So this is marathon training

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When the mileage piles up, you spend a bit of time chilling out in the Back Cove parking lot post-run before moving on to whatever else is planned for the day. 

I parked my car at FleetFeet this morning planning to run for 45 minutes to an hour. I wasn’t really feeling it. I’m tired, sore and pretty much constantly hungry.

Part of that was the workout that started and ended at FleetFeet on Wednesday evening.  Part of that was the 20-miler I ran last Sunday and the 20-miler I’m planning tomorrow. Part of that is, while 56 miles in a week and 91 miles in the last 12 days isn’t a ton for some people, it is a shit ton for a hobby jogger like me.

I logged those miles this morning, jogging along the Eastern Prom, through the East End and the Munjoy Hill neighborhood, then finally up Fore Street, along the Prom again and back to my car at FleetFeet.

Then I stopped at Whole Foods for a salad that I devoured before falling into bed for a nap.

img_4320When I signed up for the Chicago Marathon late last year, I knew this time was coming. And I was looking forward to it. After a year and a half of struggling with injuries and burnout and just not giving a shit about running, I was excited to get to work putting in work.

There have been a few hiccups, including that strained hip flexor that is mostly better, but still cries at me once in a while, but I’m putting in the work. I’m running more miles and harder workouts than I have run since early 2017, before I tweaked my hamstring training for the Sugarloaf Marathon, which was the beginning of a pretty shitty stretch of running.

I’m doing the work and it’s pretty freaking glorious.

Yes, I’m sore. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I want to eat all the time. But I’m not injured and I’m able to run. I’m gaining fitness and gaining confidence. I have no idea what will happen on Oct. 13, but to be able to put in this kind of work after so much time struggling to run and hating even the thought of doing it, the last two weeks have been a huge win.

My workload will start to drop a little bit after that long run tomorrow. I’ll be exactly three weeks out from Chicago tomorrow morning and it will feel good to ramp down a little bit to freshen up my legs and my mind for race day. I’ll still log decent miles, and I’ll hit a workout or two, but there will be no more 20-milers, that’s for sure.

It’s been quite an experience, this build. After three months of pretty awesome running, I was definitely worried that my hip was going to keep me from getting into the kind of shape I wanted to run the kind of race I wanted. I took two full weeks off running and still wasn’t feeling a heck of a lot better when I started to ramp back up. Thankfully, a ton of physical therapy has me feeling pretty decent these days and I have finally gotten to a point where I’m running the type of mileage I think I need to to run the kind of race I want to.

Are my goals still realistic? Who knows? Pessimistic me says no way, but I have a lot of people on my side, who see my workouts and my mileage, and tell me I’m capable of more than I think.

I’ll find out on Oct. 13 what I’m capable of, but whatever happens, this build has been a win. To get myself to a point where I can train for a marathon without completely falling apart is exactly what I was looking for when I signed up for Chicago.

I have three weeks and one 20-miler left, and my only goal during that time is to not screw anything up.

There was been way too much good in the last 2 1/2 months to blow it now.

 

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Lake Auburn Half Marathon 1.0

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Closing in on the finish line, pushing the pace much harder than I expected to. (Photo by Maine Running Photos)

Shortly after the 10-mile mark, I passed the last runner I could see in front of me. I occasionally heard footsteps behind me, but I slowly pulled away and had the road to myself. In races, especially when I’m running kind of hard, I don’t really like being all alone. I like have runners around, runners to chase, runners to pace myself with.

But with about 2.5 miles left in the Lake Auburn Half Marathon, I was all alone and fighting the urge to slow down a little bit. I was already running much faster than I planned, and it was getting harder to keep up that pace while running with no one in front of me and no one behind me.

Then, with just over a mile left, as I turn out of the parking lot at St. Mary’s Hospital, I saw a runner up ahead. A yellow hat, making its way down the side of the road, toward the entrance to Central Maine Community College and the finish line. At that point, I made it my goal to get as close to yellow hat as I could, if not catch him (I knew it was a him because I saw that hat when he ran by after he had, and before I, made the turn around at mile 7).

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Very surprising splits considering my plan before the race.

And that is how, at the end of a half marathon in which I was never planning to run faster than 8 minute per mile pace, I dropped a 7:22 mile. The closer I got to yellow hat, the harder I pushed. I knew I had a chance to catch and pass him as we entered the school and a continually reeled him in until passing him about 50 meters before the finish line.

