This year's marathon training plan was a step up in several ways.
First, the approach...I was tired of not really knowing how hard I should be training, so I broke down and got a lactate threshold test done. The results gave me my optimum training zones, and training by effort is a much better way than training by pace. Effort can change based on a number of factors: how you feel, how well you recovered, what you ate, how hard the wind blows, how steep the hills are, you name it. Meanwhile, training by pace doesn't give you any leeway at all.
I've always trained by pace. And I've repeatedly fallen short of my goal: qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Ok, this time it's gonna be different. Every run is mildly or moderately annoying in terms of effort. No runs are easy, none are brutally hard, but they are all in the yellow zone and sometimes close to red.
Something must be working: not a lick of injury or strained tissue since I started in September. And my fitness has improved dramatically, and very consistently as well. It's nice to do a workout without any knowledge of pace, then to upload the data and start celebrating another faster run.
The other change was the long runs. In the past, I've done 18, 20, 23 for my longest efforts. This time, it's two 20's and a 23. The first two runs went very well, and now it's time for the big boy.
Only life intervened to make it interesting. Due to a family thing, I had to travel to the East Coast for the weekend I intended to run 23 miles. The forecast back east was lousy, and I didn't really want to run with my body clock all wacked, either.
Plan B; wake up at 0300 on Thursday, eat quickly, and get out the door by 0400. Easy peasy, except this was following 3 nights of lousy sleep. Oh well; time to get it done.
It's really dark at 0400. Except for my headlamp, my shoe lights, and the reflectors on my Camelbak.
It helps a ton to have all gear gear all laid out the night before: Body glide, vaseline on legs (I was running in shorts in the 40F air), compression shirt, gels, emergency money...
I ate too much oatmeal for breakfast, and felt very full for most of the run. Oh, and I remembered that I had an overdue library book, so i carried it in my hand for 2 miles until I passed the library.
First car to pass me: a police cruiser. I'm surprised he didn't ask what the heck I was doing out there at this insane hour.
A gel every 30 min, a salt stick right after. Just pounding the food. Not a problem, I love to eat.
A gorgeous black kitty with green eyes hiding in the brush near the Hwy 97 Overpass. Actually, all I saw were the eyes. Later, I look up and see 3 deer within 5 feet of me; not sure who was more surprised.
Listened to a long podcast: Billy Hardwick, retired Pro Bowler and dad of Chris Hardwick, host of The Nerdist podcast. I vaguely remember Billy, as I was a bowling fanatic as a kid. Even dropped a 7-10 split once, though there was a lot more luck than skill involved.
23 miles is a pretty long solo run in the dark.
With about 7 miles to go, I switch from podcast to my race playlist. All songs at 180 beats per minute, matching my run cadence. Time to get busy. And the sun is coming up!
I tear open my last gel with my teeth, then squeeze. Unfortunately, I didn't tear a big enough hole. What happens when a liquid under pressure is forced thru a small opening? It goes everywhere. including all over my gloves. What a mess.
The last mile is uphill, and my hamstrings are starting to make noise. Just then, buddy Frank drives by and gives me a shout-out. Just what I needed.
Here are my last three long runs all at the same effort level:
20 miles, 8:43 pace, flat terrain
20 miles, 8:32 pace, 50 feet of climbing
23 miles, 8:32 pace, 650 feet of climbing.
Lots more hills, same pace.
That's a big win. Now the taper.
I've done the work, and now the best thing i can do is not screw it up!
To be continued (on May 1st).