Marathon Training Week #15 – Climbing one last mountain before the taper
Oy! What a week this has been. I’ve certainly been keeping myself busy, not just with a new position at work (and getting settled into that…which hasn’t been too difficult, but I had to move my desk and get comfortable in a new area with different people around and new stresses), turning 33, and maintaining my training schedule through a very tiring, very trying week.
When I say tiring…I do mean that I am physically tired. Perhaps it is a good thing that after my run on Saturday morning the official taper begins. I said perhaps…because while a lot of runners I know love and truly enjoy their tapers…I get taper madness. I do not taper well. At all. Cutting back on mileage will be a relief to some, but I love being out on those roads. I know that the taper is an important step to arriving to my race recharged and ready…so I will abide by it. But I might not be the most pleasant person to be around.
That being said…with the taper on the horizon this week ushered in my last 20 mile run in my program (which I technically did last week…but I have a pace one in my schedule that I didn’t abide by…meaning I ran the mileage but not at the paces suggested…) so I figured I would at least attempt it. I might fail. I might fail hard. But I’m going to at least make the effort. If I fail, I dust myself off and try again another time. Pacing is not my strong point. I tend to run hard most of the time and have to remind myself to take an easier effort. This is why running with groups is good for me. But with the pace requirements on Saturday…I chose to go solo.
But…before I get into that…let’s take a look at this past week’s training…
Sunday morning meant another very early morning for me. I was meeting with the running group my friend Kelsie runs with on weekends for their long run. They were doing 18 today. And after doing 20 on Saturday, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up. I also had gotten to bed a lot later than planned because I was watching Star Trek: Into Darkness, which was important, you see. So, the original plan had been to watch the movie and get to bed on time…but…yeah…not so much. I got up at 3:30 a.m. to lather on the sunscreen (for another dark run!) and eat before hopping in my car and meeting up with the Indiana contingent of the running group at the designated meeting spot. We all car pooled over to the Kroger near Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville where we met up with the rest of the group. One runner was only doing half the mileage, so we started out in Iroquois Park. We ran from the Kroger through the darkness, giving fair warning to the other runners in the group when poles in the running/bike lane cropped up. No need to have someone collide with that. YIKES! We entered the park and started on our way. Let me tell you…Iroquois Park isn’t really in the best part of Louisville…and it is really creepy in the darkness. We heard strange noises in the woods, which urged quite a few of us to pick up our pace in the end. Not being able to see the looming hills of Iroquois, for me, definitely made navigating them easier. I ran for most of these 18 miles with Lori, who is really great and pushing the pace in the difficult parts. We left the park and the hills behind and went on to the flatter roads of the city. Here, we simply ran 4.5 miles straight down a road, then turned around and headed back. The problem was, we had to change up the route due to one of the roads being one way, so when we got back to Kroger, we still had just under a mile to go. So, Lori and I decided we would run up the street until we hit 17.5 and then turn around and run back, and when we hit 18…we’d cool down with a walk back to the cars in the parking lot at Kroger. Alicia, one of the other ladies in the group, is nursing a foot injury of some sort. She was not looking good at the end of the race, but it seems like taking time off to heal isn’t part of her plan. YIKES! I hope she can at least let it heal up so that it won’t be as painful or that she puts herself out of commission. We runners do some really stupid and silly things in the name of our training…but with me being so close to my race…I err on the side of caution. Anyway…it was a cool and crisp morning that led into a really great run. I had a great time.
