Obviously, there are pros & cons to shoe testing. The pros include a chance to stretch your shoe dollars, try out unreleased products, & provide feedback directly to the engineers designing the shoes. The cons include the possibility of not jiving with the shoe you're supposed to test, committing to a certain number of weekly miles for a specific number of weeks (both of my invitations stated explicitly that my high weekly mileage -- you know, compared to the general population -- was one of the reasons why I was selected) and the fact that you can't talk to anyone (or blog) about the specifics. Of course, if the shoes REALLY don't work for you or cause discomfort or pain, you can bow out, but at that point you've probably already put in some not insignificant number of miles in them. You do have to return them at the end of the testing period for the engineers to dissect & analyze, but that's not really much of a downside given that the typical testing window (8 weeks or so) is about as long as a pair of shoes lasts for me these days anyway.
So yeah. Just a neat little note there. :)
On to business -
Re-reading my recent training logs, I notice a pattern emerging:
"Marathon pace runs are a BITCH." (9/29)
"...the five hardest “easy” miles I’ve run in a while." (9/30)
"Less than a mile in, and all I could think was, “This is going to suuuUUUUuuck…” I felt so beaten up already, and my legs felt like lead. " (10/2)
"...those two-mile intervals were KILLER." (10/11)
"I felt exhausted & sluggish the entire time." (10/14)
"Definitely feeling the “cumulative fatigue” on this run." (10/15)
As I lay on the couch
Still, something about those particular words & feelings stuck in my mind; all this sounded familiar from somewhere. Later I remembered where.
An excerpt from Marathon Tips from the Hanson Brothers, where I first read about the Hanson-Brooks program:
On paper, the plan appeared reasonable. But in practice, it wore me out.
Tuesday's speed (or strength) session consisted of two three-mile intervals run at [about ten to twenty seconds faster than marathon pace] per mile. It didn't sound particularly intimidating to me at first, but my Monday night dreams came to be haunted by visions of the impending lung-searing visit to the high-school track. Thursday required an ever-lengthening tempo session, which taught my legs, lungs, and mind what my marathon pace felt like. Sundays were for long runs. Okay, not the talismanic 20-miler, but even a "mere" 16 miles at a [a minute slower per mile than marathon pace] takes its toll, especially on tired legs.
"Sometimes running when you're tired isn't a bad thing. Once your body adapts, there's a callusing benefit. You just have to get through a period of feeling pretty crappy in all your runs."
Crappy indeed. As the weeks crawled by, I felt increasingly fatigued. On weekends, the extra hour I saved with my "short" long runs was usually spent soaking in the tub, lying in bed, or sprawled on the sofa, my body laboring to recover.
Despite the fatigue, my legs seemed to agree with the plan. I was running my highest mileage since college, yet I remained injury-free. As much as I would have loved to back off a little, I had no excuse. Still, my brain longed for one, so I kept bargaining with it: Get to the end of the week, the month.
Yeah; that was it. While I haven't been totally injury-free, I can't say that marathon training has made anything worse. (In fact, the hip issues that ultimately ruined SJRNR for me last year have been totally absent, which is a HUGE deal.) Mostly, I've just felt slow, and exhausted, and finding that I have to put forth a monumental effort in order to make my paces (when I make them). Re-reading the article made me feel MUCH, much better -- apparently this is what's supposed to happen. :)
Particularly with the long runs. Feeling a little skeptical at first, I changed one of the later 16-mile long runs in the plan to 18 and the one after to 20. You know, I told myself, just in case I'm feeling a little insecure about the distance (and am not too worn down to do it). Well, I did that 18-miler obviously. Which taught me a few things.
- The distance itself will not be a problem. No, 18 miles at an easy pace wasn't happy-fun-ice cream-time, but as I did it after 4 hours of wine tasting, running 12 miles the day before (including 6 at half marathon pace) and having eaten nothing but a sandwich and a Clif bar (all day), I was fully prepared to have to cut it short purely because my body wasn't prepared. Sure, I felt tired as the time went on, but it wasn't really all that different from the kind of tired I feel after doing anything active & repetitive for two and a half hours. (Honestly, I was more bored than tired & wanted to be done just so I could do something else. Anything else, really.)
- There is hope that the pace (by which I mean *some* reasonably fast pace, even if it's not sub-8) won't be a problem. I kept an easy pace because that's what you're supposed to do, but even towards the end, I didn't feel as if I couldn't have run faster.
- There is hope of not hitting a wall. Vague tiredness aside, I felt strong, alert, and with it all the way to the end.
- Nutrition is working out. I did a gel every five miles, ~8 ounces of Cytomax at the beginning, & ~20 ounces of water the rest of the way (in addition to the whole post-wine tasting, lack of eating bit) and was fine. Imagine if I actually ate first & wasn't dehydrated!
- In addition to Vince Lombardi, I have a little cheerleader in my head that seems to get louder and more positive the longer I run. This is a weird thing for me to discover as it has never been the case before. She tends to shout things like, "Wow, you are SO amazing! Doing SO well!" "Girl, you are killin' it. KILLIN' IT!" and "YES! Another bitchin' mile DOWN!" While yes, I was thrilled to be done, I went the whole way with nary a dark thought.
- Part of the Hansons' argument for capping long runs at 16 miles is recovery time -- that it's really hard to run hard & strong in key workouts later in the week if you've trashed yourself on the long run. (Remember that they're all about balance.) Although I felt better mentally for doing the 18, I felt absolutely CRAP-TASTIC for the rest of the night (and the next morning, too). My knees really hurt (whaaaat? I haven't had knee pain in six years!), and I did something to a tendon behind my left knee that has caused it to hurt like a BITCH ever since. There was never any chance of running Monday. Never. And although I did get the track session done Tuesday, it remains to be seen how much running I'll be physically capable of this week.
So, you know. It's a journey.
Given that I've had the one good 18 miler and it went really well (other than kind of breaking me for 24 hours), I actually don't really feel the need to do 20, especially if I'm able to keep up with all the rest of the mileage. I may just do a couple more 16s and call it good (especially since I'll have the half marathon coming up, and I want to make sure I'm healthy & fully recovered for that).
Finally, there appear to be a ton of Bay Area blogger-type folks either running CIM or getting involved with it in some other way. A few folks have expressed an interest in some kind of get-together before then (particularly those of us who haven't met each other yet). I would especially love for this to happen since I ended up not able to make it to the last one. What do you think? Interested?