Thursday, November 20, 2014

On stiff legs and training partners

Too much cuteness (minus the poor grammar...)

Promise, those two things DO go together!

Today is Thursday.  As usual, I'm walking around stiff-legged, tired, and with a couple cups of coffee already under my belt. 

It's only 8AM.

Tuesday begins this descent into stiff-leggedness (is that a word?) with a morning easy run and then track workout in the evening.  Wednesday is an easy run "recovery" day, but of course it's not a full recovery, and then Thursday morning is the marathon pace workout, which gets progressively longer into the training cycle.

I'm usually falling sleep by 7:30-8PM come Thursday evening.

Every single week, Tuesday to Thursday is my toughest stretch...thank you Hansons.  I absolutely dread the marathon pace workouts Thursday mornings.  It's an early start and my legs are still shot from track.  

I'm often questioning the sanity of leaving my warm bed when the ol' alarm goes off Thursday morning.  

And yet, I still get up and go suffer a little bit more.


Answer: pancakes.  Ok, not even the lure of pancakes could coax me into some of these workouts lately.

Try two. 

Answer: good training partners.  Darn that group accountability.
Post-BCS 1/2 2013

A good running mentor makes a big difference!
Baytown 5 much fun with these folks!

My running group is full of folks who both challenge me to run faster and also encourage me in the process of attempting to do just that.  Many of those guys could drop me in two seconds flat, and yet they've often graciously slowed down a bit and run with me, or at least sorta near me.  

I know that just trying to hang on with them has helped me become a better athlete.

They're competitive runners, but more importantly, good folks without big egos.

 There's a group of them at track on Tuesday nights and another group on Thursday mornings.  And I know I'll get some friendly harassment, as I should, if I decide to skip out without a good reason.

After a beastly ladder workout Tuesday night. Got in 4 miles of long repeats in the 5:45-5:55 range, which was a huge stretch.  Encouragement is powerful.

And when you find someone who is closely matched to your fitness level, willing to jump into tough workouts with you, mentally fierce in the middle miles when you want to ease off your pace, and yet kind and encouraging in the rough parts of a workout, it is AMAZING to see the kinds of workouts you can do together...ahem Skye...

So, even knowing that I will look and feel of a geriatric age from Tuesday to Thursday week in, week out until Houston, I know I've got a bunch of awesome friends who will briefly commiserate with my aches and pains and stiffness and then spur me on to keep going to the next hard workout. 

To my Volte all are the best.

Summer tri training and racing...a lot more fun with friends~!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Present Mile: Chicago Marathon Recap

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. " 2 Timothy 1:7
 I just really enjoyed a marathon.
Start line of the Chicago Marathon. Tremendous race.
The weather was glorious!
The Chicago marathon in a nutshell is a fantastic race. It doesn't have the history of Boston, but it absolutely has the international flair of a world marathon major. The course itself is flat, fast, and a lovely tour through the streets of downtown Chicago. It was lined with people the entire way.

I hope to run it again someday.  If you're considering it, I highly recommend it!

I've had a lot of people ask about the physical training following the Hansons Marathon Method and whether I felt prepared to run a marathon  without having run a 20 miler in training.

I'll save details for another post, but yes, I will absolutely follow that training plan again.  The lack of 20 mile runs in no way harmed my marathon performance.

With that out of the way...

Wanted to touch on the mental side of the marathon in this post, because it's generally my weakness.

I love this verse from One Republic's "Love Runs Out":
"There's a maniac out in front of me
Got an angel on my shoulder, and Mephistopheles"
It reminds me of the runner's dueling inner voice: you can do you can' can do you can't....

My biggest concern for this race was not the physical suffering, it was breaking mentally during those middle miles, either by allowing myself to get overwhelmed with the mileage left to run OR berating myself for falling off pace. 

A negative spiral is a tough spot to pull yourself out of.  I allowed it to happen in Houston and almost gave up around mile 14.

But, it doesn't have to be that way.

We DO have choices in how we frame our thoughts and which voice we listen to.

One of my running mentors, Dave, shared this fantastic article about how to think like an elite runner. 

