Update: Chicago Marathon Training Weeks 1 and 2

Good evening, friends! Another week is coming to a close and it’s time for my first update since starting Chicago Marathon training! I’m sitting here as I often do on Sunday evenings, dreaming my utopian dream of one day getting a point where Sundays no longer feel like Sundays because I’m not shackled by the M-F grind. Le sigh. Certain things are destined to always remain in dreamland, I suppose.

Before I get into the training talk, I’m going to give a brief rundown of some other things that have been going on these past couple weeks.

Morning Running

Marathon training this year is the vehicle for a host of new lifestyle changes for me, the biggest being that I am rising earlier most mornings to get my workout done before the day begins.

I’ve never been a natural early riser, so training for a marathon really is the only time I can pull off morning running. The motivation of such a big goal is the only thing that’s ever been powerful enough to stave off the siren song of the snooze button, and I’m definitely taking advantage of summer’s extra daylight which makes waking up earlier more tolerable. I do this to avoid summer heat, scheduling conflicts, and the constant energy drain of dreading after-work runs.

The early morning wake-ups are hard and painful, but it doesn’t take long before I’m glad I got out there, especially as the sun rising over Lake Michigan comes into view:

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Getting a workout done before my day begins gives my mornings a boost of energy and freshness. I give myself a bit of a time buffer for these early morning runs, which I don’t really do when I’m sleeping in later and only waking up in time to get ready for work, so my mornings also feel a little more organized and I’m able to get my head on straight for the day ahead. Overall, this is something I’m very glad I’ve decided to do this summer.

Biking

img_3194You know all those habits and goals I always talk about wanting to start, and then I poop out and never follow through? Well, I’m happy to say that THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM! It’s only been a few weeks but I am killing it with the riding to work.

I’ve been riding to and from work three days per week, usually coinciding with the days that I run so that my off days can be complete rest days. I love riding to work, but I want to give my body some time to get used to it since I’m starting it at the same time I’m starting marathon training (I wanted to start earlier but we had such crappy weather in May!). I’d like to build up to riding to work every day, although that won’t always be possible due to work scheduling and other things.

My commute to work is just under 5.5 miles, so that equates to over 10 miles of riding each day I bike commute. That means I could be riding up to 55 miles a week in addition to my training. Scattered 25-minute rides won’t offer much in the way of aerobic cross-training benefits, but that’s okay, because what I really like about biking from a fitness standpoint is that it is great strength training for my legs.

From a non-fitness standpoint, biking more has been a great way for me to be more active on a day-to-day basis. I get such a boost of energy coming into work in the morning and coming home at night; it’s amazing how different I feel from an active commute than when I sit on a bus or in a car in traffic. It’s also so much more in tune with a minimal and eco-friendly lifestyle. I hate that our society, infrastructure and driving culture have forced people into relying on automobiles, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Core Work

I’ve been supplementing each of my runs with a little bit of core work. I actually started this during base building. After all of my runs I’ve been forcing myself to do core exercises on the back deck before I go back inside. It’s easier to work in strength this way, and I’m essentially setting up a system where a run becomes a habit trigger for strength work, so I’m more likely to stick with it. Like my 5.5 mile bike rides, 5-10 minutes worth of core work is really not very much, but I’m hoping that these little things start to add up. Kind of like buying a $2 coffee every weekday and not thinking anything of it because the amount is so small, until you realize that over the course of a year, over $450.00 of your money went to coffee.

Rock n Sole Quarter Marathon Race

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My first long run of training was the Summerfest Rock n Sole Quarter Marathon race, which I ran last year as well. It was an insignificant race that I didn’t really “race”, so I won’t write a lengthy recap. Like pretty much every race I’ve run in the last 12 months, the verdict on this one is “meh”. The run went fine, but I was disappointed to turn in what is, for me, a pretty slow time and pace for a race. I wondered if it was because that morning was a little warm and sunny and maybe I had tired out my legs biking to the start line (plus all the biking I did that week), or because I haven’t done anything but easy running since February so my legs have lost all their speed. The answer is probably a little bit of both, but I will say that what I tried to do to stay positive during the race was to focus on what I was doing well. There were hills in that race and I was running up them really well: in fact, those were the areas I felt the strongest during the race. I was never even tempted to walk, and the miles went by very quickly. And I was passing a ton of people (to be fair, this was probably because I had to start in the back corral. But still, it beats the heck out of my last two races where I was getting passed by like 800 bajillion people).

