As the calendar turned to April—race month—my training switched into a new gear: the taper.
This past week was the first of a gradual three-week taper that is designed to maintain my fitness, but leave me on the starting line feeling fresh and ready to tackle 26.2 miles in less time than ever before.
But I have to admit…after this first week, I’m sure not feeling very fresh.
I decided this training cycle to incorporate a back-to-back 10k race and 16 mile long run as suggested by marathon-coaching great Pete Pfitzinger . While I started incorporating elements of Pfitz’s plans into my training schedule last fall, I skipped this part, opting instead to stick with his schedule of long runs with big segments at marathon pace.
I know a lot of people who have had a lot of success with Pfitz’s plans, and a lot of people swear by the race/long run combo. The 10k, Pftiz says, “provides a boost to your fitness that will make marathon pace feel relatively easy,” while the long run, provides “a moderate endurance stimulus to help maintain the adaptions…from your previous long runs.”
Now, having done it, I think it’s pure torture. But maybe I’m being a little melodramatic.
To back it up a bit, here’s what the week looked like:
As you can see, it was pretty much all easy heading into the race. That was designed to allow my body to recovery after the prior week of training, peak week. The only “harder” bit of effort was on Tuesday, which was a 10 mile general aerobic run just to keep my mileage up. That run, at an average pace of 7:42 min/mile, was the fastest of the week before the race.
You can read my full race recap here, but the moral of the story is that I thought I was feeling good heading into the race, but it turns out that my body wasn’t quite as recovered as I thought it was heading into the race.
I don’t think I fully appreciated how hard my prior week of training was. Not only was it a weekly mileage record, but it also included as much elevation gain as my prior nine weeks of training combined, and I ran all those hilly miles at the fastest average pace for a week of training, with my 67 miles averaging a 7:32 pace.
Still, because I didn’t appreciate how hard that week was, I was surprised—and disappointed—by the race results. I was hoping to run sub-39, and I ended up with 40:01. I didn’t even have a 39:59 to console me!
I’m starting to come to terms with the results, though, as I reflect more on my training going into the race. As I was re-reading Pfitz’s Advanced Marathoning today, I found this key passage:
“Racing when tired, however, brings the danger of believing that your finishing time and place represent your current fitness… you could interpret the result as meaning you’re not in shape, and you might start to train harder or become discouraged. It’s important to put the result in the context of the situation.”
So I’m putting that result in context. Instead of being disappointed, I’m trying to be happy with a huge PR. My last 10k (on the same course, though a different race), was a 43:17 in June, so I shaved off 3 minutes and 16 seconds in 10 months. That’s huge! There will be other opportunities to run a strong 10k when I’m not exhausted from marathon training.
But, as I already mentioned, Pfitz isn’t content just putting you through a tired 10k race, he wants you to run 16 miles 24 hours later! (Well, really, he wants you to run 17 miles, but I like my second-to-last long run to be the same number of miles as there are days remaining until race day, so 16 miles it was.)
To add insult to injury, Mother Nature decided to throw 30+ mile per hour winds my way for my final long run. I’m not joking. Look at these winds!
This graph, from Weather Underground, shows that when I was running from 8 a.m. to about 10 a.m., the wind speed was between 30-37 miles per hour, with gusts north of 50 miles per hour. That’s pretty ridiculous. It was the first time I’ve ever seen a cyclist have to pedal to go down a bridge.
Somehow I managed to maintain a good average pace, despite the wind and fatigue from the 10k, but my splits varied drastically based on the wind’s direction, with my splits ranging from 7:10 to 8:16, with an average of about 7:35 min./mile.
Total: 53 miles
PS – Smashrun is on to me 😉