Base-Building Update


Hello! I have now completed 3 weeks of base-building in preparation for Chicago Marathon training, which starts on June 5th.

Since only ran 1-3 times per week all winter and most of spring, I was feeling very nervous about where I would be going into training and, when I began scrambling to get into shape at the beginning of this month, crossing my fingers that 5 weeks would be enough time.

Things have actually been going very well, so I thought I’d give an update on what my base-building has entailed and where I stand now, with only two weeks until I start training.

Here’s a rundown of what I’ve logged so far:

Saturday 4/30 + Week 1, 5/1 – 5/7
Sat – 4.5 miles, 10:00 avg pace
Tue – 3.8 miles, 10:00 avg pace
Thu – 5 miles, 10:05 avg pace
Sat – 3.2 miles, 10:35 avg pace
TOTAL (just for week 1): 12 miles

Week 2, 5/8 – 5/14
Mon – 4 miles, 10:17 avg pace
Wed – 4 miles, 9:25 avg pace Lunch hour run – felt rushed and cranked up the pace.
Fri – 3 miles, 9:37 avg pace
Sat – 7 miles, 9:40 avg
TOTAL: 18 miles

Week 3, 5/15 – 5/21 (with many shenanigans, as you’ll see below…)
Wed – 4.5 miles, 9:23 avg pace
This was supposed to be an easier run, but 1 mile in I tripped and fell and scraped up my knees (of course this happened in front of a bunch of people), so after that I really just wanted to bang out the miles and be done. Cutting the run short and limping home with my wounded ego wasn’t an option since I’d already skipped a run this week, so I rushed through the rest. That said, it ended up being a good run! It was 85 degrees and other than one section running uphill with the sun in my face, the heat didn’t bother me too much!
Thu – 4.3 miles, 9:47 avg pace
Sun – 8.5 miles, 9:37 avg pace*
TOTAL: 17.3 miles

*I hate to be a pedant, but my average pace is off because due to a Strava glitch I somehow clocked my first mile at 11:49? Looking at the data I apparently pressed the start button sooner than I realized or something, so my average was actually a little quicker.

Also, another funny story from this run: it included a short but desperate emergency pit stop. I’m so glad my bowels attacked right as I was approaching a park instead of in a bathroom desert because this was DESPERATE. It was at the park where the Cudahy Classic starts, so I knew there was a pavilion about .1 mile in. But the thing with MKE County parks is that you just never know when the bathrooms will actually be open even when they’re supposed to be. So when I got to the pavilion and found the door unlocked, I nearly wept with gratitude. Being a distance runner has made me more thankful for porta potties and gross shabby restrooms than I ever in my life thought I could be.

 

All in all, base building has gone great. It was slow to start, which I expected. I admit that even though it defies common sense, I had a few “OMG WHY ARE MY PACES NOT BETTER YET” moments in the beginning where I had to tell myself “chill out. It’s been ONE week,” but other than that, I’ve managed to stay pretty patient and have enjoyed all of my runs.

But, I started to bounce back much quicker than I thought I would. I had imagined it would take the entire 5 weeks of base building before running started to feel “normal” and easy again, but things actually started clicking toward the end of the second week.  My easy run paces are getting a little faster and closer to my old levels, and as I get more comfortable with the distances again I’m able to handle more moderate-effort running. Running is starting to feel more “normal” to my body again, too. None of this is showing up in the form of any drastic or noticeable improvements to my stats, but I can definitely feel that things are starting to get easier and that I’m seeing the first signs of my fitness starting to come back.

My goal is to do all easy runs for base building and I’ve mostly stuck to that. But I will say that because I’m only “maintenance” running, and I’m only logging 3-4 days a week with plenty of rest, I don’t worry too much about my easy pace and often drift into the easy-moderate, moderate effort level on my runs. My concern is getting the miles in and getting back into a routine, so it doesn’t really bother me if I end up with a pace that’s a little on the fast side of my easy range, as long as my body feels okay with it (which it has!). My priority is to stay at a comfortable effort level for whatever distance I’m doing, and run by feel. I actually don’t check my pace at all until the run is over.

