Week Thirteen/Twelve: Baltimore and Marine Corps Marathon Training

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This week, I started out with a feeling of being ready to re-commit to training. I have to remind myself that no one is making me do this– it’s all my idea and my desire that has put me in this spot. But life happens during marathon-training, whether it’s something big or it’s the compounding of daily life that stacks and builds up. This week wasn’t a great one for me, but so it goes.

Haha, maybe not, but some days....
Haha, maybe not, but some days….

My Planned Training Schedule: September 7 – 13

  • Monday: 4 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Tuesday: 7 medium effort miles (Goal Pace: 9:07 – 9:37)
  • Wednesday: 4 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Thursday: 4 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 20 long run miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Sunday: 6 race pace miles (Goal Pace: 9:06)
  • Total Weekly Mileage: 45 miles

This week was a little on the high mileage side, but I tried to cut down where I could since I was looking at one beast of a weekend long run. I haven’t run 20 miles in over three years. In 2013, I trained for the Run for the Ranch Marathon up to 18 miles (during which I turned around at mile 9 on a day that was somewhere in the negative wind chill range) and in 2014, I also only trained up to 18 miles for the Chicago Marathon (having just come off an injury). There is always one glorious 20-miler that I ran back in the fall of 2012, when I was training for the Goofy Challenge, that I remember well. Very well. I ran it with an average 9:56 pace and a sinus infection. When I stopped, I remembered that I just wanted to keep going. That’s how I wanted to feel after this run. That’s the kind of runner I want to be again. I would LOVE to have another 20-mile run like that one.

My Actual Training Plan:

Monday: 4 easy miles at an average 10:17 pace. Usually, when summer ends, I rebel. I hate Labor Day because some idiot decided to cut summer off with 3 weeks left and call it “the unofficial end of summer” and now everyone is busting out pumpkins and boots and scarves. It’s so sad. But today’s run was nice and kind of cool. I took a hilly course. No big deal. I admit I got a teeny tiny little bit excited for fall running weather. Only because it’s arm warmers season.

Tuesday: Rest day. I never really mean to take a rest day, but I still had some issues lingering from mile 3.38 in my 18-miler. I thought perhaps a day would help clear some of the BS out.

Wednesday: Rest day. This was one of those days in which I suited up for my run but decided not to go. I bargained with myself that I would wake up early to run on Thursday morning. I needed two days to clear things out.

Thursday: Rest day. Three days off. In the middle of marathon training. Ouch. I did wake up early to get in a run, but frankly, I need to stop trying with early mornings. We are just not going to get along. I had a departing colleague’s happy hour to attend after work, and I would much rather run with beer in my stomach than waste an hour and a half of sleep. But it didn’t happen Thursday either… I was slipping….

Friday: 7 easy-pace miles at an average 10:07 pace. Friday, I got back out there. But compounding runs in order to meet your mileage goal is not a good idea. In order to meet my downgraded goal of 41 miles, I needed to run 37 miles in one weekend. What in the world.

20 miles in the pouring rain.
20 miles in the pouring rain.

