Week Sixteen/Fifteen: Baltimore and Marine Corps Marathon Training

Did Hurricane Joaquin cancel your race this weekend? Sign up for the Annapolis Running Classic! Get 10% off with this code: SABREF15
Did Hurricane Joaquin cancel your race this weekend? Sign up for the Annapolis Running Classic! Get 10% off with this code: SABREF15

Fundraising Update: I’m at 100% of my goal with $600.20 raised for Team TAPS!  Thank you to my very generous donors. You can still make a donation to help the families of our fallen heroes through TAPS’ programs for grief counseling.

Ahhhhh, hello taper week. I know a lot of runners get freaked out by the “T” word, but I don’t. I love tapering time. Perhaps its the subconscious realization that I may never be an ultra-marathoner because running super long distances is, for me, very hard and borderline un-enjoyable, or perhaps it’s more that I know I need to rest and recover and allow myself the rejuvenation that comes with 3 weeks of fewer intense runs and less mileage and getting psyched for a big event that you’ve been preparing for. Think about it– not many big important events in life have a taper time. I certainly never see brides at their calmest the three weeks before their wedding. High schools and universities don’t schedule finals week three weeks before graduation. Marathons practically require tapering, so it’s definitely the best part of training for 26.2 miles. Some runners freak out and get cranky; I don’t.

That said, taper time is also not the best time to do certain things. The very word “taper” means to reduce, so that means I’ll be reducing my mileage and the intensity of my miles for three weeks before the race so my body can repair but still maintain my training. My strategy, considering I have two marathons, is to drop back under 40 miles so I am still getting a decent chunk but to space my runs out into smaller mileage runs so it feels like less and cut back on intensity. The only run I anticipate being super hard will be my Thursday pace run. My goal is to find the happy medium between challenging yet engaging. I will purposely be running every run this week with the goal to hit the lower end of my goal pace range.

My Planned Training Schedule: September 28 – October 4

Me on Day One of Taper Week Photo Credit: https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT8BXCOPQA1OuQlGA1SwrZARj19IPVhv3zCTDNSWLBpbwU8be2p
Me on Day One of Taper Week Photo Credit: ClubRunThrough.com
  • Monday: 5 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Tuesday: 7 medium effort miles (Goal Pace: 9:07 – 9:35)
  • Wednesday: 4 easy pace miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Thursday: 5 race pace miles (Goal Pace: 9:06)
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: 12 long run miles (Goal Pace: 9:36 – 10:36)
  • Sunday: 6 easy miles (Goal Pace: 10:37 – 11:00)
  • Total Weekly Mileage: 39 miles

My Actual Training Plan:

Monday: Rest day. I hesitated to take a rest day on Monday, but after a 30-mile weekend, I decided that it was just plain necessary.

Tuesday: Rest day. One lesson I may never learn about running is to run when you can because something always comes up. Always. Monday’s rest day was taken because, frankly, I just decided, “Hey, I’m gonna take a rest day today!” No other reason than I had just come off of a 30-mile weekend and I felt like taking a rest day. Maybe it was the right call in and of itself, but I also knew that I had a massage appointment on Tuesday and that perhaps– perhaps– the likelihood that I would prefer to take a rest day depending on how I responded physiologically to the massage would mean that I should get my run done on Monday so I could fully enjoy the benefits of a massage in addition to rest. The massage went fine– the therapist identified some areas where my leg muscles were all keyed up and knotted behind my knees and in my hamstrings, in addition to some areas where I was lacking stability and some imbalances had occurred. I admit, I was ready for something other than running so I could focus more attention on finally building up my strength. I suppose I didn’t want to “reverse” all the good work that had just been done with a 7-miler, so I took another day off. No, I don’t know when I am going to learn!

Wednesday: 6 medium-effort miles at an average 9:32 pace. When I say “medium effort miles,” I’m not totally sure that’s what actually happened. I know I said that my goal for medium effort runs this week would be to shoot for the lower end of my pace range, but I think I did that without really trying. My legs felt incredibly heavy and I felt like I hadn’t run in a week. I don’t know if it’s because two days off plus a massage really contributed to an added layer of tiredness or because I had some weird buildup from after my massage that I didn’t flush out (is that a thing??), but running felt labored. My paces were pretty decent: a trifecta of reaching goals with a true progression tempo run for the first 5 miles and all within goal pace range for medium effort runs on the lower end. But it felt hard. I couldn’t push on for a 7th mile. It’s not enough to concern me in the grand scheme, but it was nonetheless weird.

Thursday: Rest day. Thursday evening, I had a mental WTF come over me. Thursday was rainy, windy, and cold. I don’t know why I couldn’t psyche myself up to get out there and run 4 stupid miles, but I couldn’t. I know I’m not the only one who feels like summer dropped off the face of the earth just as soon as it turned fall, but I’m just not ready to run in the dark and in the elements yet. I know, it was four stupid miles. But I was freaked out. And no– the treadmill is not an option for me.

