck was THAT!?!”

My Planned Training Schedule: July 13 – 20

  • Monday: Cross-Training
  • 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: 12 long miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Sunday: 4 miles at race pace (Goal Pace: 9:06)
  • Total Weekly Mileage: 26 miles

So, I figured that, even as I fell short of my 24 mile goal last week, I could handle a jump up in mileage this week. For one reason, my weekly runs were not all that different from other weekly runs. Another reason, I was backing down on mileage for both my medium effort run and race pace run and only adding one more mile to my weekend long run. Finally, my mileage next week was only going up to 27. If things didn’t go as well as I wanted, I figured I could drop Thursday’s 2-miler and still be okay. Besides, the first quarter was over and it’s time to start getting a little crazy. Week Five would be a good transition from base-building to endurance-building. Time to start making progress.

My Actual Training Schedule

Monday: Cross-Training with Iron Strength Workout DVD, 40/50 minutes. So, this would be my first Monday without a pool at my disposal to swim laps. Since I had purchased both the book and DVD versions of Dr. Jordan Metzler’s Iron Strength Workout almost a month ago, I decided I would give the DVD its first spin in the player. For anyone who is not familiar with this program, the basic premise is that the workouts help strengthen a runner’s “kinetic chain” to keep injury from occurring due to misalignments and imbalances. Frankly, that’s all I needed to hear to buy in. I doubt I have ever trained for a distance race without some kind of injury. It usually happens when I try to go faster and try to get the basics of speed work down to train for a faster marathon. Part of my injury susceptibility has to do with weak core muscles, but the problem was that I didn’t know what specific exercises to do. Yoga wasn’t much of a help, I did barre workouts that helped manage things but they didn’t make me stronger, and every calisthenic or weights exercise I did seemed disconnected from each other. Before I got the DVD, I did read Dr. Metzler’s book and tried a couple of exercises in there, like farmers walks and mountain climbers, and almost right away, I could tell the knot in my calf didn’t seem to hurt as bad. Frankly, that’s all I wanted. So, here’s my first thought about the DVD after I’ve used it once: it’s definitely a challenge even with the most basic moves. There are about 5-6 circuits (I lost track), and they include mountain climbers, burpees (which I skipped because hol-ee-crap), squats and lunges, a plank series, push-ups, and balance work. You need a pair of hand weights for it, too, so come prepared. It’s filmed at the Runner’s World headquarters, and Dr. Metzler is not your typical cheerleader-esque fitness DVD instructor. Actually, once in awhile, there is only music playing and the sound of huffing and puffing from the actors as you’re slugging out your reps. The exercises, in terms of design, are basic, but quite challenging when you do 3-6 sets of them in a row, and it’s totally easy to modify them. I was quite positive that I would be sore as hell the next day (a downside to incorporating other DVD workouts into training regimin and yes, I am looking at you Jillian Micheals– crazy is not always effective), but as I write this, I have minimal soreness only in my inner thighs from doing squats and reps–not shocking since I know I am weakest there. This DVD will definitely become a big part of my training, and I am looking forward to seeing what it will do for me!

Tuesday: 3, easy pace hilly miles at an average 10:20 pace. As far as my running was concerned, my move to a new neighborhood in Arlington meant that I would be closer to the trail where I was “born and raced” here in DC: the Custis Trail, which runs alongside I-66. It’s a very challenging trail to run because it’s not flat, and the hills are huge in some places. There is one part of the trail I call the “Arlington Lombard” because it literally winds straight up a hill with 3 gradual curves for about one-tenth of a mile. There’s another hill that, when you are on the bottom of it, you’re practically looking straight up. If you’re on top of the hill, you actually have to break form a little bit to get down because it’s steep. Everything else in between includes gradual hills and quick up-and-overs with equal parts up and downhill whichever way you go. Needless to say, this would be a perfect trail to run for Baltimore Marathon training. I’d been running along flatter courses around here, because the concept of driving or taking a train to go for a run seems fundamentally flawed, but now I live close to it again. It feels like coming home. I love the Custis Trail. Tonight’s run presented another challenge than the hills: I was really sore in my inner thighs where I’d gone through the squat circuit in the Iron Strength Workout the day before. It actually hurt to sit down. The aforementioned “minimal soreness” was not at all minimal, but I knew I had to keep running. I figured the easy run wouldn’t exacerbate it too much. Running the hills was challenging, yes, they always are. But a funny thing happened when I sort of “got over” how tough they can be: my paces got faster on the uphill. I didn’t plan to go faster, but it happened. I found this encouraging: even with all the hills, it may still be possible to PR in Baltimore.

Wednesday: Rest Day. Wednesday was a tough day to get in a run. Some days, I just have an unshakeable sense that I’m about to have a really bad run. It’s not even a position of “this run is going to suck.” I just get a forboding sense about it that doesn’t go away. Not every run is meant to be a good one and not every bad feeling I get ends with a terrible run. So, I usually just shake it off, suck it up, and go. I did that tonight– laced up and walked outside, every step saying ugh, ugh, ugh. I told myself to just start running and get it done with. But once I started going, the soreness from Monday’s workout made it clear that I wasn’t going anywhere that night. Every step felt heavy, my weakened sore glute muscles made my knees feel like they would buckle. I stopped about half a block later. This run wasn’t going to happen. I danced around on the street corner for a second or ten, thinking to myself, Just go– the soreness will go away once you really get going…. maybe I should just take my rest day to heal and try again tomorrow… I could just run 5 easy miles…. no, I need my hard run for the week… but my glutes hurt like hell. I cut my losses. Rest day today; try again tomorrow. This is why I don’t like to incorporate workouts that I’m not used to doing into marathon training: a little too much exerted effort could render me useless for a few days. It’s a really annoying catch-22.

