Well, it has been a whirlwind few weeks at my house lately! Week 6 was disrupted by a mild case of the flu, and week 7 included a bit of a fitness test, with a 22.5 mile run that had ten miles at marathon pace in the second half of the run. Here's a snapshot of the past two weeks:
Monday: 6.4 miles, 1:03:23 (horrible headache!)
Tuesday: 10 miles, 1:29:50
Wednesday: 8 miles, 1:19:00
Thursday-Sunday: Off due to flu
Weekly Total: 28.3 miles
Monday: 6.4 miles, 55:12
Tuesday: 6.3 miles, 1:08:12
Wednesday:5.4 miles, 54:02
Thursday: ~12.5, 1:42:00
Friday: 7 miles: 59:37
Saturday: 22.9 miles, ~3:01:00
Weekly Total: 60.5 miles
I have been getting into the routine of getting up at 5am to get my runs done. The majority of my runs have been group runs. I like training with others--it gets me out the door and provides some variety in my paces, which helps me push harder some days and recover well on others. I highly recommend finding some running companions who are faster and slower than you. A faster friend may be willing to pace you on a workout, and you can return the favor to someone else. I find that the power of getting out the door together is worth the most.
I hit some big workouts over these two weeks. The Wednesday I came down with the flu, I felt very tired in the morning (I had run a hilly ten miles in a group run less than 12 hours before!), but I got out to try 8 miles with an alternating pace of 7:00 minute/mile and 7:30 minute/mile. I had a really hard time the first mile and started out too slowly with a 7:26. But the second mile I maintained that pace and used a lot of positive self-talk to hold myself to the workout goals instead of giving up. I did modify my route from a slightly hilly loop to a flat segment, but my marathon route is flat as a pancake, so I was not worried about the switch. I nailed the rest of the workout, hitting around 6:48 for the fast miles and 7:22 for the slower miles. There's nothing like turning a bad a workout around and finishing stronger than you thought possible.
I prioritized rest during the flu and did not take any chances. Please do not risk making a respiratory virus worse with runs--you are likely to only extend your recovery time and gain next to no fitness. A few days off will not hurt your training plan, but getting bronchitis or pneumonia certainly will! I have zero regrets about focusing on getting better and making sure my chest congestion was virtually resolved before starting my runs again. I am grateful it was a mild case, though!
The next week, I paced a friend on Thursday for 7 marathon miles and averaged around 7:20 pace, then I hit a big doozy on Saturday. 10 miles easy (averaged low 8 minute pace), then 10 miles at marathon pace. I did this workout on a hilly course, but the last three miles were on a flat loop. The 10 miles were the following: 7:35/7:25/7:11/7:09/7:01/6:47/6:51/7:05/6:57/7:00. I started slowly on purpose and stopped checking my watch after I hit the third mile; I ran what felt comfortable. The sixth mile in 6:47 was on a particularly hilly section, which was not smart to push, as miles 7-10 definitely had my legs hurting, but I finished strong and jogged the 3 miles back with some friends.
I was sore for a few days, but to hit such a big workout was extremely exciting and added fuel to the fire! At the same time, I learned that dates are a good fuel for me, while the Gatorade Gu was only okay. It took me over a mile to get down one gel. I also learned that I can start slow, but I am use to wanting to push myself as if it were a 5k--after all, if you are feeling good a mile into a 5k, it is time to get moving! If I want to succeed at the marathon distance, I will need to be patient until mile 20, then bring it home if (and that is a big IF) I am feeling able to push. I will try to run 12 miles @7:15 pace consistently without ratcheting up the effort. An added benefit of patience on these long efforts should hopefully be less recovery time.
Have you hit any big workouts recently? What workouts give you the greatest confidence going into a marathon?
Enjoy your miles!