Marathon Training Week 11 Recap

Eh, this was a less than perfect week. But not all weeks will be amazing. I was about due for a rough one after the last two weeks went pretty well.

To start, I pushed my run schedule back by a day. Looking at the forecast, I knew Saturday was going to be a scorcher. I knew I’d be running solo this week (Joe had to drill with the Reserves) so there was no way I wanted to battle the heat AND the demons that seem to appear when I run long distances alone. Thus, the week looked something like this.

Monday: Rest day.

Tuesday: Uh, another rest day? Rest days are awesome.

Wednesday: This was supposed to be 4 miles (no more 3 milers for a few weeks as training is really amping up). We got as far as out the front door and turned around. I wasn’t feeling well and Joe was still really sleepy. I actually ended up calling in sick to work and this run never happened.

Thursday: 8 miles. Joe suggested we run to the Iwo Jima Memorial and back. It was sweaty but worth it. The path leading to the memorial was REALLY dark and I had to slow down a bit for fear I was going to fall and break my face. We stormed up the same hill we will at the finish of the race (it didn’t seem that bad, but I had only run about four miles at that point) and then ran a little more uphill. Since it was about 5 a.m. when we got there, no one else was around. We took a minute to soak in the memorial while taking a sip of water. It was silent and the city lights twinkled in the background. I had been pretty grumpy before that so getting to the memorial was a good reminder for why I was doing this.

Friday: 4 miles. I’m pretty sure this was the hottest run of the summer. I was dripping buckets. At 5 a.m., it was about 80 degrees in the city with 80% humidity. We changed up our usual 4 mile route (to the Lincoln Memorial and back) and instead ran behind the Jefferson Memorial and back. I was pretty surprised by our time. It was a little faster than I would have thought. But I guess I just wanted it to be DONE.

Saturday: Rest day, also known as carbo loading day. I am so glad I didn’t run this day. I went out around noon (to buy a hydration belt at City Sports) and it was disgusting. Every time I saw someone out running, I wanted to shake them and ask, “Why are you doing this to yourself???” If you want to run when it’s going to be this hot, run super early or super late. Not at NOON when it feels likes Hades.

Sunday: 16 miles. For some reason, 16 miles sounded so much farther than 15. Probably because I knew I would be doing it alone and I have an issue with mental toughness when running long distances alone. There’s no one there to distract me from what I’m doing. Even if Joe and I don’t talk a lot when we run, at least he’s there if I need him.

Luckily Sunday dawned much cooler than Saturday. The temperature was about 72 but the humidity was much lower and the skies were partly cloudy. I got up early and ate some peanut butter toast and drank some water. I wasn’t feeling super confident when I headed out the door but I knew I hate to try to get it done, or at least as much as I could.

My biggest mistake with this run was not planning an out-and-back course that had helped me mentally in my last two long runs. Well, I HAD planned an out-and-back, but the Nation’s Triathlon was going on and messed up my planned route. I’ve heard that the miles on Hains Point are some of the toughest, and I know from experience that running races there can be hard. It can be monotonous and there’s seldom much crowd support there. So to prepare myself, I decided to include Hains Point on my route. I’d run from my apartment, down through Hains Point, across the 14th Street Bridge, down the Mount Vernon Trail toward the airport and then head back, hitting Hains Point again on the way back.

However, the running course for the triathlon was on Hains Point so this plan went out the window. Instead I ran down near the Washington Monument and along the triathlon’s bike course (pulling some inspiration from the triathletes along the way) toward the Lincoln Memorial. I went over the Memorial Bridge and headed to Teddy Roosevelt Island. I ran across the bridge to the island and back. Then I backtracked on the Mount Vernon Trail and went past the 14th Street Bridge, past the airport and to Danderfield Island.

Things started getting tough for me mentally around mile 8. I told myself just to run to 10 and then I could walk more if I needed to, even though I had been doing my one-minute walking breaks every two miles. I pulled out music but that didn’t do anything to help. I thought knowing I only needed to go 6 more miles after 10 would help me, but it didn’t. At the 10 mile point, I was close to Dangerfield Island. I knew there was a little snack bar there and I wanted a Gatorade, even though I had some lemon-lime Gatorade in one of my water bottles on my belt. So I walked over there and got the fruit punch Gatorade. And then I kept walking as I made my way back toward home. I walked everything between mile 10 and 12.3. Normally I beat myself up over this, but today I just didn’t. It was beautiful out so I figured I’d just enjoy being outdoors. I walked at a quick pace and drank the Gatorade.

I saw a bunch of training groups out running and smiled at them as they passed. Even seeing these other marathoners-in-training didn’t instill any guilt. But around mile 12 I knew I could, and should, run again. So at 12. 3 miles, I told myself to run. If it hurt or I got too tired, I could walk again. So I ran another mile. Then I did a sort of walk-run method. I ran to a bridge overpass and then walked up to the 14th Street Bridge, ran across the bridge and down the hill toward the Jefferson. I came across the triathlon running course near the Jefferson so I cheered on these amazing folks as I walked again. Then I ran a little more, until I was just below 15 miles. I walked up the mini hill near the Holocaust Museum and then jogged to a water fountain to refill my bottle. At this point I just wanted to run down the hill toward Constitution Avenue. But I was so close to being done. I pushed myself to run most of that last mile and I’m really proud of myself for that. I hit 16 miles right at the end of 11th Street.

The second I didn’t have to run anymore was the second I started to feel the fatigue in my body. I didn’t HAVE to run any more miles but it was still about a half mile walk home uphill. I think that walk home felt like the hardest part of this run.

In the end, I probably ran close to 13 of the miles and walked about 3. My average pace on this run was a full minute slower than last week’s 15 miles. But I took something away from this. I CAN do all these miles alone. It’s not easy and I have to get better at it, but when I got to 10 miles, I was ready to walk all the way home. I found that not only could I make myself run more when I didn’t want to, I could usually run farther than I told myself to. I didn’t intend to run almost the whole last mile, but I did anyway.

Whatever clicked for me in those last four miles is what I need to find on race day. I think the last 6 miles of this training run could be similar to the last 6 miles of the marathon. They don’t have to be perfect miles and you don’t have to run all the miles. But you can find that voice inside your head that tells you to go. To go, even though you don’t want to, because your body can handle it. The voice that tells you that you can do more than you think you can. This is a voice I’ve been waiting to find and it feels good knowing it does live in me.

Weekly miles: 28 miles, 4 short of goal since I missed my first run of the week.

Next week is a “step-back” week but my Thursday run will bump up to 5 miles and I’ll run a half marathon on Saturday (1.1 miles longer than the 12 I’m scheduled for, but Hal Higdon said it was okay).

It’s hard to believe next week is week 12. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. And some much cooler temps on the 10-day forecast!