I think I might be the worst blogger to run a running blog ever.
More than 5 months since my last post. I’ve failed, clearly.
However, be warned…this is a really long post.
First, let’s get caught up. I trained for and ran the Country Music Marathon in Nashville on April 25th. And nothing in that entire process or race was as I would have liked it to have been.
The training went okay, I suppose. The mental barriers were all there that I figured would show up – not wanting to drag my ass out of bed at 4am to go and run eleventy bajillion miles before breakfast and still have time to make the commute to work – but I’m actually really happy with how strong and consistent I was mentally. In the entire 16 week program, I missed just 3 training sessions, and they were through minor injury.
My training plan was aggressive. 5 mornings a week out on the pavement, mixing up speed work, hill work, marathon-pace practice, Yasso 800s, and the wonderful Long Slow Distances. I was also cross training upper body for 2 days each week. I really only ever had one rest day a week. So my body had to learn some things about me and I had to learn some things about my body. Fortunately (I think), that symbiotic learning relationship was mostly harmonious and generally successful. The midweek grind generally left me feeling strong for the weekend long distances, and the weekend long distances generally left me with a little more self-belief each week, such that when April 25th rolled around and it was time to actually run a race, it simply became a matter of one foot in front of another. Well, almost.
I’d run a half marathon in the middle of January – the Arizona Rock ‘n’ Roll half – and quickly decided it was one of my favourite races that I’d ever run. The course is scenic and varied (no crazy inclines or declines, but enough variance that it doesn’t get boring), and I ran it with a friend and at a very leisurely pace, which made it even more enjoyable. I got the distinct impression that it’s the kind of course that I could possibly PR my half marathon time on if I really applied the right mentality and training…a possibility for 2016 perhaps. It kick-started my long distances, though, and that was the general idea behind running it.
I was fortunate enough that another friend of mine, who is also a runner, was midway through training for the LA Marathon. After a few weeks, our long slow distances began to collide and we ran several of them together. Company makes all the difference when 18 miles looms on a Saturday morning.
And so to the marathon itself. Poor weather had threatened to ruin the entire experience for me. The forecast had led me to believe that I’d have a perfect 65 degrees and clouds the day before and the day after, but 86 degrees with heavy rain and thunder on race day. Joy of joys, right? When I ran the half marathon there back in 2013, the temperatures dropped in to the 50s and it was torrential rain for the entire race. A great memory, but an extremely uncomfortable race. However, Nashville being Nashville, and forecasts being what they are, none of that actually came to pass. Race morning was overcast, about 65 degrees, and dry. But humid as hell. And as the morning warmed up, it became problematic.
I had trained to run a 4 hour marathon, which meant maintaining about a 9 minute pace, and I did so relatively successfully for 15 miles. And then it all fell apart. Why? The hills. Oh god, the hills.
The thing about living in Southern California is that there’s no really effective way to train for 26.2 miles of hills – and I mean 26.2 miles of hills; there was little to no flat parts of the course (I’ll get to that) – other than perhaps a 6 mile hill repeat out and back that’s close by. So my long slow distances were executed on relatively flat beach-path routes that allowed me to run for 11 miles in one direction before turning around. That was great for building up the distance and the stamina, but not so great for building up the endurance needed to run an extremely hilly course. The result was that around mile 15 I began tapping out. The humidity and the first signs of heat were dehydrating me, my breathing started to suffer, and my right quad began cramping. Ergo, I had to slow down. And what had been planned to be a 4-hour marathon ended up being a 4 hour, 39 minute, and 46 second marathon.
And so this is what I wanted to get to: My choice of race didn’t match my choice in expectation. For some reason, my memories of the 2013 half marathon omitted the constant changes in elevation, and because they are rolling and proximate, the elevation chart that Competitor Group published didn’t really represent the severity of it. It’s a mistake I will try to not make again.
Emotionally, I was down. Yes, I finished. Yes, it was awesome. Yes, I’m glad I did it. But I was disappointed that the way I had worked for it for 16 weeks didn’t give me the result I wanted. It took me a good week to properly get over it, but I had a great time in Nashville, seeing old friends, and making new friends.
And so I sit here today, with my eyes beginning to turn to my next marathon; The Moose’s Tooth Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, on August 16th. I’m changing my training routine and plan for this one. I have no desires or aims to PR, because the course is far too picturesque and I’m likely to want to stop and take pictures along the way. So I’ll train to run one day less per week, and add in additional core and upper body work. And that all begins on Monday May 25th. My long slow distance that weekend is set to be 11 miles, but instead I’m going to run the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll half, in much the same way as I did Arizona, and gauge where my fitness and endurance lies.
After 16 weeks of hard work, 1 full marathon, and 3 weeks of rest since the finish line, I’m ready to hit the pavement again. And I promise I’ll try and blog more along the way!