Last week started with runs in 50-degree temps while I was still on vacation and ended with the most miserably hot, humid run in a personal worst half marathon. Hmm…wonder why I still wish I was on vacation? The upside is that I had a smooth re-entry back to reality and was able to keep my training groove going. In the past I’ve struggled with getting back to my routine after vacation, so this is a win for me.
This past week also marked the end of the speed portion of my training plan. Training will now shift from improving V02 max to “maintaining V02 max and preparing the body to handle the fatigue associated with marathon training,” according to the Hansons Marathon Method book. The next phase will include a lot of running at or near goal marathon pace and an increase in mileage. Everything’s going to ramp up, but I’m ready for it!
Here’s how last week went down.
Week at a Glance
- Training mode: Training for small, local, rails-to-trails Indiana Veteran’s Marathon near Pittsburgh on November 6 using a version of the Hanson’s Marathon Method beginner plan customized by a Hanson’s coach
- Days running: 6
- Miles this week: 42.27
- Time running: 9:08
- Miles this training cycle: 262.68
- Miles this month: 66.1
- Miles this year: 980.72
- Strength training sessions: 1
Easy run: 6 miles (54 degrees)
We were still in Spokane, Washington, and I did this recovery run on the 30-mile trail that starts in downtown Spokane.
Later that day we drove about an hour away to the Palouse in Washington, an endless sea of rolling hills of wheat and legume fields. It was really cool!
Speed Workout: 6 miles (54 degrees)
We had an afternoon flight, so I had time for one last run. This was 4 X 1200 meters at 5K pace with 400-meter recovery plus warm-up and cool-down. The trail I’d been running on crossed traffic a few times just outside downtown, but it hadn’t been a problem with the holiday weekend. On this morning, though, I had to deal with traffic and had to stop a lot, so it was hard to get back to a good pace after that. Two of my splits were a little slower.. They were setting up for Spokane’s Chinese Lantern Festival later this month, so I got to see some lanterns.
I was happy I got this run in because I spent the rest of the day at airports and in planes. The worst part of vacation! We got in to Pittsburgh at 2 a.m. and walked out of the airport into a steamy 72 degrees. Ugh.
Rest day, and I was happy for it! We slept in then went to my mom’s house to pick up my dog. This was the first time she’s watched him–usually my friend watches him. My family loved having him and didn’t want me to take him home!
Easy run: 4 miles (72 degrees)
Back to the heat and humidity. After running in cool temps for two weeks, I was struggling and took this run really easy. And I was so out of sorts I forgot to take a picture!
In the evening I did 1 set of my strength training routine to get back into it. It was tough, probably because I hadn’t done any strength while on vacation.
Easy run: 6 miles (73 degrees)
Why, Mother Nature, why does it still have to be so warm and humid? Blah! Back to my sopping wet clothes sticking to me.
Montour Trail Half Marathon: 13.27 miles (72-84 degrees)
The plan was to run the first 5 miles at an easy pace, the last 8 at marathon pace, and then 1 mile cool-down for 14.1 total. The course was very similar to my marathon course–a rails-to-trail with a 1% upgrade the first half and 1% downgrade the second half. Coach Melissa wanted me to use this race to see what challenges I have with the course so we can work on them and to practice how I’m going to handle water stops and take in my fuel.
When I saw how hot and humid it was going to be, I of course, thought about skipping it. But my running buddy Jamie couldn’t run, and I didn’t want to run my longest run ever by myself. I figured that the run was going to be miserable whether I did the race or not, but I’d be more motivated in the race instead of on my own.
So at 8 a.m. in 72 degrees and 100% humidity, I found myself starting the race that was my first half marathon 3 years ago, the race that I absolutely hated and swore I’d never do again. I don’t like the course because there’s little shade, and with the trail wedged between roads and industrial parks, many parts aren’t scenic. And the first time I did it for my first half marathon, I had a miserable experience in general.
In addition to the heat and extreme humidity, it was sunny. By mile 2 I considered quitting. I wasn’t too far from my car and could easily enough have walked back. But I pushed that thought away and plugged along. By the beginning of mile 5, I’d accumulated what felt like hundreds of little rocks in my shoes from the crushed limestone trail. I stopped a bunch of times in mile 5 to take my shoes off to shake the rocks out, tie my shoes tighter to keep rocks out, start running and realize that my shoes were tied too tight, stop to retie my shoes to make them looser, etc. I never did manage to get all the rocks out–they were still there when I put them on two days later.