The best piece of advice I took from it was this: be present in each mile.  Don't compare yourself to others based off how well you are or aren't running and what you think your finish time will be.  Focus on what you're doing NOW and what you can control NOW, not an hour from now, not two hours from now.

Think about performance, leave out the emotion.

So my mantra, and I'm not really a mantra kind of gal, became "this present mile".  Focus on the mile I'm currently running.  Relax.  Is my breathing still under control?  How can I improve my form? Is this the mile for gu, gatorade, or water?

It worked surprisingly well.

Every time I was tempted to think about the fact we were only on mile 8, etc, I just went back to those words. Over and over again.  Sounds a little cheesy, but to focus on things that were actually in my control at that moment really allowed me to be fully in the moment and not get overwhelmed thinking about what was left to run.

The miles clipped by.

I did not use a GPS watch this time, because I had been warned about the signal loss running through some short tunnels, so my trusty lap watch sufficed.  In a way, it was freeing not to check the ol' Garmin every 30 secs and just run what my legs wanted to do, though I did occasionally check my splits at the mile markers.  

The other great thing about my race experience was the Nike 3:10 pace team, led by a couple of super fun and really encouraging pacers.  I went out ahead of them, but sorta jockeyed for position with them on and off.  Sometimes I would pull ahead a bit, and a few times fell behind.  I used them as my pacing barometer outside of my watch and that worked well.

Had a blast running in a pack. Here's proof I remembered to smile this race.
Somewhere around mile 11-12 I felt those familiar mid-race feelings: the pace was starting to make it's presence known just a bit, but I still had so many miles to go.  I had fallen off a little, my left glute and hamstring were tightening, and I briefly had the thoughts of backing off.

No.  All those summer miles in the miserable humidity at 5AM will NOT be for nothing.

I told myself: pick up this next mile.  Just one. See how it goes.

So somewhere in there, I stretched out the stride a bit, felt better, and managed to get back to the 3:10 guys.

At mile 14 I took a gu (my third, blech), picked up a couple more from Bob at mile 17, and by mile 18, I couldn't believe how good I felt again, relatively speaking of course. It's been a long time since I felt that good at mile 18.

I really started to believe at that point I was going to make a sub 3:10, maybe even a 3:08 if my energy stayed that even.

Chinatown just past mile 22
And it did, until somewhere in mile 22-23.  It's amazing how fast you can go from feeling great to not so great.  My thoughts were  clear enough though that I knew a bonk was not imminent and just needed to focus on keeping that turnover as quick as possible. 

By mile 24, the muscle burn was pretty stout, and the 3:10 guys were back up by me. I knew they were running closer to a 3:09, so I just told myself to hang on with them. 
Homestretch heading back up Michigan Ave.

They were yelling and cheering at what was left of our motley crew as we ran down that last long stretch of Michigan Avenue.

And then we hit the only incline on the entire course at 26 miles.  It wasn't really a hill, but after 26 miles of pancake flat running, any elevation change is noticeable.

After you hit the top of the "hill", you make a left turn and there is that glorious marathon finish line!

3:09:22. Boom.

I almost couldn't believe it was over.

A lot of things came together for a great race, and anyone who has run a marathon knows to be grateful when the stars align so to speak: good training, good weather, a nutrition plan that worked, and a silly little catch phrase: this present mile.

At the finish, with a goofy grin and my mylar blanket the wrong way....oops.

3:10 Pacer Danny...he and the other guys did a fantastic job!
Thank you dear Bob, who has functioned as chef, sherpa, psychologist, cheerleader, massage therapist, coach, and many, many other hats for the last 4 years of running.  I absolutely could not do this without you.

Thank you Skye, Ken, and Derek, who have braved some tough workouts in absolutely miserable weather this summer to run with me.

Thank you Dave, Bill, and Adrienne for your belief in me.

And certainly never least, to my great God, giver of all good gifts, thank you for the precious gift of health and joy in running.

Post-race pancakes!!

Time for rest. More pancakes.  And then more running...


