Saturday, August 26, 2017

CIM Training Journal #2: Hills and Valleys

This continues CIM Training Journal #1.

This training block is a step in my journey, regardless of the outcome, and I am enjoying it.  I have big goals for CIM, but it's not the be-all end-all of my running.  Whether or not I hit my goal, I will still love running, and this build will help me with future builds.  God-willing, there will be future builds!

A day in the life (Meet the Teacher Night)
August 8, 2017
I had a tired break-down last night where life, including training, just got overwhelming. Sleep has improved my perspective on things (as it always does), but I sometimes feel like I am doing so many things that I'm not doing my best at any of them.  These include working, Mom-ing, training, maintaining a home, weekend activities/memory making, etc.

After a power-packed weekend during which we hosted 5 family members (including 3 children age 5 and under), I awoke sleep deprived on Monday morning to run and strength train.  Then I worked my usual 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. workday, and while I was working my husband took my daughter to buy school supplies since we hadn't had time to go over the weekend.  They also bought her an early birthday present of fish tank and accessories.  I felt like I missed out by not being a part of any of this (I was also mad that he didn't ask me about the fish tank first), and then after I spent an hour that evening catching up on cleaning and laundry, I started noticing that my house's baseboards needed cleaning, the cabinets needed wiped down, the blinds were dusty, etc.  I waited until too late to eat dinner and got hangry, then stayed up until 10:00 p.m. (too late for my 4:50 a.m. alarm).  I was also coming off a sub-par training weekend, and it all suddenly just became too much.  I felt like I had too many balls in the area and I was dropping them all.  I don't feel like I'm doing a lot of things I can "give up" (the irony of writing that on a blog; I could give up blogging obviously!), but for that evening I felt like pursuing a 2:45:00 was just too much.

Today I'm feeling back on track, and I had two solid runs; both were just base runs, but my 8.1 miles this morning was 6:58 average pace while keeping it easy, and I am always pumped when my relaxed pace dips under 7:00 (some days it is closer to 8:00; I really try to go by feel).  Strava also informed me that the route I did on my second run (4.2 miles) on was "trending faster", so I looked to find out that run was the fastest I'd ever run that route, which I've only ever run on second easy runs.

So, another hill and valley.  I once read a quote about running hills that made me laugh:  A hill is like a break-up; eventually, you'll get over it.  Marathon training is not the top priority in my life, but it is my top leisure pursuit and undeniably a major personal goal.  I can't do it all, in training or in life, so I guess I will just wait until they add more hours to the day and I'll be able to come closer.

August 10, 2017
The joy is in the journey, and I am very much enJOYing my miles with friends this week!

August 14, 2017
Last week was my 6th consecutive week of mileage in the 60s!  I looked back at my training logs from my Phoenix build, and I had 5 weeks total that were in the 60s, so I have already surpassed that.  Provided I can stay healthy, this is very confidence-boosting since I am still 16 weeks out from CIM. This mileage is the highest I've done, although I often have whomp whomp moments when I realize that others who are marathon training are running triple digit mileage!  But don't let comparison steal your joy, right?!

August 16, 2017
Today's tempo was a grind, and felt far too much like the Dam to Dam half marathon for my liking!  I probably should have adjusted my expectations for the workout based on the weather (71*, dew point of 70*/96% humidity, breezy, storms in the area), but I didn't.  I wanted 8 miles at 5:59 or better, but I got 8 miles at 6:07 via 6:09, 6:07, 6:00, 6:05, 6:09, 6:08, 6:15, 6:08 (also no pretty negative split!), and I had to fight for it the whole way.  Although it wasn't what I wanted, I was glad to just hang on and to keep all of the miles except for mile 7 within my goal pace range of 5:57-6:10; it was good practice gutting it out when I wasn't feeling it.  I was ready to stop the workout at the beginning of mile 4, and at mile 6 I was really done, but I'm not going to quit if I go through rough patches or can't maintain goal pace during races, so this was practice at doing the best I could with what my body had to give today.

I also reminisced on an 8 mile tempo I did in 2010; I remember it well because I could not even hit my goal marathon pace for really any of the miles that day, but a month later I ran a marathon faster than that goal pace. Compared to that workout, this 8 mile tempo at 1 second/mile slower than goal half pace was not that bad (although mile 7 was bordering on marathon goal pace!)!  I think my confidence is in a much better place now than it was a couple of months ago, because in spite of this off day I still feel good about my overall trajectory.  For awhile, I was fragile enough that one sub-par performance made me feel like I would never run anything good again!  I know I have more to give on a long tempo, and when I run my 10 mile tempo I'll get the chance to show it!  I am also aiming to appreciate what I got out of this one, which was practice hanging on when not feeling good; lucky for me I hadn't practiced this in my previous 3 tempo workouts.

