Although this training cycle wasn’t traditional – a tad short, interrupted by an injury and included only two uninterrupted long runs over 16 miles, I feel good about it. My ankle seems to be on the final stretch of recovery (it does not hurt but there is a tiny bit of swelling remaining which I am still icing/wrapping/massaging) and I’ve had some solid training weeks. Even during the weeks I was sidelined from traditional marathon training I was able to get in some quality workouts on the bike and in the pool which helped maintain (and according to Maria, even boost, my fitness!).
Sometimes little thoughts poke into my head reminding me that I never ran 20 miles (today 19.5), I didn’t have any training weeks even close to 40 miles, let alone the 50 I have done in the past, and that I spent the majority of my training plodding along at in the high 9/low 10 min/miles. I try to banish these thoughts and immediately replace them with things like:
- I never had such an amazing coach before.
- Last marathon training cycle, I never got on the bike and now I get that bonus endurance session without the impact of pounding on my body twice a week.
- For my last two marathons I did not maintain a solid core/strength workout routine though training and now I can maintain a 5 minute plank (I did it!) and I go to Pilates twice a week.
- I have the mitochondria army thing going for me (heart rate training).
- I’ve never consistently done so much hill work before (and the race is a net decline!).
- I have been practicing my nutrition and have added more calories pre-race to ensure I get the fuel I need.
- Those things I did before – they didn’t get me a BQ – so why repeat what didn’t work!?
Today’s long run was rough – there were definitely highs and lows over the past week of training. Last Saturday I had an EXCELLENT long run. I ran 17.5 miles, 10 of which were with a good friend and the miles flew by. It was my first long run post ankle injury (the previous week I ran 90 min plus 1 hour elliptical) and I felt great. I was by far my fastest Zone 2 long run and I felt amazing at the end – it literally barely wiped me out. I felt strong!
After a rest day Monday, Tuesday continued to be a great training day. I had a good Pilates session in the morning and then did a 45 minute run at lunch on the trails near my office. It felt effortless to maintain a 9:20 pace in Zone 2 and I felt great! Tuesday night Mike and I celebrated 4 years since our first date by going back to Turquoise Bar, a Spanish tapas and wine restaurant where we first laid eyes on each other. It was a great night!
Wednesday’s run was probably one of the hardest workouts of my life, excluding races. Maria put me through a torture chamber treadmill hill “repeat” workout which to me, didn’t involve repeats since there was no rest (1/4 mile increments at a 7:50 min/mile moving from 3% to 6% to 9% grade on the treadmill and back down). By the last 9% grade interval, my heart rate got up to 193 (that’s pretty close to my max). It was a killer and my whole body was exhausted. And it was supposed to be, according to Maria. I finished it up with the partial squats Maria has me to do after all long and hard runs (elevate heels and squat as many times as possible to failure – it targets the quads, making them ready for the net decline at Phoenix) and an ab workout. I had a moment of weakness in my workout where I gave up for a minute and slowed way down, but I got back up and made up for the time I had lost. It was a hard workout and I did conquer it.
Thursday morning’s 6 a.m. Pilates class was a slogfest for me. I was exhausted from the prior night’s workout and of course class happened to be very leg and glute focused! I got through it and went to work for a 10 hour workday. I almost skipped my easy spin that night on the trainer since I got home late, but I convinced myself to spin my legs out for at least 10 minutes and ended up completing the full 45 minute workout and feeling way better. Friday morning, I had a 60 minute run with a 15 minute tempo finish and it wasn’t pretty. My energy was low, my legs were heavy and those 15 minutes were no where near my tempo (or even goal race) pace. I knew I needed rest!
Luckily I was able to sleep 11 hours Friday night and felt good for my 60 minute spin on Saturday plus ab workout (I did p90X Ab Ripper and it felt EASY! This is how I know my core is ready to keep me going for 26.2 miles in Phoenix). I took it easy Saturday and practiced my pre-race nutrition, treating Sunday’s training run as a trial run for the race. Mike did a local half marathon so I woke up with him and went to the start (luckily it was an 8 a.m. start) and warmed up, used the portopotties – basically acted like I was doing a race too! I wore my race outfit but swapped out my Oiselle team singlet for my new Oiselle burnout tank (love it!).
I left on my own and ran the very hilly 19.5 mile route I had mapped for myself, running up and practically over Torrey Pines before turning around and heading back to Encinitas. I practice my race nutrition and tried not to focus on pace too much. My legs were heavy from the week behind me and after the pounding they endured climbing up Torrey and then running fast down it , they were toasty. This was a great run for mental toughness for me. I rarely run this long alone – 3 hours in your own head is a long time. Not to mention, the achy legs and side stich that followed me from miles 12-16. Maria had instructed me to pick it up to goal race pace for the final 15 minutes and based on the way I was feeling leading up to that point, I wasn’t sure it would happen. But, I decided to at least try.
Ironically, I felt SO much better running faster. The pace I’d been holding was putting my legs in one motion and the faster pace put them in another. My heart rate was just fine cruising at goal pace and my legs actually felt quite fresh. I ran home fast and felt good – the terrible feelings I’d had just a few miles back were forgotten and replaced with strength. I reminded myself that this can happen and WILL happen in the race- there will be moments of doubt, moments of weakness. When those moments come up, I’ll remember how I finished strong at the Holiday Half and during today’s run. That realization during my run today was probably more valuable than the 19.5 miles or the nearly 2,000 feet of climbing and ascending I did.
So now we taper! Maria still has few hard workouts left in her bag of tricks (mile repeats Wednesday, tempo long run Sunday) but the hardest work is behind me. It’s time to treat my body well and have confidence in the training. Then we can let the mitochondria out for a victory lap.
Do you try to simulate race day with a practice long run? Do you practice your nutrition as you will on race day before and during long runs or switch it up at all?