4 Weeks till Race day…
The week of 4 weeks out, I logged a 100 mile week, with a few good speed workouts midweek and a key 5 plus hour, 35 mile trail run on Saturday. I knew I needed this run just as much mentally as I did physically. Realistically, I knew I was fully capable of running a distance more than 30 miles, but this is the first time since my 6Hour race in July that I have run this far, and something inside me needed to know that I still could. The first hour of the run I actually felt pretty crappy, and I thought that this could possibly turn into feeling like the longest run of my life. But I kept about a sub 9mmi pace on the trail and sometime before two hours in, I got into my groove and got into my long trail run zone. I just let my body do the work and my mind wander. And it did a lot of wandering during those next few hours of beautiful cool crisp fall single track in WCC. When I was on the last stretch in the final 30 minutes of so and off the single track and on the flat smooth road, I started picking up speed. It was kind of a paradoxical feeling...my legs were now to the point of soreness, which came with every foot strike on the pavement, yet I felt good. I finished up with a pretty decent pace, and on the JHall trail in the last 2 miles, I pushed the pace, estimating I had to be running faster than marathon pace (I have seriously got to get a Garmin!) When I turned into the parking lot of my apartment complex, I chucked my handheld under a tree and kept running. I ran past my building, back out into the street and did a little lollipop mile loop around my development, still pushing the pace harder. I finished that run feeling tired, but like I could keep going, yet really satisfied, which is exactly what I wanted out of the run. It was a major confidence booster, not only to get in the miles but to know that I could run the distance and still feel like I could go further.
I did the whole run by myself. It seems like it might get lonely to be running by yourself for 5 hours, even without any music. But I actually found this solo training run to give me the peace of mind I needed. The concern of holding back someone else's pace or taking someone out too far or too long were not there. Just me alone in the woods, in my zone. Nice every once in a while.
The day after this long run Mike had come down and we were planning to run the Cafe Gelato 10 miler Sunday morning. I really had no idea how my body was going to react to an attempt at a fast 10 mile race but I thought I'd give it a stab. Surprisingly, I felt pretty decent during the race, and I pushed the pace a bit, but didn't give things a full-out blasting effort because I didn't want a true "race pace" to take everything out of me for the next few days in the week. I finished the relatively flat trail race in 1:12, averaging 7:12 mmis, which I was very happy with. I won 3rd place my age group 20-24, with a few UDXC athletes showing up to blow it away (winning time 56 minutes!). Mike and I ran a 5 mile "cool down" afterwards before redeeming our free waffle cone gelatos:-)
After a Monday of cross training, Tuesday I got in some decent speed work with a few mile repeats on a 5:45am run, followed later in the day by 6 Xs 800s on the treadmill followed by some lifting in the afternoon on my break from my typical 10 hours of class on Tuesdays. I logged 20 miles for the day.
Wednesday I planned to do a "medium-long distance" run at a steady pace, and after a long 4 hour data collection early in the morning with a stroke patient, I went on a 2 + hour run through WCC, estimating I was keeping about sub 8mmis, feeling that I was running just a bit easier than marathon pace. After working with patients like this, I often find myself somewhat more motivated on my runs...whether it's the consideration that I am so privileged to be able to go out the door and do the things that I do or simply the thought of Thank god that's not me. My life may not be the most ideal right now, feeling like I am constantly under pressure and stress, but I cannot imagine having a life dictated by a neurological impairment like stroke coupled with all the comorbidities that go with it. I consider myself in the unique position of being exposed to such a wide variety of people from both extremes of the physical activity spectrum, which can really put things in perspective. About 16ish miles later I finished back at my lab feeling fairly tired before going in for a couple more hours of class (soft tissue massage lab, just what I needed--score!) I came home early for the day, around 5:30, half starving, and knowing I needed to read and study for my practical exam tomorrow and my exam early next week and not really planning to run again that day, but I was itching. So there I was, finding myself in that all-too-familiar predicament of being torn between hunger and desire to run. My solution? I grabbed a few handfuls of Chex cereal, gulped down some lemonade Gatorade and headed out the door again for a hopefully quick run on the J-Hall trail. I absolutely hate running on an empty stomach, and I had found myself doing this on my run earlier that afternoon. However, there is that fine line between just enough and too much, and