Monday, July 7, 2014

SRM WEEK 8: The crap is coming.

I'm proud to say I ran 45 of 55 assigned miles this week, which is about what I thought would end up happening. And before I say anything else about those 45 miles, I feel like I should reiterate that I'm happy with it & in a good place both physically & mentally. Really!

Where my expectations & reality did not quite line up this week is in how easy those miles would be to rack up. Knowing 55 was probably unrealistic (and probably ill-advised), I'd started thinking of my goal for the week as "only" mid-forties, and hey, what was the harm if I was feeling extra-good some days & ended up in the 47-48 range?

But it wasn't like that. I fought for every single one of those 45 miles. Bought & paid for. Each workout was hard in different a different way & for different reasons, but none of them were easy.

Nothing exemplified the week more than my long run on Sunday. Although my mileage went up this week, it was all an increase in threshold miles, with the long run holding steady at 12-13 miles, which seemed strange to me. Saturday was an easy day & this cycle is short enough as it is, so why not take the opportunity to bump up the long one to 14 or 15? I didn't get it at all. Given how effortless my 13 miler the previous Sunday had felt, I figured that once I got through Saturday's run, I was home free.

Ha ha ha. Ha. Ha ha.

I understand now.

I remember training for my first marathon & thinking, "Ugh, I feel really tired. Better cut back. How am I supposed to train well if I feel so crappy & exhausted?" At this point, I understand that I was asking the wrong question.

Let me just start by admitting that I did not want to do this run. Did not did not did not. I wanted to run errands with Don & get ready for dinner & cocktails with friends later. But instead I was stuck with this stupid run.

It started out not too bad for the first couple of miles, and I felt like I was dealing with the 3 miles of relentless uphill that is the beginning of my usual route relatively well considering how badly I wanted to be doing anything else on Earth that was not that.

Then I hit the headwind & wanted to sit down & cry. Seriously, I don't mind running into the wind on occasion but for the last few weeks it's been 10-20mph headwinds in that part of San Francisco every. single. day, and after a while it just becomes utterly demoralizing.

But it's not like I was going to quit or something so I kept running. Around mile 3 I started feeling tired, then better around 4, pretty good around 5, and then somewhere between 5.5 & 6 I went from "Eh, this isn't so bad" to "There is no possible way on Planet Earth that I am going to finish this run under my own power." And because the universe is not without a sense of humor, this was just as I reached the farthest point from my house, just before I turned a corner (sadly, literally & not figuratively) & began heading uphill for 3 nasty, brutal miles.

My bitterness knew no bounds.

This is when I started stopping every third of a mile or so, not to catch my breath, because it wasn't that kind of tired; this was the marathon-mile-22, legs-like-lead-pipes, nothing-left-in-the-tank kind of tired. (Ie, the kind where resting doesn't really do anything.) I spent most of mile 7 debating just how bad it would have to get, how hopeless I would have to feel before I gave up & just called Don or an Uber.

Around mile 8 I started really struggling to hold good form, which usually means failing to lean forward so I can use mostly my glutes & hamstrings & instead relying on my quads & calves, which is really bad and (I am convinced) what caused both of the major injuries I had last year. At the worst of the incline, I might have been stopping every quarter mile. Eventually I hit the gently rolling part of the park again & managed to start plodding maybe half a mile at a time.

At mile 8.5 I wanted to lay down on the sidewalk & never get up again.

At mile 9 the emotional part of my brain said "SCREW THIS. Not another damn step. Call someone. Now."

To which the logical part responded, "Totally. As soon as we make it to that tree."

"There. We made it to the tree. DONE."

"Absolutely. As soon as we make it to that telephone pole."


"At the end of this block."

I played this game for as long as I could. I was so tired, could barely move my legs, & was starting to have muscle spasms in my back, but hell if I was going home in a car or walking some ungodly distance. Hell. No.