Monday, September 22, 2014

Part 2: Hansons Method: Pros and Cons

Here are a few more specific thoughts on the Hansons Method now three weeks out from Chicago....and a random picture of my race shoes.  Such a shoe nerd....

Kinvara 4's for race day in Volte colors...Go Volte!

Thought I would list some pros and cons of the plan, though I really hesitate to even use those terms because so much depends on your training background prior to starting Hansons.  For example, a 60+ mile week may be a con for someone who has only done one prior marathon that topped out at 40 miles/week, but perfect for someone who had run multiple 50+ mile weeks the prior training cycle.  20 miles/week is a huge jump, 10 miles/week is more managable.  You get the idea.

Prior to starting Hansons, my last few marathon training cycles were:
  • Lake Tahoe 2013: Upper 40s a month before tapering
  • Houston 2014: One month of low 50 mile weeks before tapering (pushed only one up to 60 miles just to test the waters....all extra mileage was easy running)
  • Boston 2014: 3 weeks of upper 40 to low 50 miles before tapering

So, I knew going in to Hansons I was capable of stringing multiple 50+ mile weeks together without injury, which is good, because the Advanced plan in Hansons has you running that mileage for over two months!! More on this later.

Given my training background the last year, here is how I break out the pros and cons:

  • Higher mileage plan-both the Beginner and Advanced plan are higher than most traditional training programs.  I was ready for more mileage.  Faster marathon times demand more mileage (in a balanced way of course).
  • Lots of marathon pace work-I wanted practice weekly for race day
  • Emphasis on speed at the beginning-Good mix of paces through the week, this plan doesn't neglect speed like so many programs do
  • Balance of the big three: speed/strength work and marathon pace and the long run-it's a fine line to walk for sure, but all your bases are covered each week. 
  • Clear guidelines for pacing: Tables included in the book that are very clear with your prescribed paces to run for every workout.
Cons: (again, I really don't see these things as "cons" in the sense that there is something fundmentally wrong with the plans...just things to take into consideration if you're considering Hansons after more traditional marathon training programs):

  • The "Beginner" plan-Don't let the title fool you, even the beginner plan will get you up over 50 miles in later weeks. It's a more advanced training program in my opinion.  The mileage is not quite as high as their Advanced plan, but there is still the track work AND marathon pace work AND long run.  For someone who has only done 1 or 2 marathons and not done much in terms of speedwork during those training cycles, the beginner plan would be quite taxing to jump into from my own experience. 
  • 18 week buildup-18 weeks is a LONG time, but may be needed depending on your background and what kind of time goal you have.  If you're looking for major improvement (say 8-10%), you'll likely want a long training cycle.  As marathoners, we also have to consider balancing training at a high level with injury risk.  Marathon fitness takes a lot of time, and you want to build to peak fitness, but not too soon, and not at the expense of your body shutting down from overtraining or injury.   In my case, I think 12-16 weeks is probably more my sweet spot.  I feel like I could go run Chicago this weekend and have a good showing, but still have three more weeks to go in training.  It's enough time for a little more improvement, but also more time for something to crop up...eeek.
  • Running 6 days a week-You run a lot on this plan (This is absolutely not a con for me...I love running 6 days a week!), and that's what makes the cumulative fatigue work. If you start dropping run days, you lose a lot of what makes this plan great, so make sure you really have the time 6 days a week to devote to it or you'll shortchange your training.
  • The 16-mile long run-You have to buy into the 16 mile cap folks, and this is going to be the single hardest thing for people to get past in going to Hansons.  And while I have not yet run Chicago and been able to fully see the results of how this training works, I can you now that this is HUGELY important in maintaining the delicate balance that Hansons prescribes between track, marathon pace, and long run mileage.  If you push through to 20 miles instead of 16, you will be sore and fatigued to the point you won't recover to do these other tough workouts during the week, unless you're already training at a pretty high level (70-80+ mile weeks).  That being said, I totally understand the psychological benefit that is gained from seeing that 20 mile run on your Garmin before a marathon. If you are a newer marathoner, it is much easier to swallow the idea of only having to run 6.2 more miles on race day then 10.2 miles because you stop at 16.  So, just know before you start that you will need some major discipline to keep your long run mileage in check.
All that to say...3 more weeks to the real test to see how all of this shakes out.  Had a fantastic 16 mile run yesterday (last one!) that showed me I'm ready to tackle the marathon again.  Won't be easy, but I feel very prepared.  Excited and eager to see what these last few weeks of training will do.