too much can also make for a rather unpleasant run (as I am all too familiar!). My snack today must have been just enough because I walked back out the door feeling rejuvinated and ready for a tempo run. I usually do my tempos on my 5:45 am Thursday morning runs, but it has now reached that time of year when it is pitch dark until around 7am, and I find it hard to run my fastest when I am worried about tripping over something and eating it on the way down. So I am finding myself having to try and work in the tempo pace somewhere else in my week and it hasn't quite found a good place just yet. But today, I cranked out two quick bouts of about 2.3 miles each at sub 7 minute pace and felt good doing it, keeping my times within 4 seconds of each other. Even though it was fast, I usually find myself unsatisfied with runs less than 5-6 miles, almost like I have barely whet my appetite. I wanted to keep running, but I knew I needed to get back to studying of these exams...argghhhhh what to do....so I went upstairs to my apartment, grabbed my notes and headed to the treadmill at my apartment complex. I put myself at 7:30mmi pace and went at it for another hour. I felt pretty decent, and mostly just reminded of how boring any kind of distance running on the treadmill can really be. When I couldn't stand being stuck in the stuffy incandescent lit little gym anymore, I called it a day and went home to shower and continue my studying until bed. On the walk back, I realized I had run about 28.5 miles for the day, with some quality paced stuff. And I could have probably kept going, although my legs were feeling it a bit by the end of the night.
3 Weeks till race day…
Three weeks out I continued with my high mileage week, logging 112 miles by Sunday. I felt really good about this week, as it wasn’t just about the miles but about the quality of my workouts.
It didn’t seem like things would be this way from the start. I took a cross training day on Monday to try to get a little rest from my hard week before going into my Tuesday morning workout. I took a moderately paced 7 miles this Tuesday at 6am before class, planning to hit my intervals hard at my 3pm break from class. But when 3pm came around, I felt like absolute crap. The first 800 felt way harder than it should have, and things only went downhill from there, with stomach issues that onset soon after. After the first 3-4 sets, I decided that enough was enough and stepped down from my state of misery.
This workout was a bit discouraging, as this was supposed to be my last really hard set of speedwork before tapering down next week. Wednesday afternoon I had to do a little bit of mental coaxing to get myself out to WCC for a run. I wasn’t even planning on doing anything fast, but it’s amazing sometimes after you start the run how quickly you can actually start feeling good and have a complete change of mind. By the time I had run the half mile of so down to enter the park, I had decided that today was a tempo day. And when I hit my line, I was off. About 2.5 miles later I realized that I had just run the fastest tempo I have ever run on this training course…and by 40 seconds! The day was beautiful and cool and I felt good. I had some time so I decided to prolong my run. I did another 3 miles of speed, an out and back, each split being faster than the last. I took short easy run breaks between the fast segments. On the last 2.5 mile segment I went in feeling a bit tired, but I still pushed the pace. I ran this almost as fast as my first, still clocking the fastest time I ever have. I went back into lab feeling more than content, my spirits once again lifted.
That weekend was the Halloweeny 50K, which was certainly an adventure, and turned out to be a pretty great run, after bearing through the rain, snow and extreme weather conditions. ( I was the first and ONLY woman to complete the run, yippeeeyyyy!!) The next day Mike and I went back out to the C&O canal and got in 15 miles at a pretty comfortable pace through the aftermath of the storm on a bright and sunny day. I could feel the miles on this day, but was surprised that I didn’t seem to need to push myself through the run at this pace; it just came kind of naturally.
2 Weeks till race day…
The Saturday of 2 weeks out I decided to take my last run of any type of distance. I met up with Doug and Paul, two fast guys from UD Tri club, and we did a 16 mile run, with some decent hills thrown in at the middle, and we averaged 7:30 pace overall. The hills were a bit of a push, but I felt really good running at this pace. In the last few miles I could tell the guys were getting a bit tired, as they are not used to running this kind of distance, but I was almost feeling better than I had during the first few miles. The last couple miles on some good flattish stretches we ran 7mmi flats coming back into Newark. I ran back to Doug’s place with him and he gave me his Garmin to use for the next couple weeks of training. For the last two mile run back home to my apartment I kicked it in with a couple of 6:50 mmis. I don’t know how accurate these things are, but if it’s right then awesome! I didn’t want to stop when I got back, but I kind of forced myself to call it quits for the day.
