I have had one week + one day to process the marathon and reflect on what went wrong and what went right. To really explain the ebb and flow of my training cycle, let me dive back a bit.
Mid – late August, I was dealing with some serious accumulative fatigue when I was 7wks away from TCM. I had noticed it after the ultra relay in early August, pushed through it during the Tacoma 1/2 marathon on 8/18, but by the following weekend, I just couldn’t push anymore.
I was trying to complete a 22 mile run and although I was motivated to run a strong and solid marathon, I was so tired and drained that I could barely run 8 miles without stopping. Finally at 11 miles, exactly halfway through what was supposed to be a 22, I pulled the plug. In dramatic fashion I ended the run at a mall, bought a long sleeve shirt hoping it would keep me warm for the long journey that lay ahead, took cash out at an ATM for bus fare, and then tried to navigate said bus route home (without a phone & absolutely no knowledge of the bus system…). This whole excursion took multiple transfers, walking about 2 miles between routes, and nearly TWO HOURS!
I was shivering the entire bus ride; so cold from rain and sweat. I remember feeling so sad, confused and defeated, but it was in that HARD and uncompleted training run that I finally realized what I needed most… REST.
*Side note that I had bloodwork done the week before this and iron levels plus vitamins were fine.
I forced my goal to take a backseat in order to find my health and springy step again. I cut my mileage down, started writing fartlek and interval workouts and focused on getting my legs in shape to run the distance. I first and foremost wanted to enjoy the day and run well, but hoped I would see an added BONUS of fitness/PR shape/3:16-3:19 marathon.
After two weeks of listening to my body & allowing grace vs. forcing fitness I began to feel like myself again. I found my motivation, excitement, and the fast times followed. Unfortunately, this was a little late in the game but I chose to acknowledge my best efforts, and focused on writing a race plan that reflected recent 10×800’s and the successful workouts. Only race day would reveal how fast I could go.
On race day I got through mile 16 on pace and smiling – projecting to run around 3:18:xx… By mile 18 my projection was a completely different story. My quads were tight, heavy, and would not contract – no amount of electrolytes seemed to help. I dealt with the pain and didn’t let it bother me, but I also couldn’t go any faster physically. Mentally I was still in it and doing great, I was winning the battle of choosing to be grateful.
While it could have just been one of those off days, I believe I could have prevented or prepared better in my training with a few tweaks. First and foremost, I would not try to force the miles and paces when I was already depleted from challenges in life. I do feel things could have shaken out differently had I listened to my fatigue earlier and just allowed a cutback week or two earlier in the training cycle.
Secondly, I would run more hills – both as repeats and in the middle of hard tempos. I definitely underestimated the hills in TCM. I literally run up a hill that is nearly 200ft at the end of all my long runs. This was, however, not even close to sufficient. I needed to condition my body to both run fast AND over rolling hills. I did this for CIM and felt relatively great, but unfortunately didn’t prioritize it for TCM.
Third, I would increase the MP miles. Again, playing catch up from fatigue to fitness meant I was being extra careful in workload and workout times. I was able to run 10 at GMP in the middle of 22 miler, but perhaps 13 in the middle of 16-18 miler would be better.
That said, there are many positives to pull from this cycle. My VO2max increased, I saw lower HR results during workouts, my nutrition was spot on, joints + hips felt great, mentally I was focused, and I ran faster workouts than I ever have before.
What’s Next: Leading up to Boston training, I plan to build my aerobic capacity through easier running, hilly tempos, & focusing on shorter race distances such as the 5K and 10K. As I transition to Boston training this winter, I will layer in trail running, hill repeats, and hilly tempos to get my legs conditioned for running fast and staying alive in the race. As far as preventing fatigue, I definitely plan to have a cut back week every third week so I can safely build mileage and speed.
I am hopeful that this layered strategy will grow my fitness by race day and keep me interested in excelling… but for now, please excuse me while I eat one more donut and drink another coffee.