I’ve surprised myself with how awesome marathon training has been so far, to the point that I don’t want to write about it for fear of jinxing it. Highlights of the first half of the training cycle:
Hill work. Hills have always scared me and in my first few years of running, I avoided them. I was so concerned about just being able to run x number of minutes or miles without stopping that I didn’t want a hill to mess that up. Of course, now I know better and I’ve spent every Tuesday morning for the last 8 weeks running up and down the 11th/13th/15th/16th street corridors, near Meridian Hill Park/U Street/Columbia Heights. Each week, I ran a few more hills than the week before, and at a slightly faster pace. I think this has helped me get stronger overall and increased my endurance — both mental and physical — for my other runs.
Marathon goal pace runs. On Thursdays my plan has me doing medium-length runs with a few miles at marathon goal pace in the middle. So far, this has been going better than expected. I’ve decided 9:05 is my marathon goal pace, which will allow me to finish just under 4 hours. I have no idea if this is actually possible for me to maintain that pace for 26.2 miles, but I figured I will try it out for these pace runs and see how it feels. So far, it feels great and I have to struggle to not go faster than 9:05 (I’ve mostly been doing these miles in the 8:55-range). So far, these have been 6 or 7 mile runs with 3 miles at MGP in the middle. Does that indicate that I really will be able to keep that pace for the whole marathon? No…but it’s working for now. Next week, I have 9 miles with 6 at MGP on the plan, and I think the longer distances at MGP will help me figure out whether I can really maintain that. I would like to do as much as 10-12 at MGP if possible, to reassure me that I can do it. Which brings me to:
Long runs. My long runs have generally been great so far. The longest I have done so far has been 16 miles, and I’ve been averaging a sub-10:00 pace. It still seems crazy to me that your long runs are supposed to be 30-90 seconds slower than your marathon pace. So if I am doing most of my long run miles in the 9:45-9:55 range, does that really mean I’m on track to a 9:05 pace/sub-4? I have no idea, but this pace feels natural to me so I’ll keep at it. But it’s not exactly easy to do 16 miles at 9:45; so how will I do 9:05, PLUS another 10 miles at that pace?? Everything I’ve read has said to NOT do long runs at marathon pace…I can’t imagine, but I will keep doing what I’m doing and hope I don’t blow up on the big day.
I’ve done portions of my long runs along parts of the MCM course because I know from the past that I like to know the course ahead of time and be familiar with each turn and hill. Some parts of MCM are not pedestrian-friendly so I won’t be able to test them out until race day, but I did the finish line hill at Iwo Jima and ran parts of the Palisades section of the course, two places I had never run before.
Today I did 14 miles around Haines Point, the monuments, and Capitol Hill. Last weekend I took my 16-miler up the Capital Crescent trail.
I wanted to do a huge loop of the city by taking the Capital Crescent from Georgetown to Silver Spring and down 16th, but that would have been longer than I needed, so I got off the trail on River Road and zigzagged back through the District. Once I got to Woodley Park it was all downhill and I was flying, picking up the pace and feeling on top of the world.
But then I hit a snag; I was just over a mile from home when I somehow missed a curb. I ended up with a bloody bruised knee and one scraped-up hand. I was so angry at myself for being so sloppy, just when I was so close to finishing on a high note, and fearful of whether this was going to screw up my training schedule. After I caught my breath and took stock, I realized that I was hurt, but it wasn’t serious. I felt like the best thing to do would be to shake it off, so I got up and continued my run home, finishing all 16 of those miles. I realize that I am so lucky that it wasn’t more serious, and that it happened near the end of my run when I was close to home. With the benefits of lots of icing and an extra rest day, it seems to be healing okay. But I’ve been very cautious ever since, because it reminded me how quickly things can head south.
I’m glad that so far, I have fit in every single run on my schedule, and have even done some extra short recovery runs on the day after my long runs, to loosen up my legs and get rid of any soreness. That means I’ve been running five or six days a week, something I never thought possible. I also hit my highest weekly mileage last week: 40 miles. My peak mileage on this training program is supposed to be 51. August has been light on work travel for me, with just one short trip, which has helped a lot. I have five trips planned for September and October (three work, two personal), so I’ll have to get a little more creative with my schedule to fit in all my runs over the next two months.
Yoga. I’ve been trying to go to at least one yoga class each week, although it hasn’t happened every week, because I’ve realized my plan to just do yoga at home doesn’t really work out as well. The last few weeks, I’ve made it to the free yoga in Dupont sponsored by Lululemon:
I’ve also been trying to stretch and do leg lifts, core work, etc at home on a regular basis, although some weeks it definitely happens more than others.
Next weekend, I have 18 miles on my plan, and I’m doing the Parks Half-Marathon on Sunday, so my plan is to get there early, run 5 miles as SLOW as possible, then do the race, but to keep is slow and steady, and not even think about my “race” time. I just want to do it as a way to break up those scary 18 miles by being with other people, benefiting from an interesting course and some on-site support (free gatorade, I guess), plus the fun of doing a “race”.
I haven’t written about marathon training because it’s been going so well, I’m afraid that in the second half the other shoe will drop (injuries? busy work travel schedule? burnout?). But to be honest, right now, marathon training is the best thing happening, and has been one of the highlights of my summer…to the point that I am already getting worried about what life will be like when it’s over, and how I will adjust to life without running almost every day.