The Training is Working: Chicago Marathon Week 6

As much as I dropped the ball in Week 5, I must have really needed the impromtu cutback, because Week 6 was rebound city. In stark contrast to last week’s recap, this one is all about nailed workouts and getting all my work done. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses and, in typical Hanna fashion, there was some schedule rearranging and motivation dips, but I got everything done and Week 6 helped me feel more confident about my training and preparation.

Key Workout #1 for the week was a 7 mile progression run. My training plan defines progression runs as easy runs with the last 15-20 minutes at a moderate or hard effort. I think the best way to approach these is to do the first half of the run at an easy warm-up effort, then gradually start to speed up after the turnaround to build momentum going into the fast finish.

I had been looking forward to getting back in the game, so I put my energy toward this workout, and it went really well. My fast-finish miles were 8:37 and 8:13, which is actually the fastest full continuous mile I’ve run in training so far. I was working hard by the end, but it’s good to finally see my paces start to improve again. The fast finish was surprisingly mentally tough – during the first mile I was tempted to just get through it and allow myself to do the second one as a cool down (“I can always push through to the end next time“). But I’m glad I pushed through because I finished feeling really strong. While speed development is important, it’s the mental toughness that’s going to get me through the marathon, so I know how important it is to push myself in workouts and get better at mentally overcoming fatigue.

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On Thursday evening I ran a nighttime 5K fun run downtown. The “Storm the Bastille” run is part of the annual Bastille Days street festival. It’s an untimed fun run, and it is really cool to run through the streets of downtown at night.

I wasn’t looking to run a super fast time, but since this was my training run for the day and the miles counted toward my total for the week, I didn’t want to just phone it in either. I tried to run it at a steady state tempoish pace, but it was so crowded and bottlenecked in spots (you can forget about corrals and lining up by pace in a casual fun run) that I was basically doing tempo intervals. It showed in my final average pace, too. The graph of my pace is full of spikes and dips and despite several stretches of hitting sub-8:00 pace, I ended with an overall average of 8:33 for the run. So overall, I had a good run and a fun time, but as a training run this doesn’t really tell me much.

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Saturday was key workout #2: a long run with speed work. Since my long run is a cutback this week, my training plan had me doing it as a workout:

3 miles EZ
15 x .1 mile @10K effort, .1 mile jog (the plan had this part as 3 miles worth of 1:00 on/1:00 off, but I modified it a bit to make it easier to program into my Garmin)
2 miles EZ
2 miles moderate/hard

This 10-mile workout made up for the hell of last weekend’s 14-miler – it flew by. Breaking the run up into intervals certainly helped it go by faster, but I also felt great the whole time. I did not feel like I had I just run 10 miles at the end of it.

I love that I’ve gotten to the point where I have the fitness to run 10 miles as a workout and not just a long run – and have it feel like a breeze, too. It reminded me that my training really is working and the miles I’ve put in so far are starting to pay off. My 2 fast finish miles were 8:29 and 8:22, which averages the same as the 2 miles at the end of my Tuesday progression run. Pretty good considering I was on my feet longer and had been running harder this time!

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To round out the week, I did a 5 mile shakeout run today (this was originally supposed to be an easy run during the week, but I was really tired this week and opted to sleep in and get the extra rest instead). It was cloudy and a little cooler out today, and I went out slightly later, post coffee and breakfast.

This run showed me just how much running so early in the morning affects my pace – I ran at the same easy effort as usual today, and my pace was a full minute per mile faster than my 5 AM easy runs have been.

I know the easy run paces aren’t what matters but I have to admit, it felt really great to see that pace on my watch at the end of an easy effort run again. I haven’t hit that average on an easy run since the last time I was in training, so it’s good to know that I’m not as far off my old fitness levels as it sometimes feels like I am. While I already know that time of day affects my pace and my early morning runs are naturally going to be slower, it still gets discouraging to constantly see slower-than-ever paces sometimes, and it’s nice to have runs like today that remind me that “I’ve still got it!”

I’m glad this run came along today to show me that the work I’m doing in training is paying off, even if it sometimes feels like I’m getting nowhere. I may not get to see good paces day after day like I do during winter training, but putting in the effort and logging the miles really is working. Training is doing it’s job, and I just have to keep being patient and trusting in the process.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to switch my schedule and start running on Sundays now. I’ll still do my long runs on Saturdays, but I’m going to start using Sunday as a shakeout run day. As much as I love the idea of a full Sunday rest day, I’m not a natural early riser and waking up at 4:45 multiple times during the work week is really hard on me. I could really use that extra day off during the week to sleep in and get more rest. Plus, I really don’t mind doing short easy miles on Sunday – it’s quick and easy enough that it still feels like a rest day, and it’s kinda nice to start the day off with a light easy shakeout run.

