Week Eight/Seven: Baltimore/Marine Corps Marathon Training

Eight weeks down. Ten weeks to go.

Photo Courtesy: TAPS for America

Like the name change of my posts? I can’t believe I’m going to run two marathons within a week of each other.

By now, I realized that I was getting annoyed with myself. It seemed that I was missing too many weekly mileage goals. I missed some for a good reason, like last week’s open-and-shut injury cases, but others I missed because I was just having a bad day or I didn’t plan well enough. This week, I knew I really had no choice: it would be 30 miles a week from here on out. No excuses.

My Planned Training Schedule: August 3 – 9

  • Monday: Cross-Training; 2 easy miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 10:59)
  • Tuesday: 4 easy miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 10:59)
  • Wednesday: 6 medium effort miles (Goal Pace: 9:07 – 9:35)
  • Thursday: 4 easy miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 10:59)
  • Friday: Rest Day
  • Saturday: 12 long miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Sunday: 5 miles at race pace (Goal Pace: 9:06)
  • Total Weekly Mileage: 33 miles

33 miles feels lofty right now, but I believe I can do it. Looking at this week, what feels possible is that I am not facing an uptick in long run mileage. Most training plans I have been on have included a small boost in long run mileage followed by a scale back, then an even bigger scale up then an equal scale back. But this will be the first week so far that I will have a scale-back in long run mileage— only 12 compared to last week’s 15. The week after that, I will (possibly) have the Leesburg 20K, which I am using as my mid-training half-marathon. Looking at that coming up, I want to focus on other types of runs and save my long run legs until the 10th week when I bump up to 16 miles. Consider this a mini-taper as far as long runs are concerned. Either way, I am ready to see 33 miles.

My Actual Training Plan

Monday: 2 easy pace miles at an average 10:33 pace. Monday is usually just my cross-training day, but I felt like I hadn’t been getting enough running. Adding 2 easy miles was an easy way to start adding some mileage in that also didn’t feel overwhelming. Also, considering that I was still a little sore from an hour of paddle-boarding the day before, I felt like I didn’t need to run through the Iron Strength Workout. Instead, I did Dr. Metzl’s book prescribed glute strengthening workouts to help my glute heal better following a run to Arlington Cemetary and back. My first mile was somewhere under 11:00, but my next mile was blazing fast and I had to reign it in. I also took an uphill route– the same uphill route where the Marine Corps Marathon ends. No, I still haven’t signed up to run that and I know I have to do it fast. I’d have to go through a charity to raise money and time is running out to come up with those funds. But it definitely had the wheels in my head clicking…

Tuesday: 4 easy pace miles at an average 10:20 pace. Tuesday night was a blissful run. The whole thing just felt easy. I love, love, love easy runs for that reason. You’re still getting in the miles but the mental gym is closed and you’re just enjoying the day off from mentally pumping iron. I took my 4 miles out of my neighborhood in Rosslyn, down the Custis, and across the Key Bridge. The sky was pastel pink and blue behind puffy white monumental clouds trying to form a thunderstorm. The Potomac River was a deep blue sheet of perfect glass– it would’ve been the perfect evening for a paddle. I saw one SUPer out there and I was jealous as hell that he had the river to himself. I ran into Georgetown and back across the Key Bridge, realizing I had about 2 miles left, so I took to the Mount Vernon Trail and turned around where the wooden bridge ended. I didn’t want to run a super hilly course. It’s hard to run hills all the time, and I needed the flat running as well. But of course, I had to get home, so I turned around and faced hills in the last mile. I noticed that they were starting to feel a little easier to run. Thank goodness….

Wednesday: Rest Day. Just as I was starting to get back into the groove of knowing what I needed to do for training every day and working on being consistent with my training, I had one of those days where everything was just wayward. First of all, I didn’t leave work until almost 6:30, so there went an hour. When I suited up for my run, I realized that my iPod was dead. Yes, for a medium effort run that is also a medium mileage run on a 90-degree day in DC, I needed the mental stimulation of my running playlist. I decided I would run with my iPhone instead, which I actually hate to do. I hate wearing it in an arm band or carrying it around my hips causes bouncing but moving my SPI belt to my waist makes it hard to breathe deeply, so arm band often wins as the lessest of discomforts. Arm band was in the laundry, waiting to be washed after I used it for last week’s runs. Okay, SPI belt. SPI belt was still damp from Sunday’s run as it sat in the washer, waiting to be washed. How gross was that? Okay, so I’ll give my iPod a quick jump and carry it in the pocket of my water bottle. The hand carrier was also in the washer after using it last week. I fished it out anyways…water bottle was in the dishwasher and it smelled swampy because I had left the cap on it after my last run. Okay, I’ll use another bottle and just carry my iPod. Other bottle was also in the dishwasher and sticky with Gu residue. Really? By that point, it was nearly 7:30, and I don’t like to run past 8PM if I can help it because it’s 3 hours before the latest I can get to bed and still get 8 hours of sleep. Ridiculous that I wasn’t better prepared. I figured I could go for an easy 4-mile run that I had scheduled for Thursday, and I actually did set out to go running without music. But I turned around and went home. With Friday off work, I figured I had plenty of time to squeeze in an easy run and my long run this weekend was not super high mileage. The day was losing light– I called it. I foam-rolled my stiff calves, which are still giving me that tight pulled feeling from uphill walking. There’s not much I can do except adapt and manage; adapt and manage.

