Thursday, January 11, 2018

Houston Training Journal #3: From Holiday Fatigue to Pre-Race Fantastic-ness!

This continues Houston Training Journal #1 and #2 -- and is the final edition because race day is coming on January 14!

December 24, 2017
Merry Christmas Eve!  Today I capped off a 71 mile week, and realized that as long as I run at least 22.1 miles next week I will be over 3,000 miles for 2017!  I have around 65 miles planned, so if I don't make it then something bad has occurred...  The running enthusiasm pendulum has swung in the opposite direction as last week when I was filled with doubt.  This morning on my solo super cold recovery run I listened to a podcast that included a discussion about marathon training and 100-120 mile weeks.  I started thinking, "Well, what if I did that?  I could work up to that.  Surely that would improve my marathon performance."  I'm not sure I actually could do that, but I can increase gradually from what I did this cycle, right?  Dream big!

December 27, 2017
This is the most bipolar training block I've ever had.  I think that several factors are contributing to this:  extra busy non-running life since my return from CIM until now, the changes in routines that accompany Christmas (particularly traveling, eating differently, and variations in sleep schedule), weather changes (i.e., it's freakin' cold!), and coming off of CIM being my big focus for so long.  I vacillate between "I'm going to run Houston and I'm going to kill it there","I'm not sure I can run well at Houston", and "I don't think I should even go to Houston".

December 29, 2017
I've recognized this for a couple of weeks now, but I haven't gotten around to full-blown admitting it, although my Houston Training Journal #2 came pretty close.  I fear I am on the brink of Not Good.  I'm worried that my body is just barely holding it together as far as not getting sick or injured, which is not how you want to feel a couple of weeks out from a marathon.  Some days have been fantastic, but overall it has been variable.  I felt similar before and for a couple of weeks after Dam to Dam, and look at how Not Good that race turned out (although the weather was a bigger factor there).  My mind is right there too: barely holding it together and feeling like there is no possibility of a solid performance in Houston.  And we all know that if we think we can't, we are probably right.

BUT the thing is, I'm also not at all ready to throw in the towel.  What if it turns around?  I'm going to run long tomorrow so the door is still open.  Frankly, as of today I don't want to run Houston.  I keep thinking that I should, because I've done two marathons off of one training cycle so many times before, and it would be foolish to waste my fitness and potential for a PR in Houston, right?  Plus I'll be taking down time afterward.  I should be able to run it and go try.  But I also know that forcing a race never ends well, so if I still feel like this in a week I think I need to put on the brakes.  Perhaps it's the holiday hustle that's got me down.

December 30, 2017
Well, today's long run was Really Good; the best 21 I've ever run in training, actually (at feels like 6 degrees!).  I will just keep praying for wisdom -- and maybe stop writing about my indecision all of the time, haha!

January 2, 2018
After my 21 miler on Saturday, it was like a switch flipped; I was suddenly all-in for Houston.  After my really good 18 miler the previous weekend, I thought, "Okay, maybe I can do this...", but this time it really felt right.

I think most of it was because the night before the 21 miler instead of getting nervous about nailing it, I just decided to get out there and let it happen.  I gave myself permission to stop the long run if I wanted to; if I wanted to quit it then the decision would be made not to run Houston, and I would be confident it was the right one, because when I'm feeling good I never want to quit long runs (they are my favorite!).

I got out there for the 21 miler and loved it.  I didn't stress about hitting pace or what mile I was on or anything, I just let it happen.  That's what I need to do in Houston: just let the marathon happen.  I guess the conundrum has been that I keep thinking I shouldn't go if I don't think I can run a 2:45, but instead I need to just let the best 26.2 I have in me that day happen.  There is more of a chance that I won't hit the 2:45 than that I will (I told Jon 80/20), but it's not completely outside the realm of possibility so why not put my training cycle's work to another try?

January 5, 2018
Well, I'm tapering again!  I'm feeling both ready and out of shape...typical taper.

January 7, 2018
I read a post about chasing goals that recommended asking yourself if you would be happy to put in all of the training if you ultimately fail.  If you do everything you can to work towards a big dream goal and never get it, can you be happy with that?  I can truthfully say yes in regards to my pursuit of 2:45.  I love the day-to-day training, the hard workouts, the early mornings, the miles with friends, and the long runs.  Clearly I also hope I get it, but if I never do, I will never regret chasing it and what I've gained along the way.