If you want more info on why Hansons stops at 16 miles, here ya go:
Part 1: The Hansons Method: Mile 20 Running without the 20 miles

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Hansons Method: Mile 20 Running without the 20 miles

Oh the irony.

I titled my blog "Mile 20 Running" for many reasons.  So, what did I do this go around for marathon training after talking about how much I think mile 20 is an iconic mile in training and racing?

I selected a marathon training plan that has me running zero 20-milers in preparation for Chicago.

Yep, not one.  

I'll say at the outset that there are lots of ways to run a good marathon and plenty of plans out there to help you do just that.  A lot just depends on your fitness level, injury history, and how much you're willing to run in terms of mileage and days per week.

Point being, I'm not advocating that the way I do things is right for everyone, just blogging some thoughts on the process so far.  What you're currently doing is probably right for you!

Anyway, my goals for this season are getting tougher, and even writing them down makes me nervous: A PR in the 3:05-3:10 range either in Chicago/Houston or both (a girl can dream right?), or at least notch my current 3:17 down enough to make the first wave cutoff for Boston 2015, which will likely need to be near a 3:10 anyway.

To do this, I felt like I needed to step up two things in particular: 1) overall weekly mileage, and 2) more marathon goal pace running.  Not every plan calls for marathon pace running, and that's ok, but here's my real life example of even pacing from lots of practice:

2013 Houston Marathon splits (first BQ): an example of what practicing marathon pace did for me (no other speed work) and maxing out around 40 miles/week:
Debating the merits of marathon pace work versus other speed work is a topic for another time except to say I felt strongly I needed to do more (and was capable of doing more) this training cycle.  Balancing injury risk is always a concern.

So, I was looking for higher mileage and more marathon pace running....enter Hansons:

The premise of Hansons, like many other plans, is the idea of cumulative fatigue, but they go about it a much different way.

One of those ways is to max out your longest run of the training cycle at 16 miles so that you can recover enough to do more higher quality workouts during the week.  They call them SOS or "something of substance" workouts.

I call them beastly workouts, especially if you are training in the summer months.  They are deceptively tough.

Anyway, why top out at 16 miles?

The general idea is that running 20 miles, except for the fastest and most conditioned of runners out there, breaks down your body fairly substantially and requires a lot of recovery time for most folks. The fitter you are, the less recovery you need, but most of us feel a 20 mile run the next day, no doubt about it.  That means there is less time for "quality" workouts during the week because you're waiting for your body to heal.

The book goes into a more detailed explanation behind the 16 mile cap:

1) Explosion in popularity of the marathon since the 1970s: It used to be a fringe activity that only seasoned (i.e. very fast) runners tackled.  Now, the masses go after that distance as well, but what amounts to a moderate workout for very conditioned runners (i.e. runs of 20 miles) is much tougher and requires more recovery for the rest of us slower runners.  In other words, the foundation 20 mile runs are a remnant from more elite training plans and may not be the best idea for the masses.

2) Renowned running coach Dr. Jack Daniel's belief that no more than 25-30% of your overall mileage should be done in the long run:

Weekly mileage versus the long run
 3) Research that shows you tend to max out the physical adaption benefits (glycogen depletion, increased mitochondria, etc.) in the 2-3 hour range (beyond which they say muscle breakdown occurs):

How long a 16 or 20 mile runs takes versus your pace

Taking all of that into consideration, in a nutshell, the Hansons' method says a 16-mile run fits the bill for the vast majority of folks doing marathon training.  It stimulates the metabolic changes you need without leaving you so beat down that you can't do other quality workouts during the week, which in turn lets you up the overall intensity of your training cycle.