August 19, 2017
Well, this week contained the previously described non-stellar tempo, then a fantastic long run.  I had an 18 miler, which was my first long long run of this training cycle -- I consider 13-16 milers long runs, but not long long runs.  It was a base pace long run across the board (no workout or fast finish), with the goal of having most of my miles between 6:57-7:07, or goal marathon pace + 40-50 seconds. My coach told me to think in terms of mode vs. mean on pace, because my first 1-3 miles will probably be slower as I warm up, but then I should try to keep the others miles in that pace range. My go-to easy pace isn't quite that fast (at least not in 70* and 98% humidity), but I knew I could run it, particularly running with Zach, who is faster than me.

I ended up with 18 at 6:57 average (even though I was instructed not to worry about the mean, hah)! My splits were:  7:39, 7:27, 7:10, 7:09, 7:15, 7:07, 6:59, 6:57, 6:53, 6:57, 6:55, 6:49, 6:51, 6:48, 6:39, 6:40, 6:36, 6:30.  Although I could feel that the final 4 miles were faster, they were still conversational, and being able to carry on a conversation at 6:30-6:40 is a relatively new thing for me.

I felt very strong, and afterward I realized that if I'd have run 8.2 more miles at an average of 6:38 pace, I could have run a sub-3:00 marathon in training.  I got really excited about this, because I believe if I'd fueled I could have done that (this was an intentionally fasted run; I did not fuel before or during aside from nuun in water, which is hydration/electrolytes but not calories). Last summer, I was training for a sub-3:00 marathon as my goal race; currently, I could do it in training on a rolling course.  On the other hand, since I'm currently training to run 15 minutes faster, I suppose a sub-3:00 should be fairly easy.  Whomp whomp.  #neversatisfiedsyndrome  Nonetheless, this made me very happy.  I also had a 66 mile week (week 7 in the 60s)!

I'm looking forward to testing my fitness in a couple of 10Ks in early September (one will be run un-rested, but the other will be slightly tapered).

August 26, 2017
I had another solid long run today! 17.2 miles at 7:01 average per my watch/6:59 average per Zach's (so clearly I am going with his).  My splits were a little more even than last week; after 2 slow beginning miles almost all were 6:50-7:06 (the final mile was 6:47, so we did not fast finish, which is good since I was not supposed to).  It was really confidence-boosting because it felt relaxed the whole way and it flew by.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I failed at my track workout on Tuesday - basically I ran one good 1600 m. (5:42) and then quit.  I got the chance to re-do it on Thursday, but on tired legs (13 miles with a double on Tuesday, 12 miles in a single on Wednesday).  I couldn't hit my goal range of 5:35-5:40 (I did 5:48, 5:44, 5:46 for full miles on the road because I couldn't mentally get myself back to the track either; 3:00 jog recoveries between), but considered it a success that I got back out there and tried.

I need to write a complete post about this, probably titled "If you don't believe you can do something, you're probably right," because I really mentally defeated myself over this workout, twice.  A friend told me that it's only failure if you don't learn anything, and I suppose what I learned is that I am not ready for a sub-18 5K - at least not un-rested!  I could not have run 3 miles straight at the pace I did these repeats.  Otherwise the day confirmed what I already knew:  I'm stronger at tempos and long runs than at speed work and 5:4X pace is HARD!  5:55 is fairly sustainable for me, but when I have to drop 10 seconds off of that I am DYING.  Whew.  I tried not to let this workout get me down too much, and in the end I don't need to be able to run good mile repeats to run a good marathon, but it worries me for my upcoming 10Ks.  Luckily I am not trying to run 5:45 pace in them (I need 5:57 to break 37:00 and PR), but it is hard to believe in myself when I can't hit my workout times.

On to the next - still trying to dream big, even on days my legs are sloshed!
This was how I felt about the mile repeat workout

Friday, August 18, 2017

Why does marathon pace feel like so much work during training?

When I’ve targeted the correct marathon pace for my fitness level and race day conditions (which I have in all of my recent marathons), on race day that pace feels smooth and maintainable.  I wouldn’t say it feels easy, but it feels very sustainable.  I get into a groove and feel like I could keep going and going at that pace.  It doesn’t feel like work or pushing until the final few miles.