I made it to 12 miles, which left me four blocks from home. No, it would not have killed me to run those blocks (though at the time it kind of felt like it might), but I knew if I started I'd go to 13, which would mean running past my house & doubling back, which I didn't think I could face. Plus at that point I was back on a crowded, pedestrian-heavy street, and I wasn't sure I had it in me to weave in & out of people & didn't trust myself to leap in & out of the bike lane without face-planting.

Even just walking home was hard enough. I'd had plenty of calories & fluids on the run & wasn't hungry or thirsty or in anything more than mild discomfort, but for hours afterward all I could do was sit still and stare off into space & respond to simple questions in monosyllables. At one point I got down on the floor to stretch, then realized I no longer had the energy to move but figured, hey, there were worse places I could be stuck.

The exhaustion during the run was most definitely in my legs, but the after-effects seemed to be more mental than physical. I never got sore & didn't seem to have irritated anything, but I felt utterly lobotomized. Simple sentences didn't parse. My emotions were like dead fish.

Apparently Coach does know what he's doing. 13 miles at the end of a 40 mile week with only a fake 5K to speak of in terms of threshold running? No big deal. 12 miles at the end of a 45 mile week with 11 of them at threshold pace? BIG FREAKING DEAL. If last week's long run felt like running the front half of the race, then this week's definitely felt like the back half. And although it sucked royally, I know the feeling I was fighting on that run is one I'll eventually find myself fighting in Santa Rosa, so I might as well get cozy with it.

So yeah. The question, my sweet little angel face, is not how do you not feel like crap during marathon training; the question is how do you learn to keep running, on auto-pilot, without thinking, once you do start feeling like crap, because (unless you are a total sandbagger) the crap is out there, and it is coming for you.

* * * WEEK 8 * * *
(7 to go)

Grand Total: 45 miles

    * 11 threshold
    * 13 long
    * 21 easy


    * 2.5 hours strength/stretch/roll

Monday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate

Tuesday: 11 threshold (2 wu, 5 x 2K @ LT pace w/ 1:15 jog recoveries, 2 cd) + stretch/roll

    You guys this workout was not joking around.

Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m 8 easy

    On Wednesday Don's band was playing at Music in the Park in Redwood City, which is about 3 miles from my office. So instead of going home to cold, foggy San Francisco to do my run, I worked late & then did couple of miles down to the waterfront & back, then ran to the park to watch them play for a bit. 70° & sunny? Yes please!

Don is the second blur in black from the left.

Thursday: work from home / rest / stretch & roll

    I think Tuesday's 11 mile tempo run finally caught up with me on Thursday, because after feeling fine Wednesday I woke up Thursday stiff & sore in the hips/posterior chain areas, & had some particularly concerning soreness-bordering-on-strain-pain in my right adductor. The adductor pain freaked me out because that's part of what precipitated the Strain to End All Strains last spring. I think it would have been easier for me to make the decision to take a rest day if I'd actually gone to work that day, because I could have done some biking at the gym. As it was, no running meant doing nothing (except some stretching & rolling), which I'm trying to avoid as much as possible. I knew I'd still have plenty of mileage for the week, though, so in the end my rational brain won out & I decided to give my sore muscles an extra day to heal.

Friday: 9 8 tempo /speed (2 wu, 4 @ LT pace, 10 x 100m @ mile pace w/ 0:30 jog recoveries 1.5 2 cd)

    Ohhhhhhh how I did not want to run on Friday. Did. Not. Partly because we were having a barbecue in the afternoon, which meant I had to do my run in the morning, which I hate. Partly because I was still a touch sore (though much better than Thursday) in the right adductor/quad/hip flexor/all the thigh parts. I knew that the fast 100m's were not a good idea with my right leg still feeling a bit sketchy & I wasn't sure about the tempo miles, but I figured I'd do the warm-up & see how I felt after that.

    Ultimately I did the tempo miles, but tried to keep in mind the lessons I learned from Tuesday's long intervals at the same pace, specifically going by effort when running uphill and/or in to the wind. All in all it was not too bad, and I was kind of surprised at how relatively easy it felt to run four straight miles at this pace as compared to 1.25 mile intervals at the same pace on Tuesday.