Saturday: 20 miles at an average 10:23 pace. The night before, I ate a plate of pasta and drank a Yuengling, even though I was weirdly not hungry for it at all. I knew if I didn’t carb-up, I could totally bonk out on my run. That’s the worst feeling ever. I also had to wake up early to run, even though the weather was going to be a much-needed cool mid-60’s run and it wasn’t as necessary to be out the door at dawn, because I had a baby shower to attend in the afternoon. I woke up at 6AM, made coffee and filled a Nalgene, and munched on Pop-Tarts for breakfast. When I checked the weather, however, I noticed it would be raining all day. Raining. All. Day. 100% chance of rain. I thought to myself, Okay, run 10 today and 20 tomorrow. Sunday’s weather, despite a sunny outlook, looked to be very windy. I was down to a choice of running in what I could tolerate the most: rain or wind. I left around 8:30, deciding that I would run up to mile 5 and reassess. If my gas tank was low or the rain was too strong, I could try for 10 later that evening or call it at 10 for the day and try for all 20 on Sunday. When I set out, the rain was already pouring and I was drenched in less than 3 minutes and I was planning to be outside for at least 4 hours. Once I got out there and started running, I noticed a lot of other runners and bikers out on the path, too. That felt reassuring that I wasn’t crazy. The first 5 miles flew by and I was in a good mood. The rain had let off some. I stopped at mile 5 to suck down some Gu, then picked back up again. I’m not a huge fan of stopping when you’re running because it makes my muscles cool down and I lose my stride. But the 20-miler is meant to be a marathon dress rehearsal, so I had to practice my fuel stops. The next 4 miles, I ran easily– the path I chose was a slow gradual uphill, but really I could barely feel the grade. I stopped at the Barnes and Noble Starbucks and bought a packet of fruit punch, used the restroom, then got back out there. I turned around at mile 8.22– a little too soon for an out-and-back 20-miler, but I didn’t feel like venturing any further away from home, even for 1.78 miles. As soon as I turned around, down came the rain. It poured down for about 10-20 minutes, and I was soaked once again. This time, my clothes stuck to me in funny places and I had to keep wiping my face off because sweat would get into my eyes. Not much fun, but I did feel TOTALLY badass. I got back to Georgetown, about 1.5 miles into my run from home, with just under 5 miles left to run. I really hate “buying miles” in runs that are meant to be out-and-back or huge loops. At mile 16, I started to really hate my long run. It’s impossible– and totally irrational– that you can’t say to yourself, I just ran 16 miles– of course I can finish 4 more! because you can’t believe you still have 4 miles left. At this point, I was stopping to rest at least every mile. I couldn’t help it– I knew it wasn’t good race strategy because I usually stop my watch, but the race course timer doesn’t stop. But the 20-miler is a real asshole of a distance to run. And I had no choice but to run it. I thought to myself, Sara, how are going to get through TWO MARATHONS within a WEEK of each other when you can’t even finish 20 miles!?! It was a hard reality, but I had to face it. I feel like this is what I need to focus on if I want to go farther as a marathoner: that point of total exhaustion and zoning out at it. I suppose I’m just not good at that yet. But I did it: my first 20-miler in 3 years. And I felt really proud of that pace, too. Not bad.

Post-rain evening sky
Post-rain evening sky
Kayaking on Sunday is cross-training, right?

Sunday: 4 easy-pace miles at an average 11:05 pace. With 27 miles of my 37-mile weekend down, I knew I had to just accomplish 10 more to meet 41 miles for the week. I started thinking about two things: starting to incorporate some principles of Goofy Challenge training for Dopey Challenge Training since Baltimore and Marine Corps training were nearing an end and I had to start thinking ahead to the next 18 week chunk, and how to recover properly in little time. For recovery after Saturday’s run, I focused on getting as much protein as I feasibly could. I drank a tall glass of 2% milk, ate a Greek yogurt with protein-rich seeds, and ate an entire bag of black cherry pork jerky. I also got 9 hours of sleep. But one thing I did not do well was foam-roll. When I got out there to run my last 10 miles, my legs hurt so bad they felt shattered. They also felt very weak and cramped up a lot. I wanted to get to 5 miles at least, but on the back end of my run, my legs hurt so bad I realized I probably shouldn’t push it if I wanted to get through next week. Besides, I did also walk 3 miles and spent 2 hours kayaking. Hopefully it was something, but I spent about 30 minutes foam-rolling later that evening.

Recap: Okay, so not the best week execution-wise, but I did get a respectable amount of miles and I rocked my 20-miler. I am concerned that I peaked my longest run a little early in training, but looking ahead, I have a gracious 12-miler to recover and the week after that, I plan to take a 21-mile loop. And then taper…..oh gosh….

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