This week’s post will cover my last 2 weeks of training as I raced Monday September 3rd, so there weren’t as many workouts to recap in each week; but overall the last couple of weeks have been productive including that US 20k Championship race.
On the week leading up to the race, I started with doubles of 10 + 6 miles on Monday, and 10 + 4 miles on Tuesday. I was still feeling pretty tired from our last big workout the previous Saturday, but was a little relieved to know I wasn’t the only one feeling that way, as the Scotts said they also felt very tired from that workout. I tried to run as easy as possible those two days so I could fully recover for my workout on Wednesday which would be our last quality session before I raced on Labor Day.
The setup for Wednesday’s workout was basically 15 times 1k. The little twist was that every 5th rep (so numbers 5, 10 and 15) would be an 800 at increasingly faster pace. The goal pace for the 1ks were 3:05, and we would get a minute rest after the 1ks, and 200 jog after the 800s which would between 1-2 minutes. We had a nice group of myself, Futsum, the Scotts, and Chris Thompson. A few reps in, and my legs were feeling flat. I was hoping that maybe I hadn’t gotten in a proper warmup and they would start feeling better soon, but that wasn’t the case. I could tell everyone else felt pretty good, so I tried to tuck in behind them and get through as much as the workout as I could. We were a little fast on the 1ks, running pretty consistently 3:02 to 3:04, we ran a 2:20 800 on the 5th rep which was the plan. The plan for the 10th rep was to pick it up to a 2:15 800. I got out hard right behind Thommo for the first quarter in 67, but then I started really hurting. I ran just about as hard as I could, but faded to a 71 second quarter for a 2:18 800. I knew at that point I wouldn’t be making it all the way to the 15th rep, if I did it would be taking away from my performance at the 20k on Monday. I made it through 2 more before cutting the workout short. It’s always frustrating to me to not finish a workout, but I know that sometimes it’s better to train smarter, not harder. Especially the last workout before a race!
After the workout, Coach Ben joined me on a 3 mile shakeout run that afternoon. We talked about the workout and how I felt, along with the past few weeks of training and how we both knew I am in great shape. He said he wanted to cut back on my mileage over the rest of the segment to give me the best chance to recover from some of the big, tough sessions we’ll have over that period. I have about a decade worth of high mileage, so he wants my training to focus more on quality than quantity. I was also happy to hear that the cutting back of mileage would include the days leading up to the 20k, again to try and make sure I am recovered from all of my recent training.
On Thursday I had a range of 4-8 miles in the morning, an hour of strength at HYPO2, and an optional 4 mile second run. I’ve always told people that my least favorite part of training is doing second runs, so I went with 8 miles that morning, and enjoyed taking the afternoon off! On Friday I did a short 4 mile run in the morning, then a little leg speed workout in the afternoon to sharpen up for the 20k: 8 times 20 seconds on, 1 minute rest. I felt like the pop in my legs, and my energy was starting to come back just in time for the race Monday. All I had left for this week was 6 miles Saturday before travelling to New Haven; then 4 miles with drills and strides Sunday. That gave me a total of 75 miles for the week, with just 5 weeks to go until Chicago.
This past Monday was Labor Day and the US 20k Championships. We had been keeping an eye on the forecast in New Haven for a while, and it was going to be hot and humid. We tried to prepare as best we could by having me overdress in practice over the last couple weeks to get my body comfortable with sweating a lot. It’s obviously not the same as humidity, but it’s the best we can do while living in a mountain town. We also created a plan for before and during the race to do a bunch of things to keep my body temperature as low as possible.
Doing all these things, and getting some extra rest over the last few days resulted in me feeling great to start the race. I knew it was warm, but it really wasn’t bothering me all that much for quite a while. I was in the lead pack, having fun competing, and excited with the way things were going. I even made a move right around 10k, as I could sense there were a couple of guys struggling, and sure enough that little surge was able to whittle our lead pack down to 4. That surge also did some damage to myself, as I started to feel worse, but just backed off a bit, and tucked in behind the other 3 guys. I stayed with this group until a little after 8 miles. Right then, I went from feeling a little bad, to feeling really bad! It was as though the humidity hit me all at once. I struggled big time over the last 4 miles, wanting to drop out to stop the misery. A couple thoughts stopped me from doing so: I wasn’t going to feel any cooler by stopping, I needed to get to the finish and find ice! Also, I knew that this effort was a big part of my training for Chicago. No matter how bad it got, this stimulus would make me stronger for the marathon, and I definitely didn’t want to rob myself of that! I finally made it to the finish line in 9th place, in a time of 1:02:26.
After cooling off and getting my thoughts together, I was frustrated. I felt rested and fit going in to this race. I was excited to compete in another US Championship, going for the win or a spot on the podium. I also wanted to use it to learn where I was in preparation for Chicago. Instead, all I learned was that I have a very tough time running well in hot and humid conditions. After a while, I realized that it was ok to be frustrated, but the best thing I could do was move on, and try to recover as well as possible. An hour race in those conditions were going to take a lot out of me, I needed to focus on replenishing my fluids and resting as much as possible.
So that’s what I did the rest of the day on Monday, and on Tuesday which was a pre-planned rest day. That was especially helpful with a lot of travel Tuesday. Wednesday was a nice and easy 6 miles to loosen up for a small workout on Thursday. That workout was a fartlek of 15 times one minute on, one minute off. Nothing very special, but a great way to continue to shake off the big effort from Monday. The first half of the workout my legs felt a little tight, not surprising after a race and travel, but luckily, they felt better as the workout went along. It was also a relief that I felt pretty well rested, all that focus on fluids and rest over the last few days had paid off. Friday and Saturday were back to typical 10 + 4 doubles, getting ready for a big long run on Sunday.
The plan for Sunday was to cover 26 miles with a “push” from miles 20-24. It was the same structure as a 24 mile long run I had done three weeks earlier. In that run, I didn’t feel very good most of the run, so didn’t go much under 7 minute pace until the 4 mile push, but was able to run about 5:15 average pace for that push. This time around, Coach Ben and I talked about picking up the pace of the long run earlier, running about 6 minute average pace from 10-20 miles before starting that 4 mile push. We knew that doing that would probably cause me to run a little slower on the 4 mile push than I had 3 weeks ago, but we agreed that running it this way would be more beneficial and marathon specific. I felt very good for this run and was able to follow that plan almost exactly. I ran a little under 7 minute pace for the first 10 miles, 6 minute pace over the next 10, then ran 5:34, 5:27, 5:25 and 5:23 for the 4 mile push before a nice slow 2 mile cool down to finish with 26 miles on the day in 2 hours 46 minutes, which is 6:23 pace overall. It was a great run to get me back on track after a tough day Monday, and kickstart what will be a big couple weeks of training before I start my taper for Chicago. 88 miles for this week, and 4 weeks to go!