I don't feel like I'm sacrificing in my pursuit of it; I feel like I'm gaining.  I'm not losing out on staying out late with friends (which I probably wouldn't do anyway, haha!), I'm gaining early morning runs with friends.  I'm not missing out on junk food, I'm gaining health.  I might be missing out on sleep, but I'm gaining life.  There is so much to be gained by pursuing what sets your soul on fire, even if you never achieve it.

January 8, 2018
Lessons I've learned from pursuing this:

I do better running two marathons when one is a B race.  I kept asking myself why I was having trouble between CIM and Houston when I've done the 2 marathons off of 1 cycle thing more often than not, and always loved it and in fact salivated for it.  Today while on my run I finally figured it out:  I've always had a goal marathon and a B one that didn't matter that much (almost always Bass Pro).  This time both matter.  I've always run well at Bass Pro, but going into it I've always thought it really doesn't matter how I perform; even if I DNF it's no big deal that I drove 20 minutes to give it a go (no travel, no expenses, no days off work).  This time both marathons are A races that require big travel commitments.

Too bad you can't OTQ at Bass Pro.  Haha!

Lesson 2 is that I don't do well with uncertainly with races.  I could have easily told you that before now, but it's been even more difficult than I expected thinking, "I'll run Houston as long as the weather cooperates."  Even when I told myself that if the Houston weather was crap and we didn't go, I'd run a 10 mile or half marathon time trial on my own on January 14 (so that I was guaranteed to be "racing" that day), it just didn't jive.  I tried to find a closer race that day as a plan B, but there are not many races at this time of year in the Midwest, for good reason!  I need to know that I'm running a specific event and to be able to focus on it.  For my next marathon I need to chose a race that I'll have a big time goal at if conditions cooperate, but that I am also content with running for place if they don't (spoiler:  I've already picked my next, though).

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." -  Romans 12:12

January 9, 2018
Best case scenario:  I succeed.  Worst case scenario:  I learn.  There is no failing as long as you learn something, and I know that I will have many take-aways from this experience that will help my next marathon.  I think this will particularly inform me on what type of course is best for me - point-to-point on rolling hills with a net downhill like CIM, or a pancake flat loop like Houston.

January 10, 2018
Now I am getting excited for the race!  I am ready to go out there and get the best 26.2 miles out of myself that I can on Sunday.  Anyone who has ever run a marathon knows the risk of each race, and running two close together like this increases the risk, but I know that if I didn't try Houston I would always wonder "what if."  My confidence has been very up and down in the 6 weeks since CIM (as exhibited by this entire training journal series!), but I also think that no matter what the outcome is, I will be glad I tried.  Wondering "what if??" is always worse than failing!  Thinking about running 26.2 miles at 6:20 pace or faster is very intimidating and overwhelming, but big running goals always are.  I took chances at CIM and I am going to take chances again...because taking no chances means wasting your dreams!

January 11, 2018
I am feeling my taper and also increased positivity!  I think being tired makes me negative, haha!  I am blaming holiday fatigue for any and all negative comments I made about running this race.  I am excited to run another marathon!

It looks like marathon weekend will hold a lot of excitement.  Look at these stacked elite fields (elite entrants are by invitation only in this one)!  I am in the Athlete Development Program corral right behind these folks so I hope to get in some photos with them.  I really hope that Jordan Hasay and Molly Huddle racing yields a new American women's half marathon national record!

I don't know what Sunday will bring, but I'm going to go into it with no expectations, and just run smart and give it my all.  I am thankful for good cold racing weather (start temperature of around 32*) and 100% health.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to take a couple of days off work and travel to this race.  I'm thankful my husband and dad will be by my side!  This race will teach me something, so I am also prepared to be thankful for lessons learned.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13

Addendum:  Travel snafu #1 has occurred, with freezing rain holding up my parents on their way to our house.  We may also encounter slick roads at the start of our journey tomorrow.  I'm glad the race is Sunday so we don't have time pressures tomorrow.


  1. Can't wait to read about the race. It's such a good course for a big PR. Best of luck, Sara!

    1. I love hearing that from someone who has run it! I don’t have a big PR in me at this point, but I’ll take a little one (I need less than 1.5% improvement). 😊 Race morning forecast is 34* and 6 mph wind - so much better than last year!

  2. I definitely agree, I’d rather try and fail than wonder what if. I think you are going to go out and kill this race!!!!

    1. At the very least I will get my answer to that “what if?”, right? 😊