Week Nine/Eight: Baltimore and Marine Corps Marathon Training

Photo Courtesy: The Baltimore Marathon
Halfway there! Photo Courtesy: The Baltimore Marathon

Fundraising Update: I’m at 25% of my goal with $150 raised for Team TAPS! Make a donation today and help the families of our nation’s fallen heroes. Check out my post about why I am running for TAPS. Thank you to all who have contributed! I can’t do this without your generosity and support.

Last week was exhausting, in a good way. I feel like I am getting in touch with my inner athlete. I go stand-up paddle-boarding at least twice a week now, and the results are already starting to show. My stomach is a little tighter and flatter and my running feels stronger because my core is stronger. And I feel gladness coming back to my life, slowly but surely, with every time I go out on the water. Life has felt bleak over the past couple of years, but the stagnancy is clearing away, all because I had the courage to do something new and evolve through trying new experiences. It passes the time anyway.

I’m also scared and excited that I have two marathons to run within 8 days in 9 and 10 weeks. I can’t believe I signed up for that. I may have to let go of my dream of a 4:00 marathon with Baltimore so I can survive the Marine Corps Marathon, but you know what? I’m letting go of the clock. I’m running two marathons within 8 days of each other. I’m raising money for an organization that is the definition of humility and strength and doing my part to give back. While I still have goals for each race, I’m also trying to put things into a bigger picture and realize that my running is about more than what the clock says. I’m coming back to who I am, and it feels really great.

Looking ahead to this week, I know I will breach 30 miles just fine. I’m looking forward to running my first race since June– the Potomac River Runners Leesburg 20K. The break from racing has been great. Last spring was boom boom boom with races once or twice a month. I may have gotten a little burned out with all the races I was running. I’ve just enjoyed running my own training schedule and routine for now, incorporating cross-training, and putting the focus on one major event (now two) instead of a big event every other weekend. I’m really only running this race because it is the halfway point in marathon-training: the half-marathon time test. Even though 20K is short of 13.1 miles by 0.68 miles, it’s still enough to gauge where where I will be on race day. Even if I don’t end up running my goal pace in Baltimore or at Marine Corps, it’ll be nice to know if I have been on track.

My Planned Training Schedule: August 10 – 16

  • Monday: Cross-Training; 2.45 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: 2.45 very easy miles (Goal Pace: 11:00)
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 12.42 miles at race pace (Goal Pace: 9:06), 0.68 easy miles
  • Total Weekly Mileage: 32 miles

My Actual Training Plan

This run brought to you by old school Celine Dion. Hey-- when you need to run slow, you need slow jams to keep you on pace.
This run brought to you by old school Celine Dion. Hey– when you need to run slow, you need slow jams to keep you on pace.

Monday: 2.45 miles at an average 10:31 pace. After a very hardcore weekend, my hips groaned audibly at the thought of running even 1 easy pace mile. This is why I only have 2 miles on my plate: 3 miles would be the difference between I can do this and F#@! this. I took a hilly route for my 2-miler, realizing that I’d kind of been running on flat trails lately (except for Sunday which shows a pretty gradual incline between miles 4 and 8). I really tried to slow down, but after the 24-hour cobwebs were shaken off, my paces started to dip towards 10:00 per mile. Too fast. I realized that I really needed to do some yoga…

Tuesday: 4 easy pace miles at an average 10:14 pace. I feel like a lot of my runs are “easy pace runs,” but I feel like having 3 easy runs, 1 medium effort medium distance run, a pace run, a long run, a rest day, and a cross-training day in a week of training is what I need to stay sane right now. Most days, I can’t be in beast mode on the trail because I have to put all my energy into being a a decent human being and respectable adult during the day. Tuesday was one of those days that required a lot more effort from me not to break down and freak out, so the difference between going and not going for a run was what kind of run I faced. If it was a medium effort medium distance run, I’d have said ‘forget it.’ As much as I want to be the person who can take the shit life hurls at you and make something positive out of it, these days, my goal is to just to get through the day and try not to let it defeat me. What else am I supposed to do when I want to give up besides train for a marathion right now? I was raised too puritanical to quit, so I couldn’t quit even if I wanted to. Tuesday’s run was like Tuesday itself: it hurt like hell to go up a hill that I swear went on for longer than I anticipated it would, and it was at the back end of a run that I ran faster than I wanted to run, which was fine except I knew it would come back to bite me in the butt later that week because that’s what happens when things start to improve: I get hurt. When I got home, the problems of the day weren’t gone, but I at least had the endorphin rush and the catharsis of running and smashing pavement for 41 minutes to numb what was going on. This is why I run. Or at least why I ran on Tuesday.