In training, I don’t run a lot at marathon pace.  Most of my runs are slower; I never drop a marathon pace mile, or even close, during an easy run.  My tempo runs and speed workouts are faster.  When I do marathon pace running during long runs, it’s typically either fast finish miles or interspersed pick-ups; I have never run an entire long run at marathon goal pace.  I’ve done a 20-mile workout, “The Hardest Workout Ever”, that contained some marathon pace running and some faster running, along with 5 miles of easy running for warm-up/recoveries/cool-down; when I ran that workout before BMO Mesa-Phoenix, my average pace for the 15 effort miles in combination was 6:27, and I went on to average 6:27 pace in the marathon.  That workout did not inspire confidence that I could run 26.2 at 6:27 pace -- 15 miles at that pace with recoveries < 26.2 miles straight at that pace -- but it did make me feel good about trying for 6:3X pace.

Basically, whenever I run marathon goal pace in training, one question comes to mind and that is:  How can I ever sustain this for 26.2 miles?!  I felt that way about 7:15 pace when I was trying for a 3:10, about 7:00-7:05 pace when I was aiming for 3:03-3:05, about 6:51 pace when I was trying to break 3:00, and about 6:33 pace when I was trying to run in the low 2:50s -- and certainly now about 6:17 pace.  But then race day comes, and the magical combination of peaking and tapering and a goal race happens, and I can do it, or sometimes a bit faster.  Because this has happened to me before, I trust the process, but it still flummoxes me.  I am pushing anytime I run marathon pace in training; it does not feel sustainable, it feels like work.

It seems that many other people drop marathon pace miles all of the time, and thanks to Strava and Instagram I guess I am more aware of this.  It seems like that pace is easy for them.  Some people seem to do all their long runs at marathon pace.  Obviously, there are a lot of factors at play, including overall volume and workouts, and the percentage of VO2 max that we are running our marathons at, but it blows my mind!  I never come anywhere close to 6:17-6:27 on easy days; a fast easy day for me is when I’m running 6:55s (and that is the exception, not the norm).  I know that I am doing the training that is best for me, but sometimes I start questioning why my easy pace isn’t faster!  Why is the pace I can run for 26.2 so much work?!
Preparing to work during my Phoenix build

Saturday, August 5, 2017

CIM Training Journal #1: One way or another

Embarking on what's going to be a lengthy build to the California International Marathon on December 3, I decided to keep a little journal about my thoughts.  I keep a detailed running log with my precise mileage, workouts, paces, and little relevant notes about the weather, my health, etc., so I'm surprised I've never done anything like this; my monthly or weekly training recaps on here are the closest I've come.  So much about accomplishing big goals is believing you can, so this is me working on that component.  I'm not exactly sure how often I'll publish these or what direction they will take, but here goes nothing!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017
This felt like my first official day of the training block since June 19 was a non-running day (although I did bootcamp, as typical for Mondays).  I ran an easy 8.6 miles in the morning and 3.4 miles in the evening.  I didn't feel too chipper starting out in the morning, as I was suffering from a "vacation hangover" and fighting off catching my husband's post-vacation sickness, but every mile got better.  About halfway through the run, which was solo, the song One way or another came on the radio, and I realized what a perfect theme song it was for my 2:45 pursuit.  "One way or another, I'm going to get you, 2:45!"  It may not be at CIM, but I will try and try again -- either until I get it or until the qualifying window closes in January 2020.  If this goal is not accomplished, it is not going to be for lack of trying; it will be because it is outside of my ability and/or I get injured trying.

I'm not feeling very fit or fast right now, and the reasons for this are:  1)  summer is here, 2) I recently ran 6+ minutes slower than what I thought I was in shape for at Dam to Dam, 3)  I haven't done any real workouts since May 30, 4)  I just had 2 weeks of relatively low mileage (e.g., a recovery phase).  I'm working on accepting that I simply won't run as fast in hot and humid weather, but it's sure not as fun to go this direction as it is when paces start dropping in the cool weather of the fall! I feel like I am so grossly far off of the fitness I'll need to run a 2:45, and I'm feeling like I'll never get there -- but I'm trying to focus on doing what's scheduled day to day and trusting that the results will come in time...easier said than done.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017
It's a lot easier to perceive a 2:45 marathon in the realm of possibility soon after running a 2:49:20 than 4 months later at the beginning of summer...

Sunday, June 25, 2017
I read a quote from Arthur Lydiard about big training cycles, and it was something I needed to hear! "You will be running in last when others are running in first.  But, when it matters most, you will be passing them."  You can't be in PR form all of the time; peaking at one time usually comes at the expense of something else.  You have to pick the right time to be 100% and accept that the times when you're not are part of the process.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017
It's impossible not to play the comparison game, so I am trying to play it in ways that are optimistic; comparing where my fitness is at now to where it was in June 2016.  I may not be PR-sharp right now, but I'm way ahead of where I was in June 2016 and I'm farther from my goal marathon (then I was under 4 months out from an early October race, and now I'm over 5 months out from a December 3 race).

