I skipped two runs this week. Eleven weeks into my training and for the first time I was not able to follow my training plan.
Maybe it was the previous week’s mileage capped by a 21 mile long run or maybe I ran my recent workouts too fast. Whatever it was, I could not get myself out of bed and missed my tempo run and a recovery run. In the past I would overcompensate and try to make up the miles. The extra strain sidelined me with IT band injuries twice.
This time I decided to use the days off to rest and resume training when I felt better. I know I made the right choice because I ran strong on Friday and finished the week with a 20 mile long run.
I’m using my long runs to rehearse for the marathon. This week I ate breakfast two hours before running, drank water at two mile intervals and took gels every six miles. Running along the coast simulates the second half of the race and the sea breeze cooled me through the final miles. Today’s run was a good test. I wanted to quit at 15 and 17 miles but pushed through and practiced training with discomfort. I need to find an extra six miles of energy and I hope finishing my plan plus my taper gets me there.
Now that I’m into the meat of my marathon training, my long runs are twenty miles or more. With three more twenty milers to go before I taper, I have a chance to simulate race day or at least practice my preparation, fueling, and recovery.
This weekend I ran 21.25 miles along the Strand, a bike path that follows the Pacific Coast in Los Angeles and logged my run here:
- The night before: set out my clothes, shoes, and gels- three for this run. Charged my watch, made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and foam rolled.
- 430 am: woke up and ate my PBJ sandwich, drank a glass of water, and went back to bed.
- 530 am: woke up again, ate a banana, put on sunscreen, got dressed, and did my warm up routine.
- 615 am: out the door!
- Miles 1-4: I was a little stiff so I warmed up slowly. It usually takes me two or three miles to loosen up entirely and today was not different. I expect my taper and race day adrenaline will have me loose before I run the marathon. First water stop at mile four.
- Mile 7: I reached Dockweiler Beach and ate my first gel. My sandwich and banana were not giving me any problems. Looks like eating two hours before running was a successful experiment. GU “espresso love” gel gave me a little caffeine boost.
Miles 8-13: held a steady relaxed pace about 15 seconds slower than my goal pace. Feeling good! Stopped for water at mile 10 and then gel number two at mile 13. GU salted caramel.
Mile 13: To myself: wow, I’ve run 13 miles and I’m feeling great. Then: holy crap I need to run another 13.
- Miles 14-19: Starting to feel the miles add up. I felt like my pace was lagging but I was actually running a little faster, right around my race pace. Stopped for water at 16.5 miles and then my final gel at mile 18. GU caramel macchiato.
- Miles 20-22: Once I reached 19 miles I felt a surge of energy since I was so close to passing 20. I was not paying attention but I should have been because I ran mile 20 faster than my race pace. I don’t know what would have happened if there were still six miles to go but I doubt that it would be anything positive. Maybe I can keep that surge in check for a few more miles and use it to cross the finish line?
- My final mile was a cool down. I was definitely tired- I just ran 21 miles- but I felt like I had enough strength to continue. Thumbs up to my fueling experiment.
- Recovery: as soon as I got home I drank a protein shake, followed by a soy latte and a bagel with cheese. When the food settled I did a quick glute-circuit routine, showered, and relaxed. After lunch I took a one hour nap. The next day I ran seven easy miles to keep myself loose and did an IT band strength workout.
- Next steps: I had to stop in order to eat my gels. I’ll need to practice eating them while running or slowing down. I like to run wearing a beanie because it keeps the sweat out of my eyes but the sun bothered me on some sections of the Strand. I’ll try my next long run with a hat.
I’m happy that my eating strategy worked for a 21 mile run. I’m not running any further before the marathon so I estimate one more gel will get me to the finish line intact and holding my goal pace of 7:45-8:00. Onward.
The second half of my training cycle is off to a good start. I ran over 60 miles this week including a 20 mile long run. And my workouts were strong. I did feel a little creaky when I started some of my runs but once I warmed up I was able to hold a steady relaxed pace every day.
At the same time I survived the first real threat to my marathon training program, a two day trip from Los Angeles to Durham, North Carolina. I flew out Tuesday morning and returned Wednesday night, a double-whammy: my tempo run was also on Tuesday morning and then I spent almost twelve hours in planes with a three hour time change in between.
Since consistency is so important for training, I stuck to my scheduled runs and fit them around my travel schedule. I ran my 10 mile tempo workout before sunrise, went straight to the airport and following up with a nine-miler that started at 3am according to my body clock.
North Carolina running is a world away from Southern California. When I left the hotel it was 30 degrees outside, almost 30 degrees cooler than my usual morning runs. But more striking than the temperature was how everywhere was so green.
I mapped a nine mile loop near my hotel that followed country roads, passed by a farm and detoured along a dirt trail that was about to be swallowed by the woods.
As I flew home Wednesday night I was tired but filled with a sense of accomplishment. I was able to follow my training plan even as the workouts intensified. Back in Los Angeles, I ran my first 20 mile long run and closed the week with a relaxing recovery workout.
I’m eight weeks into my training with eight weeks until race day. I’ve stuck to my plan and my workouts have been solid, my runs strong, and so far no injuries. So where did my motivation go?
Despite perfect running weather and a light schedule the previous week, I could barely pull myself out of bed most mornings. Looking back on my training I realized I was doing the same runs on the same courses with little variation week to week. I decided to mix things up.
On Friday I ran Vista del Valle road, a fire trail that follows the upper reaches of the Hollywood Hills. I set out without a distance, pace, or goal time. Instead I relaxed and tried not to think about running.
After climbing four miles I could see across the LA basin all the way to the Pacific Ocean. I’m usually tired after so much uphill running but my legs and lungs felt fine once the trail leveled.
To the east lay Sierra Madre and Pasadena. If I took the opposite direction I would reach the Hollywood Sign but I wanted to run a loop instead of an out and back. Part of the reason was to keep my surroundings unique.
There is only one trail higher up than Vista del Valle and I caught a glimpse of it when I passed by a footbridge, a nice landmark to find when I return.
Mission accomplished. Vista del Valle was one of my favorite runs during my marathon training cycle. I set out to enjoy myself instead of focusing on training and the strategy worked. I did not realize how much I climbed until later. Instead I lost myself in the hills and returned refreshed and ready for week nine.