This week was 64 miles of running, 24 "miles" of pool-running and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.
This was the last hard week of my marathon training cycle. Chicago is still 4 weeks away, but we opted to do my last 21 mile long run this weekend. In the coming week, I'll taper for and then race a half-marathon.
I know that the traditional rule is for the last run of 20 miles or more to be three weeks before the marathon, but I'm happy we're adding in the extra week. In the past few years, I've seen quite a few examples of people running their goal races four or even five weeks after their last 20 miler, and having outstanding races. Emotionally, I can sympathize with the erosion of confidence that can come from an extended period between one's last long run and the marathon, But physically it's much better to err on the side of too much recovery. Especially for me, since I recover slower than some others.
Plus, I know that endurance (the sheer ability to cover miles) is my strength, while stamina (the ability to sustain a hard pace for an extended period of time) is where I'm sometimes challenged. Racing a half-marathon three weeks before the marathon will give me a nice lactate threshold boost, and also be enough of a stimulus to ensure that I don't lose my marathon-specific endurance. Add in some shorter workouts to keep my legs turning over during the last two weeks while cutting the mileage, and I should peak nicely.
Workout-wise, this week had both ups and downs. On Tuesday, we did 800s - I kept most of them conservative, but let myself open up on the last repetition (I'm allowed to do this if I feel good). I ended up running 2:48, which was a nice confidence boost - it's been literally been years since I've broken 2:50 for 800 on the track in a workout, though I've done it in mile races.
Of course, as I noted to friends later, there are probably better marathon fitness indicators than a speedy 800m repeat run a month before the race....
While I normally tempo on Friday and do my long run on Sunday, I shifted things around this week so I could do my long run on Saturday. This was because most of the good long run routes in the DC area were occupied by either road races or triathlons on Sunday, dramatically limiting my options. Additionally, since I have the half marathon this coming Sunday, doing my long run a day earlier would give me bit extra recovery time.
This meant that I had to tempo on Thursday morning, solo. Though I love my teammates, I actually really like running tempos and marathon pace workouts alone - both workouts involve locking into a rhythm, and I find that easier to do by myself, since I can just focus internally without distraction. (Intervals are a different story. For intervals, I like having people to chase.)
But this Thursday went ass-up. In retrospect, I set myself up to fail. I didn't eat and drink enough in the 24 hours before the workout, and I also went for a four mile tempo when the nasty conditions (73 degrees with 100% humidity) meant that I should have shortened it to 5K. To make sure I dug a hole, I went out aggressively, starting with a 6:36 mile (I usually go out much slower and then drop down the pace).
The four mile tempo ended up being ~3.5 miles, as I split 6:36/6:36/6:40, and then 6:45 pace-ish for the next half mile before throwing in the towel. At the time, I was frustrated with myself for dropping - I surely could have hung on for another few minutes. But after a few minutes' reflection/sulking, I let it go - if I'm going to have a mental hiccup, better to have it in a workout than a race.
I put the lessons learned from Thursday to good use on Saturday for my 21 miler. I made sure to fuel and hydrate on Friday the exact way I do before my marathons. And this time, I respected the conditions (temp 76, DP 75 at the start; mid-80s by the end). I carried my largest water bottle, and completely drained it six times over the course of the 21 mile long run.
(I did the math later - I drank nearly a gallon of water over the run. I also ate my saltiest gels to keep a balance).
The result was a confidence booster. My goal marathon pace is 7:10-7:15 (3:08-3:10 pace), and I was able to average 7:15 for the last 7 miles of the run. Now granted, the first half of those last 7 miles were downhill, and I also took a 60 second break halfway through to refill my water bottle (there was a line at the water fountain). On the other hand, I hope not to be racing my marathon in conditions that hot and humid.
Additionally, the route I chose for my long run gave me a nice mental challenge. My training group normally does our 21 mile long runs on "the loop" - we start on flat terrain for the first 4 miles, and then climb for the next 12 miles or so, before descending for the last 5 miles to the start point. But since the normal start/finish point was blocked off, I started and finished my run at a different point on the loop. As a result, instead of finishing my long run by running downhill at marathon pace, I had to run PAST the normal stopping point, and continue to hold my marathon pace for several more miles. While also losing the nice downhill assist as the terrain flattened.
It was a nice chance to practice the same skills you need in the final miles of the marathon, and a real confidence booster when it went very well, as I held my pace and even accelerated slightly in the final miles. It wasn't easy, mentally, but neither is mile 22 of a marathon. And though I was very grateful to be done with the long run, it didn't feel like I had trashed myself.
And now, I taper.
Monday: 11 miles very easy (8:45), followed by yoga. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night.
Tuesday: 11.5 miles, including a track workout of 6x800 (3:09, 3:02, 2:59, 2:58, 2:58, 2:48); followed by injury prevention work and 1500 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.
Wednesday: 10 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core in the morning. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling at night
Thursday: 10.5 miles, including a 3.5 mile tempo on the roads. Split 6:36/6:36/6:40, and then the next half at 6:45 pace before bailing. Followed with injury prevention work and 1000 yards recovery swimming. Foam rolling at night.
Friday: 10 miles very easy (9:45), plus upper body weights. 2 "miles" pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.
Saturday: 21 miles, split as progression of first 7 miles at 9:20; next 7 at 8:12; last 7 at 7:15. Followed with 500 yards of recovery swimming. Foam rolling in afternoon.
Sunday: 8 "miles" of pool-running and foam rolling in the afternoon.