Monday…always comes too soon. Another later than usual bed time for me. This time because I was watching Dr. Who (the Ninth Doctor…in case you were wondering) when my phone rang. It was my mom…and sometimes we just get to talking and talking and talking…and before I knew it, an entire hour had passed. And it was beyond my bed time. SO…my roomie and I shut off the television and I went and crashed out. Because Monday morning had a 6 mile easy run on the schedule. I woke up feeling less than refreshed. On top of that…the 70° weather in the morning returned. I really had to push myself on this run. Not only was I tired…but my legs were tired too. Somehow…and I still don’t know how…I managed some negative splits. Not bad for running through exhaustion. And…as we all know by now…Monday is also my Daily Double. My fun run group meets on Monday…so after having a really easy dinner of grilled cheese…I was out the door and heading to Louisville. My roomie was driving, thank goodness, because I was falling asleep on the way over. This is so out of character for me, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. We got to the running store and my friend, Natalie, was talking about how tired she was too. I told her we could run easy and be the tail end of the group today…which sounded like a plan. But then, as we ran into Cherokee Park, our Ironman, Patrick, called out…”Hey…let’s do hill repeats!” Mind you, I have been pushing for hill repeat sessions with the fun run group for awhile and kept getting vetoed. He said we’d run each hill three times…which meant the hill going up to Hogan’s Fountain and Dog Hill were going to be our hill repeaters. At first I thought he was kidding, but he said we should do it. So…about 6 of us started off doing it…while the rest of the group ran on to just do the Scenic Loop. These are not easy hills to run, and I was wearing my Newtons, wanting to break them in on an easy run. HA! Well, no time like the present. The six of us regrouped at the top, just past Hogan’s Fountain when our first three hill repeats were done. From there, we took an easy pace through the park on the Scenic Loop, making jokes about running every incline, even the small ones, three times. We didn’t…but I imagine that would make one really amusing YouTube video. We grabbed some water at the water fountain and we were already 3 miles in. I’d be finishing up if I was just doing the loop, but I was only halfway there. And Dog Hill was, literally, right around the corner. There were times I felt like bailing, but I never quit on a challenge. So three times up and down Dog Hill…and I was suddenly feeling very bad ass. Honestly, these were hard…but I pushed myself through them. With tired legs and a tired body…I gave it all I had and in the end…I felt like I conquered the world. It was a light run back to the store, except we only needed .25 more of a mile to hit 6 miles, and I like round numbers. So…the four of us that remained (the other two bailed on Dog Hill) rounded the corner and ran down an alley until we could turn around and head back to the store. Another 6 miles on Monday for me. 12 in one day. Whew.
Tuesday is the Cross Training Day. And with my marathon coming up, I have been taking it a little easier on the machines. After all, I refuse to do something stupid that will cost me valuable training time or knock me out of commission for my race. It is not happening. So, my early morning at the gym meant that I hit up the Arc Trainer. Because it’s Arc Trainer Tuesday. For me, anyway. This time I set it for Program 8, which is the Cardio program, and kept it at Level 5, which gave me a bunch of different inclines and resistances to work with. I ended up managing 2.18 miles with the various hills and resistances in 45 minutes. Not bad. From there…my least favorite machine…the stationary bike…was next. I don’t know what it is about the stationary bike, but I hate it. It bores me. I think it’s that I’m putting in so much effort and not actually getting anywhere. The same reason I hate the treadmill (dreadmill). But I powered through 10 minutes on that bike, which is really all I could stand to be honest, and got in 3.84 miles. Not bad considering how dead-to-the-world my legs felt. Went downstairs to do some strength training and then went into work.
Wednesday is my pacing/speed work day. This one called for an 8 mile tempo run. I am awful at pacing. And doing it in the dark when I really can’t make sure I am on pace makes it even more difficult. I had this inner voice in my head for much of the way telling me that I can’t do it. I can’t maintain the pace I was holding. But…I shut them up and pushed through those doubts and proved that I could. In fact, I ended up doing more negative splits than tempo pace. Whoops. But that last mile…I pushed out a sub-7 minute mile and that felt amazing. It was something I really needed. So, pacing needs some work…but damn…that felt good. Later that night, after work, I started a new circuit training routine. Holy crap…this one had me sweating from the start. Not easy. Nice to change it up, but damn. I knew I’d be feeling that one in the morning.
Thursday was more than just my second easy run of the week. September 19 also marked my birthday. This year…I was turning 33. Ironically, my training plan had a second cross training day in…which I would be doing. No run was actually scheduled, probably in preparation for the upcoming long run (20 miler) on Saturday. But…I had to run on my birthday. Ever since I started running, I’ve run on my birthday. Since I turned 33, and there was no way I would be running 33 miles and running 33 kilometers would be 20 miles…I didn’t have time for that either. So…I figured another 6 miles would be perfect…since 3+3=6. It seemed perfect. It was 70° that morning, but I didn’t let that get to me. I refused. I pushed through and turned out the most beautiful and perfect negative splits. A great birthday gift to myself, for sure. After that, I headed to the gym for the cross training. I ended up on the broken elliptical that day…which doesn’t configure the stride right. So, while I was probably using more effort trying to match my normal mileage, it wasn’t happening. In 49 minutes, I managed 8.57 miles. Ugh. After that, I moved on to 10 minutes on the Cardio Wave machine…and rocked out 4.14 miles. I alternated between two of the higher levels. Then it was downstairs to hit the weights for a bit of strength training before heading to the office for a long day at work. Trust me though…my Wonder Woman cake that my local allergen-free bakery made for me was consumed greedily that evening after a dinner of gluten-free and vegan grilled cheese (stuffed with kale and tomato, YUM!).