Wednesday: Rest day. I hate writing the words ‘rest day’ on my training log when I had a run planned. This week, because I was running the Leesburg 20K and the race was supposed to be a critical time test for my training, I knew I couldn’t switch my runs around a whole lot because there’s not much time to make up. I’m not planning to run for time, at least in terms of racing it. I’ve never run a 20K before, so this will be automatic PR. But I have to rest for the majority of Saturday so my legs are fresh and so I can assess my pace goals for the marathon. In about 9 weeks, I plan to sustain a 9:06 average pace over 26.2 miles. I’ve never even come close to that– my PR of 4:38 was an average 10:36 pace, and that record will be over 2.5 years old on race day. My half-marathons this past spring were all run in that pace neighborhood. So, I feel like I am aiming for a moving target here. Whatever I run this weekend may or may not forecast my marathon performance, but at least it will let me know where I am in terms of setting goals. And no, I’ve said before that I’m not hardcore gunning for a 4:00 marathon finish and now that I am running two marathons a week apart, I may not be able to. But I do at least want to beat my PR at Baltimore and run faster than my first Marine Corps Marathon time of 5:07 at the second running. On Wednesday, I took a rest day because I felt inexplicably weak and nauseous. I don’t know where it came from (I can guess), but it didn’t go away during the evening. Even bargaining with myself to “just run 6 easy miles” or “at least go run the 2.5 miles you have scheduled later this week” or “at least do some core work” didn’t work. Better Wednesday then Sunday morning, right?

Thursday: 6 medium effort miles at an average 9:07 pace. I got started for my run around 7PM, and I’m honestly surprised sometimes that I still get that feeling of dread right before a hard run. Often, I doubt that I can do it because I know what it’s like to experience a major slowdown just as I’m about to get faster. In 2013, a medium effort pace run would have been somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00. A pace run would have been an 8:15 pace. Almost right after the new year and all through 2014, a medium effort pace run would have been in the 10:00-10:30 pace range. My long runs were somewhere between 11:30 and 12:00 per mile. I’ve had a really good running year in 2015 because I stopped hardcore running every single run and I formed a good base from training for half-marathons all spring. I guess I still have lingering worries that I’ll have to go back to physical therapy because I’m not foam-rolling enough or I’m not cross-training enough or something. Running faster sometimes feels like it’s still too good to be true. This run, in some spots, felt easier more than it felt like a medium effort run– even as I was inching closer to 9:00 paces. I had to tell myself to slow it down when I realized I was sustaining an 8:31 pace for awhile…wowza. I love runs like this one. Running fast is as close to flying as I can imagine it to be. It’s great. My last half mile or so was the hill that leads up to the Marine Corps Memorial and where the Marine Corps Marathon ends, and OUCH, that one BURNS. I don’t usually think about this kind of thing when I dig deep, but I remembered the reason why I would be running the Marine Corps Marathon: to help the families of our fallen heroes. Run for those who can’t was what I heard in my head. It worked. And I was able to finish exactly on target of my goal pace. Hard to believe that I will be running 20 more miles at that pace in 9 weeks…

Friday: 4 easy-pace miles at an average 10:54. With the Leesburg 20K quickly approaching, I didn’t want to run too hard. I took an easy pace down the Custis Trail and across the Key Bridge, but this time, I went on the opposite side of the bridge and found a new way to access the  C& O Towpath and the Capital Crescent Trail. Instead of taking the trail, however, I ran into Georgetown, down along the waterfront, and past the boathouse where I go paddle-boarding. I did end up running on the Capital Crescent Trail for a short time. Compared to how easy my medium effort run felt and the most recent faster runs of late, this run felt kind of hard. My Garmin reflected paces under 11:00– something that hadn’t happened since I started training for Baltimore. Even my last mile, which was all uphill, was run at nearly 40 seconds faster than my run on flat land. It was definitely humbling to see my average pace go that low. Later, when I foam-rolled, I found a particularly troubling knot in my left calf. Maybe that explained things, but it also made me nervous for Sunday.

Saturday: Rest day. With the race coming up and one of those days that I will probably have to black out of my memory for the sheer reason of coping with something traumatic, I called it a day.

Sunday: 12.52 miles at an average 9:53 pace. Check out my race recap of the Leesburg 20K for an update on Sunday’s run.

Recap: The past two weeks have been about mid-training recovery. I don’t really have an opinion about how the Leesburg 20K will forecast my Baltimore Marathon time because there are a few factors about that race that won’t be present in October: a) the Baltimore Marathon elevation is 338 feet whereas the Leesburg 20K elevation was 604 feet, b) I’m hoping I won’t run it with a broken heart, and c) October will [hopefully] be cooler than August. Looking ahead to next week, 8 weeks left until Baltimore, I’m expecting a ramp-up in mileage on my Monday easy run, Wednesday medium effort run, and weekend long run and race pace run. If I am successful, I will have 40 miles logged for the week. Yeah, that’s a big jump from this past week’s 29. I’m also looking to add some paddle-boarding a cross-training and continue to strive for my daily walk goal of 5 miles. I have five weeks until I have to start tapering for the marathon. I sort of wish I had been thinking of it that way all along.

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