While I reached my peak mileage for training last week, I’d say that this week was my peak intensity of workouts. Going into this week was a workout that I’d been thinking about since I first laid out my training back in June. Thursday’s tempo called for 12 miles with 10 at long tempo pace. This would be the longest midweek run I’ve ever done and the furthest tempo run I’ve ever done. It just sounded so hard to me. I spent a lot of the early week trying to get into the right mindset. My mental game has definitely been a struggle this training cycle.
My husband, who is a much faster runner than me, has run the 2 marathons I’ve done with me. Since my race pace is an easy/recovery pace for him, even in the final miles of the marathon, he’s always had easy breathing and a relaxed stride and doesn’t even seem tired. Even last year in Chicago, a marathon he didn’t really train for and had planned not to run, he was darting ahead to get water for me at aid stations the last 6 miles while I focused solely on moving one foot in front of the other. Since I’ve never seen him struggle to hold on to his pace, to will himself not to stop, I spent the week grilling him. Is it hard for you at the end of your marathons? What do you think about? Do you want to stop? How do you keep going? His answers were yes, running and keeping his pace, yes, and he looks for the next stoplight or race marker or person 20 feet ahead of him. He reels that in and then just keeps repeating it, asking himself can I run 20 more feet? Yes. Ok, get to that 20 feet. Rinse and repeat. One of his running buddies, also a sub-3 marathoner, would count his steps and when he reached 100 he would start over again.
With the goal to get myself into the right head space heading into my final weeks of training, my husband sent me this fantastic video of Chris McCormack, an Ironman World Champion in 2007 and 2010. In it, McCormack talks about how he pushes forward in those tough moments in a race. If you are at all interested in the mental component of racing I highly recommend watching this video (just click on Chris McCormack’s name above and it will bring you to the video). I also scoured blogs that talked about what they focused on in the late miles of a marathon – and found that most recaps skipped this component – and found a couple of things that resonated with me. Laura, at Catching My Breath, has some of the best race recaps, especially the one that recaps her sub-3 at Erie Marathon. I really liked what she had to say about being able to look back on her life when she’s older and think back to how she crushed it at Erie. Another piece of mental training that stuck with me was this quote from Mark Rowland:
The hurt part is was scares me. There was a big part of me that hoped I could just stretch out my half marathon strength to the marathon and just experience a bit of discomfort at the end. But the marathon is a whole different beast than the half, and at some point it’s going to hurt. My husband reminded me of the hours and hours I’ve spent training for this race. What I do during that hurt is going to determine, as Chris McCormack said, a spectacular race or a so-so race.
A look at training this week:
Week 12 Recap: September 12 – 18
Tuesday: Plan: 3×1600 at (6:51 – 7:15) (400m RI) – Actual: 2M w/u(9:17, 8:40), 3×1600 (7:14, 7:09, 7:09) 3min RI, 1M c/d @8:58 – These mile repeats had me a little nervous since the last time I did this workout was the week of my terrible long run. I had researched how to do them a little online and various sources had cautioned about how depleting they were to do a faster than 5k pace. Taking what I had read up on I kept the pace to about what I think I could run a 5k in and used a timed rest interval (walking) instead of distance. I felt sooo relaxed and comfortable on these repeats. After I finished I felt like I could have run another one or run these 3 faster. Not exactly how you’re supposed to feel about mile repeats, but I’d rather that than risk overexerting myself on them.
Wednesday: Plan: 4M Recovery – Actual: 4M @9:42
Thursday: Plan: 10 min w/u, 10M @8:07, 10 min c/d – 1M @9:05, 10M @8:00 (8:08, 8:07, 8:02, 8:01, 8:19, 7:56, 7:57, 7:53, 7:44), 1M @8:52 – This workout led to a restless night of sleep going into it. I was SO nervous about completing 10 tempo miles. During the night I’d wake up with it on my mind and when my alarm went off that morning I didn’t feel all that confident. The weather was definitely in my favor though and it was awesome to have the first crisp morning run of my training cycle. My route started with a mile warm up, up a pretty big hill and the next 2 miles each featured two big downhills that helped me get right to tempo pace. These miles felt harder than last week’s tempo and I felt myself actively thinking about them and working for it. I kept telling my self to settle in, with my focus on consistent splits, and that I was strong and capable of running them. Each time my watch buzzed off another split I would make a mental “click” in my mind like one of those handheld counters bouncers would use at bars to make sure the bar didn’t exceed capacity. For some reason this click each mile helped me.
There was a lot of rush hour traffic along my route and the second half of my tempo miles I seemed to hit every red light or turning car at an intersection, with mile 5 being the only time it added substantial time to my split. These really threw off my rhythm and I told myself it would be good training for bottlenecks at aid stations and forced me to regroup and get back into my rhythm. The last mile was a killer and I felt like I was going so slow. My legs felt heavy and tired and I was shocked when that final mile buzzed on my watch and saw that I hadn’t slowed my pace and had instead sped up. This workout was a huge confidence builder and one I can put in my positive folder to think back on during my race.
Friday: Plan: off – Actual: 20 minutes easy elliptical & drills – I spent 20 minutes on the elliptical at very low resistance and no incline just to shake my legs out and practice turning them over quickly. After than I went through my MYRTL and core routine and did another round of Meb’s form drills. This time there were 2 other people in the studio doing their own circuit training and I felt reeeeallly awkward as I bounced around the room doing my drills!
Saturday: Plan: 15M @8:32 – Actual: 15M @8:42 – Saturday was one of those perfect morning days. Crystal clear blue skies and low humidity. We were taking family pictures that morning which meant I needed to either run in the afternoon (which I hate) or the next morning when humidity was supposed to be back up to 90+% (which I also hate). I hemmed and hawed and tried to convince myself that a day of rest would be better and the humidity wouldn’t be that bad the next day when I came to my senses and got myself out the door. 100% the right decision. Even though it was warm at 75 degrees and full sun, it was heavenly to run without humidity. Early on I felt so great and like my legs just wanted to run. I didn’t look at my watch until mile 8, but it felt like my paces were on the faster side and I tried to just keep things comfortable. Once I turned around, and had to head back up a long steep hill, those faster paces caught up with me. By this point the full sun was starting to feel really hot and I was feeling tired from those early miles. I did want to try to pick up the pace the last few miles and force myself to run hard on tired legs. After refilling my water at mile 12 my goal was to drop down by about 10 seconds at mile 13, another 10 at mile 14, and then another 10 at mile 15. During a long run though I have a hard time dropping down gradually and at mile 13 realized I had dropped all the way to tempo pace for an 8:07 mile and decided to try to run 14 at the same and then use 15 as a cool down. My legs were screaming after mile 14 and I was so happy to put the breaks on for mile 15. Splits: 1) 8:55, 2) 8:33, 3) 8:31, 4) 8:26 5) 8:39 6) 8:50 7) 9:15 8) 8:50 9) 8:38 10) 8:49 11) 8:50 12) 9:33 13) 8:07 14) 7:42 15) 8:48
Sunday: off – I debated doing a few miles at recovery pace, but heavy legs and swampy air led to a total rest day.
Weekly Total: 37 miles
What keeps you going during a hard run or race?
What mental tactics do you use?