One of my goals was to make a freaking decision about whether I wanted to actually commit to running a sub-3:30 marathon next year and then--wait for it--committing to, like, doing the work it will actually take. (Revolutionary, I know. You should probably hire me to coach you.)
Don't get me wrong, a lot of the work, I'm pretty good at. I'm good at nailing my daily runs. I do my track workouts and tempo/threshold intervals pretty consistently, even when they suck. What I have NOT ever really been that great about is long runs; not in the way you have to be good about them if you actually want to race at the top end of your ability.
I will now enumerate the reasons why I have usually been a lame Leona (?) when it comes to long runs.
- 1) Time. Start to finish, a proper long run sucks up anywhere from 2.5 to 4 hours, depending on how long it is, how fast I run, how many red lights I catch, how often I stop for water, etc. Plus there's however long it takes me to decide what clothing is appropriate for the weather, hunt down & slather myself in BodyGlide/RideGlide/sunscreen, gather & stow the right number of gels, fret about what if the weather suddenly changes, etc. etc. etc. Basically this means I either have to clear out half a weekend day (easier at some times of year than at others) or get up at the ass crack of dawn, which, given that I already get up when it's still dark DURING the week, I am soooo not interested in.
2) Feeling wrecked for the rest of the day. Sure, this varies, depending on a lot of different things, but once I've run 18 or 20 miles, doing a bunch of chores / running errands / being witty & outgoing & social for multiple hours are pretty much the last things I'm interested in doing. (Also, sweet baby bejeebus, the chafing. Always with the chafing *somewhere*.)
3) The completely & totally overwhelming idea of running for 2.5-4 hours. No matter how many times I do it & finish going, "That wasn't so bad!," before the run, I will still inevitably be like, "You cannot be serious."
4) The monotony. It's better with audiobooks, but there are still so many times when I'm halfway through a long run & really just want to write a note to myself akin to the ones my mom used to write to get me out of PE when I had bad asthma as a kid that says, "Angela is unable to participate in the last nine miles of her long run today due to this entire business being just too mind-numbingly dull to even contemplate."
Racing = fun & exciting. Long runs = snooze fest. Unfortunately if you don't do the long runs, the races end up sucking too. So that's that. :P
5) There is just so, so much time for something to go wrong. For me, pretty much every run over 10 miles feels like walking a tight rope.
So now you can maybe see why I usually end up doing maybe five or six long runs when marathon training, and I don't think I've ever done more than two at 18+ miles in a training cycle. Sure, that's enough to finish and generally not suck as long as you're running the rest of your mileage, but it is definitely NOT enough to get particularly good at 3+ hours of fast running and have your best possible race.
After spending some time chatting with people who know a lot more about marathon training than I do, the consensus seemed to be that the easiest way to stop hating/fearing/avoiding long runs was to normalize them. In the past, for example, an 18 mile run was something I did probably only once in a training cycle, so it was a big freaking deal, and I spent all week fretting & worrying about it & building it up in my mind to be this horrible thing that may or may not actually be capable of killing me. My (inevitably) lone 20+ miler in a cycle, even more so. But if I can normalize 16-22 mile runs as something I just do every weekend with as few exceptions as possible, there is a chance my brain might finally just go, "Another of those? Phhhbbbbt. I do this all the time. NBD." And maybe, eventually, it really won't be.
This week my long run went from 15 miles to 17 miles, which felt like a big jump for some reason, and (as described) I was kind of dreading it all week. On top of this, my Sunday afternoon & evening were pretty packed, which meant I really had to be out the door by 8:30am to have any chance of getting it done. (Roll your eyes if you want, parents, but I am childless by design and didn't sign up for this.)
Sometimes people are like, "What is your top tip for making sure you get your runs in when you don't feel like it?"
Easy: Lying. No question. Without a doubt, that is the most effective tool in my arsenal.
No but really, I cannot even handle it
If I were to actually tell myself, "We are running 17 damn miles come hell or high water and that is THE END OF IT," I can almost guarantee you it would not happen. (See #3 above.)
"17 mile run?? What 17 mile run?? Psssshhh; this is just a little jaunt down to the park and back." "Well, we've made it four miles, which guarantees eight when we turn around & run back home. Why not go one more mile to make it a nice round 10?" "Now we're almost to the fun downhill section, might as well go all the way down to the beach, which gets us to 7, which guarantees 14 total." "Why not weave in & out across the park as we head back? Beats the relentless uphill, amirite?"