Thursday: Rest day. I’m not a total fan of calling today a “rest day” when I did actually get the mileage in: I just walked them instead. If you live in the Washington, DC area, you know what a travesty our transit system is on an all-too-frequent basis. Best case scenario, you’re late for work. Worst case scenario, people have died taking it. Mid-case scenario, it can take you hours to get home. I could write a blog just on the disgrace that is the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. When a train derailed early Thursday morning and caused delays into the evening rush hour, I walked into my usual station after work to go literally two stops home. I couldn’t even get into the station– it was so crowded. And every train that rolled through was packed. There was no getting on the train to go anywhere. The last time this happened, in January, I ran the 4 miles home and avoided the system altogether. I usually keep a pair of running shoes under my desk for reasons like this. However, I hadn’t replenished my backup running clothes stash since then, so I was missing a sports bra and shorts to run home in. So, I decided to walk. And walk I did. Four miles home. By the time I got home, the dog needed to be let out, my feet were blistered, and I was tired. And pissed. This is our nation’s capital and yet our transit system fails us all on a daily basis and makes walking home the better option. So, I took the rest of the day. And brought in a stash of running clothes for all seasons because this will happen again.

Friday: 5 miles at 8:54 average pace; 1 easy pace mile. 70 minutes of stand-up paddle-boarding. Friday, I had the day off work because I was supposed to go to Boston. I called off that trip but decided to keep the day off. I needed it. I made plans to go paddle-boarding with my friend Katy, so that meant I had to get my run done early because I’m still not used to paddle-boarding, and it tends to wear me out. I set out around 2PM, a rare occurrence for DC-area runners in August. Usually, the heat and humidity make it impossible, but Friday was a cool and overcast day with a slight breeze. When I started running, I didn’t really know what kind of run it would be. I knew I had to make up my 6 medium effort miles and get 5-mile pace run accomplished, plus run the 4 easy miles from Thursday which I figured I would break down into chunks over the next few days. When I started running, however, I somehow had accumulated a lot of adrenaline-inducing emotions over the week that manifested into a seriously fast run. I hadn’t run like that in months, and yet it also felt kind of easy to run that fast and hard. I kept telling myself to slow down– my splits were well below my goal race pace of 9:06— but I also didn’t want to slow down. I felt like I couldn’t slow down, even as I held a sub-9:00 pace over 4 miles. I slowed way down in the final mile; not sure why, I just did. I couldn’t believe my pace when I stopped. Where did that come from!? I attempted an easy mile, but I was famished and stopped running at about a quarter mile in. Pace runs are hard, but it felt awesome to run that fast after so much slow running.

Sunset shining through the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
Sunset shining through the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

Saturday: 6 medium effort miles at 9:30 average pace; 90 minutes of stand-up paddle-boarding. Ever since I started doing stand-up paddle-boarding, a lot of people have asked to go with me. I’m totally okay with that– having friends out on the water is so much fun. Saturday morning, I met my friend Kristine to go to the boathouse. We didn’t get there until around 10:30 and didn’t get out on the water until around 11. The wind and the current were pretty strong and it took about 45 minutes to go the half mile or so that we been pushed away from the boathouse. By the time we were done, we had both worked up a monstrous appetite for Ray’s Hellburger and milkshakes. The day wasn’t that hot and I certainly didn’t want to run until I’d gotten some rest. When I did set out around 6PM that evening, it was already much cooler than earlier. I decided I would run at an easy pace since I knew I had to run 12 miles the next day and I’d just run a hard pace run. I ran an easy mile to make up for Thursday’s missed run and then I took off on my 6 miles. This was another run that had a mind of its own. My paces were nowhere near easy pace run range– usually a 10:37 to 10:59. Instead, my splits ranged from 9:58 in the first mile to 9:15 in mile four and a finishing split under race pace at 9:05. I couldn’t believe how easy it felt to run like that. I flew– literally just glided along. Sure, it’s hard to run fast when your lungs are burning and your legs get stiffer as you go along, but none of that bothered me because my mind was in that sweet spot of not even thinking about that. I admit that I was angry at a few things off the running trail, so perhaps running angry was part of why it felt that great. Another think I had was, I wonder how much stand-up paddle-boarding is helping me with my training. When I am out on the water, my core is getting a serious workout. It’s not arms that help you move out there; it’s your core. And I can’t help but notice that my waist is a little more tight and I don’t wobble as much as I did when I’m running. If it’s true that paddle-boarding is what my running has needed all along, then that $200 season pass is already worth its weight in gold for the 5 times I’ve gone in the last month. I knew I might pay a serious price for the back-to-back hard runs with my 12-miler on Sunday, but it honestly was completely worth it to feel like I am getting better and the runner I believe I am is not an illusion.

