Sunday, March 30, 2014

Boston Training Week 15, Seventy Miles in A Week

I can understand why the rest of the world is annoyed by those of us training for a marathon.  Things you may hear from the likes of us, in person, Facebook, Twitter, or worse yet - on a blog:

"I can't do that, I need to get my long run in Sunday."

"I just ran [15, 18, 20, 22, etc...] miles this morning!  I am so [sore, tired, awesome]!

"I am out of body glide.  I need to buy some more so my nipples don't get cut raw and bleed."

Ok, nix the last one, few of us would publicly make the last statement....  And that isn't just annoying to hear - it's gross.

The general self-righteousness of our crowd makes us difficult to relate to.  I get that.  We pursue this hobby that goes beyond the typical realm of what is required just to stay healthy and in shape.  After some point, "a tipping point" as Malcolm Gladwell would call it, the mileage begins to take over our life.  

In my experience, going over that tipping point is also what is needed in order to finish without completely bonking on the race day.  I have finished marathons off of practically no marathon specific training or an abbreviated training cycle and while yes - I finished - it was not an experience worth reliving.  I won't sign up for a race if I know I can't/won't train for it.  As such, I found a particularly important tipping point in running to be somewhere between 40 and 45 miles a week.  I have run all of my PRs for sub-marathon distance races off of training of generally 35 to 45 miles per week without making too many sacrifices to my social or professional life.  

Something changes after 45 miles a week or long runs over 14-15 miles and both are needed regularly to run "well" in a marathon.  

I get "cranky" (Megan would offer more colorful or profane descriptions).

I fall asleep on the couch watching TV at 9 PM.

I start making excuses for why I can't do things non-running related.  

I am down to one rest day a week, if any at all.

After a certain level, for some of us (the "obsessive" ones), the goals become steeper and we need to up the ante, cross that tipping point and venture into the unknown and uncharted territory - at least for ourselves.  After finishing a few marathons, I went on to trying to qualify for Boston.  Once I did that, I came to a fork in the road - do I train hard and try to outdo my qualifying effort?  Or do I just try to finish and enjoy the experience?

The answer was "both."  I am victim of "wanting it all" which is perhaps an irritating characteristic of my generation (in addition to the self-aggrandizing ego-blasts on Facebook, Twitter, or worse yet, blogs...).

I recognize that there are some things that could happen on race day that are outside my control.  It could be hot in Boston on April 21.  The course could run into a headwind with driving rain.  I could get sick.  I hope none of these things happen, but even after an 18 week successful training cycle, the conditions of the day of do still matter and can outweigh the incremental benefit of shifting up mileage versus my last training cycle.

As such, I set up many goals to reach as part of the process in itself.  I needed interim goals to set such that if race day offers unpredictable elements, I could at least say I did everything needed to poise me for success.

One of those goals was a strong Merge 25K race.  Considering I set a half-marathon PR en route on that day, I would call that a resounding and unexpected success.

One of these guys is not like the other...
Hint:  it's the one with the wonky form

The other was to run a 70 mile week.

Prior to this cycle, I had only crossed 60 miles twice.  Once I was woefully underprepared and spiked my mileage too quickly.  The end result was me hobbling around Duke campus with a plantar fascia strain and missing the entire winter/spring 2012 season.  The other was during my last marathon training cycle for Ridge to Bridge.  That time I approached 60 much more deliberately and ran well in my marathon as a result.

Still, I needed to outdo that effort from my Ridge to Bridge training.  And I did not want to run more 20 milers leading into Boston.  Mileage, mileage, mileage, not just on the weekends but day in and day out over the course of all 18 weeks.  70 was just the top of the pyramid and required a gradual build up from the 40s to the 50s to 60, 65, then 70.  To the recreational runner or someone working a full time job (and then some), 70 miles would seem absurd, but it was a novel form of absurdity for me.  It was something just a step outside of what I had done before - but altogether new.  It would push the limits of what I could feasibly do and not get injured, fired, or have Megan file divorce paperwork (knock on wood).  Anything over 70... is probably another tipping point...

What does a 70 mile week look like?

It is getting up at 5:45 on a Monday, still sore from the 25K, throwing on mittens and tights, because it is 25 degrees again (in North Carolina in late March!?) and going for 8 miles on the American Tobacco Trail before work while the rest of the world is eating breakfast and just starting their day.

It is getting up again before 6 on a Tuesday and hammering out 5 miles on a treadmill before work, avoiding the outdoors because I could not bear to do the same run as the day before.

It is heading to Duke for a 6:30 AM Interval workout in still sub-freezing weather with the Bull City Track Club, jogging around campus for a few miles before running up the nasty long Washington Duke course hill 5 times for a minute each time.  Then doing a tempo loop around the fitness loop, and following with 5 more hill sprints.  Then doing the 3 mile golf course loop to close out 10 miles for the day.  All before getting to my desk before 9 to begin another 10 hour work day.  (There goes that marathon "self-righteousness").

It is running 11 miles on the Tobacco Trail after work on Thursday when the weather is finally nice again.  I'm listening to Placebo and My Morning Jacket and cruising along at ~7:15 pace or so.  I am getting toward the tail end of my run and Red Hot Chili Peppers "Parallel Universe" comes on my iPod and I am a mile from home and bored with this trail.  So I pick it up.  And drop a sub-6 mile.  And think "that was probably a bad idea."

It is a short but somehow gut wrenching 4 mile run on the treadmill after work on Friday, when I'm mentally exhausted and ready for a weekend.

It is a 10 mile run down in the Cary-Apex section of the Tobacco Trail from White Oak to near New Hill and back in the rain.  I am listening to Pete Yorn and thinking about how nice this section of the trail is on a quiet day, with the tall pine trees and swamp land on either side.  I am thinking about my first marathon back in 2001 and all the dumb crap I used to do in college and how even back then 10 miles was a "long" run.  I think about the great race I did out here last fall, and the Tobacco Road Half three years ago and get the itch to try for a fast half in the fall now that post-Merge, I know I have it in me to run even faster than I did a few years ago.  It is a never-ending itch, this sport (dammit).  I turn down offers to go out that night.  See you again when I am tapering (sorry).

It is a 22 mile run with Bart in Umstead Park.  44 degrees and breezy.  We try to go easy, but we're still dropping low 7 minute miles early on, knowing we plan to pick it up later.  We get through a loop of Turkey Creek and Greylyn keeping steady, but without that crucial second gear to pick it up.  We start another loop.  During our "cool down" mile at 13, the Michigan women's cross country team passes us on Turkey Creek.  I think to myself that a college team regularly puts in 70+ miles a week easy, and that's why practically no one my age that ran in college still runs.  I think to myself, "they are far from home."  I think to myself, "why are they running here?!" I figure they are in town for a track meet and maybe this is their cool down run - not an easy one by any means.  Bart and I pick it up and catch them during our "tempo" portion.  We give them directions and then pass on, listening to the flat-landers used to the Midwest groan going up each hill.  Turkey Creek seems much shorter on the second loop.  I know I am slowing down toward the end of the loop and they catch me again just at the end of Greylyn, but trying to keep just ahead of the pack of more talented runners helps me forget about the 18 miles I had already run and focus more on keeping a good pace.  We finish the last 4 miles relaxed, but still keeping under 8 minutes.  Overall pace just under 7:30.  We finish thankful that is behind us.  The training only gets easier from here.

And then breakfast at Trali with Megan.  The reward for getting it done.

post-run nirvana
The Irish Breakfast:  4 different meats!

Week 14 mileage:  46

Week 15 mileage:  70 (most ever for week)

March mileage:  254 (most ever for month)

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