This is it folks. Only two taper weeks remaining before the Pittsburgh Marathon. Other than a week I got the flu, and a week I had a lot of business related travel, I was very faithful to my planned schedule. I hope it was enough. Two things I know for sure: (1) it has been fun, but (2) I am so ready to take a little marathon-training break and switch to not having to do a super long run every weekend, at least for a little while.
I feel proud of my effort, but I don’t think it will be enough to qualify to Boston. I would have to run at a 7:00 pace, and I think 7:10 is a much more realistic expectation. We’ll see. I will wait until next week when my legs aren’t this sore to make a pace plan for race day.
Originally, it was supposed to be peak week. But, as usual, I had to make some adjustments along the way. With longer runs and bike rides, I haven’t had time to do as much strength work and swimming as before, which I guess it is ok at this point. Instead, I totalled close to 40 running miles, which is a lot for me. Also, I’m riding my bike everywhere now that the weather allows it.
I planned a half marathon for Tuesday and a 20+ miler for Sunday. In the end, I cut the half marathon short, and I dropped the + of my twenty miler stopping exactly when my Garmin read 20.00. As a result, I was half a mile short from doing my first ever 40 mile week. Still, I had some seriously good runs, and I am satisfied with my performance and proud of my effort.
Week 13 was as busy as it can be. But, at this point, cancelling my long run would have amounted to giving up a lot of my expectations and ruining a lot of my effort. So, I scheduled the run for the only time I could fit in in my schedule. I set up my alarm for 3:00, put on a reflective vest my wife got in Ikea, and I managed to finish my 19 miles before dawn. To be honest, I really enjoyed the last part of the run. As the sun was coming out and I was pushing the last two miles I felt like a breathing walking (running?) inspirational quote 🙂
1 year of progress
This is it, the longest run and the last really tough workout of the cycle. I’m happy I started early, because Spring suddenly arrived and the temperature was already in the high 70s by the end of my run. I felt strong for most of the run and I almost met my target time of 2 hours 30 minutes (I was short by less than 2 minutes).
The last two miles were extremely hard. So hard that I almost want to wonder whether I am ready to do 26 miles in two weeks. But I know I am, because this is not my first time around. Last year, two weeks before Pittsburgh, I did a 20 miler, almost like this one but with a couple of differences. Last year, my pace was 8:52 min/mile and not 7:32, and it was the last 4 miles that I struggled and not just the last 2. So, I know I’m ready ad excited to run Pittsburgh once again!!
A lot has happened since I last posted! Since I started physical therapy for my foot, I have been progressing quickly. My goal was to get to bike and run as quickly and sensibly as possible.
I was nervous about standing on the bike, since there is a segment of each revolution during which one foot is bearing all the weight. First, I tried an upright stationary bike with programmable workouts (not a spinning bike) during PT. That didn’t go so well… I could not get the resistance to go up high enough to support a real standing climb. So, I took it upon myself to try it on a spinning bike at a local YMCA. I did 8 minutes, then 10, then 15, and tried standing for bits in between. I started with regular training shoes, then my cycling shoes with SPD cleats. This progression built my confidence enough to try riding outside for the first time!
The ride was 7.3 miles at 12.3 miles an hour. It was the windiest ride I’ve ever been on, so I was uncomfortable, cold, and nervous. I broke off from the route Bruno had planned and cut it short a bit. Close to the end, my body had relaxed a bit and I remembered that I really love cycling. I’m excited to try again tomorrow! I’m not quite (mentally) ready to get on my road bike and clip in, and I have a feeling my foot will be ready faster than my head will be 🙂
On the running front, I told my physical therapist early this week I was ready to start running. I have been doing some stuff on the elliptical and some fast walking, and I felt it’s time. She had me try the treadmill and run at a comfortable pace, and I discovered it was actually less painful than walking! So, we’ve been upping the speed and distance since, and today I completed my first outdoor run of 1.83 miles!! I’m feeling very accomplished.
After Pittsburgh, I’ll have 1 week rest and then 6 weeks to train for my first (!) triathlon. So, I decided to incorporate some swimming and cycling to my training starting now. I’ve been swimming for a while, but this week I did my first ride of the year, and it went great (which is good so I don’t have to feel bad about slacking a bit on my running).
I planed my bike ride for Wednesday afternoon, but the weather was awful and I didn’t have time to do it before dusk. So, I rescheduled it to Friday and joined my wife at the gym instead. However, I was feeling tired and not very motivated Friday and I decided to ditch it all together. Fortunately, the weather on Saturday was absolutely perfect and I couldn’t resist going out for a nice hour-long ride.
Life doesn’t care you are in the middle of your training. You cannot just pause life because you want to qualify to the Boston Marathon and need to train for it. And, sometimes, life can make it really hard to find the time you need to train.
This week, I travelled overseas for job interviews in Italy and the UK. Between all the flying, jet-lag, interviewing, switching hotels (4 in total) and not having access to my usual gyms, I knew I wouldn’t really be able to train as much as I would like to. So, this week was about remaining as fit as possible, in order to continue getting stronger next week.
I packed running shoes, booked hotels that had pools/gyms, and hoped I would have the time and energy to work out. Things started out well. On my first night in the UK I stayed at an adorable abbey in Warwickshire called Wroxall Abbey. The place has a pool, a rowing machine (these seem to be rather popular in the UK), and wonderful running trails around it. So, on my first night I was able to get an easy swim before going to sleep, and on the next morning I did a beautiful 5k on the surroundings.
That is exactly what I need to qualify to the Boston Marathon. Last year, I ran my first marathon in Pittsburgh in 3:31:43. This was nowhere neat my Boston Marathon Qualifying Standard of 3:05:00. This year, I plan to run my second marathon. It is exactly the same race, but this time I will try to shave 30 minutes off my time to quality to Boston. Here is my 5-step plan to accomplish this task, let’s hope it is enough!!
1. Faster cadence and better form
Last year, I was following a very long (30-week) training plan, but I injured my right hamstring 16 weeks before the race. It took me 6 weeks to come back to a regular training schedule, and another 4 weeks for the pain to subside entirely.
My physical therapist told me that what felt like a hamstring injury was actually a lower back issue caused by a weak core and bad running posture. He also told me that my cadence was too slow and my muscles were too tight, and gave me some pointers to improve my form.
I started doing more core strengthening exercises, stretching better, foam rolling, doing running drills, and taking rest days seriously, and I have focused on keeping proper form and fast cadence during my runs. Increasing my cadence hasn’t been easy. I have gone up from 155 steps per minute to 175, and I am consciously trying to push my normal-pace-cadence all the way up to 180.
I am happy to report that I have been injury free since then. I hope my improved form and cadence helps me continue to be injury free for a long time, and to be more efficient on race day!
2. Smarter race
Last year, I was hoping to finish under 3:30:00. I probably could have, but I made a total noob mistake. Since I was feeling great at the beginning of the race, I stuck around the 3:15 pacer for around 15 miles. At some point, I realized I couldn’t keep up any more, and then I hit the wall. The last 10 miles were absolute hell. I just wanted to stop and wait for someone to pick me up. I did my fastest mile in 7 minutes, and mile 25 took me more than 10. Starting out too fast was a terrible mistake.