And Finally, Training Talk: Weeks 1 and 2

My first two weeks of training have been pretty unremarkable. They’re going fine except for a couple concerns, which I will get to in a minute, but there’s really not much to talk about.

In the first 3 weeks of training I’m only running 4 days a week and less than 30 miles total per week, and in Week 1, all  of that was easy running. A couple of my easy runs had 2 or 3 8-second hill sprints thrown in, a tool that Hudson uses in every single week of training to enhance neuromuscular development. So, that was that.

In Week 2, this past week, I did my first workout – a fartlek of 7 miles with 6×30 seconds at ~5K pace, and I did a long run of 9 miles which I threw a few strides into. The workout went well and I was able to hit some good paces, and my long run was decent – slow to start but I gained a good deal of speed in the second half.

However, as a whole Week 2 was just not a great week. We had our first heat wave of summer this week – temperatures were already in the 70s when I headed out for my morning runs, and were still in the mid-to-high 80s when the sun finally went down. It was a busy and stressful work week. I didn’t sleep well, and I didn’t eat well either. And, sorry for the TMI, but it was also PMS week, with my period starting shortly after my long run.

I didn’t complain about any of it – I just got through it. But, I also didn’t give myself the benefit of the doubt or cut myself any slack, either. I got frustrated at my super slow paces and continued to believe there must just be something wrong with me.

It is not so much that I’m beating myself up, but rather, that I’m feeling a lot of restlessness and anxiety in these first weeks of training. I am itching to train harder and do more. It’s an itch I can’t seem to scratch no matter how many times I remind myself that it’s only been 2 weeks, I still have 16 more weeks of training and I need to save my energy for the hard work that comes later. I want to fast-forward through these weeks. I want to be “there” already. I want it to be late July/August so I can be working hard, seeing fitness gains, and feeling like I’m actually training for a marathon. (Everyone, please bookmark this post for when it actually is August and I’m whining that training is so tiring and time-consuming and I miss the days of only running 26 miles a week)

This is the first marathon training cycle I haven’t felt like I was blasting turbo-charged out of the gate during the first weeks, so I’m feeling a little out of my element here. I keep reminding myself that having extra energy and restlessness in the first weeks of training is a good thing, and that it takes time for the pieces to come together so I just need to be patient, even if it is hard to believe right now.

 

So, I’m hoping that the next couple weeks of training go better than these two have gone. It’s supposed to be cooler this week, so that’s a step in the right direction. But I’ve also decided I need to make some adjustments going forward.

First, while I may be doing my part in waking up for my morning runs, I need to be better about dialing in the details to make them go smoothly. Namely, I need to make sure I’m eating a good meal the night before and warming up properly for my runs. I can’t have a “dinner” of taco dip, log 5 hours of sleep, roll out of bed the next morning and start my Garmin and expect to hit good paces. It may sound like common sense to you, but these are things I’m not used to having to be diligent about as an evening runner. I can’t run well if I’m not taking care of myself. I need to set myself up for success.

Second, I am making some adjustments to my training so that I can work more on an aspect of my fitness that I believe is lagging behind.

My focus during base-building was doing 100% easy running and building back my mileage after a very inconsistent winter/spring. I also structured the first couple weeks of marathon training that way, because I was concerned that I’d lost a lot of my aerobic base and thought I would need a significant amount of time to build it back.

