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.