Week Fifteen/Fourteen: Baltimore and Marine Corps Marathon Training

WE DID IT!!!
WE DID IT!!!

Fundraising Update: I’m at 100% of my goal with $600.20 raised for Team TAPS!  Last week, at this time, I was at $330 and 55% of my goal. I cannot believe how much that increased in just a week! Thank you to my very generous donors. I can’t believe I met my goal, and all it took was a simple ask for help. THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart.

It’s Peak Week. Week Fifteen. After this week, I have three weeks of tapering before the big day. My strategy for getting through Peak Week is this: Get through one run at a time; don’t think about tomorrow’s run. Get as much rest as I possibly can. Eat foods to recover. No ditching runs— if I have to wake up super early to get one in, I will get up super early to get my run in. No backing down when I am on the trails– if I am tired, I will power through. I will not let my problems off the trail interfere with my runs. I will foam roll and plank and foam roll some more to keep my achy leg issues at bay. I will not let my past successes scare me out of creating new successes. There will be no doubt in my mind that I am strong and that I have prepared well enough to do what I have set out to do. And I will treat my last long run of the training season as my dress rehearsal for the race. Overall, I will rise above and be amazing.

My Planned Training Schedule: September 21 – 27

  • Monday: 5 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Tuesday: 10 medium effort miles (Goal Pace: 9:07 – 9:35)
  • Wednesday: 5 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 22 long run miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Sunday: 10 easy miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Total Weekly Mileage: 50 miles

So, I know marathoners run up to 22 or 23 miles for marathon training, and I have personally never done this before. I would like to try for 22 miles as my longest training run, but I won’t hold it against myself if I am not able to run that far. 20 miles is perfectly sufficient for marathon-training, and it’s a respectable distance. Also, my format of running 5’s and 10’s this week will be helpful in terms of chunking down what I need to do to accomplish my goal. Two days of rest before my long run will help me mimic the lead-up to both races.

In addition, my 10-miler on Sunday is only going to happen because, as of this week, I am officially on Week Three of 2016 Dopey Challenge training. While I have *no* question that I can finish that race, having back-to-back runs that mimic the Goofy Challenge’s half-marathon on Saturday, full marathon on Sunday was very helpful to me as I trained back in 2012. After the Baltimore and Marine Corps Marathons, I will have two months of training for the Dopey Challenge ahead of me and I’ll move my long runs to Sundays with the half distance on Saturdays. Time to start looking ahead. Can’t believe it.

Here we go…….

My Actual Training Plan

Soaked from running in the rain.
Soaked from running in the rain.

Monday: 5 easy pace miles at an average 10:14 pace. Let me tell you, it was really easy to want to skip Monday’s run and move it to Thursday instead. It’s almost fall, so the last of the sun disappears around 7PM and, with the typical shit-showery that is the DC Metro system, I didn’t get home until almost 6:30. It was also raining and was expected to rain through the night. So that meant I had to get out there and run in the rain and the dark. Running in either condition is fine with me, but at the same time feels dangerous. The potential to slip on mud and leaves was real and the trails are empty with the exception of a few bike commuters. But I had a job to do, and mimicking the conditions I will face on race day was important to me. I just had to do it. And when I got out there, wearing a hat to keep rain off my face and long sleeves because it felt cool outside, my legs were in so much pain that it took my mind of running in the rain. I am so frustrated that my legs hurt this way, but foam-rolling and continuing to do planks and hip strengtheners is all I can do short of going to the physical therapist’s office for more dry-needling like I needed when I was training for Chicago. I finished the run with some stretches, totally soaked, glad the run was done because I was annoyed with it. 45 miles to go!