Passing yellow hat guy didn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things. We were not in the same age group, though that thought did cross my mind a few times as I tried to reel him in, and I wasn’t going to place in my age group anyway (I finished 41st overall and 10th in the 40-49 age group). No, passing yellow hat guy wasn’t about a race result or about pride, it was simple a way to push myself to see what I had in the tank and what I was capable of. It was about finding some form of motivation at the end of a pretty dang hard effort. It was about having some fun in the spirit of competition.

Sunday was kind of a big day for me for a number of running-related reasons.

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Pre-race, fighting some race-day anxiety while listening to loud music and taking selfies in my car.

First and foremost, I put myself in a race environment, which I haven’t done nearly enough this year. When I ran Chicago in 2014, I was so nervous before I race I nearly puked in a trash can after taking a sip of Gatorade before the race. This year, I had only raced three times before Sunday. One of those, the New York City Half Marathon, is similar to what I’ll experience in Chicago, the rest were big my Maine standards, but small in the grand scheme of things. But anytime I can pin on a bib, stand on a starting line with a crowd of other runners, with some sort of goal in mind, I fight race day anxiety. To face that anxiety one more time before Chicago hopefully will serve as a reminder on Oct. 13 that I can handle those race day nerves and run a solid race.

Second, I pushed myself well beyond what I thought I was capable of. My game plan for Sunday was to run the first few miles as a warmup, then get 75 minutes or so at steady state pace, which I thought was 8:00-8:15 per mile. I never considered the possibility that I could drop 7 sub 8 minute miles on my way to the third fastest half marathon (1:44:59) that I have ever run. My plan was out the window when I ran 8:20, 8:27 and 8:21 in the first 3 miles, then I forgot all about it when I reached the top of a long, long hill at the end of mile 6, ran around a traffic cone and ran down that long, long hill. I felt like I was shoved in the back, I picked up so much speed around that corner, and decided to just hammer it for as long as I could after that. I held together so much better than I expected and gained a ton of confidence in my fitness.

Lastly, I was able to practice for Chicago. I wore the shoes, shorts, singlet and baseball hat I plan to wear for the marathon, and I followed the nutrition plan I am thinking I will use. Everything felt good, everything worked well, so I don’t have to worry about that any more. (I do have to question the use of styrofoam cups at the aid stations).

I’m happy with how things went. I’m glad I put myself out there and pushed myself to an uncomfortable spot to find out just where I am. I’m glad it was a confidence building experience. I’m glad I made it out of the race healthy and ready to step back into training for the big one in five weeks.

When everything hurts, a reminder why

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I’m not really a Cubs fan, this hat is a reminder of why I’m out here.

Last week, my adductor and hammy were sore.

Sunday during my long run, my hip got tired and tight.

Yesterday when I started my recovery jog, my left knee was screaming at me.

Sometimes my left foot hurts, sometimes it doesn’t.

Ah, marathon training when you are old and broken is a lot of fun.

I kid, sort of. I actually am enjoying training for the Chicago Marathon. I like pushing my body to see what I can get out of it. I feel better when I’m able to get out and run miles. I look forward to doing the work, chasing a goal, trying to get the best out of myself.

That is not to say it is easy. I feel like I’m constantly fighting one injury or another. My knees (specifically my left knee). My hip. My adductor/hammy. Something always hurts. Usually more than one thing hurts.

And I’m at the point in training, running nearly 50 miles a week (which isn’t a ton to some people but is huge mileage for me, especially after spending 2018 just trying to get to a point where I could run on a regular basis) with a workout and a long run, that I’m tired and hungry pretty much all the time.

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Just out here training for Chicago, and everything hurts.

It’s hard not to get discouraged. As I limped around the office last night, my left knee sore and barking with every step, I wondered if I am really capable of getting through the next 38 days of training for the Chicago Marathon. I questioned whether or not I’ll be able to make it through those 26.2 miles at the type of effort I hope to put in on Oct. 13 without pushing my body to the point of no return. I really want Chicago to go well. I really don’t want to be limping somewhere in the middle of the Windy City with another 13 miles to the finish line.

My answer to this is to remember why I’m doing this. I choose to go through this and I want to do this for all of those reasons I mentioned above. The aches and pains are the price I pay for training for a marathon in a 45-year-old body broken down by years of not taking care of myself. A body broken and bruised by the occasional burst of activity on the baseball field or basketball court or football field (touch football only) in my 30s, between long bouts of sitting on my ass eating Doritos, donuts and pounding PBR.