As I reached the 11 mile mark, I was thinking about how so many of my marathoning friends swear by the occasional "fast finish" long run, where you run either the last few miles or the last few except for a couple of cool-down miles at goal race pace or faster, in order to practice (both physically & mentally) running the right pace on tired legs. I'd never tried it but was feeling actually pretty good at that point, so I decided to try running miles 12 & 13 vaguely in my marathon heart rate zone & see what happened.
(Side note: This is the kind of thing I would NEVER have just tried on a whim one day during a "real" training cycle for fear of irrevocably screwing everything up forever & ever, which is why the whole "fake-race" mentality thing is kind of fun.)
It was kind of hard, but actually not as hard as I'd expected. And actually, mechanically, it felt better than the super easy 9:45-10:15 pace I'd been sustaining. Don't get me wrong, I was happy when that last mile ticked off (not surprising, since at 7:42, I was really pushing too hard), but I also felt kind of rejuvenated, both physically & mentally. Partly I think it was because race pace miles always seem to go by fast & it felt like I'd gone from 12 miles done to 14 miles done in the blink of an eye. Partly I think it was just a feeling of "WOOHOO THAT WAS NOT THE WORST THING EVER ERGO I AM TOTALLY WINNING AT THIS RUN!!!" After that the last three miles were a cakewalk, and when I got back to my house at 16.3 miles, it was no big deal at all to go out & back a few more blocks to get to 17.
And that is how I got through the 17 mile run on Sunday that I had absolutely no interest in doing.
Grand Total: 44 miles
- * 22 easy
* 5 goal marathon pace
* 17 long w/ 2 at sub-marathon pace
* 2 x 45:00 strength work, plus exercises from AT most days
I was supposed to break the 4-0 barrier last week, but then this happened, so I am kind of relieved that this week included no major emergencies or last-minute travel plans & I was able to run all of the miles I had planned, at planned paces.
Tuesday: a.m. strength work / 2 wu, 5 @ GMP, 2 cd = 9 total
- My running week got off to a nice, normal start (THANK THE GODS). And by 'start,' I mean like the first 1.5 miles, because that's approximately how far I got before I managed to trip over literally nothing & go hurtling toward the ground, barely catch myself with one hand, roll ass over shoulder into the middle of the street, & nearly get run over by three cars. (To be fair, the cars all stopped to be like, HEY ARE YOU DEAD OR ANYTHING, which was nice.) I credit karate & 13 years of learning to fall/distribute force safely with the fact that I managed to survive all of this with nothing but a gashed-up hand, a goose egg on one ankle, and a few bruises. Also, this is the first time in 20+ years of distance running that I've ever fallen, which I feel like is not doing too badly.
Wednesday: a.m. strength work / p.m. karate
Thursday: 8 cold, wet, windy miles
- In case you haven't heard, Thursday was #hellastorm here in California, so a lot of things like this happened:
My usual route to work.
My back-up route to work.
A few blocks from our house.
A few blocks in the other direction.
Schools were closed, cars were drowning on the parts of the flooded freeways that weren't shut down, and much of San Francisco was without power. Fortunately although a lot of our block was blacked out, our house was fine, so rather than risk the 30 mile commute in typhoon-like conditions, I hunkered down & worked at home.
By late afternoon the wind had died down, which was good, because in contemplating my evening run, I kept flashing back to this which was kind of traumatic. I lamented my lack of waterproof trail shoes, but celebrated the fact that just the day before, the running shell I'd bought on a big cyber Monday sale arrived. (Which I totally love, BTW, & since I've had plenty of opportunity to test it out lately, maybe I'll get around to writing a review.)
Friday: 6 easy
- Forgot to plug in my Garmin so just did this one by effort on a known route. Who am I kidding, I have only one route.
Also, that night was Don's company holiday party, which was fun. No pictures were taken but this post is dangerously low on non-gif pictures, so please enjoy this shot from the same party last year.
Saturday: 4 easy
- Trying to ease my way into Saturday runs. I ended this one by finishing at Bi-Rite & purchasing a case of wine for their Winter Wine Blitz. 20% off a mixed case? Hell yeah. #motivation #justkidding #woudveboughtthewineanyway
Sunday: 17 long
The big question about this coming week is my long run. We leave for Texas early Saturday morning & get in fairly late Saturday night, so Sunday will be our first real full day, & I'm still kind of blanking on suitable long run routes near my mom's house. The thought of making circles around the block for 18-19 miles kind of makes me want to shoot myself in the face.