There are only 5 more days of June left.
As Kevin said the other day, “it feels like June never happened.” Indeed. For as much as May seemed to drag on forever, June felt the need to overcompensate by packing up and hitting the road just as abruptly as it breezed in.
June was a welcome change from the aimlessness that plagued May. After waiting what felt like forever, I finally started marathon training early this month and unofficially kicked off what I hope will be a much better summer than last year. With a training plan full of workouts progressing me toward a goal and runs first thing in the morning came the feelings of pulling myself together and tightening the seams of my life.
And yet, I find myself feeling similarly at the end of June to how I felt at the end of May: like I need to regroup and start fresh.
Despite the structure and newfound energy of working toward a goal, June still felt a little restless. As I mentioned in my last post, I have been anxious toward training as of late. I’m feeling like I’m not doing enough, not progressing enough, need to do more. I’m only 3 weeks in but I’ve been obsessing over paces and combing through the rest of my training plan in search of validation and assurance that I’m going to be prepared for this thing. Outside of running, I’ve felt unfocused and haven’t been as productive or proactive as I would have liked.
For as much as I tend to dislike summer, July is usually a good month for me. We are usually a lot more socially active and busy with fun summer-y activities. For 2 of the past 3 Julys I’ve undergone a social media/blog detox for the whole month, enabling me to relax and enjoy the summer-y fun a bit more and take a breather from the fast pace of technology-ruled life.
This July, in the spirit of the Julys before it, my mission is to embrace slow living. I’m calling it my “slow July”. You may have heard about this as its starting to become a buzzword in the minimalism/simplified lifestyle movement. It can be literal, but more generally it means to simplify, to savor, to live with intention, and to relax into the everyday moments of life. I think this is what I’ve unwittingly done in past Julys to make them so pleasant. Now, I want to be deliberate about it. May and June have overall been good to me, I can’t really complain. But there’s been this continuous undercurrent of listlessness and anxiety throughout. It’s like a leaky faucet: even when it’s not on full blast, it still drips. So this month, my “fresh start” is to slow myself down.
What does a slow July look like?
I’m not going on a social media or blog detox, but I am going to stay away from the message boards and Facebook groups/pages that I have a habit of lurking on when I’m bored and craving a distraction. I’m going to unfollow all the news sites and organization pages in my feed for the month. In August I can refollow the ones I actually missed.
I’m going to embrace slow at work by making better use of lists. Working from lists allows me to prioritize and manage my time better, and it also helps me hunker down and stay focused. I feel more in control of and less daunted by my work days and weeks when I break them down into smaller tasks.
I’m going to read more, and watch TV and scroll through the internet less. I’m going to spend more idle time relaxing on my front porch swing and I’m going to meditate more.
I’m going to embrace slow by having more fun and checking more items off my Milwaukee Summer Bucket List. And I’m going to put more work into house projects and organization. I suppose that sounds like the antithesis of slow living, but this isn’t about doing more, it’s about staying active and quieting my anxious, ruminating mind. I love that peaceful “spent” feeling from completing a project or getting through a long work week or busy weekend.
And finally, training. Marathon training is the biggest focus of my slow living month. I’m going to leave my Garmin at home on my easy runs. Or at least most of them. If I don’t know the pace of my slow easy miles, then I can’t obsess and overanalyze something that doesn’t matter. I’m going to quit logging my training in a journal. It’s something I’ve never really gotten much out of, and since I can analyze all my run data in Garmin and Strava, tracking it in a training journal has always felt like an unnecessary chore anyway. I’m going to focus on two weeks of training at a time. I have all but the current and upcoming week of my training plan hidden in my Excel spreadsheet, and I plan to keep it that way for the rest of training. I need to stay centered and focus on getting through what’s right in front of me. Obsessing over what comes later and trying to absorb my whole training cycle at once is not useful or helpful to me, and it’s not appropriate for me to try to make tweaks to week 12 during week 3. And finally, I’m refocusing my mental energy. I have 1-2 key workouts each week: my speed workout, and my long run, if it’s a long run workout. Later on I will sometimes have 3. Each week, I’m identifying these workouts as a priority and I know that for each of them I will need to focus, come prepared, and do my best. And everything else, I will not worry about. It’s easy running that exists to keep my legs moving, recover, and put mileage in the bank. I only have so much physical and mental energy, so I need to prioritize where I use it.
As for training, not much happened this week, but things are moving along. I have ups and downs, but I’m gradually feeling more confident about my fitness progression. This week I did have my first skipped run. I had hoped it wouldn’t be as soon as week 3, but it was bound to happen at some point. On Friday morning my alarm went off and I heard the rumble of thunder outside, so I promptly went back to sleep. I had an easy run on tap so I won’t lose sleep over the missed miles, and truth be told, I was grateful for the excuse not to run. I don’t know what it was about this week, but from Wednesday morning on I was so tired. I only rode my bike to work once this week and I even skipped my post run core work on Wednesday. End-of-period lack of iron, maybe? I don’t know, but man, I was such a lump. That extra rest day probably did me some good, come to think of it.
Luckily, I was able to get in a great fartlek workout on Tuesday before The Tireds hit. I did the same workout as last week: 7 miles with 6×30 seconds at 3K-10K pace, but I modified it by varying the intervals from 30-60 seconds. We had much cooler weather this week and it really made a difference here: my average pace for this workout was 30 seconds faster than when I did it the week before. I was pleased with how this went, and I’m eager to do more and harder speed work because I continue to gain so much confidence from these workouts. My intervals weren’t super speedy, but I kept them at a very controlled effort and always felt like I could have kept going, so overall I consider it a win.
On Saturday I had my first double-digit long run, and it was also my first fast-finish long run in a very long time. It was a progression run, 11 miles with the last 15 minutes at a moderate effort. I was not able to hit my goal marathon pace in the final mile, but I still finished strong and felt good about how the workout went. It’s been such a long time since I did this type of workout, so I’m pleased that I was able to pull it off. The fast-finish long run is a TOUGH workout. I consider it the hardest type workout I do in marathon training; I dread it more than tempo runs and mile repeats. Even when I was training for Grandma’s and Pittsburgh and in better shape, there were times when I could not hit my marathon pace in fast finish long runs. Granted, those runs were much longer than 11 miles, but still. So, I’m still not quite where I’d like to be, but I think I am in a good place and getting a little better each week, and my workouts are showing me that I have a lot to be optimistic about.
It may not have been my fastest progression ever, but I was proud of myself for pushing through and getting it done, so I treated myself to a nice cool dip in the lake afterward before hitting up the farmer’s market:
I have a tune-up race at the end of week 8, and I’m considering this my next key check-in point. By that point I will have some hard speedwork and higher mileage under my belt, so I should be able to go into that race feeling confident and come away with some solid feedback about my training and goals. The race is a 10-miler, and I will be using it as a progression run: I will run the first 5 miles at an easy effort, progress the 2nd half, and run the last 5K at my goal marathon pace. This race is hot every year, so it’s not really the best place to try for a fast time or PR. I think this particular workout is well-suited to where I’ll be in my training and the conditions I can expect on race day.
Now, on to Week 4 and the last few days of the first half of 2017!