For a girl who loves her long runs (especially conquering 20 miles), this was a very different and intriguing notion to me.

So, for the last 13 weeks now, I've been totally immersed in this plan.  It's been tough, but while I'm tired, I feel strangely strong, too.  Most importantly, I have never felt on the verge of injury.

Anyway, this post has already gotten long enough...more on the positives/negatives I've experienced so far in another post.

The real test will be Chicago in about 4 weeks.

For the past 12 weeks, I've been taking a less-conventional approach to marathon training developed by the Hansons Brothers out of Michigan

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The 11 Seconds List

"Meb won Boston by 11 seconds. Let that sink in for a minute. Over the course of 26.2 miles, he held off a charge from Wilson Chebet, one of the World's best marathoners, by 11 seconds. Had Meb averaged a mere half a second slower per mile he would've lost and this wonderful story would never have happened...Very few of you who are reading this are trying to win the Boston Marathon, but I know you have your own goals and they mean something. They really do. Meb said winning Boston made his career 110% complete. I suspect you all have that time, that place, that accomplishment that would make you completely satisfied with your running resume' (qualifying for Boston for example!). But where are your 11 seconds? What do you have to do to make sure your Wilson Chebet doesn't catch you from behind?"
-Ben Rosario, McMillan and Northern Arizona Elite coach
Coach Bill sent Ben's blog post out in our weekly email and I really enjoyed it.

It's a short read if you have the time, but the summary of it is this: Meb put in countless miles running, hours of stretching/rolling/massage, years of watching his diet, etc and drew upon all of those things to achieve his goal of winning at Boston. The little things he did daily, over a long period of time, mattered.  Greatly.

Meb winning Boston. Incredible.  (Photo credit:

But what if he hadn't done those things? What if he had blown off runs? Not watched his diet? Not prioritized sleep and recovery? Would he have won without the incredible discipline in all aspects of his running?

Now of course, Meb is a professional, and the rest of us mere mortals are not.  All of us are willing to sacrifice varying degrees of our lives to our athletic pursuits.  What I'm willing to do, someone else may not be, and vice versa.

And yet many of us still have our own goals as mentioned above.  Maybe it's completing a 50-miler, snagging a BQ, or finishing a 5k without walking. 

So, what little things could hold us back from hitting those goals? Diet? Snooze bar? Blowing off scheduled workouts because it's hot/you're tired/just don't feel like it (not injury)?

This gave me pause for a few minutes.

What is my "11 Seconds" list? What do I blow off instead of consistently working on to reach my running goals?

With Chicago as the next big race, my list is not long, but has given me trouble in the past:
  • Focus on one workout at a time 
  • Stay positive
  • Trust my training: believe I can execute what my training is preparing me to do.
Sounds easy.  I admit to rolling my eyes at what seem like trite phrases such as "believe in yourself" and "trust your training"....blah blah blah. 

Got it.  Can I go run now?

Except that I now believe they do matter, and that I need more practice at them.  Running is physical and mental.

I'm tired of getting to the starting line of the marathon riddled with the overwhelming feeling of "How am I supposed to do this?"  The training has shown me what I'm capable of achieving, but I struggle to believe it. Over and over again.

Now part of that is a healthy respect for the marathon distance itself, but I think another large part is because I don't practice staying positive in my training.  As cheesy as it sounds, every workout brings with it an opportunity to practice reframing your thoughts about the task at hand.

For example, instead of dwelling on how I'm about the suffer in the heat of a track workout, I've been reframing it as an opportunity to get stronger.  Break up the task, don't think too hard, relax, and go.

I asked my friend and running mentor Dave, who has himself run crazy fast marathon times, how he approached his races.  He was not just finishing, but had the talent to win.  That's some pressure!

Did he ever get anxious thinking about running near 5 min/miles (good grief!!) for such a long time?

"Not really", he said, "I knew from my training what I was capable of doing."

"So basically you trusted your training?" I said.

And without any hesitation on his part, "Yes."

Coach Bill told me the same thing when he said something to the effect of "It doesn't matter if I think you can run x:xx.  YOU have to believe it".