The most important thing here is that I am regaining a lot of my confidence. I think my first “long run” last weekend was a turning point here. Slogging through a bunch of 4-milers wasn’t exactly boosting my confidence about handling marathon-level training mileage with ease. But then I added more mileage and passed the one hour mark of running, and not only did it go really well, but in a way it was like no time had passed: I was able to gain steam in the final miles like I always used to do with long runs, and although it’s not even close to the long runs I’ll be doing in months to come, this increase in distance left no trace of soreness or fatigue in my body either during or after the run. My 8.5 miler yesterday went similarly – it felt no different, better even, than my weekday 4 milers. So, I am now able to breathe a little easier about my ability to handle the mileage increases that are coming my way in a few weeks.

Looking at the data, it appears another “turning point” came after my week 2 mid-week runch that I rushed through. My body realized it could handle the same mileage at a more moderate effort level, and it was as if this jump-started the batteries in my legs. My easy paces started to fall after that and I no longer felt I was slogging through easy jogs, plus, I began to feel more comfortable adding moderate-paced mileage into easy runs, which I’d like to believe is a sign that my fitness is starting to come back.

I wouldn’t say my fitness is back to where it was when I was running regularly, but the fact that it’s reemerged so quickly makes me wonder how much of my perception about being “so out of shape” was mental. I mean, I was out of shape, and my spring half marathons would not have gone that differently if I had just been more confident lining up at the starting lines, but you know how that saying goes: “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” For as much as I really slacked this winter, I’m glad I at least never stopped running (I ran at least once every week until April). I think that helped me come back a lot quicker.

One thing that’s also helping me with my confidence is reminding myself that base-building is about getting myself into shape for week one of training. I try to remember that I don’t need to be ready for all of it at once, if that makes sense. I don’t need to be ready to run 45-mile weeks with 8 mile tempos and 16 mile long runs right now. I don’t need to be ready to breeze through my marathon pace yet. My first week of training is actually only 22 miles total, with my long run at 6.55 miles (the Rock n Sole Quarter Marathon race) – and I’ve already run farther than that this month! I’m at 18 mpw right now, so I am in perfectly fine shape to hit 22 in a couple weeks. And from there on out, all I have to worry about each week is being prepared for the week after that. I got this!

I haven’t reached the point of feeling like I can set more aggressive goals for marathon training, but now that things are going better and I’m bouncing back quicker than I thought I would, I am starting to feel more optimistic about what I can achieve in training this summer. I still feel like my speed potential is one huge question mark, but I’m not as down on myself about it anymore.

 

Now, all I have to do is keep up the momentum for a couple weeks and then it’s time to marathon train!!

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11 thoughts on “Base-Building Update

  1. It’s funny, because I’ve been feeling a little worried about hitting tempo miles, speed work paces, etc., but then I have to remind myself that I will work up to that and I won’t be doing runs at fast-tempo or true marathon pace right in the beginning. We’ll get there! I knew you’d bounce back quicker than you thought you would. TWENTY WEEKS.

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    1. People tend to forget that the whole point of training is to build to that point. I like to tell myself “if you could already run XYZ pace/workout/mileage, then why not just skip the training and go run the marathon since you’re clearly ready?” If we could already run our goal pace in our sleep there’d be no point to training (or we’d need a much harder goal!).

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  2. YES! It’s all clicking–a lesson to all of us that the fitness with come with diligence and patience. Being in such a good place physically & mentally is a great way to start training. I’ve also had that “is it all in my head???” debate. Who knows, but it’s so true that a string of bad runs can make you feel like everything is lost. Glad you’re to a point where you realize that’s not the case!

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    1. Yes, it’s true – the runner’s mind tends to be a little too zoomed in and little-picture sometimes. We get cocky when we have good spells and discouraged when we have bad ones, but it’s all part of the process!

