Hello and happy new year, ya’ll. Hope yours was lovely. Christmas with the kiddos was a lot of fun, and shortly thereafter, we went to Playa del Carmen to meet up with family. It was a blast, and the baby did well on her first flight experience (though she wanted to party the entire 5.5 hour flight back home… oy).
With about 10 weeks to go until the Modesto Marathon, I thought I’d write out some quick ruminations on how the first “bit” of training has gone. Some background: I’m a Pfitzinger acolyte, and he divides his training into mesocycles. This time around, I’ve taken a hiatus from my beloved Pfitz and am instead using a custom plan developed by Jason Fitzgerald (of strengthrunning.com fame), customized for yours truly. I’m not writing an overview based so much on mesocycles as I am on a need to vom some thoughts out and think things through.
The big question mark – kinda huge, actually – is that Jason has based all of my pacing guidelines/targets on what I’ve done in the past (roughly, about the past 4 years, since I had A), so it is a bit of a gamble to know exactly how attainable the targets are since I’m coming into training freshly postpartum and off a year of not racing racing, let alone racing a marathon. You never know how things will fare until and unless you try, though, and marathon training is inherently an experiment of one, so I’m just taking things a day at a time and adjusting as necessary. It’s the best and only thing I can do – rolling with things – so you can bet your bottom dollar (who the hell says that?) that that’s my MO.
The other thing that sometimes rattles me is that I’m working on targets that took me a good two+ years postpartum (after having A) to hit mere months since having Spike. That said, I keep reminding myself that how I am as a runner – my mileage volume, my strengths, my racing experience, whatever – is radically different now. In unscientific terms, I think I’m coming from a different running base, so naturally, my training these days will evolve differently than it did after my first pregnancy. Day at a time. Trust the process, trust the process…
Rather than rehash each week’s training (since I do it daily on Garmin, Strava, and DM), I’ll just highlight the key workouts – the speed stuff and the long runs – that I’ve posted so far. Jason’s program is 18 weeks, but it wasn’t until about 16 weeks in that I committed to Modesto. I usually train for marathons in 10-12 week segments, but hey– first marathon postpartum, I can use all the help I can get.
Weeks 16 & 15
speed: 8 mi with last 4 at steady state (7:10-25 target)
I ran this workout both times out of my home, running up to the base of the foothills, which naturally meant that on the return – when I’d begin my SS miles – I’d be on a ever-so-slight decline. Having not done any speedwork since TSFM ’14, I had no idea how this would go or even what these paces feel like in the first place. Week one’s attempt: 6:38, 6:49, 6:59, 6:56. I clock-watched because I have no feel for speed, and while it was pretty awesome to see some continuous sub-7s for the first time in a while, I internally scolded myself because the paces are prescribed as such for a reason. The next week’s attempt, run over the same route, was mildly more successful: 7:01, 7:04, 7:09, 7:00. Funny how much harder the second week’s attempt felt…
distance: 13 miles (fully conversational pace, 7:45-8:45)
Again, I stuck close to home for this LR and ran the rollers between home and the adjacent town, getting over 500′ of gain with an 8:18 average for 13.31. I understand that the Modesto course is very flat, but I enjoy running hills – remind me later I admitted this – and they kept the LR interesting. When I was supposed to run 13 the following weekend, I bailed. I fell back asleep after feeding the baby before I was about to leave (because let’s face it, squishy baby cuddles > running). My running window opportunity got smaller and smaller as the day wore on, and shitty weather (Bay Area style) sealed the deal. At least my big girl got to run in the Santa Dash (after the rain deluge, before the hail storm).
Weeks 14 & 13
speed: 9 mi with miles 4-6 at tempo (6:55-7:05 target)
Speed stuff is typically the most challenging for me, in no small part because more often than not, I’m running this stuff by myself and/or in the early-ass hours of the morning. To better accommodate life and baby and my sanity, I do my speed stuff on Saturdays now and follow it with my LR on Sunday: not ideal but doable. Anyway – my first tempo in a year plus – a little intimidating. Best way to mitigate it? Get a buddy! Meredith, training for Boston, had a similar workout, so we ran a lot of this together on the GRT and in the rain. First week’s attempt: 6:34, 6:53, 7. Definitely still not easily finding the prescribed paces, and what an ugly-ass positive split in an attempt to find the right range.
The following week (the week of Christmas) I moved this workout to mid-week to accommodate life, and I surprised myself with an unofficial 5k PR mid-tempo. wut. I ran the WU miles around my hood, getting myself to a dirt track for the tempo portion (read: uninterrupted, vehicle-free running), and yet again, my internal pace gauge was non-existent: 6:22, 6:13, 6:17 (19:31 5k). This felt fantastic – very smooth and controlled – and even with me checking my watch every 400m and telling myself to reign it in, I still felt strong and, when I finished, like I could have kept going. This feeling! Gah, so good to get a glimpse of it again. Now I just need to do it in a race for it to be Athlinks official, ha. (I’ve never gone sub-20!).
And then I came home, and the baby rolled over for the first time, and it was Christmas Eve, and it was basically the most awesome day ever.
distance: 15 miles (fully conversational, 7:45-8:45)
I ran the first 5 solo and then picked up Saurabh for the remaining 10, averaging 8:11 on the STACT/Baylands for 15.13. The run felt pretty challenging – I’ve gotta nail down my fueling stuff mid-run and actually remember to implement it – but we did it. I’m pretty sure at the end of this run I uttered something along the lines of I cannot fathom running a marathon right now. Healthy respect, if not fear, of the distance – welcome back!
When I ran the second iteration of this run, I did it the day after my unofficial 5k PR, on Christmas Eve morning, in what was probably the shittiest conditions that I’ve run in since living here. I ran this again over the rollers on a modified course between SJ and the adjacent town and got over 800′ vert at an 8:20 average for 15.57. I was so happy to be done with this run because my feet hurt; they had gotten wet early in the run, had wrinkled, and the friction between my wrinkles, my socks, and my shoes were making me ache like hell. +1 for mental toughness I guess.
speed: 8 miles with 6×1′ @ 10k race pace , 2′ jog in between (6:45-50)
Skipped. We were in Mexico, and even though I brought all my running stuff and my pump and could have done it, I just didn’t. It would have been a huge inconvenience, and I wasn’t interested in playing Life Tetris on vacation in order to get a run in (and most likely on a treadmill, no less). In fact, I didn’t run at all on vacation. Ask me how guilty I felt about it.
Distance: 15 miles with last 3 at marathon race pace (7:35)
Praise be to Allah for Meredith schlepping out to SJ early on Sunday mornings for our long runs. I hadn’t run in a week, she was coming off a tiring travel + rock-climbing schedule, so we were quite the pair on this. I didn’t read my schedule before beginning and just assumed that the MRP was a 7:30. Next time, I’ll remember to read. I needlessly worked my ass off for 7:26, 7:34, 7:22, which is funny considering how effortless my 5k time felt the week before. I chalked this up to a lot of stuff, mainly not running for 7 days, the preceding day’s Mexico-CA travel, the 4.5 hours of sleep I got and some expected welcome-back-from-Mexico gastrointestinal mid-run shit storms (you’re welcome). I’m not too worried, though it was a little discouraging to feel like my ass got handed to me in my first MP workout in over a year. Onward.
This is already ridiculously long for a high-level overview, so I’ll save the rest of my bantering for my next internal monologue … or my next post. While my confidence might be wavering a bit right now because I can’t fathom the distance again, I think I’m where I should be. I think. Trust the process… trust the process…