I don’t want to sound like it’s all gloom and doom or that everything is awesome. Neither is exactly the case. It’s somewhere in between those two things. I hurt. My body hurts. But I ran 17 miles on Sunday morning and that was glorious. Kind of painful, but glorious nonetheless.

So when my left knee is really bothering me (like it is this morning) or my hip gets kind of sore, or I just don’t want to go for a run, I’ll remind myself of why I’m doing this. I’ll tell myself to get out of bed and do my physical therapy, to stretch and to roll. I’ve done better this training block doing the little things to stay healthy but I can always do more.

Things are going to hurt, that is probably unavoidable for me at this point. However, if I continue to be smart and do the work I need to do, I can push myself to be better, to chase goals, and to enjoy what I am doing.

This is what I choose to do. I want to do this.

And sometimes, that is going to hurt.

7 weeks to Chicago, this is where I’m at

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6 1/2 miles along the Atlantic: Awesome. Insomnia: Not so much

I ran at 2 a.m. with the moon lighting up an otherwise full black sky. I ran on the treadmill as lightning cracked, thunder roared and rain poured out of the sky. I ran on the Back Cove, dodging the back end of the weekly 5K series. I ran in the cemetery, reading as many headstones as I could while trying to keep my pace easy.

In the 3 weeks since I last posted on this blog I’ve been running. And going to PT. And stretching and rolling. And … well, I’ve been training for a marathon. That’s the easiest way to say it. From that last blogged post through this morning, I have logged 124 miles. I ran 12 miles on that late night/early morning run, I’ve done three speed workouts, I jogged 13.1 miles last Sunday, ran 15.1 miles with a fast finish yesterday, and I’ve jogged a bunch of slow, easy miles.

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Ignite the will. Stock the flame. Burn it down. #believeinthefight

I still feel some niggles. My adductor gets a little sore, my hip was bugging me a little bit at the end of my 6-miler this morning, and both feet have hurt a little bit. Nothing, however, has stopped me from getting out and getting in miles. Nothing has stopped me from making forward progress toward Chicago, toward accomplishing my goals on Oct. 13, whatever those may be.

I’ve said it a million times in this training block, but it bears repeating: I’m not where I thought I would be at this point or necessarily where I want to be at this point in training. With that out of the way, I have to say, I think I’m in a pretty good spot.

Ideally, my longest run would be more than 15 miles with just seven weeks left in training. In any other marathon block, I’ve run at least 16 miles for a long run at this point and have topped 50 miles in a week at least a few times.

It would be great to be further along in my training. If I hadn’t tweaked my hip flexor and aggravated my adductor/hamstring, I would have more miles and more workouts under my belt.

I would probably be a lot more beat up, too.

My body feels relatively good right now. I’m tired because my insomnia has flared up lately, and I do have those niggles, but I’m not stiff and sore all the time. Part of that is I’m doing a better job of stretching and rolling, doing the little things to take care of my body. Part of that is I’m listening to my body and easing my way into training. I’m not forcing mileage, I’m not ramping up too fast. I’m taking my time, getting in more and more miles each week, and trying to take care of myself.

I do need to run more miles to get ready for this marathon. I know that and I’m working on that. I’m hoping, though, that by not stressing my body to the max for 18 weeks, like I was absolutely planning on doing before I was forced to slam on the breaks, I will be fresher and healthier when I get to the starting line in Grant Park on Oct. 13.

Maybe this is just my way of justifying where I am right now. I am a little bit worried about the lack of a run longer than 15 miles at this point. I am also excited to feel like I’m in a place right now that I am able to ramp it up and not feel like I’m completely falling apart or falling asleep (well, I do feel like I’m falling asleep but that is because insomnia woke me up 3 hours after I fell asleep last night). Right now, I’m raring to go. I’m ready to tackle workouts and cruise through my long runs.

I’m feeling fresh, I’m feeling mostly healthy, and I’m feeling optimistic that, while I may not be as fast as I was hoping on Oct. 13, I’ll toe the line in Chicago ready to cover 26.2 miles feeling good and in a solid frame of mind (PMA all day).

10 weeks to Chicago

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An hour and 50 minutes on Sunday isn’t much, but it was a win nonetheless.