The next day I took an easy 10 mile run, practicing a pace I hoped to be sustaining on the canal during the race and felt pretty decent. Accurate or not, the Garmin lets me know that I am running pretty consistent pace, and if it actually is right, I am running a good bit faster than I think I am!
In the week that followed, I pretty much did everything that I normally do during a training week, except less of it. I cut my mileage and during my normal two-a-days I did crosstraining instead of a second run if I felt like I needed to.
On Saturday I went with Mike to volunteer at the Rosaryville 50K, with a 4:45am wake-up. It started out a freezing cold morning that turned into a beautiful day. The course consisted of three 9.5 mile loops through bumpy single track trail with a short pavement segment out and back from the start/finish line. Mike and I ran one loop out from the starting line and back to give about 10 miles at a pretty relaxed pace. My legs felt decent and it felt good to be out on the trails in the woods again. The run did let me know that I needed to rest up this week though, because I hope to feel a hundred times better on JFK race day. I just felt a little tired and run down mentally, which I attribute to my lack of sleep during a very stressful past few days (or few weeks for that matter). The next day I attended the Society for Neuroscience conference (braiinnnnnnnssssssJ ) and didn’t run, asleep by 8pm that night and not waking until 12 hours later. One of the best nights of sleep I have had in a while.
My runs this week so far have felt easy. Seemingly too easy. But I guess that’s how things should be right now. I have not gone into a week feeling so fresh in a while. I did a little less than 4 miles at 6:40 pace with my roommate, broken up on Monday, with an easy warm-up/cool down. I felt great, and hardly phased at all when I finished. I wanted to run again later than day but refrained. Early Tuesday morning I hit the track with the UDXC team and did some 400s, with long 400 recovery, just at a pace that felt smooth and natural to me. Coach Fischer helped to keep me religious with my taper. I finished up with a few striders. The running felt easy.
As for the rest of the week, I plan to do the same thing I did last year. Easy 5 miles on Wednesday, probably not running at all Thursday and Friday, just maybe swimming some laps or spinning out on my trainer.
I am certainly finding myself in a different situation and state of mind than I was during the few days before the race last year at this time. I was injured, so was not even sure that I ‘d be able to complete the race. I missed out on my “peak mileage week” last year at the time of injury, so I believed that this set me back a bit in my training. I also didn’t have the confidence-booster runs that I have had in the past few weeks, and really was unable to do much speed work in the month leading up to the race. I think that this did force me to rest up and stay true to my tapper, but I do still think I was set back in my training which could have had an effect on my performance, despite the fact that I had the best race of my life on race day. For this reason, I feel that I am physically more fit and ready this year for the race. However, last year everything fell into place last year, with not only fitness, but with weather, nutrition, stomach conditions, and mentality on race day. It is certainly a rarity for everything to fall into place on race day, so for everything to happen in this way for this year is probably more than I can hope for. Last year I also had this feeling of “comfortable uncertainty,” with little to no expectations for what that race day will bring. This year there are expectations, both of myself and from others (like the ones who gave me a seeded spot this year!). I cannot say that I really have a plan, other than to let my body guide me to run in my own rhythm and feel.
So the single digit countdown continues, antsy with my taper and keeping me more nervous and excited than ever!
My list of post-race indulgences…
· Jefe night!!! Rocking out to all my requested favs…Tom Petty, O.A.R., old school Blink-182, Sublime, Zack Brown, Wagon Wheel and so much more…aannnnnd drinking apple pie, key lime and tequila shots from Jefe till I puke. (Kidding…well, kinda…J )
· SAS pumpkin cupcake
· Pumpkin spice latte with soy
· Sushi (okay,so there was probably a little of this pre-race…)
· Frozen yogurt.
· ROCK CLIMBING!! And feeling every ache pain and wound that come with it in the days to followJ
· Christmas cookies!!!
Probably many more to come and open to suggestions…any ideas?