Last time I trained for a marathon, I got used to a one-week-on, one-week-off schedule for long runs. Meaning,one week, I’d feel on, capable of pushing my body to its limits, thrilled by my own (relative) speed. The next week, I could count on cramps, exhaustion, joint pain that made me wonder if something was broken, and a constant stream of internal reminders that walkers cross the finish line, too.
This training cycle, I hadn’t had an “on” week yet. Even though some of my runs have been speedy (again, relatively — we’re talking nine-minute miles here) in the end, I hadn’t had a single one that felt fabulous and ego-boosting. That one came this morning.
I ran 15 miles on Sligo Creek Trail in 2:22. That’s 9:23-minute miles, and includes some truly quad-eating hills I worked in at the end to get me ready for the big hill that apparently comes at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon course. I’m thrilled with this pace, especially considering I was cranking out 8:30-minute miles before those hills (does that still count as negative splits?), but I’m even more thrilled that I planned and executed this run well — the success was no accident.
Here’s how my plan went down:
I started my carbolicious eating two days out, making roasted vegetable lasagna on Monday to enjoy all week, then eating just two reasonably sized pieces of homemade pizza the night before.
I took the day before totally and completely off. I’d been swimming before my long ones, but once I got to 13 miles, my body informed me, in so many words, that it would like some rest before I do THAT crap again, please.
I parked my car at my starting point, despite being totally able to run there. This let me stock the car with two huge Nalgene bottles full of water, plus a Power Bar double latte energy gel, to refuel. I needed to do this for the 13-miler, too, considering I did it in the summer heat. The baby water bottle (maybe eight ounces?) I stashed on my route seems pathetic, knowing how much better I feel today.
I ran five miles out to a water fountain, five miles back to my car for more water and energy gel, then ran five miles split between the trail and some killer hills in the neighborhood. Breaking the run into five-mile sections is SO important to me mentally! Sure, I could do the same thing with a point-to-point course, but literally being able to turn around at every five-mile mark made the run SO much easier to take!
Oh — and the perfect fall-like weather didn’t hurt, either. The unusually cool temperatures helped me appreciate the beauty around me: The creek gushing over rocks, the sky being almost unnaturally blue, the tree canopies seeming to take on a glittery green glow in the sunlight. That, in turn, helped me appreciate the usual suspects on Sligo Creek Trail — or any paved creekside trail for that matter: The other runners, the dog walkers, the bike commuters, the tai-chi guy on the tennis court, the painter-lady with her easel.
I came home and executed one constant in my long-run plan: A protein shake and an ice bath. Excruciating cold has never felt so warm and fuzzy!
Stay tuned: Recipes for my homemade pizza and new, improved protein recovery shake are on the way!