Sunday: 11 miles at an average 10:22 pace. Instead of waking with the sun, I slept for over 9 hours going into Sunday. For this, I knew I’d have to run on an 86-degree day, but it wasn’t enough to convince me to wake up at 4-dark-thirty to run when I needed sleep more. I decided that I would explore the Capital Crescent Trail that runs along the Potomac River up the northwest side of Washington, DC and Montgomery County, Maryland. I set off around 3PM– the day was hot, but not brutal and with low humidty. I kept telling myself that it was okay to slow down on this run because I was only after the mileage, not the pace, and I’d just had a very active weekend. But just like it did on Friday and Saturday’s runs, I felt like my legs were ignoring me. I decided to just go with it. I realized, too, as I was running, that I had seriously missed out on not having seen this trail before now. It was beautifully lush and green with sun shining through the plush trees. I felt like I was running through a rainforest. There was even a buck that jumped out onto the trail in front of a biker and a runner! Crazy! The beauty was overwhelming, and it kept my mind off my tired, achy legs for several miles. At mile 6, I turned around. Usually I take a Gu gel at the halfway point, but I was actually feeling pretty good so I decided not to take it. This would be a very big mistake. At mile 8, I stopped to refill my water bottle at Fletcher’s Cove, and I realized that I was starving. I told myself to take the Gu while I had water to chase it with, but for whatever reason, I didn’t take it. I’d carbed up with two bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and two raspberry Pop-Tarts earlier that day, so I think that I thought I had enough calories to burn off and was okay on carbs. The 8th mile was my fastest, so I entered the 9th mile with lower energy stores. Even though I finished mile 9 well, I had to stop at mile 10 and rest for several minutes. Okay, Sara, two more miles. You can do this. I ran the 10th mile with a pretty good split, but it was utterly miserable. When I finished mile 10, I was feeling nauseous, achy, hot, and weak. I’ve never really felt that way when running before, so I wondered if this was me hitting the wall. My paces dropped from around 10:06 to a sluggish 11:28 in the 11th mile that felt utterly torturous to run. I was practically tip-toeing along. My stomach felt like it was eating itself and I was jittery and shaky and on the verge of throwing up. I had to throw in the towel at mile 11– there was just nothing left for me to give. I trudged to the Georgetown Dean and Deluca and bought orange juice and a bag of potato chips (for the salt). That didn’t immediately fix the problem, but I knew the minute I ate something that I had been running on fumes. It was stupid not to take the Gu at mile 6. If that had been one of my two marathons, I would not have been able to finish. That has never happened to me before. I took the lesson in stride: I’d had a really active weekend, I probably didn’t get enough carbs to sustain me throughout, and this was preparing me to run on tired legs from Baltimore in the Marine Corps Marathon. I didn’t feel better though until I ate a massive bowl of spaghetti later that evening. Yeah, definitely was because I didn’t eat enough. Lesson learned. Always take the Gu.

Recap: When I started this week, I was only training for one marathon. And now I am training for two. I once again did not meet my mileage goal and fell short of 30 miles by 0.7 miles, but I’ve also decided to stop stressing about this. First of all, this week was on the other side of “halfway there.” Second, I walk at least 4 miles a day, take the stairs when I can, and walk uphill to my apartment every day. I have discovered a way to chisel my core that is enjoyable to me and I am seeing its results in my training after having only done it 5 times by now. I really have nothing but pride for how this week went because I am getting out there and being active. I’m not just putting in half-ass to get half-ass back. I’m not going to let numbers dictate my every move right now when the only place I have to go is up. When stand-up paddle-boarding is over, I plan to find a place where I can try rock-climbing. I plan to try barre classes. I plan to always try new things and also be a marathoner. With respect to my fitness as a whole, if I can do better than I did in all my previous marathons by finding the courage to try new activities, then I can certainly find the courage to finish 26.2 miles two more times. I had a really great week. It can only get better from here.

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