Week Eleven/Ten: Baltimore and Marine Corps Marathon Training

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I think I’ve decided to stop panicking and re-evaluate my training schedule. I’ve been panicking because I feel like I’ve missed some critical pace runs and have been running a little too easy too often. No, I don’t think that I can run a 4:00 marathon in Baltimore and then run Marine Corps a week later, but I would at least like to try for one or the other to break my 2013 Rock ‘n Roll DC Marathon PR of 4:38. That, I feel is possible. But I also can’t help but wonder what would happen if I practiced race pace a little more…

Originally, my race pace runs were supposed to take place on Sundays– the day after my long run– and my medium effort runs were supposed to take place on Wednesdays. I rationalized that my legs would be tired and I could get some good practice with running fast on tired legs. Maybe in theory, it’s good, but in practice, I’m just not there right now. I’m not that runner yet. So, I made some adjustments:

My Planned Training Schedule: August 24 – 30

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 7 medium effort miles (Goal Pace: 9:07 – 9:35)
  • Wednesday: 4 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Thursday: 6 pace miles (Goal Pace: 9:06)
  • Friday: 4 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Saturday: 3 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Sunday: 16 long run miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Total Weekly Mileage: 40 miles

I moved my medium effort run to Tuesdays because I realized that two days of back-to-back easy runs were making my legs itch to go faster, but on Wednesdays, I always psyched myself out of medium effort runs. Maybe sandwiching my medium effort run with two easy runs was a better strategy. I also moved my pace run out of the weekend lineup and placed it on Thursday’s plate. With the exception of this week, when I moved my Monday easy 4 to Friday because of plans, having a full day of rest after a hard pace run might keep some degree of tired in my legs while allowing them to freshen up before a long run. If this strategy works, I may have just found my key to long-term marathon-training success.

My Actual Training Schedule

Monday: Rest Day. Like I said, I knew I had plans on Monday evening, so I switched my planned easy 4-miler with my Friday rest day. Might have been a good idea– there was a massive thunderstorm that blew through DC that evening. If I didn’t get caught in it, I may have literally just dodged it if I had been out there. Is it weird that I was also a little disappointed not to be running in the rain? It’s such a glorious feeling.

Tuesday: 5 easy pace miles at an average 10:14 pace. I know this is going to sound bad, but I moved my 8 mile medium-effort run to Wednesday because I had a TV show coming on at 8PM that I didn’t want to miss. Also, I was breaking in a brand-new pair of shoes. Go ahead and judge me! But also, I have not foam-rolled in several days. All of those factors combined meant I was better off doing what I could do instead of what I should do. For this run, I decided against an out-and-back on the Mount Vernon Trail (I’m really starting to loathe those the more I realize how connected DC’s trail system is with itself). I would take the Custis out of Rosslyn, across the Key Bridge and through Georgetown including the Waterfront along the boardwalk, up past the Watergate Complex and the Kennedy Center, cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and back into Rosslyn by way of Arlington Cemetery and the Marine Corps Memorial. With the exception of the National Mall (because DC running doesn’t get much better than that), that’s the quintessential DC sights tour. At any point of it, the Potomac River is right next to you. It’s beautiful, engaging, and flat in some places with a share of elevation. I literally love that it’s basically in my backyard. Perfect.

Wednesday: 7 medium-effort miles at an average 9:19 pace. With this run, I was pretty determined not to skip another Wednesday. Even though I had created essentially a perfect training plan, I didn’t want to go off the path too much because I wanted to see if my new approach worked. The problem was that I was pretty tired on Wednesday, and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. Either it’s because it was Wednesday, or because I was not doing my part to get enough sleep at night. Also, on the record, even though I have run 7 miles dozens of times for both the time and the distance, I still doubt myself a lot when it comes to harder runs. I think I’m just always afraid of what will happen if I start to fail. If I start to get slower and I start seeing that I am farther from my time goals. Can I really be the runner who is “just okay” with “running slow”? It’s not my time yet. Anyway, that’s for another blog post. On tonight’s run, I took the same 5-mile loop I took on Tuesday except that I extended it to the 14th Street Bridge, which would buy me a mile across the bridge and partially through West Potomac Park, and around the Lincoln Memorial before catching up at the Arlington Memorial Bridge again. I know some might consider this to be cheating, but one of the reasons I took Custis out of Rosslyn was because you start on a wicked downhill grade for about half a mile before you hit the Mount Vernon Trail or Key Bridge. It’s great way to set pace. What I didn’t realize, as I continued, was that I was actually totally kicking ass on this run. I didn’t know where it came from either. I ran some slower splits to keep my paces above pace goal and within range. The last little bit of the run, I went up the hill at the Marine Corps Memorial which is also the final hill in the marathon. It. Kicked. My. Ass. When I was done, I knew that I needed to foam roll badly.

Thursday: Rest Day. I actually took this day off because my legs were stupidly sore. I wonder if I am getting too much hill training. But I did foam roll for longer than I have in quite awhile. I was definitely due.

