Heading into my Boston training I have been tinkering and toying with my training strategy and in doing so have tested my legs quite a bit. The training plan I set out for myself has me doing between 40 and 50+ miles weekly, something that I have not consciously gone out and tried, but know that I am capable of doing. One thing I haven't been sure of is how my body would react to the high frequency and mileage this early in my training and how that might translate down the road, which brings me back to the question I started out with this season:
Is it better to do higher miles with greater consistency, or, do shorter, more intense and focus specific workouts during the week with high mileage weekends?
For the last month, I went with the former selection, gradually increasing my base mileage runs while maintaining my planned weekend long run schedule. I knew going into it that it would take a little bit for my body to adjust to the increase and get back into a consistent running rhythm, but it may have been a little too early for this.
Last fall, training with the Race With Purpose Fall Marathon group I was building back up from injury and was not doing a lot of heavy mileage, but felt great. My speed kept increasing every couple of weeks, my stamina was good and my body felt no adverse effects to anything that I was doing. Sounds pretty good, right? As the season closed, I was really feeling fatigued over the last 6 weeks and with the little rest I allowed myself preparing all of my runners for their particular race I really needed to take some time off.
With the Holidays came my hiatus from running, which left me bored a bit, but planning ahead for my push towards Boston. Developing this little testing plan I implemented the high-volume regiment that I mentioned earlier and took to it as best I could, but since the very start I have felt fatigued, stiff, sore and otherwise unhappy with it. At first I thought it was just the cold that was making this all so unbearable, but it wasn't. I fought and pushed my way through workouts that have kicked the crap out of me, giving everything I have to execute them to the letter and it took a toll.
Last week I started thinking about the work I did in the Fall and how light, strong, fast and fearless I felt and knew that this little experiment needed to be altered. So, as I hit Thursday night and I finished my 8-mile run with pick-ups I told myself, "That's it! Enough's enough! I'm racing Sunday and doing about 17 total miles, just core for the next two days while my legs recover enough to not want to smote me on Sunday - especially with my new competition with Mangorunner."
The two days off were the best thing I could have done for my body. It is the whole "practice what you preach" thing. All fall I told my teammates to listen to their bodies when it comes to their training and that the better they know their bodies and what they can take the better their training will be. For my part, I don't think I have really pushed my body that hard yet. I feel like there is a well of untapped potential that I have yet to reach, but I am starting to find my way to it.
Sunday was the NYRR Manhattan Half-Marathon and I showed up mentally prepared to rock it, but physically annoyed. As many runners can attest to, if you don't take care of your business in the morning it can make a training run or race an absolute HELL! Apparently my body wanted to remind me of that fun fact and decided that I should suffer through the entire 13.1-mile race around Central Park.
For the entire duration of the race I felt nauseous, the worst of it during miles 4 and 8. For that span I just kept talking to myself, saying, "You can stop at the next portos and just get it over with, but suffer to get back up to speed or you can stick it out, maybe puke while on the course, but fight your way through it." In the end, I just fought through it, knowing full well that if I did stop the cold would consume me and I would feel even worse trying to get my legs to turn over again.
It was a battle of epic proportions, but I feel that I won this one! I finished the race in 1:27:05 (6:38 pace) without any nutrition (knowing that I would puke it up) and only two sips of water on the course (1. because they were all ice cups, and 2. because I felt like I would puke it up). For the last mile of the race I had repeatedly caught up to this one guy and every time I did he would take off, not allowing anyone to pass him ... that is until the last half of a mile. Then I finally drew level with him and called out to him, "OK, now it's time to see your kick!" The two of us started to pour it on and we were level for about 400m (with a number of other runners taking up the finishing kick mantel at the same time), but over the last quarter I overtook him and smiled my way through the finish line.
After finishing I went back up the course to cheer on my teammates and run in a friend of mine who is coming back from injury and looking to dominate her Spring marathon.
Now it is time to put into affect the second portion of this training experiment and work with lower mileage, but with focused and specific high-intensity workouts three days a week and a steady increase in my weekend long run mileage. All of this will be done uttering the "listen to your body" mantra, which I think will bring about the exact results I am looking for.
"Success isn't how far you got, but the distance you traveled from where you started." ~ Prefontaine