Switching things up a bit this week – mileage/workout post coming your way tomorrow. Started drafting this last Thursday after my tempo run last week, and thought it needed it’s own post.
It is done.
I finished my last tempo run of the Hanson’s plan. I was nervous for this workout because of my smushed big toe and because of how hard Tuesday’s track workout felt. Tuesday’s fatigue likely had a lot to do with the 10 mile race from the previous Saturday. My goal for this tempo was the same as it’s been for the past 17 weeks: warm-up, 10 miles @ marathon pace (7:03), cool-down.
In light of tapering, I did the bare minimum for the warmup and cooldown. Full disclosure: I wanted to do less because I was tired. For the majority of my training (particularly in the later weeks), I’d been doing the maximum: three mile warmups and cooldowns. It seemed unnecessary less than two weeks out from the race to be logging excessively long tempo runs. I’d already done the work: the last month, I’ve logged 15-16 mile mid week tempo runs. Now is the time for less miles, and some final bursts of speed. Doing the bare minimum was still a 13 mile workout, but I felt like I should be toning down the volume at this point rather than kicking it up. Just as I’d done for the past 17 weeks, I headed to the Plainfield trail after work and laced up my sneakers.
The weather was ideal: 50s and overcast with the threat of a little drizzle. I wore shorts and a t-shirt. As usual, the warm-up was uneventful. At 1.5 miles, I picked up the pace and got to work. It felt strange picking up the pace so early in the workout. I wondered how the decreased mileage would change the workout. Would it cause me to start too quickly, resulting in burnout out? Would I have more energy for the workout?
When I worked with a coach last year, he had a saying that stuck with me. Last one, fast one. Whether it was a workout, an interval, or a race – whenever I complete the “last” one of something, I hear that mantra in my head. As I picked up the pace for my final tempo run, it was on my mind: Last one, fast one.
Not only was it the last tempo run (the workout I fear the most), but it was the last run where I had to ask my body to do something out of my comfort zone until the marathon. I knew that I had 17 strong weeks of training behind me. The fate of my race would not be determined by my success or failure on this one tempo run. Growth in this sport isn’t measured by a single workout; one workout doesn’t prepare you for a race. It’s the whole cycle that prepares you for a race. Progress and growth can be measured by looking at the entire training cycle as a whole – the sum of it’s parts.
I know this, but it didn’t matter. I needed to be on point one last time. It needed to leave me feeling unstoppable to end this cycle on a high note. I needed that one last confidence boost – one more runner’s high – before finally changing my focus. I needed to know that even if my toe was screwed up, that I could still do this. Don’t get me wrong – the successful workouts, the races, and the PRs along the way hold a lot of weight, but mentally – I needed this. Last one, fast one.
I nailed it.
My splits were: 6:50, 6:42, 6:46, 6:49, 6:48, 6:39, 6:45, 6:48, 6:45, 6:55 for a 10 mile time of 1:07:47, average pace 6:46. Bonus: I didn’t poop my pants.
Other than my two 10 mile races in this build, this was my fastest solo tempo run yet. I’m not going to tell you it was the easiest, but I did it. When I was hit mile eight of my tempo miles, I didn’t know if I had it. Usually at mile eight, I start smiling because I know I can do anything for two more miles, but this time I was running faster and had 17 weeks of fatigue on my legs. Then this song came on my iPod, and I knew I had it:
Play, rest, repeat, read exactly what is written on the sheet
“Don’t deviate, ” they say
But I will play what’s best for me
I’ll press the keys and pull the strings
Create a symphony that’s mine
This is going to sound super melodramatic (who, me?), but I had tears in my eyes during the last mile. The culmination of this entire process – 17 weeks of increasing volume and some of the scariest workouts I’ve ever attempted – was complete. It’s not like I’ve never trained hard for a marathon before. I’ve trained for races and made many comebacks – from injuries, running hiatuses, etc. Something about this was different. My whole perspective and attitude over the past 17 weeks has shifted, and it all came down to this one workout.
Since I was already teary eyed and looking like a huge dork, I went with it. I paused my Garmin right before the cooldown. I was alone on the trail, so knelt down and said a prayer. I was feeling a
lot little sappy and I’ve been praying for 17 weeks that I would be capable of seeing this through. I felt it was only fair that I express some gratitude that in light of everything – the winter months, being sick and injured through the months of November/December, my recent toe trauma – that I saw it through. It is truly time to rest. This will be the shortest taper I’ve ever done, but it’s what the plan calls for. I can’t predict what will happen in Boston. I’ve put in the miles and the paces, and changed a lot about my lifestyle. I’m more proud of the effort I’ve put forth for this cycle than anything I’ve ever done before.
Prior to reading about other blogger’s experiences with Hansons, I was always under the impression that this was the “slacker” plan. Complete misconception. This training plan has been extremely enjoyable, but it hasn’t been easy by any means. It’s turned my world upside down for 18 weeks. I haven’t allowed myself much slack on diet and sleep. I know in order to have the energy to sustain the track and tempo runs, I need to eat well and sleep a LOT. I’ve been diligent about strength work, MYRTLs, hips and core. I’ve done 15 minutes each day since the beginning of February and haven’t skipped once. I think the concern for potential injury using this plan is valid, so it was important to be on top of all controllable variables.
Hansons stresses sticking to the plan as closely as possible, and I took this into consideration when I began training. For the most part, I did all of the workouts as scheduled: track workouts on Tuesdays and tempos on Thursdays. Other than a few weeks where life and races interfered and caused me to move workouts around, it always went down that way. I kept my Wednesday rest day sacred, even when I would wake up every Monday and think, “eh, I could just do this run on Wednesday.” Although my regular running crew runs long on Saturdays, I did a Sunday long run. The timing of the runs made a difference in how my legs felt, and if I did what the plan recommended I had a much easier time nailing the distance and the paces.
Once I’d followed others through the Hansons process and read the book myself, I was hesitant. The weekly tempo run lasted and increased in distance for almost the entire duration of the plan, and it scared me. Tempo runs have always been a difficult workout for me to do by myself. An 18 week plan with 16 weeks of scary tempo runs was really hard for me to get behind. As I began this process, my fears were confirmed. My first few tempo runs were not on pace. They felt horrendous, and I couldn’t imagine running 10 miles at marathon pace back in week 4 when I was huffing and puffing at a 7:24 pace for six tempo miles.
But it’s funny. In life, the things that scare me the most always end up being the things that bring me the most joy. I almost re-evaluated my goal pace but then it started to click. This plan and those scary workouts have gone from something I’ve feared to something I love, enjoy, and appreciate. I still have a healthy respect for the tempo run and would not approach one lightly, but I truly enjoy it. I can proudly say that I ran a 10 mile PR at a 6:33/mile pace, and did my own solo tempo run at 6:46/mile pace.
My grandmother used to have a saying: Nothing is hard when you know how to do it. In a sense, it totally applies here. These runs used to seem like an impossible task. They are still hard, but knowing how to do it and how to approach the task makes it less daunting. I don’t know if I can hold my goal pace (which is actually 7:03/mile) for 26.2 miles in Boston, but I certainly feel more prepared than I have ever been in the past to try because I know how to do it.
Photo cred goes to Shawna for this one! Perfect timing!
One week from today, I will be toeing the line for the sixth time in Hopkintion. I am a stronger, more confident runner. I don’t know if I will ever run a marathon PR (sub-3:06) again. I think I can, and I hope I do, but there are only so many variables you can control come race day. I can say with absolute certainty that this plan has prepared me better than anything I’ve ever done before, and has made me feel better running than I’ve ever felt. I don’t have to run the race to tell you that I’ve already won.