Thursday: Rest Day. Thursday was one of those days when a good hard run was the first thing I thought about when I realized that July 16, 2015 was more than likely Asshole Day. Ever just have one of those days where you bump into other people who are probably also having one of “those” days? Only it’s not just one slicked-back jackass suit and tie on a cell phone having one of “those” days or a prissed-up glamazon Saran-wrapped in neon yoga tights having one of “those” days– it’s everyone who is either having a Thursday or just a jerk person. Kind of made me wonder if my new neighborhood isn’t as friendly as I thought it was, and the only thing I could do to get myself centered again was to slug it out with the trail in a battle for the clock. But I got back upstairs after walking the dog and saw that I had a voicemail from someone I haven’t spoken much to in awhile, despite having recently connected after many years. Seeing a call from him made my heart sail. If there was ever a day that I needed that, it was Thursday. So, what does this mean for my run? It doesn’t thrill me that I have to work through another inconsistent week of training, but I’ll make it work.

Friday: 4 miles at race pace, average 9:01. I’m learning quickly that, especially in summer time when there are plans and vacations and all sorts of things going on, getting your run done early and when you have the chance is a good marathon-training best practice. Easier said than done, however, especially if you’re like me and think that everything will just work out somehow. Friday, I was expecting my little sister Megan to visit me from Newark, Delaware where she was interning at a hospital as part of her pre-med clinical hours program. I considered bringing my running clothes to work with me so I could run over lunch, but frankly, I felt like I looked too nice to ruin a good hair and makeup day. I know, I know– I let pretty get in my way. Geez. I didn’t get my run done until that evening, however, and it sort of sucks to have to tell someone who came from some distance for the sole purpose of spending time with you that you have to go for a run. I did get it done, despite the fact that it was on a rest day right before a 17-mile weekend. Taking a run at race pace felt hard– I’ve been running so slow lately. I kept thinking, Holy crap, this is how fast I have to run for 26.2 miles. I was beat after that 4-miler. But it did feel good to get some fast running done.

Saturday: Stand-up paddleboarding, 90 minutes. Megan and I stayed awake until 1AM watching movies. Whoops. I’d been mulling in my head for a few days how I would get my long run done with her here, plus the fact that it was supposed to be a real scorcher of a weekend in DC. I’d have to get up early to run, but after a late night like that less than 24 hours after a fast run, I knew it wouldn’t happen. Partway through the morning, I realized that I probably had the perfect window of opportunity to get it done. If I at least ran 5 miles, I could live with that and figure out my long run the next day. But it was as if I suddenly took a few steps backwards to the runner I used to be, who used to put off runs instead of prioritizing them and who fit running into her day instead of fitting her day around running. I figured I could run that evening, and I could have. But Megan and I did stand-up paddle-boarding for about an hour and a half and it’s seriously quite a workout. I was famished. I could have gotten it done– if I had really put my mind to it, I could have run 5 easy miles that evening. Perhaps if I had been on my own, I would have. What can I say? It didn’t get done.

Sunday: Rest. Sunday was expected to be the hottest day of the year in 2015 for DC. Temps were in the mid- to- high 90’s range with a heat index near 110. My only option for running 12 miles that day was to get it done in the morning. For me, no, there is no treadmill option. Did I do it? No. I had to drop off Megan at Union Station at 7:30. I could have gotten up early and run then still got her there on time, but again, it all comes down to putting your mind to something. Okay, fine, I will do it after brunch in the evening, I told myself. Ugh, the idea of going to brunch and having a long run hanging over your head? Why didn’t I just get out there? I also drank way way way too much wine for a Sunday afternoon and spent the evening completely loopy. At 7PM, when it was time for my planned evening long run, I was probably still drunk. And at 10PM, when I took the dog for a walk, my head was stabbing me.

Recap: I ran a total of 7 miles this week. SEVEN MILES. What happened to me!?! I started out this week on such a high note. I was supposed to be up around 26 miles this week, and it makes it the second week I missed a crucial ramp-up in mileage. Alright, alright, so it’s a minor setback. I have a good base. There’s still plenty of time. But you know what? Screw that. I had plenty of chances to run anyway and I didn’t get it done. If I cross that finish line at Baltimore in 12 weeks and I don’t get a 4:00 marathon, this week will not be to blame for it, but my biggest goal is to have a great training season and put in the work and the effort literally each and every single time so I can say for a fact that, yes it was all those early mornings, late evenings, blown-off happy hours and battles of no motivation and self-doubt. Maybe I can let myself off the hook here– after all, I did have a guest in town and spent the day doing some cross-training and then caught up with important friendships. But this is marathon training and this is what I do. When am I going to put that first?

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2 thoughts on “Week Five: Baltimore Marathon Training

  1. It’s easy to recover from a week like this – especially with so much time left. Everybody goes through these things in training. Best of luck getting on track!

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