You know that scene in the movies where the protagonist has hit some sort of rock bottom, and then has a moment of epiphany or tough-love pep talk, then throws away the junk food and yanks open the curtains to let the sunlight in as Eye of the Tiger begins to play and we cut to a montage of our newly-invigorated protagonist gritting out early morning hours in the gym and running stairs in the pouring rain (or, like, studying intensely and chugging Redbull while friends party outside the window, depending on what the movie’s about)?
Well, that’s about how I would describe myself going into Week 6 of training. I’ve been slacking a little bit in the past few weeks of training, and it all culminated in a Week 5 that went so ridiculously off track that I’m basically considering it an impromptu cutback week. Hey, whatever, I probably needed a cutback now anyway. But I’ve missed 4 runs in 3 weeks. Granted, most of them were short easy runs. Granted, 2 of them were accidents – not hearing an alarm go off, a thunderstorm. And then week 5 happened and my schedule and motivation go thrown out of whack, and I’m short 11 planned miles of running for the week. I’ve gotta pull myself together so this doesn’t become a habit.
I did manage to get my key workouts in this week – speed work and the long run. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could now say something like “it’s a shame about the missed running this week, but at least I made up for it by killing it in the runs I did do!” Lol, nope. When it rains it pours apparently.
I did the same interval workout I did in Week 4 – 2×400, 1×800, 2×400, 1×800 (400m recoveries), but it was so much harder this week. It was quite a bit warmer this time, and I also put it off until later in the week, but oof. The first interval was a struggle and they never got easier after that. It was so hard to push myself to run fast. I had to take brief pause breaks during a few of my recovery jogs just to catch my breath. I’m now officially over short interval speed work, ha. I normally enjoy it but I found myself thinking I’m so glad that I’m moving on to longer and slower speed work from now on.
And then the long run. We were out of town on Saturday so this week I had a rare Sunday long run. I couldn’t resist the urge to sleep in on Sunday, so I got a much later start than usual for this week’s 14 miler and headed out at 9 AM. I knew it was going to be a warm one so I braced myself as much as possible, took a deep breath, and just dived in.
The temps were in the mid-to-late 70s, which isn’t so bad, but the beating sun just killed me. This is why I run early in the morning: I can deal with humidity and warmth but I can’t deal with sunniness. The first half of the run went by okay. Starting at 3 miles into my route the trail is mostly shaded, so I get a nice long break from the blaring sun for the middle miles. But there is a lot of hidden uphill in the second half of this route after the turnaround, and it always seems to take a lot out of my legs. I began to get tired and my pace slowed down, but I just told myself “don’t worry about it. Be as slow as you need to. It’s just one run.” By mile 11 I was starting to fade pretty hard. Starting at the mile 7 turnaround I’d been stopping for brief water breaks every 2 miles, but after mile 11, I needed one every 1 mile. In the last mile, I actually stopped to stretch and drink what was left of my water a few times. I know that sounds pathetic – you really couldn’t tough it out for the full LAST mile? – but my legs really were that dead. They just didn’t want to move. The pauses didn’t seem to help at all, but my last few miles were actually faster than my average pace for the run, which means that I was somehow moving a minute per mile faster than it felt like my dead-ass legs were moving.
I’m just exhausted now. That sun and that long run took so much out of me. And all my exhausted brain can think is, this is nuts. I can’t do this. Why did I sign on to this? Why didn’t I train for a half instead? When did 14 mile runs get this hard? I shouldn’t have done this – summer running is just too hard for me. I’m not in good enough shape for it. How can I make it through a marathon if I can’t get through a 14 miler without caving in to multiple pause breaks?
If the conditions in Chicago are like what I face today – and they could be! – I literally won’t be able to finish. There’s just no way. I know I’ll have more fitness at that point and yadda yadda, but I can’t even imagine being able to run 12 more miles this AM. I don’t even think I could have walked 12 more miles.
Did I mention I’m so exhausted?
I’m just thankful now that this week of training is over and I never have to think about it again.
I’ve trained for races enough times to know that weeks like this are going to happen. It’s almost unavoidable. I expect them now as a natural part of training. They happen. You’re disappointed. You take a deep breath, shake it off, and get your butt back in gear. So, cue Eye of the Tiger, it’s time to buckle down and have a much better Week 6.
Week 6 is going to be a little weird: it’s a pseudo-cutback week. I was supposed to hit 36 miles this week, so my planned 32 for Week 6 was going to be a cutback. Obviously, that’s not true anymore. However, the “cutback” was only coming from my long run mileage anyway, and I’m planning to keep that, so I’m basically having a cutback in long run but not overall mileage this week. Make sense? Head spinning yet?
Long story short: the increase in weekday easy mileage this week coupled with a 10 mile workout instead of a long run on Saturday will be a good transition into the fundamental (more race-specific) phase of training and my first 40 mile week in week 7.
All that said about my Week 5 mess, this is as good a time as any to work these kinks out. I now have 10 weeks of training left before taper, and this is when the critical work that will really shape my marathon fitness begins. It’s easy to think I could have/should have done more these past 5 weeks, but I can do 7 mile runs on weekday mornings and scrape together 14 mile long runs, so I think I’ve got a solid enough foundation to start tackling the real meat of training. Well, I hope so anyway. And if all else fails, well…they do say it is always better to go into a race undertrained than overtrained.
And now that I’ve got it stuck in all your heads, here you go. You’re welcome.