Monday, July 3, 2017
Training to break 3:00 last summer was less stressful, and I think that's because I'd come close (3:01:45) in a race that I classified as so-so.  For a 2:45:00, I need to find 4:20 (260 seconds) more than I had in a race that was pretty much perfect (Phoenix and CIM courses are supposed to be similarly fast, which is a very good thing).  I'm doubting myself every day and kind of wondering if I shouldn't try.  It feels like too much pressure and like I'm not good enough.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017
The 2:45:00 B standard is official and I ran a 5:53 average on my 4 mile tempo!  It was a very promising running day!  It sounds crazy or pathetic, but I almost cried when I got the news that the standard was set at 2:45:00 officially and not any faster -- a blessing for sure!  I've had 2:45 in my mind for so long, even a standard of 2:44:00 would have shaken me, and something like 2:42:00 probably would have stopped my dream in its tracks.

Monday, July 24, 2017
Balancing being happy about improvements with striving for more is hard!  I ran the Access to Health 5K 15 seconds/mile faster than in 2016 (5:57 vs 6:12), which I was stoked about.  However, I also think I *ought* to be able to run a lot faster than that for 3.1 miles if I want any chance at running 6:05 pace for 13.1 and 6:17 pace for 26.2.  Oy!  But then I felt super strong on my long run the day after the 5K, running "out" around 7:20 pace and coming back around 7:00 pace, and feeling effortless the whole run.  I told my coach that I always feel much stronger on long runs than on 5Ks, which I suppose is a really good thing!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
My 6 mile tempo today has me feeling like building up to running 13.1 at 6:00 pace is a real possibility!  Still a terrifying possibility, but if your pace goals don't scare you, they aren't fast enough, right?

Friday, July 28, 2017
I set a fast finish long run final mile PR today with a 6:05 at the end of a 15 miler.  Now, to replicate that at the end of a 24 miler and at the end of CIM!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
My coach told me NOT to try to PR every workout after I sent him last week's runs, which included a workout PR 6 mile tempo and a PR fast finish mile in my long run (both mentioned above as big confidence-boosters for me).  My first thought was, "But I should be running workout PRs since I am trying to run a marathon faster than I ever have before (not to mention a 5K, 10K, and half marathon along the way!)", but I have since acquiesced that I will stick precisely to the pace ranges he gives me and not try to dip under.  We all know that I am a pro at over-training, and he doesn't want me to do too much too hard too early.  I also have some fear about peaking too early, so I will listen to his expertise.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017
I came close to staying exactly in my pace range on my 3 x 2 mile split tempo workout today with tempos in 11:53 (5:57, 5:56), 11:47 (5:51, 5:56), and 11:43 (5:52, 5:50), only a tiny bit under my range on 3 of the mile splits.  I finished feeling like I had another repeat in the tank.  That is technically how you are supposed to finish workouts, to maximize training gains while minimizing stress on the body, but it's easier said than done because I love pushing.  This was still a workout PR, within following coach's orders, so yay!

I just read back over the beginning of this log, and what a difference 6 weeks can make!  I'm now feeling much better about my fitness and progress towards my goal than I was on June 20, and I'm also feeling fully adapted to sticky summer weather conditions (although I've had some pretty nice weather for my past couple of workouts).  I know I'll wax and wane, have bad workouts when I don't feel fit, and have many days where a marathon PR seems impossible, but I'm happy with my progress and also believe the recovery phase in June did me good.  Regardless of the outcome, I believe that God places dreams in our hearts and goals in our heads for a reason, so however CIM goes, there is a reason for this build.

Saturday, August 4, 2017
Today I got my "bad" long run of the training cycle out of the way, cutting a 16 miler at 13 due to serious stomach issues (the first time in my life I have ever thrown up during a run).  Since this was a novel occurrence, I've chalked it up to something I ate while traveling for work on Thursday and Friday disagreeing with me, and am moving on.  I've actually surprised myself with how non-upset I've been about it, but since it wasn't a key long run or workout, it was good timing to have a bad day.  I was supposed to have a shorter long run next week, but now I'll call this my cut-back one and do the 16 next week, provided my coach is good with that.  I was torn between going back out this afternoon for the extra 3 miles or adding it on tomorrow in order to keep my weekly planned mileage, and I decided on the latter since I only had 6 scheduled for tomorrow (now 9).  I'm feeling depleted but mostly okay now, I think.

I've decided this one is long enough that it's time to hit "publish"!  Until part 2...