Tuesday: 10 medium-effort miles at an average 9:08 pace. Truth be told, I didn’t plan to run 10 miles today. I bumped up the mileage from 9 to 10 because I realize that I haven’t run many pace or tempo runs near my goal race pace that are high in mileage. I wanted one true medium distance run near my goal race pace before the marathon. When I started out, my legs were still achy despite foam-rolling, icing, and compressing the night before, getting 9 hours of sleep, and doing 10 minutes of yoga in my office to loosen up my tight hips. Running far and fast on tight legs is super tough. I thought about stopping a few times, thinking that my long-term health in light of two big races coming up was more important than this one run. I told myself to slow down and “just” get 10 miles in today. I admit that I usually take the out when I give myself the out, but this time, I did not take the out. I buckled down, zoned out, and just ran whatever I could. Somewhere in my subconscious, I decided that I would do this run. I would run 10 medium-effort miles at a medium-effort pace. I didn’t even “want” it; I just needed to do it. Interestingly, my legs loosened up in the last little bit of the run where I was on Constitution Avenue in front of the White House. I think I knew I was about to get this tough job done, and then I did. And my legs didn’t feel so stiff and heavy. For the first time, I wondered if I actually really could run a 4:00 marathon.

Wednesday: 1 easy-pace mile at an average 10:56 pace. Just when you scale Cloud 9, you get a major dose of humility in running. After a blazing-amazing 10-miler the night before, I knew that all I had between me and two days of blessed rest was 5 easy-pace miles. I really needed both days to rest up, not only because my leg was giving me hell again, but because I needed to prepare mentally for the feat of running 20 miles. My last 20-miler, I stopped so many times before the finish because my mind and body were just sapped. I couldn’t let that happen this time because I can’t let it happen in the marathon. I cannot let myself quit even if I haven’t stopped moving. So, I got out on the trails to run 5 miles and, lo and behold, my leg hurt so much that it felt like I was limping as I ran. It cramped up and sent shock waves up my leg into my glute. It messed up my breathing and caused me to panic as I ran with paces in the mid-11:00 range. What on earth!?!? Plus– and this is so vain– I was wearing a running top that I bought only this past spring and realized that it had crept up over my huge parachute running shorts and was showing my midriff. It was too small, and I felt enormous and gross and like that dorky 7th grader in gym class that I used to be as I ran. I couldn’t handle that. So, I turned around at the half-mile point and ran home to change my shirt. I know. I know. There’s something to be said about not buying workout clothes from Target. But as my muscles cooled down, my leg hurt even worse. I felt like I couldn’t push it. I don’t know what is going on with the leg, but it seems to have gotten worse in the past couple of days. I stayed in and iced it, did some farmers walks, and foam-rolled. I don’t think this is a sign of an injury, but it’s the sign of something.

Last sunset of summer happened this week.
Last sunset of summer happened this week.

Thursday: Rest day. I felt kind of conflicted about trying for the last 4 miles I didn’t run on Wednesday. I thought about what would happen if I didn’t run those 4 miles– I would end up with 46 miles for the week. I wondered if perhaps a push from 40 to 50 miles was too much. I wasn’t following the 101 of marathon training: increasing mileage each week by no more than 10% to avoid injury. By that rule, I should only peak at 44 miles and not 50. My leg wasn’t feeling much better, and I was nervous that a 4-miler would somehow make it worse. I needed that 20-miler more. So I took a rest day and did some yoga, more foam-rolling, and some squats and hip extensions.

Friday: Rest day. There was no doubt in my mind that today would be a rest day, but I did also figure one thing out: my leg injury was actually coming from what I suspect is a bruised foot bone from tying my shoes too tight. That’s a first for me, but I realized also that I’d spent a good part of summer training wearing thin socks when I was more accustomed to thick socks. I iced my foot bone, rolled a tennis ball under my plantar fascia (which felt tight from wearing high heels at work) and foam-rolled a lot later that evening. Carbing up that day was a weird sort of challenge: I ate an entire Hawaiian pizza for lunch and then had 3 dinner plate sized waffles, and I still didn’t feel like I had gotten enough fuel. When carbing up for a marathon, I usually start about 3-4 days out. More on that later…I went to bed around 11PM, not totally sure when I would be up and out. The Saturday morning forecast put temps in the 60’s to mid-70’s at highest with a fleeting chance of rain and winds between 10 and 15 (yuck). This gave me the luxury of being able to sleep in, even though I didn’t want to go out too late. Ahhhh, the perks of fall running.

