I don’t know if there are any coherent thoughts in this post, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I feel like I need to say SOMETHING before this weekend, and typing random shit is helping me take my mind off of the impending race. I began drafting this in the middle of my peak week of training for the Hartford Marathon because my mileage was at an all time high (for me), and have sporadically come back to this post to add random thoughts until today. There are many moments I don’t want to forget. You know, like the days where I woke up in the morning, stepped out of bed and felt like a truck hit me and know I had a [insert track/tempo/long run here] workout on the schedule and ohmigosh can I even walk at all.
My peak week (you’ve got to be sick of hearing about it by now – I know I am) featured 75 miles of running and a long run of 23 miles. To add insult to injury, I had a wedding and Meet the Teacher night to schedule my workouts around that week. It was ugly. I had resting bitch face the entire week (probably active bitch face too – is that a thing? Maybe I should just say I had bitch face because that’s all inclusive) – not necessarily because of the running. Because god forbid I had train for a marathon and adult in the same week. Many of you regularly log 75 mile weeks like it’s NBD. For me, it’s definitely a big deal and you are all my heroes. If I ever decide to grow up, I want to be like you.
After I ran my final run of that week, I came down with either a cold or some allergies. Thank God and all things holy that it happened at the END of the peak week or I might have lost my shit. Now that I’m over the whole sickness thing, I think it was a cold. Who knows – but I do know that it wasn’t the way I wanted my “restful” taper to begin. Some people hate tapering, which I understand. I am not one of those people. Personally, I love it. It’s like hitting the reset button and I really freaking needed to reset everything this time.
If you looked at my workout post for last week, you’ll see that it says “Week 14”, meaning this is currently week 15. I also had two weeks of recovery after Grandma’s marathon before this whole thing began, so technically I’ve been in training for 17 weeks. Early on, some of the weeks were low volume because I was in marathon recovery mode and I didn’t necessarily “count” them towards my weeks of marathon training. Nevertheless, I don’t know that I’ve ever followed a marathon training plan longer than 12 weeks so when I say that the past 17 weeks feels like a effing eternity, well, it was an effing eternity. Top it off with the scorching temperatures we had in September, and I felt like I was in some sort of a hell dimension.
I’m nervous for the race. I mean, what if I did all of this work over the past 17 weeks and I feel worse? Stranger things have happened. I don’t even mean “what if I don’t run my goal time (whatever that is)” – I really mean that I want to run the race and feel good. Last week, I was feeling extremely tired and that scared me a
lot little. Like whole body tired, and like a fatigue I’ve never felt before. What if I feel like that on race day?
I hope I’m starting to feel the fatigue lift a little bit. When walking down the hallway at work, that the heaviness I’ve been so used to feeling in my legs for the past month has subsided. I’ve noticed my paces on all of my runs are feeling a little more effortless as the week ended last week. I still don’t feel completely rested. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but I have personally never worked as hard as I have over the past 17 weeks. I’ve run high mileage before, but this is the most mileage I’ve ever run and sustained for an extended period of time. Did I do too much? Too little? I’ll find out soon enough.
Now that I’m tapering, I’ve had some time to think about what I’ve done differently this time around versus every other training cycle. I looked back to my pre-coach 2014 training and saw that I ran higher volume with consistent workouts – not always steller paces, but the consistency was certainly there. I was also half-Ironman training at the time, so I had cross training volume. I didn’t do very much strength or stretching. After my spring 2014 season, changed my routine and worked with a coach. From September 2014 through June 2015, I lost a lot of my base because I was logging much less mileage in an attempt to try something new. When I began this cycle, it was clear that I needed to go back to what worked: consistent mileage and a solid base. My issue over the past year was that in my marathons, I was feeling tanked by mile 10. If I want to eventually be able to run a marathon in the neighborhood of my 3:06 PR, I needed to start with more endurance, and I needed to rebuild my base. I hope I was right.
When I began training myself again in June, I had to start from scratch so my mileage was lower, but my paces for short distances were a little faster. I knew that my paces might suffer when I started to hit heavier volume weeks, and I was right. During the weeks where I was below 60 miles, my paces were faster on all of my runs in general and I added a significant amount of cross training and double workouts to my schedule. Once I crested the 60 mile mark, I cut back on cross training because it became a delicate balance of structuring my week so my legs would be recovered for my key run workouts. I found that my paces on my recovery and general aerobic runs began to suffer as the mileage continued to climb. As the cumulative fatigue set in, I could still maintain the McMillan suggested paces but I found myself gravitating towards the slower end of that range.
Regardless of what happens in Hartford and Indianapolis, I want to keep evolving my training. In my next build, I don’t expect to see weeks that go above the volume that I was sustaining for this build. Partially because it’s winter, but also because I want to become more comfortable with the milestones I just hit in this last block. Moving forward, the focus will be on becoming comfortable with my current volume. I want to be able to run the same volume I just sustained and add more speed workouts. Along with the variety in the workouts, I also want to add variety in the terrain. I did a lot of running on rail trails over the summer. Running the rail trails has gotten me much more comfortable with running false flats, which used to kick my ass in races but those will most likely be covered in snow during the winter months. I also need to incorporate more hill specific workouts into my training. There’s a lot I can tweak without adding more volume.
What I liked about this training block: Running more mileage and being back to calling the shots for myself. I could structure my week based on my schedule and how I was feeling so I could get the most benefit from each workout. What I disliked: Hands down, the mid-week long run once I went back to work. I rode the struggle bus hard on each of those, and I really thought those were going to be the end of me.
As for the upcoming marathon, I’m not going to sit here and post a time goal. Everyone knows I want to break three hours eventually, but that is not my goal for Saturday. When I crossed the finish line at Grandma’s in June, I knew I needed to take that off my list until I could get back to where I was in 2014. Personally, I don’t think I’m in sub-3 hour shape – YET. But on the day that I ran a 3:06, I lined up at the start and didn’t think I was in sub 3:10 shape, either. I honestly don’t know what Saturday will bring. I have a rough idea how I want Hartford to play out and the time I’d like to run, but my ultimate goal for Saturday is not a time goal. I haven’t truly enjoyed a marathon and felt good from start to finish since spring of 2014, so my goal is to run smart and enjoy the race experience. I want to line up at the start of the race and feel the way I felt when I ran Sugarloaf or Charlevoix – unstoppable. I’m not asking for the 26.2 miles to be “easy” – no amount of training can make racing a marathon an “easy” task.
Physically, I believe I’ve put in the work to run a strong race. Mentally, I believe I’ve come a long way from where I was last season. All I can do now is rest, carbo load, and say a few prayers that all the stars align this weekend. But most of all, thank you all for following me throughout this entire journey and supporting me along the way! Your posts and comments always helped to keep me motivated and on track. Posting here held me accountable and gave me an outlet to post my concerns and pose questions about training. I felt like I had not one coach, but a whole blog world full of coaches through this whole build. I love our blog community and I’m so thankful to be part of it. GOOD LUCK to everyone that’s racing and running this weekend – I’ll see you on the other side!!
Anyone else racing this weekend?!?! Do you enjoy tapering?