However, while doing the same run at the same easy effort/pace for over a month – actually, for most of the year – has helped me stay acclimated to running, it hasn’t done diddly squat for my fitness, as I recently learned at the Rock n Sole race. Without any speed practice to keep the “oomph” in my legs, my paces are starting to atrophy and my legs have forgotten how to turn over efficiently.

I understand that heat and early mornings are going to affect my pace, but I still believe I need to refocus these next few weeks on getting caught up on my speed and neuromuscular fitness before the harder and more race-specific work begins.

I’m feeling perfectly comfortable running easy and covering distances, so hopefully, this shouldn’t be too daunting of a process. I tweaked the first 4 weeks of my training plan to add a fartlek workout each week and some strides to my long runs, so that I can get speed practice while still building an aerobic base and not expending too much valuable energy. I’ve also resolved to be more aggressive on the hills in my routes – not surging up them, but making an effort to run strong and not back off the pace as much.

Of course, it’s also important that I don’t go overboard, which is admittedly hard (see above about restlessness). I’m not trying to PR the 5K here, I’m just trying to get my paces back down in time to start marathon-specific work. It’s less about building speed and more about recharging the batteries in my legs.

While I obviously wished I would have realized all this sooner, I’m only two weeks in, so I think I caught it in time to get on track for the rest of my training. I hope to be able to report more progress next time I do a training check-in.

 

I may have to start blogging more regularly again, as this was one of my longest posts ever and I didn’t even get to include some of the life/summer fun updates I wanted to share. I have to say I am enjoying not blogging as often, but I will try to check in more often so that my training updates can be more training-focused and I can also talk more about life outside of running.

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7 thoughts on “Update: Chicago Marathon Training Weeks 1 and 2

  1. Oh yes, I remember the early days of easy runs and boringness. Hang in there, I’m missing those easy runs in my new training plan! I, too, was PMsing this week so having the heat wave roll in was not joyful. In fact, I was downright grumpy both Friday and Saturday night. I know you mentioned something on Instagram about not continuing to post sunrise photos every day, but I love them! Keep posting them! It’s so beautiful.

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  2. Like you said, 10 miles of biking? On its own, not a lot. Add it in x 5 + morning runs & it becomes much more.

    I applaud you getting back to morning workouts. Selfishly because I like the sunrise pics, and unselfishly because I know how much easier it can make your day flow, and make excuses disappear.

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  3. That biking will add to your overall fitness and as something to fall back on…great job! Your sunrise pictures are spectacular!
    If you go back and read your post, you have a lot to be proud of–switching to the morning, week 2 of training, adding in biking and core…that’s a lot of solid changes! I think it is going to take a bit for us all to adjust to the weather.
    I am glad you may blog more!!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I agree. It’s been so long since I trained through the summer that I often forget how long it takes to acclimate to heat. It’s a big change since it’s been so cool this spring, too.

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  4. I love those sunrise pictures! What a sight to keep you company on your runs!

    Last week was miserable. I’m really glad it’s cooled off a bit this week. I’ve felt a bit discouraged over my paces as well, but I really think the weather played a huge role in that, especially since spring wasn’t overly warm (not that I’m complaining!).

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  5. Awesome that you’re already using the inspect-adapt approach to modify your training. I know I’ll miss having a coach monitor my progress and create the next few weeks’ schedule based on my progress, and I’m not quite there with having the confidence to do it myself. But tweaking training based on performance/progress is so smart! Also, a huge kudos for regularly biking to work & doing strength after running. You’re building great habits that will all contribute to a piece of the fitness puzzle.

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  6. That’s great that you are biking so much – and to work! I work only 4 miles from my home, so I guess I could be doing that too… but I don’t 😦 And two of my work days I have to be “dressed up” (working at a bank) so that wouldn’t really work so well. But dang, I love that you are doing it!! I have been going to be a little too late so far this summer and not getting my 7 hrs of sleep, so getting out of bed early has been a struggle. BUT, in general I do love summer morning running, so I just need to make it a habit to get my head on the pillow sooner!!
    Keep up the good work on your journey to Chicago!

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