Boston is just 5 weeks away and I have reached the moment of a 1000 questions: How much more mileage can I push myself into? Why am I so slow today? Is this a real ache or is it a figment of my imagination? Is this cold really gone? How much longer? The list is truly endless.
If there is one item that is more important in my training than any other, it’s the long run. Now this may not be true for everyone, but for me it is. I need the psychological confidence that I can handle long distance week after week. Two weeks ago, when I found myself on meds for a sinus infection that I seemed to have been fighting for weeks, I refused to skip my long run. Instead, I took one day off while waiting for meds to kick in, then plowed through 15 miles after work the next day. Last week, I worked 2-3 miles around the Chilly Half-marathon. Week by week, like all marathon trainees, I keep adding a bit more to my long run.
Despite this, I found the thought of running 16 miles yesterday overwhelming. For whatever reason, the first milestone past 15 miles was becoming a mental obstacle. I was also completely on my own, again, and the temperatures dropped a lot in the past week. But I knew that I had to, absolutely had to, get it done.
So I headed out at 8:00 a.m. in my New Balance 1080’s. Four miles later, I stopped by the house, as planned, and changed into my new 1080’s, my marathon shoes which I am just breaking in. Six miles later, I decided to continue to run further away from home before turning around so that I wouldn’t have to run past my house to reach the 16 miles that I was aiming for.
And it worked. By the time I got home, I logged 16.2 miles. The best part of this was my last four miles were 15 seconds/mile faster – planned – and I wasn’t feeling exhausted. Even this morning, 24 hours later, I found the dreaded recovery run fairly easy to do.
I wasn’t confident when I left my house, but I got back feeling great – mentally and physically strong. Yesterday told me that I am where I need to be with my training and I will be ready for Boston 2017.
“Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow.” Dennis Edney
Picking my fall races is a challenge. It’s cross-country season, there are lots of different distances for road racing and, of course, there are a lot of marathons. There are so many great events to pick that I could race every weekend if I wanted. I sat down at the computer a few weeks ago to try to decide on which races to run. Resigned that I was not going to marathon this fall, I looked primarily at half-marathons and cross-country, but every single marathon listed seemed to jump from the screen. “Pick me! Pick me!” I caved.
I love everything about training for the marathon distance. Watching weekly mileage climb has a powerful feeling; every long run finished leaves me feeling satisfied; fulfilling the commitment to train, which means planning to eat, drink, and sleep around running builds mental strength. Most of all, I love the sense of commitment that marathoners show and the confidence that they gain in training and elation of crossing the finish line.
When I made the decision to not run the Victoria Marathon, I was genuinely upset about it, but it was the right decision to make. However, for weeks following, I was being tormented by the October line-up of marathons: Prince Edward County, Scotiabank, Prince Edward Island, Hamilton. All of them were doable, but how doable? How much fitness did I lose?
After 2 rest weeks of lower mileage (40-45k) and no long runs, I had to test myself. F
our Monday mornings ago, I woke up before dawn and finished 19K – and I felt good! That weekend, I ran 21K, met my friend, Monica, part way through and felt not so good. That same week, I made a few minor changes to my running lifestyle, which included new shoes and pampering my feet a bit more, and my third long run (another 21K) felt great. I looked at the fall racing calendar, my family calendar and my work schedule and I started to plan. “I can make this work” I thought. “I can be ready for Hamilton.”
And now it’s game time. Yesterday, I upped my game and threw a 10K tempo into my long run (giving me a total of 25K) and ran a 12K trail recovery this morning. In the past month, I have watched my weekly mileage climb from 40K to 66K, and I feel great about it. This week, I get a little more serious as I add more yoga and 2 cycling workouts to my week so that I have a stronger core and quads so that I am ready for ‘net downhill’.
I know the next few weeks are going to be a bit crazy. The boys are back in school, I have a new teaching assignment, and coaching soccer starts soon. But, for whatever reason, running a fall marathon is in me and, like I tell the kids at school, “When you want something badly enough, you can make it happen.”
We’ve all had it, a busy day when you plan to run or work out and – bam! – something gets in the way. When this happens to me, I end up feeling anxious because I have missed something important, well, something that is important to me.
In the past year, I’ve learned to have a back up plan for those days when life gets hectic. And let’s face it: with two boys and a full-time job, life is bound to get in the way of things that I want to do. Plan B might be something as simple as running later in the evening rather than right after work, but having it helps me make sure that I get my mileage in.
Over the past few days, we have had some “irregularities” at home. The Littlest Dude did some television extra work in Toronto and I did some background work on overnight shoots on Thursday and Friday. It’s fun and different but, the overnights it messed around with our routines. When I accepted the jobs, I was a tad worried that my training for Chicago would suffer, but I also had the peace of mind that this is a recovery week for me so my mileage is a bit lower. On Wednesday, when The Littlest Dude worked, Plan A was to run when I got home; Plan B was to not fret it because it is a recovery week anyway. When we got home after 9:00, Plan B came into effect.
Planning my weekend runs around the two overnight shoots, though, was stressful. Normally, I have a long tempo run on Saturday, followed by a solid recovery run on Sunday. But knowing that I was going to get home from filming around 6:00 a.m., I wasn’t exactly sure how to fit it in? Plan A: If I have the energy (and sometimes I do), run long when I get home. Plan B: If I need to sleep, run in the late afternoon. It seemed simple enough until the short term forecast was out: 25C, feels like 30C, on Saturday afternoon.