Guilty...(photo credit: Shelby Currie on Pinterest)

Where the mind goes, the body follows, assuming reasonable goals of course.

So, the list is short for now, but it's a little abstract.  I don't have metrics to track my mental toughness, and yet I know I need to practice it daily to avoid going to another start line lacking confidence.

My internal pep-talks before a run now go something like (depending on what kind of workout I'm doing): 
  • One day at a time.  One workout at a time.  
  • Today is not about pace, so enjoy an easy run, or
  • Today is about pace, I won't be 100% rested, but I can still do this workout.  
  • This training session moves me closer to my goal, it is not meant to prove I've already arrived (learned this the hard way following a bad workout!)
  • No negatives.  Break this up into manageable chunks.
I think you get the point: practice staying positive daily so that I know how to redirect those doubts that may come closer to race day. 

What about you, what's on your 11 Second list?

Friday, July 18, 2014

My running temptations

Why does this often happen on a long run?
Running temptations...we all have them!

This puzzle hangs in my guest bathroom and always makes me smile.  I have fond memories of running with the Woodlands Fit crew out of Luke's Locker on Saturday mornings for marathon training and inevitably, everytime we were heading out, I would smell the scent of warm donuts wafting out of the nearby HEB. Not cool to smell baked goods when you're going out for a 2+ hour run!!

Anyway, it brought to mind a few other things that I consistently find tempting out there in the running world:

5.  Destination races: Because hey, why spend less cash to thrash your legs over 26.2 miles locally when you can spend MORE on a plane ticket, hotel, food, and transportation to thrash your legs elsewhere (albeit hopefully a beautiful location)??? YES!!!
In all seriousness, our Lake Tahoe trip to run 26.2 was worth the $$$!

London Marathon...on the bucket list!!!

4.  Brightly colored running shoes:  Arguably more a necessity for early bird runners like me in a bid to stay visible and, more importantly, alive in the presence of crazy drivers.  Nonetheless, I confess to having many, many pairs of them (not all shown)!  It's the marathon distance, I swear.  Need. More. Shoes. 
Just a sample.  So pretty. Much love for the A5 and Kinvara.
3. Triathlon: I can hear my running buddy Brian reminding me, "Kate, you're a RUNNER" as I type this.  And I am deep down a runner at heart, but I sure do like the challenge of triathlon too!! Just not the cost of it.  I do, however, challenge anyone not to be totally inspired by the athletes in an Ironman. Someday...

Early season bike training

2. Shipley Donuts: Not Krispy Kreme. Not Duncan.  I'll take a Shipley's glazed cake donut, heated about 10 seconds in the microwave.  Yummmmm. Or donut holes. 
I have a nose for donuts on the long run...can smell them a mile away!

1. Speed: Probably something most runners are tempted by at some point, if not daily!  I just know the nice person minding his/her own business on the treadmill next to me wants to race.  Fast running is necessary to run fast, but I have to remember to use it sparingly and at the appropriate times (like not an easy recovery run at the Y....ahem.)

Going up....

What about you?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Learning from a craptastic workout

"Remember that workouts are designed to improve your fitness, not to prove how fit you are. Too often, runners use workouts as a constant barometer to measure improvement and compare themselves to how they will be able to perform on race day. Rarely will your performance in a workout translate to how you will feel on race day, so don’t get too stressed about a bad day or two.

-Jeff Gaudette, 2:22 marathoner and owner/coach at Runner's Connect 

Hello marathon fatigue, I remember thee well, but not fondly
 I'll just cut to the chase on this one...last week's track workout was awful.  Not just hot.  Not just fatiguing.  It was one of those make-you-second-guess yourself kind of workouts. I hate that feeling.

Thought I would write a bit about what happened, what caused it, and what I (reluctantly) learned from it.  

The workout:

2 mile warm-up, then 5 x 1000m at a comfortably hard pace (supposed to be between 3:50-3:54) with a 400 recovery, then 1.5 mile cool down. In and of itself, a good challenge, but nothing necessarily harder than what I've done before.

