Thursday, July 24, 2014

Finally on Pace

I feel like I've been in a lackluster training cycle(s) pretty much since the Berlin Marathon last September.  I dutifully took time off to enjoy Oktoberfest and time with my husband's family in Italy (who treat us like we're geese destined to become foie gras).  But I just haven't felt like I ever bounced back from that time off.  Even with no spring marathon, I started fall marathon training and have just remained out of the groove.

And it's dangerous to be 10 weeks into a training cycle (albeit a long-ish one) and be out of the groove still.  Because at this point, the runs are getting more intense.

This past Sunday's long run was 16 miles with 8 miles at marathon pace (which for me is not a pace, but a target heartrate zone based on my last lactate threshold test). 

I just didn't do it. 

I mean, I got in 16 miles, but they were all easy.  Looking at the pace of the last few was kind of scary.  Very, very slow.

Monday was boot camp, I took it easy per my usual rule for the day after any run of 15 miles or more.  I've found pushing hard is an easy recipe for injury.

Tuesday was 8 miles with 2 at pace.  The plan was 4 easy, 2 pace, 2 easy.  Instead I did 1 easy, 7 pace.  I was aiming for 1-6-1, but I couldn't bring my heartrate down enough of that final easy mile.  But it actually felt okay.  I was anxious for each water stop, about every 2 miles, but I survived.

Yesterday was boot camp, followed by a run to work, then a day of work, followed by a run home.  I was a bit nervous because I haven't been commuting more than one day per week lately and yesterday was 100 with an ozone alert.  The temp dropped a bit by 6:30 when I left work, but it was still over 95.  I took it easy, and it was fine, just sweaty and chafe-y. 

So I had no idea what was in the cards today.  The schedule was 6 miles with 4 pace.  The plan was 1-4-1.  By the time I started pace work, I was considering modifying the plan to 1-1-4 (which is to say 1 pace mile, followed by 4 easy).  I survived the first pace mile and had to go another quarter mile to get to the water stop, so I tried to hang on til then.  My heart rate came down a little when I grabbed a drink, and then I decided to try to push to the u-turn point, which would have given me 1-2-3.  That had a nice ring to it.  I hit the u-turn and the mile ahead seemed fairly brutal.  Somewhat uphill, and I was pretty much solo, though a few of my buddies were within shouting distance in front of or behind me.  I tried to push up the hill and while I was going fairly slowly, my heart rate was high.  I crested the hill and decided to push the last bit of down/flat road to get to the water stop.  After the water, I decided I'd just finish out the pace mile since it was just another quarter, which would give me 1-3-2.  We had a sharp turn in between miles 4 and 5, and my watch beeped in the middle, but one of my friends was right there with me, so I decided to try to hang on pace until the stoplight, which was about half a mile away.  And as luck would have it, no cars in sight, despite the fact that it's a fairly busy road 24/7 (Mockingbird).  So instead of getting the breather I hoped to wait for traffic, we sailed through the intersection.  Another friend caught us and by running with the two of them, I decided to try to hold on the final half mile.  I kept asking Laura how much further.  I was desperately hoping she wasn't irritated by it, especially since I had my own damn watch showing distance, coupled with the fact that this part of the run was actually part of my commute and an area within a mile of my house that I know insanely well, so I could have estimated very accurately how much further to finish the pace mile.  She said .4, then .3, then one lap around the track, then .1, and then ... it was over.  I managed the planned 1-4-1.  My final mile actually ended up being solo because I really tried to bring my heartrate down and relax.  I kept telling myself the real work was done, there was no need to push anymore. 

I felt so friggin' proud when I got done that I high-fived about 8 of my friends. 

It seemed like this was the first time I've actually run the plan in all of 2014 (aside from days when the plan was all easy miles). 

It was the first time that the voices wanting to dial it back were as loud as ever but didn't prevail.

 Does this mean I'll get my goal time in October? No.

Does this mean I'll even PR in October? No.  

But does this mean I have some chance at either or both of those?  Maybe. 

I'd really been having second thoughts about having registered for a marathon this fall.  Especially since my husband was adamantly opposed.  He thought it was ridiculous to spend money on a race, flight and hotel, given that we have a massive trip just a few days afterward -- meaning massive packing, massive chaos at work trying to get ready to leave, and massive expenses hitting the bank account.  He also thinks it's a very bad plan to be in India with a post-marathon immune system.  So as I completed lackluster run after lackluster run, I started to think registering was in fact a very bad idea. 

But as of right now, 3.5 hours after finishing my first solid run in ages, I'm thinking I'm glad I've got a race on the horizon this fall...

Perhaps all is not lost. 


  1. I've never been able to stick to a training plan without getting injured. I stopped trying, and just wing it.

    1. Whatever works, right? I usually follow a plan until I have 3 high mileage (for me that means mid-50s) in a row, then I start hurting. So now I aim for plans that don't do more than a couple weeks at a time at that level.

  2. Excellent! Glad you have broken out from your funk! :)

    1. I'd hesitate to say broken, but at least struggled free of it for a glorious week!

  3. Awesome! Such a great accomplishment. In that Mind Gym book I'm reading, I just highlighted this: "Every athlete hears two competing voices. One is a negative critic, and the other is a positive coach. Which voice we listen to is a matter of choice." So you didn't let the negative prevail, which is huge.

    Which plan are you doing, or did you create your own? I suspect a lot of the frustration I have with feeling like I'm not improving is because I'm not doing a lot of mileage at race pace. Before I started following formal training plans (since last December), I'd only run one way: as fast as I could for the distance I was running. Since doing the training plans, so much of my mileage is slow and easy, so overall I'm running slower now than I was a year ago (in training, not races). Maybe this will be okay come race time? Not sure. I'm starting the Hal Higdon HM plan, which prescribes one run every week at race pace. Still not sure that's enough.

    1. I use a program set by the group and coach I run with, and then I and/or my coach usually tweak it slightly based on my plan and how I'm feeling. I'm doing heart-rate based training and it has a lot of pace work in this phase (phase 2, strengthening) (phase 1 is base-building, phase 3 is sharpening, phase 4 is taper, phase 5 is recovery). So I'm not much help.

      But as a running coach, I can tell you that a lot of research supports the "train slow, race fast" philosophy. I generally believe that if you can handle more miles, even junk/slow ones, that pays dividends -- and junk miles by definition are slower (because you've already done the quality and are just bulking up the numbers).

    2. Thanks for the info! How did I not know you are a running coach?!?! I guess I'll just keep on keepin' on with my slow runs and hope they pay off!

    3. a good friend of mine that is a much more seasoned and accomplished runner that i will probably ever be (i'm okay with that) always chastises me for not running slower than i am...and i think i run pretty slow as it is!

  4. I am registering for the Dallas Marathon when I get paid later this week. Part of me, the lazy part, wants to not register. But I think I need it. Like actually, physically NEED this marathon. I think, if I skip this that I won’t take the opportunity to do another marathon later down the road. And the Dallas is at the perfect time of year (at least as far as the time of year I like to run at) plus it’s ON my birthday and what better present than my first full marathon, right?!?!?!

    1. I'll plan to come out and cheer you on, maybe keep you company for a couple miles!

  5. I think there's always a chance that you will exceed your expectations. You always give it your all so you just never know what will happen on race day. Sometimes the races you least expect to be your best end up surprising you. I'm glad to hear you are getting into the groove again.

    I've been in a funk since Montreal last September. Then the injury set me back so far this spring. I have exactly 8 weeks to my next race. I have a plan and a goal, but this race is so out of my comfort zone that I will just be happy to finish it before the cut off time.