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  3. Yeah! So glad to hear that you’re regaining your confidence and transitioning back into training so seamlessly.

    I totally hear you about being grateful about shabby bathrooms. I remember when nearly all outdoor public bathrooms TOTALLY grossed me out, and now I think of them as just any other bathroom. There have been plenty of times I’ve been super grateful for them because running really gets things going for me :/ That’s one of the reasons I don’t run super early in the morning … the public bathrooms at the park and beach don’t open early enough and I know I’ll need them. Back when I was running early in 2014 there was a lot of construction going on so I could always find a port o potty but that’s not the case anymore. Such a shame haha!

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    1. Bathrooms along the county parks trail are annoyingly few and far between where I run (same with drinking fountains). But I don’t want to complain about it and sound like an entitled runner, lol. If I’m running on the streets luckily there is usually a gas station nearby, and usually in the park I can duck off the trail into a wooded area – it’s when I’m in residential areas I have to worry!

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  4. Just yesterday when I was out for my run, I was musing about the mental aspect of training, and how while the physical benefits of marathon training are obviously pretty important in getting you across the finish line, the mental benefits, I’d argue, are equally important. Training builds mental stamina, but it also builds confidence, even if it’s just the confidence that you are capable of doing it, period, even if you’re not capable of doing it as fast as you want. I don’t think believing in yourself can overcome your physical limitations (I can’t train at a 10:30-11:00 pace all season, then believe with all that is in me that I’ll BQ, and cross the finish line of Chicago in under 3:35), but I ABSOLUTELY believe that not believing in yourself can inhibit your physical abilities (training at an 8:00 pace, not believing that’s possible for a marathon, and then consequently running a 4:00 race). I think it’s easy to discount the mental side of running, but it is really, really crucial to success!

    Haha, a couple of years ago I was at Lollapalooza and needed to go to the bathroom, so I found the nearest portapotty and used it without a second thought. I was FLOORED by all the people in the portapotty area whining about how they were so gross, etc. I thought they were fine! Then I remembered that not everyone runs races and probably doesn’t view portapotties as a normal place to pee hahaha.

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    1. It’s true that self belief can be, shall we say, a little unfounded in some cases. But still I’ve always sort of admired people who can take the attitude of “I’m going for a sub-2 half today. Because I’m just gonna do it, man!” even with no real sense of whether that’s a realistic goal for them. It’s kinda the opposite of my tendency to overthink and take the mindset of things needing to be perfect in training and on race day or I have no shot.

      It’s easy to not believe in yourself when it comes to the marathon. My marathon times are faster than a lot of my friends who can smoke me in the shorter distances any day of the week. It’s a scary distance to race.

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  5. Glad things are clicking! I am slightly freaking out because I haven’t run in about a week (feels like longer) because I have been FLOORED by a spring cold. I am hoping to get back at it tomorrow, but I know I will have to start slow.
    I plan long runs around where open bathrooms are. One of my big anxieties about moving was not knowing anyone around me (who lives where etc.). Coming from a small town, I had the comfort of knowing pretty much everyone. I drive into town for a lot of long runs so I can make pit stops if I need to…the strange things we runners think about…

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    1. I plan around bathrooms too but sometimes for whatever reason they are just not open. And since I’m not at this park a lot I don’t have as much of a sense of how on top of things they are with their pavilions, whether they are usually open to the public, etc. I’m just glad I knew this one from the race I’ve done there, otherwise I might have just assumed it wasn’t open and been in big trouble!

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  6. I read this when you first posted but didn’t have a chance to comment. I’m glad that things are starting to smooth out and that your confidence is starting to build. It sounds like you are going to have a nice wave of momentum ready to carry you into your training in a few weeks. I know that you have had a lot of ups and downs with running since your last marathon and it finally seems like you are climbing out of the valley of burned out running for good! Yay!

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