I glanced at my watch as I passed a couple while jogging up the short hill on the Back Cove Path approaching Tukey’s Bridge. I was about 55 minutes into my run, moving at about a 9:15 per mile pace. Taking the shortest route home, I had about 3.5 miles or about 35 minutes to go.

Is that enough for today?

Do I want to try for a little more?

Ah, I feel OK, just run to Baxter Boulevard and make a decision from there.

My run Sunday was a bit of a test. It wasn’t a workout and it wasn’t really a long run, it was just about spending some time on my feet and seeing where I am as the Chicago Marathon quickly approaches.

45 minutes after glancing at my watch, an hour and 50 minutes after I left the house to grab a few miles, I walked back into my apartment, feeling better. Satisfied. Optimistic.

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Saturday’s stats. 15 minutes up, 6×2 minutes kind of hard with a 3 minute recovery, 18 minutes down.

10 weeks out from race day, I figured out Sunday I’m not where I was two months ago, but I’m not where I was two weeks ago either. I’m not 100 percent healthy, I’ve definitely lost some fitness, but if I keep doing the right things, don’t ramp shit up too quickly, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be OK on Oct. 13.

That doctor’s appointment I had last week went all right, though the doctor thought I should probably be feeling a little better than I am six weeks after my initial exam. She’s not worried about me running and her goal is to make sure I’m ready to race at Chicago, which is encouraging, but she did want to dive a little further into what is going on in my hip/adductor. For now, that means more physical therapy and possible a deeper dive if we feel like that is necessary.

More than anything, I just want some reassurance that I’m not going to completely screw myself up if I keep running and training and trying to run a good race in Chicago. I’ve been encouraged by the last two weeks of training. I haven’t run a ton of miles and my workouts haven’t been super hard, but after running just 3 miles over a two weeks span and 10 miles the week after that, the 33 I ran this past week feels like 100.

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Not where I want to be, but a step in the right direction.

But there is definitely doubt. After that appointment Thursday, I slogged through an uncomfortable 5-miler. My hammy was tired, my adductor was tight, my hip hurt. As much as I am trying to focus on having a positive mental attitude, that run was a little soul crushing. I was questioning myself for all 50 minutes of that run. I convinced myself that Chicago was not going to happen. I was too injured to run the type of mileage I need and if I tried to run the race, I’d end up hurt, limping and catching a ride to the finish line.

I took a rest day Friday, then bounced back with a little speed session Saturday and a little more than 11 miles on Sunday. I still felt some shit during those runs, but it was much calmer than it was Thursday evening. I felt tired and winded sooner during that speed session than I would have two months ago, but it felt mostly good to crank it up, even just a little bit. I never ran hard on Sunday, and I took a short walk break every 20 minutes, but to jog for an hour and 50 minutes was a victory.

To quiet those negative voices in my head for a little bit was definitely a win.

I wish I had a bit more time to get completely healthy and to train for Chicago, but I don’t, so I just have to deal with it the best I can. My goals, which were going to be hard to reach anyway, may be out of reach, but I’m not giving up on anything just yet. I have 10 weeks to get ready, I’ll try to stay positive, be smart and do the work.

At this point, that is all I can do.

 

 

Taking steps forward

IMG_4150I’m sitting in bed, watching TV and preparing for a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. It’s been about a month and a half since I first saw the doctor about my hip/adductor and today is, hopefully, my final follow up.

I’m not 100 percent yet, and I’m still slowly working my way back to running the type of miles and the type of workouts I need to to prepare for Chicago. I definitely feel better and I’m running more, but my hip still barks at me and my adductor/hammy still gets sore.

I’m not expecting anything too much from today’s appointment. It’s just a follow-up, a check-in, to make sure everything is heading in the right direction. I’m confident that things are heading in the right direction, even if I’m not getting better as quickly as I would like.

IMG_4158Last night was a step in the right direction. In the heat and humidity, I ran 5 miles, getting progressively faster for the first 30 minutes. I slowly worked my way down to a 7:38 per mile pace for the last five minutes. My hip took a bit of time to not feel stiff, but once it did, I didn’t really feel restricted. My adductor and hamstring felt pretty good, only feeling a little bit tired as the intensity picked up.

I made sure to cut the workout short while I still felt good. One of the mistakes I made earlier this year that led to this injury getting a little worse than I would have liked is running my workouts too hard. Steady state runs on Wednesday were all a little too fast and a little too long. Interval workouts were a little too hard and I always ran the extra rep. Recovery runs weren’t really recovery runs. Easy miles were a little faster than easy.