    Even downhill with a tailwind I probably should not have run that last mile that fast, but I slowly passed this guy in the Panhandle, who then got all freaked out & had to sprint back & pass me, & then I slowly passed him again, & he sprinted back to pass me, & eventually I just got sick of this & wanted him gone for good. (Partly because he was making a lot of noises like he was about to collapse & die.)

Saturday 8 6 easy + stretch/roll

    I did the math for this day all wrong & ended up with exactly one hour in which to squeeze in some running between social engagements. As a result I probably ran it slightly too hard (also because it was kind of hot), but, hey, some non-insignificant number of miles were run & no loved ones were needlessly alienated. Still with the little niggle in the adductor region, so more stretching & rolling ensued later on.

Sunday: 12 long

I have to say that I'm kind of relieved that this week's workouts are more run-of-the-mill: some 200m's at the track on Tuesday & a few mile repeats on Friday. I appreciate the lesson of this week's long run but it would be nice not to find myself repeating it next weekend.


  1. Marathon training is brutal. It has taught me that I'm incredibly stubborn and will finish something even if I'm hating it. And it's also taught me not to look at anything else on my program wexcept the run that's in front of me. If I get too far ahead of myself I get overwhelmed and discouraged. Just one run at a time and just one kilometre at a time.

    1. Yes! That's the way I have to do it.

  2. I wish I had your awareness - to look at the big picture and reassess. I'd never realize there was a reason I felt tired, and probably try to "make it up" the next day...and get injured.

    1. All I can say is, it's been a looooong road of trial & error.

  3. I hope that you enjoy what you are doing here, because it didn't sound like it lol. Why again are you training for a marathon? I'm to the fun part of my half marathon training - I'm having to hold myself back on training runs. To me that feeling of being in such good shape that your legs just want to go is what makes all the training worth it.

    1. Heh, I think you may be under the impression that I run because I enjoy it. I don't. It almost always sucks & I almost never enjoy it. I only do it in order to accomplish performance goals (PRs, places, qualifying for stuff, etc.), because that is my absolute favorite thing in life. That's what makes it worth all the suckage.

      (Also, I really don't like marathons. I just feel like I've never had the chance to run a really good one. Once I get that, I'm probably done for a while, because I'd much rather train for 10Ks & half marathons.)

    2. Interesting. That is a bummer that you truly don't enjoy it. Is there another hobby that you could take up that satisfies those same goals of achievement? Biking? Swimming? Maybe I'm fortunate, but I actually do enjoy getting out there and doing basically every run. Only runs that I don't look forward to as much are the one's that you need to push your body to the limit (some parts of races, when you are in the pain zone for much of it). So I guess I look forward to the training most, and the end result of racing since it usually brings good results from all the training.

    3. side note, but a full post talking about what you said above might be interesting to me - and likely will elicit a bunch of comments - running for achievement instead of enjoyment =)

    4. I don't think I explained that very well--it's not that I dislike the act of running; I do find it satisfying & relaxing and I'm a twitchy mess if I don't run. But it's not "fun" the way wine tasting and dinner parties and ice cream are fun. The best comparison I can think of is how I was a math major in college. I found math interesting and solving problems was super satisfying & got a thrill from mastering new topics/areas. But I pretty much hated the daily grind of homework & never really "wanted" to do it.

  4. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and grind the miles out - and that's exactly what you did. Well done :) Next week will be better. And OH headwind I hate it too.

    Next time Don's band plays in RWC let me know? Sounds like an awesome way to spend an evening.

    1. Thanks!!

      I think they are playing at a restaurant called Mistral in Redwood Shores on August 23. (Since it's at a restaurant, it'll be all ages / family friendly.) I would totally go except that barring catastrophe I'll be in Santa Rosa getting ready to run a marathon!!

  5. Major props for grinding through that long run. It's not actually physical training. It's mental training. At mile 22 of the actual marathon you'll be like 'oh yeah, been through this before, totally doable'.