Plan A seemed crazy but Plan B suddenly became plain stupid due to the problems I’ve been having with running in the heat. To complicate things, I volunteered to lead a training group run for the Oakville Half-Marathon tomorrow morning so I had to get my distance in today. “Six weeks to Chicago. Six weeks to Chicago. You’re almost there,” kept going through my head. I couldn’t just skip my long run.
While on the set last night, and after bouncing text messages back and forth with my husband, I came up with something new: add a Plan C. I could run shorter in the afternoon and do my long run on Sunday morning, with the bulk of my mileage before the group training. Suddenly the stress of uncertainty was gone. I had a Plan A (a possibility), Plan B (best scenario), and Plan C (not ideal but got the job done).
This morning at 6:05, I put my head on the pillow and closed my eyes knowing that I had two options left. I woke up at noon and realized it was going to be a hot afternoon. Plan C made the most sense; having that Plan C completely removed the stress of not running long today.
This summer, I have been trying to do my long runs on Fridays. That lets me get them out of the way before the weekend and I don’t need to make that same time commitment to my training, leaving more time for the family. Since school has been out, I’ve run 4 of my 7 long runs on Fridays and the other three on the weekends.
Getting yesterday’s 30K done was touch and go. My oldest son worked late on Thursday night so he didn’t get home and to bed until 2:30. Like most moms, when my son is out late, I am up late too – especially when I have to get him home. The Littlest Dude, then, woke me up an hour after I climbed into bed and I ended up tossing and turning until daybreak. When I should have been up and out for my long run, my pillow spoke to me; there was no way I was going to be able to run 30K on less than 4 hours of sleep.
I regretted listening as soon as I got up. I was now facing a late afternoon run, which would have been fine as my other Friday runs have been in the late afternoon, but I had really wanted to get it out of the way early. At 4:00, I finally headed out into the heat of the day.
It wasn’t actually that hot, especially compared to the temperatures we have had the few weeks before. In fact, with the gentle breeze, I felt quite comfortable. I stopped at a Rec Centre for water and a bathroom break 9K in, and again at the Soccer Club, another 9K later, for more water. As usual, I had one GU gel somewhere in between. I had more water at Coach Kevin’s house, who was going to run the last 8K with me, and I needed a bathroom again. That should have been my first clue that I was heading towards the danger of dehydration.
It wasn’t even 2 km later when I suddenly started to feel tired. I attributed it to my earlier pace. “I think I pushed harder than I needed to in the first part of my run. I’m starting to feel it now.” Soon after that, I had to stop. “I’m feeling sick.” We started to run when the nausea passed, but shortly after, I had to stop again. The rest of the run was stop-go-stop-go until I felt an ache in my lower back; at that point, I knew I needed to stop and walk the rest of the way.
On the walk home, I tried to figure out why I was running so poorly. I should have been able to handle the distance. It was hot, but I had run close to the same distance in hotter and more humid weather. I kept going back to the same reason: I ran too fast at the beginning. When I got home, I realized what had actually happened; I had become dangerously dehydrated.
As soon as I walked in the door, I headed to a bottle of Gatorade. Within minutes, I got the chills and shakes and had to put on some layers. I stretched – especially my lower back – and fell asleep on the floor. When I woke up an hour later, I drank some water. Suddenly, I needed the bathroom; I was going to throw up. After that, I broke out in a vicious sweat. I crawled into bed, water bottle and Gatorade at my side, and slept for another 40 minutes.
When I got up again, it was dark. The feelings of nausea had passed and I finally felt strong enough to shower. Before doing so, I weighed myself and had dropped 4 pounds (and that was after taking in a litre of liquids!).
By the time I felt like eating, it was late evening. I found leftover roasted potatoes and sausage from the night before – perfect! One huge plate of spuds was exactly what my body needed!
This morning, I was feeling much better. My weight is almost back up; I am still rehydrating and eating fruits and protein-rich foods. The aches and pains are gone. Today is now a non-planned day off running; tomorrow will be better.
So, what went wrong? 1) Pacing – I did go out too fast. I ran the first 23k at a 4:45 (km) pace, when I should have been running a 5:00 kilometre. 2) Fluids – Even though I was drinking as much as I normally do, I didn’t get in enough. It was hotter than I thought and I had no shade. The faster pace/heat/low fluids was a bad combination. 3) Nutrition – I fuelled the day and night before, thinking I was running in the morning. This left me feeling full so I probably hadn’t eaten enough through the day to fuel my late afternoon run.
What went right? 1) Even though the last part of my run was stop and go, I ran 30K, plus the 1.5K that I walked home at the end. Now I can work with that distance, zone in on my pacing for a few weeks and build a little more. 2) Recognizing that I needed to stop. I don’t want to think where I could be today if I hadn’t. 3) Family support: Once my boys saw the shape I was in when I got home, they are talking about riding with me so that I have liquids and company when I head out on my next long run. Support vehicles are the best!
Everyone training for a marathon has to have one tough training run, one when they completely fall apart. Yesterday, I had mine. Thank goodness it is out of the way!