Saturday: 20 miles at an average 10:09 pace. The morning of my run, I woke up around 7:15AM which was a little later than I wanted to be awake but thankfully not terribly late. I usually plan about 2 hours to get coffee, get hydrated, and get breakfast before a super long run which is also about the same schedule as race day. As I walked briskly to the trails as a warm-up, I kind of felt dazed to the concept of running 20 miles. People ask me all the time how I get through it (as in, how on earth could you do that to yourself!?!) and I guess I just tell them that once you realize it’s very hard, that it will hurt, and that you want to do it anyways, your expectations adjust accordingly. Plus a killer playlist helps! As I started running, I knew my foot bone issue wouldn’t keep me from running (thank God), but I did also notice that every time I stepped with my left foot, I got that funny tingly painful just-twisted-an-ankle sensation on the outer edges of my left foot. That was really alarming. I didn’t feel like I was about to twist my ankle, but it sure scared me half to death. I had to stop and adjust my shoes. I took the Capital Crescent Trail up past Bethesda and almost into Rock Creek Park where I turned around at mile 10. The whole way up is a pretty big ascent, so part of the appeal of taking that route is for the luscious downhill which usually always results in miles of negative splits. Perhaps it’s deceptive to clock a 3:23:50 20-miler on about 8 miles of slope, but I need the confidence boost and the hill-training. For this run, I really wanted to end on a positive note and not having stopped at mile 19.5 begging to stop now. The last mile, I realized I was coming in close to a 3:23 and I wanted to beat my time from the previous week. So, I stepped it up to a sprint in the last mile, desperately trying to keep my time under 3:23. I finished with 10 seconds to spare only to realize that my last 20-miler had been a 3:27 and I actually had run about 4 minutes faster. Whoops! How did I celebrate? A coffee and Oreo milkshake. Oh yeah. The last hardest run of peak training was over, and I did it.

I'm going to earn this medal all over again.
I’m going to earn this medal all over again.

Sunday: 10 easy-pace miles at an average 10:45 pace. It’s probably a stupid thing to do to run 10 miles the day after running 20 miles, but if I had listened to that logic, I may not have finished the 2013 Goofy Challenge. It might be Week 15 and Week 14 of Baltimore and Marine Corps Marathon training, but it was also Week 3 of Dopey Challenge training and I had to start incorporating back-to-backs that mimicked the 4 days of increased mileage. So, 10 miles on Sunday it was. When I started out, I was kind of in a bad place personally. It was just a bad day– they happen. I didn’t get going until almost 4PM, but I knew I had to get this one run done so I could end the week on 46 miles. My legs felt heavy and fatigued from the previous day’s run, but I purposely kept the pace low so I could get the endurance without risking injury. With the exception of the huge hill at the end, the run was uneventful and quiet. Just a quiet run. When it ended, I felt a sort of disbelief that I’d actually just run my last hard run of the 15 weeks of pre-taper training. Nearly 4 months had gone by since I started training, and it sure flew.

Recap: I know it’s silly to look at a 46-mile week and be annoyed that I missed 4 measly miles, but I am annoyed. That was the only blemish on a week in which I nailed my mileage goals on every other run. I’m totally proud of Tuesday’s 10-miler– that pace though!– and getting through my 20-miler without going to “the dark side” in the last few miles. I’m annoyed that my foot and leg had to throw a temper tantrum right in the middle of the week, but thankfully it’s not the kind of injury that can’t be managed. I’m going to try not to recap my entire training experience here and now because I’m facing a taper period in which I will call that into question ten times over. Am I feeling confident that I can do this? I’m obviously feeling ready to take on one marathon, but two? Within a week? I can’t lie that I’m nervous. But this is also why I started building up a good base this year with half-marathon training: I wanted to be ready for a tough fall running season. I know the mind is capable of many things, and I am sure that if I take each marathon separately and lose all expectations for myself and the race, that I will do this. But for now, it’s time to taper and get ready for battle.

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