Marathon: 3 weeks to go
Oh, what a difference a week makes!
I wouldn't have believed it if you had told me, but this week's 20-miler was actually *easier* than last week's horrific 14-miler. I completed it at an average pace of 9:52, just slightly faster than my target race pace of 10:00, which was a pleasant surprise. I was able to hit this average pace mainly because I busted out the last two miles at 8:56 and 8:30, so a race pace of 10:00 is probably right about the proper target for an additional 6 miles.
I was grinning when I finished. I felt good, strong, happy, and very proud of myself. I knew I could do another 6 miles if I had to. E commented that I looked much better than I did at the end of last week's long run. Plus, there was no nausea, nor any need to drop to my knees after the shower. Instead of needing to go home and eat away from the burrito joint, I was able to go to a friend's and enjoy a huge girls' champagne lunch. (Yes, not ideal, I know...but you think I'm gonna miss 4 of my closest girl friends and frittata, raspberry bread pudding, salami, cheese, cornbread, roasted chicken salad, capers and shrimp, papaya, an assortment of berries and dark chocolate paired with great conversation and sparkling wine? If you do, you have not been reading this blog very long. I love to run, and want to recover from my long run, but not so much that I'd miss out on fun like that, please!)
So for those that care, here's my analysis of all the things that were different between the last two weeks' long runs to help me understand my training and recovery:
The mid-week runs
This past week, I did all of the training on my schedule this week on exactly the days assigned, at or below race pace (this was probably a bit too intense, but it was my last hard week of training before taper and I was out of shape, so I felt that it was worth the risk). Before the 14-miler, in contrast, I'd rearranged about two week's worth of runs to fit the holidays and work, had done all of the ones I could fit in at very slow paces, had battled a cold and missed several miles, and only allowed myself 5 days between the previous long run of 16.5 and the 14-miler.
This run, I stayed true to my favorite gu flavors: vanilla bean (mile 8) and espresso love (mile 14). Chocolate and I do not get along. I also swung back by the house for a half-glass of gatorade after mile 6.
Hydration During The Run
Last run, I took a walk break for at least two ounces of water at every 2 mile mark, except after the gu, where I waited to mile 8.65. This run, I took a walk break for water at miles 2 and 4, stopped for gatorade and to lose the jacket at mile 6, and had an ounce or two of water at every mile after ingesting the gu (miles 8-20) instead of waiting to the 2-mile marks.
Walk Breaks & Pacing
Probably the biggest difference between the two was this: I took it relatively easy 'til mile 12 of the 20-miler, at which point I started to slowly decrease my pace to well below my target race pace. In contrast, I tried to hit race-pace almost immediately on the 14-miler and had trouble maintaining it.
For the 14-miler, I did my standard .25 mile walking warm-up before the first mile at 10:13, and then then mile 2 at 9:46 and mile 3 at 9:39. I tried to maintain 10-15 seconds below race pace for every mile and took walk breaks at every 2 mile mark (except 8.65 instead of 8). This meant the 14-miler was roughly 7 2-mile chunks with a walking warm-up and cool-down that didn't count toward the mileage.
For the 20-miler, I started jogging as soon as I left the house instead of walking (I didn't want to add any extra distance, even .25 miles). In exchange, I told myself I could do the first few miles as slow as I wanted to warm up -- so I did miles 1-2 at 10:22, with mile 3 at 10:26.
I decided to view the 20-miler in chunks: a slow 6-mile warm-up ending back at my house to get rid of some layers and take in some gatorade. 2 miles at race pace and then some gu. A 10-k at slightly below race pace. More gu. Another 10-k at slightly faster than the last one. The benefit that I saw to this plan was that the marathon would be just one more gu stop and another 10-k.
Another benefit that I hadn't considered was that after taking walk breaks at miles 2, 4, 6, and 8 I didn't take any additional walk breaks except at mile 14 when I had more gu. Instead of 10 walk breaks, I only took 5. This meant my overall pace was faster even though my running pace was slightly slower for most of the miles.
The Pre-Run Routine
The night before the 14-miler, I had angry pasta, wine, tea, water, a few squares of dark chocolate and went to bed early for about 11 hours of sleep (as an aside, I've been needing much more sleep than normal these last few weeks of training). The night before this run, I had Tuscan bean soup, water, tea, more water, more tea, a few squares of dark chocolate and, just before bed, I had half a package of chocolate graham crackers with more water. Both nights I did mild stretching before sleep.
I like to run on an empty stomach with nothing but gatorade and/or coffee/water. The morning before the 14-miler I drank at least a liter of gatorade. Before the 20-miler I had a glass (10 oz?) of gatorade.
I started the 20-miler at 8:20 AM, after 8.5 hours of sleep. Because I started early, I was done with the 20-miler at 11:40 AM or so in time to stuff my face for lunch. For the 14-miler, I waited 'til around 11:00 to start and thus, wasn't able to eat anything other than the chocolate gu (which didn't agree with me) 'til around 3:00 PM.
I think the 18-hour fast between the end of dinner and the end of the 14-mile run is largely responsible for some of the nausea and muscular discomfort of the 14-miler. In contrast, thanks to the late snack and early start, I had only gone just slightly over 12-hours between my last substantive meal and the end of the 20-miler. I'm not sure what to think about the fact that I had a couple of glasses of wine before the bad run and none before the good one. In the past, I've run some of my fastest races after dinner including a glass or two of wine and as long as I had enough hydrating liquids along with the wine I haven't noticed much of a difference. That being said, given how great I felt on the 20-miler, I think I'll avoid wine the night before the marathon just to be safe.
While I felt worse immediately after the 14-miler, I definitely slept worse after the 20-miler. Last night, I woke multiple times to an anxious body full of various mild pains. I'm much more sore today than I was the day after the 14-miler. I can only imagine the level of cellular repair that must be going on in my body right now. Thankfully, E bought me a massage for today, so I should feel much better shortly. Regardless, I am prepared for a very fitful night of sleep after the marathon and a very sore few days that follow.
The good news is, I am officially in taper. It's all downhill from here 'til the big day!