Wednesday, October 18, 2017

CIM Training Journal #5: Plan B

This continues CIM Training Journals #1, #2, #3, and #4.

October 10, 2017
Here is my official announcement that I am registered for the Chevron Houston Marathon on 1/14/18.  Surprise!  I've had success running two marathons off of one training cycle every time I've tried it, so why not?  I qualified for their Athlete Development Program (basically sub-elite), barely, with a cut-off of 2:50.  The half cut-off time is 1:25, though, which I don't exactly understand, but regardless I applied for a marathon entry and I'm in!  I am currently trying to talk some of the girls I train with into running it as well, so we can make a girls' weekend out of it.

My exact path for Houston won't be decided until after CIM, but it will be one of these:
  • If I don't get a 2:45:00 at CIM but feel it's within the realm of possibility off of this cycle, and Houston weather is conducive to a fast race, I will try again at Houston.
  • If I get the standard at CIM and come away feeling good OR if I don't get the standard and don't think it's within the realm of possibility off of this cycle, I will drop to the half and go for a sub-80 at Houston.
  • If I come away from CIM simply not feeling up for it or the Houston weather is atrocious, I'll skip Houston altogether. Historically I have handled marathons well so I don't anticipate not feeling up for it to be the case (race day weather is always a crapshoot though).  I could also skip it if I think it's in my better long-term interest not to run it (for example, if after CIM I pick a spring marathon to build to and do a 4 week lay off before rebuilding).
I like knowing I have a Plan B/back-up race option.  So much goes into a marathon cycle, and it's not always possible to have everything come together on race day because so many variables are out of your control (weather being the biggest, but also flight issues, getting sick, just having an off day, etc.).  In the past I've been able to rally and have a stronger second marathon for one reason or another, so why not have this in my back pocket?  It also makes me feel more relaxed about CIM and more comfortable going out conservatively there, both of which are very helpful things.  So -- Houston, hopefully we do not have a problem!

October 12, 2017
I was so inspired by watching and tracking the Chicago Marathon!  21 women there hit the OTQ standard, including 2 who I know!  I was so excited for them and so happy that their hard work paid off (they both paced brilliantly, too).  It also made me so excited to run a marathon, and I started wishing I'd have chosen Chicago instead of CIM so that I could have been out there too and didn't have to wait 8 more weeks (on the other hand, less than 8 weeks, ahh!).

Then (ironically during my highest mileage week yet), I started worrying that I'm not running nearly enough mileage.  Those women killing it in Chicago put in 100-120 mile weeks.  My current mileage is big for me, and I think I'll end up with 7 weeks in the 70s during this build, probably averaging 66-68 mpw for the 12 weeks leading up to the race (comparatively, during my Mesa-Phoenix build I averaged 57.5 mpw in the 12 weeks before).  Prior to those 12 weeks leading up to the race, I had 10 consecutive weeks in the 60s, which I have never done before.  So all good for me -- but such a far cry from triple digits!  I'm trying not to let comparison steal my joy, because I am really happy with my increase in mileage and with how great I've felt and healthy I've been with it, but I'm also worried it's not enough.
Isn't that the mentality of a distance runner though; always wanting more and always wanting to add more to get there?!  I know that I couldn't run 100+ mpw currently (or possibly ever) and stay injury-free, and obviously an essential component to running a PR marathon is making it to the starting line healthy.  Putting things in perspective, I know this training cycle is a helpful step regardless of how I race at CIM.  This marathon build will help my future marathon builds, and I will be able to gradually and intelligently increase my mileage over time if I need to (with my coach's help -- I need him to save me from myself!).  I'd say there is a greater chance that I won't run 2:45:00 at CIM than that I will; however, this cycle helps my pursuit of that big goal either way.  I figure that it's far better to not run a 2:45 off of 65-75 mpw than to not run it off of 100 mpw, because I have room to go up from where I'm at now if I need to.

Also, I trust that what God has in store me is better than what I could dream up for myself, and that brings me great comfort with this goal and everything else in my life!

October 13, 2017
In a recent conversation I had about multiple races coming into the same finish line, the Dallas Marathon came up, because they did an excellent job with dividing the road so that full and half runners had separate sides when the courses merged for the final several miles of the race.  I commented, with slight exaggeration, that I probably would have quit in the last 3 miles of that marathon if I'd had to fight through the seas of half runners that I saw on the other side of the road, because I was on the struggle bus.