Friday: 3.75 easy miles at an average 10:54 pace; 2.5 miles at an average 9:13 pace. After three unplanned rest days this week, not running on Friday was simply not an option for me. However, there was a Nor’easter churning up the East Coast and it was spitting rain and cold all over us again. I got all dressed up and ready to take on the elements, and then I once again chickened out– there could be creepies, I could get sick, what if a tree fell on me? Instead, I begrudgingly went upstairs to my apartment’s gym and the dreaded treadmill. Here’s why I hate the treadmill: you are literally one step away from quitting at all times. Unlike trail running, where you have to either walk back or spend a nominal amount on being transported home via cab or Metro if you decide to quit, treadmill running is a torture mechanism because you can literally be done any second of your run. I’m not even interested in the chance to train mentally with your freedom within a finger’s length away– I cannot stand feeling like a hamster on a wheel. But I was too chicken to go outside in the night time elements (and also I was nervous for falling trees, which is not an uncommon occurrence when there’s a lot of rain here), so I had to just suck it up and get it done. It was torture, the whole time. I can’t even begin to describe how awful it is to look up from your Kindle and you’ve “only” gone part of a mile and you’ve literally gone nowhere geographically-speaking. I couldn’t stand it anymore– I got 3.75 miles and jumped off. I was so done. I didn’t care if it meant lower mileage for the week; I was out of there. But when I did the math, I realized I really only had about 2.25 miles left to go and I’d be at 6 miles for the day. Instead of lacing up and going back upstairs, I threw on a jacket and my Garmin and went out into the elements. And I have seriously no idea why I was so afraid– there was no rain, the wind had stopped, and it was warm enough to run comfortably. I tore down the Custis Trail, starting the mile in the low 6:00 range and ending the first mile across the Key Bridge at 8:01 average pace. I turned around at the Francis Scott Key Park and ran the 1.5 miles back up to my neighborhood. I felt badass and hardcore and also high on life with the bright lights of the bridge and Rosslyn ahead of me. I decided, unless there was a serious weather event that last over 24 hours, I would not ever forgo running outside in preference for the treadmill.

Me by Saturday. Photo Credit: MarciasHealthySlice.com
Me by Saturday. Photo Credit: MarciasHealthySlice.com

Saturday: 8 easy pace miles at an average 10:39 pace. I don’t know what it is about taper. Seriously. I spent all day Saturday feeling restless, itching to go for a crazy fast run, pent up with energy from not being able to run as much as I had been all through training. Usually, I need so much rest that I am a lazy slob for three weeks prior to the marathon. But this time, I was literally walking around my apartment throwing air punches for most of Saturday. And I was insanely achy all over. I also kept putting off my run. The day was cold, bleak, misty, and windy. We were still going through a Nor’easter…or it was just being October. I needed the day to rest, though, so that was nice. When I got outside, I had on a Nike element half-zip that I kept zipped up, thumbs in hole the entire time I was out. I took a slow pace on purpose, partially because I had a 12-miler the next day and partially because I was in taper mode, which to me means ‘do the work but cut your mileage and intensity.’ I probably could have easily barreled through that run, but I took it slow on purpose. When I was done, I realized something: running slow is hard work. Like, really hard work. My legs were beat. And it wasn’t because I ended my run going up the hill to Iwo Jima either…

Sunday: 12 miles at an average 10:12 pace. So, I know I said I was experiencing the taper crazies from not getting as much running done this week, but by Sunday, taper crazy went from bored and restless to crabby and irritated. I did not want to run today.  Even if I told myself I could take a slow pace so as not to burn out (usually that psychology works for me) and even if I told myself it was the last double-digit run of marathon-training (say what!?!?) I just did not feel like getting out there. At least not that morning; maybe in the evening, things would have been better. But I had plans that evening, so that left me no choice but to get it done when I had the time. Sunday’s weather was worse than Friday and Saturday. I stepped outside wearing a V-neck Under Armor shirt and arm warmers for a 57-degree day but went immediately back indoors to change when a cold wind cut me in the neck and I froze instantly. I threw another Nike Element half-zip and went back out. It didn’t do much better with the exception that my neck wasn’t exposed. I never did figure out if I would have been better or worse off wearing the shirt and arm warmers: I felt overdressed and underdressed at multiple points during my run up the Capital Crescent Trail. At mile 7, I ran into a massive tree that had fallen right across the path and I knew my fears of running on tree-lined paths after a weekend Nor’easter were founded. The whole way up and back, I was bored of running. My heart wasn’t in it and I felt like I didn’t care. My only saving grace for this run was knowing that it was the final double-digit run of this training period. And the fact that I was pretty far from home, leaving me no choice but to get it done. Sometimes bad runs happen. I was just glad it happened on my 12-miler and not my 20-miler. I need a break from long runs for the next 2 weeks.

Recap: I think I learned from this first week of taper what it truly means to go crazy. I learned that your body is going through withdrawal from the constant endorphin highs and adrenaline rushes and the achiness is your body healing. Maybe the first stage of taper is withdrawal. What will next week be? I’m guessing doubt. As far as my mileage goal, I missed it by 7 miles. I felt like that didn’t have to happen, but it’s not a crisis either. It’s often agreed that it’s better to get to the start line undercooked than overcooked. I still met my critical runs– the long run, a medium effort run, and a medium distance run. As well, I ran two miles at race pace. I can only see good things.

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