Since becoming an endurance athlete, one phrase I have heard quite a bit has been “The hay is in the barn.” Its always used as someone approaches a big race and it’s a gentle reminder that the work has been done and there is nothing you can do but relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor until race day.
After last Sunday’s confidence boosting 18 miler which capped off an incredible training week and an even better training month, I was flying high. I was confident that my goal was mine for the taking. However, in the past week, the taper monster has taken over my body and more dramatically, my brain, and it hasn’t been pretty at times. I’ve never trained so hard for a marathon before and I guess it would follow that the taper would suck more than ever. Luckily, CIM falls the week after Thanksgiving this year which means that I’ve had 4 1/2 days off to get extra sleep and try to battle the cement monsters lurking in my legs that make running feel like a death march through quicksand.
During my particularly awful 10 mile run this morning (which was supposed to be 13 but given my extremely slow pace, I figured it would be wise to shorten it so I wasn’t running for over 2 hours), I let my brain go into some bad directions. I even drafted a blog post called the Taper Monster which would lament how awful the taper is.
But then I realized that writing a negative post about how awful the taper is won’t get me anywhere. Instead of that, I’m going to write a post about all the reasons why I’m ready for this race, and specifically why I’m ready to finally get my BQ. No need to dwell on the negative, especially when the negative is just a necessary (yet evil) consequence of all the hard training I’ve put in. Come race day, a slow 10 mile run a week before the race won’t matter. It’s what I did in the last 20 weeks that will.
So here it is – all the hay in my barn, out in the open for everyone to see:
- 1 solid year of endurance training. I started training for the Phoenix Marathon in November of last year. Although I was sidelined by an ankle sprain in early January, I still trained hard for that race, averaging 7-10 hours a week of running and cross training. After the race, I gave myself a few weeks to recover and then began training hard for RnR SD using the same book/training model that I’ve been using for CIM. After that race I took a little time away from running to focus more on triathlon and P90X3 during the summer and then started building mileage beginning in August for CIM. I think the cumulation of all that endurance is going to prove beneficial come race day.
- PRs and Podiums. The best PR was my 1:40:03 half marathon at SD RnR because I trained specifically for this race with that goal in mind. Although I don’t race 5ks often and have never actually trained specifically for one, I PRed in the 5k twice – once during RnR SD training where I took first place (at a very small race but it’s a win!) and again during peak CIM training just weeks ago at the Fit Foodie 5k. I placed 2nd female overall at my first 10k trail race in September as well, pushing myself to my limits on a very hard course with a unyielding ascent to the finish line.
- 21 Weeks of Dedicated Marathon Training With No Key Workouts Missed. Since I create my own plan and modify it week to week, it’s hard to really say I didn’t miss any workouts since no one was telling me what to do. But in the sense that I never woke up the morning of a tempo run and slept in instead, or that I let a weekend away for a wedding cause me to miss my long run, my training was near perfect. I did skip a few easy runs here and there or modified a workout in some way, but those were times that I was listening to my body which was telling me it needed more rest.
- 217 Miles in November. I ran more miles in November than any month prior, averaging 7.2 miles a day. I ran 50+ miles four weeks in a row beginning in mid-October through the start of the taper. In the past, I’ve never run more than 5 days a week and during this training cycle, I would run 6. Running 10 miles before work became easy. I looked forward to tempo runs and would set goals and look forward to pushing myself to achieve them. I rarely felt overwhelmed by the training or the miles – instead I embraced them and enjoyed the ride, from the exhausting moments to the runner’s high.
- Core Strength & Cross Training. During this training cycle I was able to get in 2 reformer Pilates sessions nearly every week and at times, yoga as well. I wasn’t perfect and some weeks there was less and some there was more, but I know that keeping up my strength training is one of the reasons I didn’t get injured despite all the high mileage weeks. I also know that the core strength I have maintained will help me run a stronger marathon.
- Practice With Race Nutrition. I didn’t change much in terms of my race nutrition this training cycle, but I did practice it quite a bit, eating my pre-race dinner, pre-race breakfast and fueling on long runs just as I will in the race. I put an alert on my Garmin to remind me to eat every 35 minutes (I’ve been known to forget to take a Gu during a race when I’m in the zone) and I left it on for the entire training cycle. Hopefully that beep is ingrained in my head and I won’t forget it!
- 4 Very Successful Marathon Pace Long Runs. During this training cycle I’ve done a long run on the weekend 15 miles or longer during 11 out of the 20 weeks, starting with my first 15 miler at Bird Camp in August. My first marathon pace long run was back at the end of August, when I ran 12 miles with 10 miles at MGP + 10-20 seconds. Back then, this run felt really hard (especially due to the heat). My average pace for the 10 mile portion was 8:26. Beginning in mid-October, every other week was a hard long run which contained longer and longer portions close to goal pace, starting with 18 miles with 14 @ MGP +10-20 seconds and ending with 18 miles with all 18 at MGP + 10-20 seconds. I nailed all three of these workouts, exceeding my expectations and ultimately deciding my marathon goal pace was now an 8 minute/mile.
- Confidence. My training was very different this time than it was for the last two marathons, but one difference is the most important and that is my confidence. Leading up to Phoenix, I was so worried. I felt like I was already rushing into another BQ attempt due to the fact that I had to move my goal race up from May to early March because of a conflict and then after spraining my ankle and missing several weeks of key workouts, my confidence really plummeted. I tried my best to use visualization and positive thinking to tell myself that I could achieve my goal, but I’m not sure I ever believed it. I felt ill-prepared. This training cycle has been completely different – I feel ready. I am confident in my training and instead of forcing myself to imagine myself achieving my goal like I did before Phoenix, the thoughts of achieving it come naturally.
So there it is. I can’t say that my training didn’t prepare me for a successful race at CIM because it did. I’m ready to race and there are no excuses. It’s time to fly.
What do you think is the most important aspect of preparing for a race? Do you have a good story about feeling crappy during the taper and achieving your goal?