Basically, I got into my own head. When I feel good and I feel like I have to push as hard as I can. Well, it caught up to me. I wore down and a little tweak, a little niggle turned into something that hurt all the time because I pushed too hard.

In other words, I wasn’t smart enough to stay completely healthy.

That is the biggest thing I’ve learned from this setback: Don’t go over that edge. Push hard, train hard, yes, but I need to learn my limits. All the great workouts don’t mean shit if I get hurt and can’t run. It especially doesn’t mean shit if I get hurt and can’t race.

I’m making steps to get back to where I want to be. It’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of smarts. I can’t slack off on physical therapy or stretching or rolling. I have to listen to my body. I have to recover on recovery days and run easy on easy days. I have to push, but not push myself to a place of getting injured.

Today is another step forward. And that is where my focus needs to be, just keep taking steps forward.

Take it slow

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5 miles on Sunday in the blistering heat isn’t the 14-16 I thought I’d be running right now, but it is where I’m at. I’m trying to play it smart, so I can get to Chicago in one piece.

When I’m not running as much as I would like with my goal marathon quickly approaching, I have a lot of time to think about that marathon. Lately, I’ve spent some time thinking about my goals for the Chicago Marathon and what this down time means for them.

Sunday, my brain went into hyperdrive when the training plan for the FleetFeet marathon class popped into my email. I browsed through the 12 weeks of training, set up for the Maine Marathon which is a week before Chicago, and the wheels started turning.

For months, before I tweak my hip flexor/adductor/hamstring, my goal for Chicago has been to finish in 3 hours, 40 minutes. When that schedule popped into my email on Sunday night, I thought about that goal, wondering if I had time to get myself back together and fit enough to chase it.

I did the math in my head:

• 11 weeks (turns out I was wrong and I’m 12 weeks out) to get myself 100 percent healthy.

• I need to run 8:23 per mile to finish in 3:40.

• How many miles can I run right now, and how long will it be before I’m running those 2 1/2-3 hour long runs?

Monday and Tuesday, a few more emails reminded me to pump the brakes and slow down. 

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Saturday was super hot, too, and 4 miles was more than enough.

I had three physical therapy sessions after seeing the doctor about my hip, which focused on stretching and rolling to get my hip/adductor/hamstring to calm down a bit. The last session was two weeks ago, after which I was told to start running, but to take it easy. I was told I didn’t necessarily need to come back for more PT, but to keep them updated.

Monday morning I sent an email to the two people I worked with at PT with an update. I told them I ran 22 miles last week, that I was feeling better, but things were still a little sore. The response from both of them was: You are on the right track, but TAKE IT SLOW.

Of course, they are right, I just have to convince myself that it is OK to take it slow. Every time I start to think about my goals for Chicago, and how little I’m running right now, and how I’m not doing the work I think I need to to get ready to run my goal, I stop and read those emails. I’m remind that, yes, I need to run to get ready to run Chicago, but if I am not healthy, I won’t be able to run the race at all, so … TAKE IT SLOW.

It’s frustrating, after three great months of training, that I can’t just keep going, keep hammering miles and workouts. That’s not where I am right now, though. Things are starting to feel better, but if I’m not smart about it, the shit is really going to hit the fan and I won’t even be lining up in Grant Park on Oct. 13.

The solution to all of this is to try not to think about those lofty goals I set for myself. Yes, I still want to run 3:40 but is that realistic? I don’t know. Will I finally be able to erase that 3:47 off the chalkboard in my bedroom, which has been written on that chalkboard as my marathon goal for more than five years? I don’t know.

What I do know, is I can’t worry about that right now. I can’t let those numbers cloud my judgment and make me rush into stuff I’m not ready for. I remind myself of those three awesome months of training before I broke myself. I tell msyelf I haven’t lost all of that fitness. I remind myself that if I make this injury worse, instead of letting it heal, I can forget chasing any goals, I won’t be racing at all on Oct. 13.

I’m trying to convince myself that in order to have the opportunity to chase my big dreams in Chicago, I need to be smart and make it to Chicago. That training plan will be my guide, but I won’t be married to it. I’ll listen to my body, the aches and the pains, and try not to push myself to the point of break down.

I’ll remind myself to TAKE IT SLOW.