My friend commented that she couldn't imagine me struggling during a race.  I then realized that I think the same thing about professional runners and strong runners ahead of me:  that they aren't struggling and that it's easy for them.  Many make it look effortless!  But the truth is that everyone competing at 100% struggles at the end of a race; in fact if you're not struggling to maintain/pick up pace towards the end then you're not at race effort!  Now, the end of a race struggle is a different feeling when you're in shape vs. out of shape, you paced well vs. went out too fast, etc. (I've been on both sides of both of these!), but it's always a push.  I think it's nice to know that it's hard for everyone at the end.  In my good races it's a "hurts so good" type of thing, but I certainly hurt at the end of all of them!  I think that makes us all normal!  If it's truly effortless, you're running too slow, right?!

Thinking about Dallas also made me contemplate that if I aim for a 2:44:50 at CIM and end up struggling to maintain at the end, if I lose 2:00-3:00 (at Dallas I lost about 2:20 in the final 3 miles but was spot on until then), I would run a 2:46:50-2:47:50, which would be a nice PR and time I would be very proud of.  It would just be a much more painful way to run a 2:47 than via a negative split!  If 2:47 is what I'm going to run, I'd much rather do it via 1:24/1:23 halves than the other way around!  It's hard to know exactly how to target your exact maximum marathon pace.  Regardless, I'm looking forward to that end of the race struggle; few painful things are so very rewarding.  I am ready to push to my max and to embrace the temporary pain that will accompany every all-out marathon.

October 14, 2017
Today I am another long run closer to my goal!  A solid 21.4 miler (6:52 average pace) in the books this morning, solo aside from a 3-4 mile rendezvous with Missy and Rebecca.  I only have 2 more monster long runs standing between me and CIM, a 22 miler and a 24 miler!  I will also have two workout long runs (both 18 miles total I think) and two shorter long runs (during my taper 2 weeks and 1 week before the race).  It's crazy how base long runs at 6:5X have become my new "normal" this training cycle.  I am thankful.  The first time I had a 17 miler come in sub-7:00 I was worried I'd never match that, but now I feel comfortable that I'm in that zone.

Although it didn't work out for me to run much of the 21 miler with anyone, the majority of my runs are with company, which I am extremely grateful for (this week I even had a second run with Amy P. - my first ever company when running from work at lunch!).  God has brought so many amazing people into my life through running!  Running friends quickly become close relationships that are somehow different from other friendships; it's something about covering miles and miles next to someone and chatting away while never actually looking at one another.  No backdrop of a restaurant, bar, event, etc. is ever needed -- just a headlamp and farm roads most days!

October 15, 2017
Wrapping up my biggest week yet at 77.1 miles!  It was pretty much a pure volume week; I ran over 77 miles yet only 5 minutes of it was hard running (5 x 1:00 pick-ups within my long run)...funny.  Workouts are back next week, and one of them is a bear!  Today's recovery 7 miles turned 7.4 (because I thought I needed the 0.4 to hit 77 -- I could have stopped at 7.3) reminded me why I used to take the day after super long runs off; my legs were tired!  I was also thinking that if I had 10 miles today I'd have an 80 mile week, so now I almost know what one of those feels like and of course was tempted to run 10.

It's funny how what used to be huge becomes the new normal, and for me right now that is mileage in the 60s and 70s.  A year ago I would have never believed that I could run this kind of mileage without getting injured.  I work on doing the extras (foam rolling and stretching, proper nutrition and always eating soon after running, strength training, keeping my easy days easy, compression socks), and my coach structures my training far better than I ever did on my own (for both performance and staying healthy).  I truly thank God for every day I run healthy, because there was a time I questioned if I ever consistently would again.  If you are struggling with injuries please don't ever lose hope.  Anytime I am unhappy with my performance, I need to remember how fortunate I am to be able to train and race, period.  There's few things an injured runner hates more than healthy people whining about a few seconds in a race or workout.

October 18, 2017
We officially booked our flight and hotel for CIM!  Only 6 weeks and 5 days left on the countdown!  My husband and parents are joining me on the trip, which is really exciting and also comforting to know that even if I bomb the race I will have a nice trip with my family.  I hope I do not disappoint them, as this has not been the most minor financial investment for any of us...  My sweet mother-in-law will be staying with Albani while we are gone since she has school.  Suggestions on things to do in the Sacramento area aside from the marathon?


  1. This is getting really exciting. Houston is a good race/course. The weather, as you mentioned, is the x-factor. This year it was near 70 and humid, although it stayed overcast (with a few intervals of light rain) and the breeze from the gulf helped a lot.

    1. I've heard fantastic things about Houston, but the weather is always a roll of the dice! I can't PR at 70* and humid, and I know and accept that, but I wish I could control the weather just a little more. ;-)

  2. So exciting, Sara!!!! I can’t believe it’s almost here!

    1. Me either -- it's seemed so distant for so long!