Because I’m a month into training, I wanted to step back and assess how I’m doing. This training cycle is different from my first marathon training cycle.
- In the first 4 weeks of my 2016 marathon training, I ran 67 miles (14:30 in time). In the first 4 weeks of this training cycle, I ran 97 miles (21:23 in time). 30 more miles!
- Last year, my longest run in the first 4 weeks was 6 miles. This year it’s 9 miles.
So I’ve already done much more in training than in my first cycle. My pre-marathon-training running is also different. I didn’t have much base fitness before starting 2016 training. This year I had two months of base building focusing on mostly easy running coming into training. I’m really surprised by how much all the low-mileage weeks of mostly easy running have improved my fitness. I’m handling the runs without any problems. While I haven’t started speed workouts yet, marathon-pace workouts and longer mileage haven’t been a struggle. I’m able to physically get through my runs, and my motivation and positivity is still pretty strong. I’ve never felt like I didn’t want to run or struggled mentally to finish.
Is this the result of a few months of 15-20 mile weeks of easy runs??? I can’t help but think how it’s not. Even before base-building, I started 80/20 5K training at the end of March, which was also 15-20 mile weeks of 80% easy running. The 80/20 method can be applied to any training plan, but after some debate I’d decided to stick with the as-written Hansons’ plan so I wasn’t messing with it too much. Now, however, realizing how much fitness I’ve gained in 4 months of 80/20 running, I’m much more inclined to adjust the plan to fit the 80/20 ratio. I need to make that decision soon so that I can adjust next week’s workouts, but I’m leaning toward revising the plan to meet the 80/20 ratio.
While my fitness is there, I’ve had two challenges: hunger and fatigue. Both of these are challenges I’d expect much later in training, and that I’m experiencing them now is making me a little worried about how I’ll be able to handle the rest of training.
The hunger is something I’ve talked about a bit in my weekly recaps. In the first two weeks of training, I was still tracking my points in Weight Watchers and even saw minor losses on the scale. But then, as my mileage continued to increase and I got hungrier, I stopped tracking in WW because it was mentally tough to see how much I was eating. I also saw my first weight increase in a long time of one pound. Since then, I’ve stopped tracking and weighing myself. I keep trying to get back to tracking—even if I’m not trying to lose weight, tracking to maintain my weight is a must. But I just haven’t been able to. I’ve fallen off the wagon, and it’s so hard to get back on. Every day I tell myself I’ll start tracking, and every day I can’t get the wheels back on the wagon. While I’ve accepted that my days of losing are gone, I absolutely don’t want to start gaining everything I just lost. So this will be a daily battle. I know that later in training I’ll just be too tired to care, but I’m not there yet so need to focus on maintaining while I can. It is so hard, but I need to do this!!!
In addition to tracking, I have a few strategies I can use. One is to increase high-carb fruits like bananas and apples. I’m a huge advocate of increasing healthy carbs as training load increases because that’s worked so well for me before. I haven’t started increasing yet, but given my fatigue, I know I need to. The healthy carbs that have worked for me in the past are fruit, sweet potatoes, dates, whole wheat bread, bagels, and pasta, and brown rice and other whole grains (except for white rice). Some of these are higher in points than others, so I’m going to focus on those lower in points right now (fruit, sweet potatoes, brown rice). Another thing that has helped are Larabar Bites. One bite is about 1 point, and I usually have 1 or 2 following runs, which give me a bit of recovery fuel and tide me over until I eat breakfast about a half-hour later. Plus, they’re delicious (and vegan)! The chocolate brownie and caramel sea salt are my favorites.
The other challenge is fatigue. I’m not tired when I’m running, but after hard workouts and long runs, I get super tired later in the day. I remember feeling exhausted after hard workouts last training cycle. That’s part of the reason I chose a new plan with only two workouts a week. But here’s a recent example. Last Saturday I had a 9-mile long run that I probably ran too fast when it was very warm and humid—a recipe for exhaustion. We went to my mom’s house, and sitting around that afternoon, I could feel myself nodding off. In the car ride home, I fell asleep within minutes and then couldn’t stay up past 8 p.m. that night. That seems extreme to me following a run that’s not even in double digits. Sunday, I woke up still exhausted. We usually go on a long walk or hike with the dog on weekends, but I was just too tired. We took the dog on a short walk and then spent the afternoon relaxing on the patio. Then, Monday, I was STILL tired! I did a very slow recovery run and felt refreshed and better, but geez—how many days do I need to recover from running 9 miles? And how much worse will I be when I get into the hardest weeks of training?
I do think that aging plays a role. I feel like training is already taking a lot out of me, more so than in any other training cycle. And I’m only four weeks in! Maybe I also started out too aggressively. Maybe I should be eating more. Maybe I should be getting even more sleep (I get a solid 8 hours now). I do know that I’ve been running my long runs a little too fast. And I’m already up to more than 6 hours of running week, which isn’t insignificant. I’m just not sure whether my fatigue is normal at this point or it’s a sign that I will struggle with training as my mileage increases.
I do think that switching to 80/20 running will help. I know my body can handle running a fair amount of mileage most days, but I also know that my body just can’t handle hard workouts like it used to.
In addition to switching to the 80/20 ratio, I’m going to listen to my body and adjust more if needed. My plan calls for me to add a sixth day of running starting next week. I would not have been able to run this past Sunday. If I really need more recovery even after switching to 80/20, I’m not opposed to keeping a second rest day and only running five days a week.
Overall, I’m thrilled about my fitness level and think I have a good plan for managing my hunger and weight maintenance and for adjusting the plan to deal with fatigue. Onward!