 

A few weeks ago, I set a (very) preliminary race goal of 3:39 (an 8:20 goal pace). A PR by 4 minutes and breaking the 3:40 barrier seemed like a challenging-but-realistic goal I could be pleased with. It’s still really early in training to think about time goals, but I like having a target time, however noncommittal, to structure my training and expectations around.

This week’s workouts were the first time I began to think that I *might* *maybe* have it in me to hit this goal if the stars align on race day, or at least get close to my 3:43 PR. The end of my progression was the first time in this training cycle I’ve logged a full mile that’s faster than my goal MP, which felt like a small breakthrough. And the 8:37 before it felt like a much more comfortably-hard, marathon-level effort. Finally starting to see these paces again after so many months, and with so much training time left to go, has me feeling a lot more confident that I just may be able to run a good time at Chicago after all. And, that I’m improving! A couple weeks ago I was busting my butt to run 8:30-8:40 at the end of these runs.

To be honest, a 3:39 doesn’t feel realistic yet (and it really is still so early), but lately I’ve been feeling like I’m going to be way off my PR, and I now feel more confident that I actually do have it in me to run a good time and get within spitting distance of my PR. Given the year I’ve had and how much work I’ve had to do to get back on track with running, I think it would be a great accomplishment to run in ballpark of 3:45 and maybe try to match my Grandma’s Marathon time from two years ago (3:46:54).

 

Week 7 is upping the ante a little more. My key workout of the week is my first threshold run of training – 2 x 15:00 at half marathon effort. My long run this week goes up to 16 miles – eeek. 16 miles is always the point when marathon training starts to get real. That distance is the unofficial threshold between “long, but not that bad” and “yeah, okay, this is a grossly long run.” Finally, I am scheduled to hit 40 miles for the first time this week. And with the end of Week 6, the countdown of weeks remaining until taper is now in the single digits. That’s still a lot of time to make more fitness gains, and I’m glad to be in a spot at the end of week 6 where I’ve made gains in my fitness and still have the capacity to give and gain even more, but it’s still hard to believe I’m going to be prepared to run 26.2. Sometimes I just feel so over training and lack motivation, so I’m glad for a week of training that went really well and helped me stay in the game mentally.

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8 thoughts on “The Training is Working: Chicago Marathon Week 6

  1. Last week was a struggle for me in terms of motivation to run and finding time to run, I’m hoping I can have a nice turn around this week like you just had. Great work on your 10 mile workout! Your training definitely seems to be working well for you!

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  2. Glad to see you were also on the rebound for week six. I really do think a 3:39 is achievable for you. As much as I keep thinking, “What the hell am I doing? I’m never going to get where I need to be,” we’re ONLY six weeks in. I had to remind myself today that I have a full 10 weeks until taper. I’m sure it’s going to fly by, but with how I’m feeling after 6 weeks, I’m looking forward to seeing how I feel by 12 weeks! Our long runs are barely even long yet – we’ve got time!

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  3. Yay! I’m SO glad you had a better week of training ๐Ÿ™‚ Good weeks like that can make such a difference, in my experience. And I’m really glad to hear you’re seeing the results of your training pay off! Knowing all that work you put in hasn’t been a waste has got to be a huge relief. I hope this week goes just as well for you as last week did!

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  4. When the double digit runs start flying by you know your fitness gains are increasing for sure;) I am glad you had a good confidence building week. We all need those. Seeing the gains really increases motivation to keep making those alarm wins! I miss the fast finish runs…right now I can only do short bursts in the heat. Really short.
    I am glad it was just a fun run for Bastille Day! I hate getting bottlenecked in race like that.
    Beautiful water pics ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  5. So happy to read this! It’s a great reminder to all of us that staying the course and being patient pays off. To see these fitness gains and hitting those paces so early has to make you feel great. If you’re not a morning person, I think it makes a lot of sense to switch out your midweek run for a Sunday run. You’re right that a short and easy run is a really nice way to start a weekend day when it doesn’t take the entire day. I hope your momentum continues this week!

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  6. I love how you mentioned that 10 miles is workout instead of a long run. I’ve been in marathon training cycles for so long I still think 10 miles should be an “easy” workout for me, but yet with the minimal miles I have been running (no longer than 6 miles a couple times a week), my attempts at enjoying a 10 mile run have ended miserably! It’s like “hello Lisa, you’re not training to run that far anymore. What are you thinking??”. Doh!
    Good job on your week, it sounds very positive!!

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