The Boston Marathon is just over five weeks away. Just five, short, not-nearly-enough-time weeks. If I do a typical three-week taper, this means I just have two more weeks of hard training left. What?!? Commence freak out… now.
I had a rough start to this training cycle. I began with a bunch of leftover niggling injuries from the 50 miler. I was tired. Workouts felt hard. I was dealing with some major stomach issues, and then my knee started to hurt for no good reason. I felt like I was barely hanging on, in a bad way. I was getting in the miles and hitting my paces, but it just didn’t feel good.
But two weeks ago I had that “turn-around” workout I had been praying for. It was at an Impala practice where we did a souped up version of Yasso 800s: 6 sets of 800m (I was aiming for 3:00 each), 100m recovery jog, followed by 300m at 1500m pace (aka fast). We got a 400m recovery jog between each set. It was tough. But oh man I haven’t felt that good running basically since last year. My legs had pop, I felt like I was cruising. Running with a group of fast women pulls out that speed you didn’t think you had. Sometimes all you can focus on is not getting dropped by the pack, but when things sync up– breathing together, strides matched, ponytails swishing– it’s magic. Your legs just GO. I left that workout exhausted, but so happy.
And the next day, I knew things were different because I wanted to run. Up until then I had dreaded my post-speedwork runs because flat, tired legs suck. But not this time. And the best part? I actually felt good. That Saturday I ran the Woodside Half Marathon with my client, Jack, over in Huddart Park. I had no intention of racing and just wanted to explore some new trails, but I felt great and ended up placing third! The next day I got in a solid 18 miles to cap off the best week of training I’ve had since December. I made it over the hump.
My body is finally adjusting to the work I’m asking of it. It takes about three weeks for adaptations from a workout to appear and my body certainly held off for as long as it could on that one. For me, marathon training is as much mental as it is physical. When things are going well, like they are now, I start to play mind games with myself: “It’s too easy. You aren’t working hard enough. The struggle will make you stronger. Run faster!!!” Being outside your comfort zone is what brings progress and change. That feeling of barely hanging on isn’t fun, but there’s some strange comfort in it, knowing I’m doing all I can to reach my goal. The problem comes when you ask TOO much of the body and don’t respect the recovery. It’s a fine line. One that I have crossed many times over the years and don’t intend to do again.
Key Boston-specific workouts over the past 3 weeks:
Tempo run: 5 miles at tempo pace. I hit 6:30 pace exactly for the first three miles and pulled out the last mile in 6:16. Tempo runs are my “sweet spot” workout.
Hill workout: 8x :90 second repeats up 6-10% grade, last 4 repeats include fast downhill. I tried to hold 6:30-6:40 pace up the hill, and then on the hard downs I was pushing 5:10-5:20 pace. I felt like I was flying!
Long run: 18 miles with the last 8 at goal marathon pace, sub-6:50 pace. My legs felt great, and most importantly, I felt confident about the pace. I could have kept going.