Starting mile 6 I tried to run at marathon pace and just couldn’t. I ran faster than the easy pace I’d been running, but that was about 30 seconds slower than marathon pace. It was the best I could do. I was struggling and felt like I was working too hard. The turnaround point seemed to never come. And I started really feeling that 1% upgrade the longer I was running on it. I told myself that when I got to the turnaround, I’d be able to get down to marathon pace.
By the time I got to the turnaround, all I could think about was that I had to run through all that sun all over again. I did feel some relief because I definitely noticed the 1% downgrade, and was able to pick up the pace slightly. But that only lasted a mile. Then everything fell apart. I felt a big bug land on my face and swatted it away. It was a sweat bee that fell down into my bra and stung me. It hurt! I had to dig around in my bra to get it out. It was very hot by then (it was 84 when I finished), and the sun was beating down on me. I was sweating like I’ve never sweated before. Sweat was dripping down my legs like I was peeing and pooling in my shoes and socks so that it felt like I was running in the rain. Even though I’d put Body Glide everywhere, I started chafing just about everywhere. Everyone around me looked to be in pure misery too. Not only did the sun zap my energy, it also zapped my mental grit. And so I gave in: I walked. I walked through the sunny spots and ran through the shade for the last 4 miles. Yes–for 4 miles! It was ugly. I finished with a personal worst time for a half marathon. And the cool-down mile didn’t happen.
The thing is, there are no excuses. I got lazy. I let my mind tell my body what to do. While I couldn’t have run at goal marathon pace, I could have kept running at an easy pace. If I had done my best during this race and still got a personal worst time, I wouldn’t be upset. But I just gave up, and training is all about practicing not giving up, so this was a big fail.
While that didn’t make me feel great, all was not lost. I learned some things. First, I’m going to feel that 1% upgrade in the first half of the race, so I need to prepare for that. I think doing some of my long runs on the race course will help me practice. Second, I’ve decided that if I need to walk to refill my bottle at water stations during the marathon, I need to keep it to just a few seconds. The longer I walk, the harder it is to start running again and the harder it is to get back on pace. Saturday I practiced quickly refilling my bottle at aid stations, and that worked well (though then I continued walking for a few minutes after when I didn’t need to). Third, my fueling strategy definitely works. Despite the heat, humidity, and sun, I had no nausea or stomach issues during the race. I take a Clif gel and a Salt Stick cap after the first 30 minutes then every 45 minutes after that. I also drink water (or Nuun) every 15 minutes. I’ll be doing this for the marathon. I don’t think I’m going to try to eat real food during the race. Now that I know what works, I’m wary about deviating, but maybe I’ll experiment once to see. As for the rocks in my shoes, I need to try to tie my laces tighter and see how my feet feel. I like my laces very loose because that’s the most comfortable for me. If that doesn’t work, maybe I should look into short gaiters like hikers wear. Suggestions from those who run on crushed limestone trails?
And finally, I’m not going to give up again. When my training runs get tough, I’m determined to stick it out and practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable. If I can’t do that, I won’t have a good race, period.
Recovery run: 7 miles (61 degrees)
The cooler temps felt so much better this morning! I hope the worst of the heat and humidity is behind us. I didn’t have much trouble until the end. I got pretty tired the last mile plus had a side stitch and desperately wanted to walk. But I kept pushing and made the last mile my fastest. This was a good run to end the week, though, again, I forgot to take a picture!
It was a beautiful afternoon so we took Django to Schenley Park. He stuck his nose into some weeds and came up with a squealing baby bunny! We screamed at him to drop it, which he did, though very reluctantly. A woman who was walking her dog behind us saw it all and said, “He’s only acting on instinct!” Well, duh, but I wasn’t going to let him tear apart a baby bunny right in front of me! I made Dave walk Django away while I checked on the bunny. It hopped away, but Django chomped on it pretty hard, so… I’m always very careful to keep him away from rabbits, and he’s never gotten one before this time. Poor bunny. For Django’s part, he was pretty proud of himself and very upset to leave the bunny behind.
By the end of the day, I was very sore. I ran 20 miles over the weekend, the most I’ve ever run in two consecutive days. I felt it! I did some foam rolling in the evening and plan to do it daily now that things are ramping up.