Friday is the rest day. Ah…the rest day. The rest day that I said I would respect and keep holy. I normally go for a walk…but I have these great Newtons I’m working on breaking in and getting used to how they feel…I decided I would, for the second week in a row, take them out for an easy jog. Nothing hard. No pushing. Easy does it. Just as what happened last year when I wore the Newtons…I actually turned out fantastic mileage. In fact, I ran a rather quick 2 miles in them, without feeling like I was running. I decided to cool down then with really easy running…and that actually turned out a faster 2 miles (total of 4 that morning), and it felt like a walk in the park. In fact, my last mile was, for the second time this week…a sub-7. I was shocked. It just didn’t even feel like I was working hard. But…I ended that session there, despite feeling like I could go on. I’m easing into the mileage in these because it is working my legs differently and my muscles feel it. Besides…my last (and third) 20 mile run of my training program.
Saturday morning. This was it. The last 20 mile run of my training plan. After this…the taper would start. I had skipped the 20 mile intervals in my previous 20 mile run, opting instead to run it with people. But I know how important pacing and intervals are and I really, really didn’t want to ignore that run. So…as I was going on my own for my run today…I figured this last 20 miler would be the perfect opportunity to work through it. I also decided that I needed to simulate race day as much as possible…and that meant running a relatively flat course. Chicago, after all, is flat. As much as I didn’t want to do it…I chose to do my run in the flattest area I could think of in Louisville. Seneca Park. I also knew that this was going to test me mentally as well as physically. Why? First of all, the morning greeted me with rain. I figured what better way to wrap up my last long run than in the rain. This meant that I wore my old, heavy, to-big-for-me shoes instead of the ones I am wearing for the marathon. That sucked…but I figured I wouldn’t let it get me down. I’d attempt to do the training intervals, but the important thing, mainly, was to get the mileage done. But…there was more. You see, the “track” at Seneca Park is basically a 1.2 mile loop. Yes…I looped the park until I hit my mileage. My intervals as laid out by my training plan was specific. I was to run miles 1-8 at my long slow distance pace. So, I got to the park, walked a little while my Garmin found its satellites, and then was high-fived by Cathy and wished luck. My long slow distance pace when I am on my own is much quicker than my long slow distance pace when I run with a group. It’s faster. And I kept needing to remind myself to ease up and slow down. The most challenging part was to come. Before I hit mile 3, Cathy was off to run some errands and head home to get the house prepped for our friend Greg, who was visiting this weekend. I was on my own in the light rain, in the still-dark morning. There were large puddles that would cross the track, so I’d have to duck off the pavement and into the muddy grass. But, hey…I needed to do this. For the sake of my training. At mile 8, I turned around and ran the other way on the track. Miles 9-17 were to be run at marathon pace. So I picked up my pace for these 9 miles, pushing it more and keeping it as steady as I dared. My legs were tired from the first 8 miles, which should have been done slower than I ran them. But I pressed on, and I pushed. The rain stopped, but I now had some wind to deal with. And at some points it was me running right into it. I did my best not to let it phase me, but I was so happy when mile 17 hit. I once again turned around to run the other way, now in a mind to start the cool down. Miles 18-20 were to be done again at my long slow distance pace. What I ended up running was miles 8-24 at my long slow distance pace. I got so much encouragement from the runners at the park. They kept saying I was strong. That I looked good. I love the running community around here. You might not even know someone, but you still just give them a thumbs up, a smile, a compliment. It’s awesome. I polished up my run, having completed a full 24 miles. And my time…was fantastic. I couldn’t believe it when I paused my Garmin at the end of the run. And I still felt great. Which was good, because Greg was on his way. I went home to shower after grabbing some coffee and a snack (I was run-gry) and prepare for his arrival. And then…after he arrived, we were off for a day in Louisville, starting with gluten-free vegan pizza at Annie May’s Sweet Café, and then shopping. I ended up buying some DVDs at Half Price Books, but passed on the dress I was going to purchase for my birthday get-together tomorrow. Priorities…right? Right. Anyway…it was a good day. Here I am over 12 hours later…no ice bath necessary…still feeling amazing. And badass.
So…there it is. Now…three weeks until my first marathon…the taper begins. And I do intend to abide closely to my schedule for the taper because I want my legs to feel strong and rested when I get to Chicago. I don’t want any doubts in my head on marathon morning. I want all my hard work and effort to pay off in the end, which is why, while I’m sure I will become a raving maniac due to the cut-back on the mileage, I will follow my program as it is laid out. Because…I feel ready for this. I am ready for this. I can’t believe I am saying that.
So…here’s to not giving in too much to taper madness. This is recovery time. And I can’t wait to see what I can do in three weeks. Until then…hang with me…because I’m sure I’ll have some fun taper stories.