What actually happened: 
1st repeat: 3:54 (really had to work for it, that's not good on the first one)
2nd repeat: 4:00 (lost 6 seconds, not a good trend. Tried to regroup mentally).
3rd repeat: 4:06 (lost another 6  My running world imploding...).

If you don't run track workouts, 6 seconds may not seem like a lot, but over a short distance, it is a lot, and made even worse by the trend of losing speed on each repeat.  One repeat a little slower isn't a big deal, but I could feel the downward spiral coming on.

Bottom line, I just flat out had no gas in the tank from the start and could not get my legs to move faster. 

Frustrated, I asked Coach Bill what to I keep going and try to run the last 2 repeats as best I could? Or shut it down?

Coach Bill wisely told me to shut it down.  It was good advice and deep down I knew he was right, though it didn't diminish my irritation at myself that I couldn't run like I wanted to.

I've never stopped a track workout like that before.

How did I handle it?
Wish I could say I handled it positively.  I didn't right off the bat.

Instead of just chalking it up to an off day, which we all have, I focused on how badly I missed my targets and started questioning whether I had picked a marathon goal pace that was too aggressive. And then came the maybe-I'm-not-fit-enough doubts.

Seriously. I know better than that!

After several good races and many good track workouts, I let this one workout totally cloud everything.  Luckily, some fellow Voltes talked me through all of that mess and reminded me that we all have "those days".

What caused it?
This is where a training log is so, so helpful.  I could immediately go back and see what caused my struggles because I've tracked my workouts for a while now (again, thanks Coach Bill!):

  • Considerable jump in marathon mileage-Went from averaging 30ish to back up to 45-50 over a few weeks.  I know this was the biggest factor.  The accumulated fatigue of higher mileage caught up to me. I had not adjusted to it yet.
  • 5-mile race a few days before-Definitely a hard effort.  Added to the fatigue.
  • Long mile swim the day before-Didn't bother my legs, but I could feel my upper body was tired too.  Have I mentioned tri training and marathon training do not mix well?
  • Low in carbohydrates- Didn't track food the day before, but I've found this to be the case on days when I've been exhausted in the past. I'm not sure that I had increased my carb intake all that much since increasing mileage. Duh.
  • Heat-My running buddies know I loathe running hard in the heat, but, I had done a similar workout in the heat a week before and made it through ok. I think it was a factor, but surprisingly, not the biggest.
So, some combination of all of those things hit me like a ton a bricks.

What I learned:

I felt a little defeated to shut down the track workout, but I still did get in a good 7 miles that night, and mileage is good for marathon training.  The last couple of miles I ran easy instead of at the original workout pace.  All in all, everything was not lost.

My missed workout was on Tuesday. Wednesday morning I got up to run an easy recovery run and still felt like I was carrying a 50 lb backpack the first mile, and then things gradually got better.  Made it through the run feeling better and made sure to eat a lot of protein and carbohydrates the rest of the day.

I was grateful for Coach Bill's advice to shut things down and save some leg Tuesday because I felt much improved by Thursday morning in time for another hard workout, a "tempo" at marathon goal pace.  I was concerned about lingering fatigue, but felt noticeably better and was able to hit my paces with no problem that morning.

That was a relief!

So, bottom line, this was a good reminder that a missed workout:
  • is not the end of the world
  • does not indicate lack of fitness (I think you'd need to see a recurring pattern of missed workouts, and then have to rule out overtraining first)
  • is a good opportunity to check nutrition and adjust if the training load has increased
  • may mean giving up some hard running in the short term to let the body recover a bit
  • may also simply mean approaching a new, higher limit in training that will take some time to adjust to
I'm not advocating going hard all the time to deliberately find your red line, but on occasion, perhaps a missed workout is some evidence you're working pretty darn hard.  How do you know what your limit is unless you approach that red line from time to time?

I guess the trick is to be smart about it and back off if/when you hit that point, and then not dwell on the negative. Thanks Coach Bill!

Jeff Gaudette's full article here on what to do about a poor workout (really good!):