After last week's very difficult 17-miler, I did some soul searching. It didn't bring me anything useful.
So, then, I did some Internet searching and I found a local blogger who is also training for CIM and runs roughly my pace. I reached out and she agreed that it would be fun to try to do one or more of the long runs together.
All of a sudden, my decision was made. My FIRST plan is officially out the window (it had been halfway out for a while). I do think that if I could have managed to hit all of the target workouts at all of the target paces, it is highly likely that I would have been very pleased with the results.
But I kept running into issues. The pace goals were *very* hard for me on many of the runs. The speedwork and tempo runs called for much faster paces than I'd regularly hit in any previous training and I often let myself lag. Perhaps the biggest issue for me was that there was no room for bad days. My slog of a 17-miler last week didn't look anything like the 9:39 pace required. By the FIRST calculation, I was failing. And yet, I knew from previous training, sometimes in the middle of marathon training, the long runs just suck and I'm egregiously slow. For me, the act of struggling through a surprisingly tough long run usually means that I'm about ready to reap some serious mental and physical improvements on the running front.
Once I realized that thanks to a new blogger running buddy, if I was flexible, I wouldn't have to do either of the 20-milers solo, I was ready to make any and all modifications to the plan that I thought would bring me the most benefits. So, here's the new running goals for CIM:
1. I'm going back to Bikram once a week. Starting today. I'm a little scared as I haven't been in the hot room since July. But, I *know* that the mental benefits of struggling to stay in the moment of the very uncomfortable practice will pay off in the marathon.
2. I'm going to scale back the aggressive speedwork and pace requirements from FIRST. Yesterday, I did about 1/2 of the recommended speed work (cut the intervals in half) but kept the recommended pace. I haven't run at a 7:30 pace in a while, but I went ahead and did so for 4X400 (with a follow-on 800 at 8:00 and an easy warm up and cooldown). Today, I am super sore. Not injury level pain, but enough to make me suspect that if I'd pushed longer or harder I definitely could have injured myself.
3. I'm going to add the extra 3.1 miles with E as an actual workout each week and incorporate it into the mileage goals. I suspect what I'll do is add some miles in front or behind and treat it as an additional medium run to get the weekly volume a bit higher.
4. I'm moving my long runs around so that I can do the big ones with company. For me, this benefit is perhaps the largest one. Some with my new running buddy, and some with L, a local friend who's recently taken up running and I look forward to running with her in the middle of my medium length long runs.
5. I'm adding some easier random runs to get the volume up and to allow me to enjoy the runs where I'm *just* running. Running just for enjoyment has been missing from my training for a while now. That was definitely one of the things I enjoyed the most about my previous training programs that was missing from this one. None of the FIRST runs were just "go out and do 6 miles." I've missed that, and occasionally, I just let myself have it and blew off a FIRST scheduled run (which messed with my confidence). So I'm excited to get it back at least once a week.
6. I'll pick a pace goal when it gets closer to the actual date based on my performance over the next 5 weeks, but I'm more than willing to let the PR/4 hour goal go if that's what makes sense. In it's place, I think I'd like to run an *even* marathon where I actually pick splits that are attainable and I consistently hit them instead of blowing up. I'm willing to do this with the idea that I can improve my fitness slowly and safely and add a later race to the calendar (like PF Chang's Phoenix, Pacific shoreline, or something else where a goal of shooting for a PR/sub 4 makes more sense).
Here's to flexible plans!