Friday: 6 pace miles at an average 8:39 pace. When I started out for my run on Friday, I did not completely plan on a race pace run. I think I thought my legs were still too sore to get it done, so I considered a medium effort run. Whatever, I thought, just get 6 miles. When I started going, however, I knew this wasn’t going to be anything but a run at a faster pace than goal race pace. I think a cumulative of easy and long run pace runs had finally annoyed my fast-twitch muscles enough that they weren’t getting any action. I didn’t question this at all– I let my legs take over, and I ran with some serious fury. It felt easy on my legs, not hard. My breathing was in sync. I was in that sweet spot where I realized it was painful but I was also feeling that joy in my heart when your brain has walked away from the fight and you’re flying. I even clocked a split of 8:13 at mile 4– nearly a minute faster than goal race pace. And it felt EASY. It was a seriously joyful run. I didn’t even care if it had the potential to throw me off later– it just felt SO GOOD to run that fast and that far.

Saturday: 3 easy miles at an average 10:44 pace. Saturday, I took off for a day at Bethany Beach, Delaware. I’ve been coming to this beach every year at least since 2009, and I adore it. It’s a quiet, quaint little seaside cottage-y village on the southern part of Delaware’s coastline. I love this beach. I did take my running shoes and, when the tides started encroaching on everyone’s beach chair real estate around 5PM, I went back to the car to suit up for a run. Obviously, with my blazingly fast run the night before, I knew this one would be short and slow. I also didn’t know the area too well, having only ventured as far as the beach and the boardwalk on my trips there. I decided to just explore and see what I could find. The area itself coming right out of the beachside neighborhoods isn’t totally runner-biker friendly. You have to actually run in a bike lane for about a quarter mile and, even though it’s a small town that sees a lot of clueless out-of-towners, running along a highway is always nerve-wracking. I did get into an area past the highway where there are condos and vacation homes with a smooth path that winds through the compound, so I took that for awhile. I turned around at about halfway and went back. It was great that I got to run at all, really. I was planning on a run on the beach; however, the tides were super strong today. I think the super moon had something to do with it— the moon was really full and very bright. There was just no where to run in the sand. Later on, as I was eating my dinner while sitting in the sand, an unsuspecting wave came way up over the first half of the beach and burst into the back half where I was sitting. The waves almost carried away my sandals, it got my purse wet as it sat beside me in the sand, and it almost took my crab cake dinner as I almost dropped it to save my belongings. Crazy! I was paid to park through 8PM, which was when I decided I would leave to drive the 3 hours back to DC, and I almost left sooner because the tides were turning the beach into a massive tidal pool. But I stayed when I realized I was about to see the prettiest sunset I would ever see on the beach. It was amazing.

Sunday: Rest day. Remember when I said that I was not doing well on getting sleep lately? On Sunday morning, when my alarm went off at 5AM then again at 6AM and once more at 7AM when I did wake up, I felt like I had just risen from the dead. I had plans to go paddle-boarding that afternoon with friends, so I knew I couldn’t push this to the afternoon. I also had to do some work that I brought home with me that weekend, so really my window of time to start running was no later than 10AM. I usually like to wake up about 1-1.5 hours before I start my run so I can eat and hydrate. When 9AM came, however, my body was telling me, no way. So I thought, okay 10AM it is. But at 10AM, I had fallen back to sleep on the couch where I slept until noon. This all sounds so lame. Being tired has never really kept me from running before. And when long runs start coming up, this is what happens: your body is tired literally all of the time. But there was something about this level of exhaustion that felt more deeply rooted than an ‘I didn’t sleep well last night’ tired. I know the difference between both, and this was the kind of tired where things like form would be compromised, my commitment would be questioned, my determination would fail because sometimes biology wins. I needed sleep. Even as I attempted to run that evening (If I get done paddle-boarding by 5PM, I can still make 16 miles before sunset!) it was clear pretty early on that this wasn’t going to happen. At least, at least, I got 2 solid hours of paddle-boarding done. I did something. And bosses don’t like to hear that you didn’t get an important project done because you had to train for your marathon. Actually two. It is what it is: if I had slept better, I could have done it, but I let something slip and this is what happened. What’s next?

Recap: Obviously, missing a critical long run wasn’t ideal, but as you’ll see in my next blog post, I will have made it up on Monday. Without it, I got 21 miles for the week, but I will still count Monday’s 16 miles as part of this week for a total of 37 miles. If I don’t log it that way, I will be up to 58 miles next week, so for my own sanity’s sake, I’m counting it towards this week. It does put a blight on a week that was otherwise perfect, I admit. For weeks, I’d been nervous that I hadn’t gotten up past 30 miles in a week and then I reached almost 40 with what felt like no effort, and now that week has an asterisk. I think, next week, I need to stop thinking SO MUCH about running and start focusing again on getting better sleep and eating better. The training, at this point, will take care of itself. But only if I take care of myself first.

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