This past Monday I woke up assuming I was doing a nice, easy 21 miler with my running partner. It would be our second of five 20+ milers in this training cycle, which we do once a week for about six weeks total. Even to me this sounds borderline nuts, but I'm so used to it at this point that I'm no longer phased by it. Sunday night I'd followed my typical pre-long run routine of hydrating, eating a lot of food (in this case half a pizza and a bowl of ice cream) and going to bed early. (like, before my kids early) The next day, I got up around 5:00am, shuffled downstairs and made coffee. My coach, Lowell, lays out my workout plan a month at a time and as of the night before, the next four weeks hadn't been updated yet. But, I'd done 19 miles on the 8th and 20 the following week, so for obvious reasons, I figured I'd be going up to 21 for this week. Just to be sure, though, I logged onto 2lcoaching and clicked on Monday. GAH!!! Turns out I would not be doing the long run I'd expected but a 14 mile run with 10 miles at marathon pace (also known as an MP run), which is essentially like a mini dress rehearsal for race day. In hindsight, I shouldn't have been so thrown off. Outside of winter, when it's hard to make it work, I often try to get a tune up half-marathon in right around 7-8 weeks out from my goal race, so this is basically what that was. But, still, I hadn't been planning on it and getting in the mindset for this kind of work is a hell of a lot different than gearing up for a long, slow cruiser. Now, my marathon pace is around 6:45-50 per mile, which would give me a 2:57/58 marathon. That hasn't happened yet, as many of you know, but it has been the goal for a while. I'll just leave that there for now. When I checked the details for this MP run, I noticed that Lowell had me busting it out at 6:30-35 per mile (2:52 marathon pace), which was odd as that it usually my pace for shorter, tempo workouts and definitely not my marathon pace; at least as of now. (insert wide grin). Ok, I thought, perhaps we were trying something new or he had a new goal in mind that we hadn't discussed yet. Unless it's way out in left field, I tend to just go ahead and do what the Sensei tells me to do. So, I gave it about 2 minutes of thought and then moved on. I did send him a quick note that morning in response to something else but I think I was just so thrown off by the workout itself that I failed to ask him about this minor detail. As you can see below, I was kind of freaking out about the shift in gears and felt I should let him know the situation.
I thought I had 21 today. I'm sitting here trying to readjust my mindset into workout mode so I can tackle this MP run successfully. I'm teetering between holy crap and you've got this...trying hard to push myself over to the latter side of that statement. My heart rate is going up just thinking about it. But that might also be the caffeine. :)
Perhaps it's better that I wasn't expecting it. Less time to stress and/or overthink. F-it. Let's just get out there and get it done.
I'm guessing you're awake right now, so if you've got any last minute words of wisdom, quick notes of encouragement, good jokes, whatever; throw them at me. I can use whatever I can get right now.
In the meantime, I was debating whether or not to do the run inside or outside. It wasn't too cold out, maybe 35 degrees, but it was raining and dark and my fear was that I wouldn't be able to find a good, safe place to go out and back seven miles without having to worry about cars and other outside factors (ice, puddles, mad dogs). I sent Lowell a quick text to ask if it was lessening the workout too much by doing it on the treadmill. To which he responded 'no' and told me to stay inside. Right-o. Based on my email, I'm guessing he knew I was a bit stressed and nervous so, per my request, he also sent me a quick nugget of wisdom to chew on as I got myself ready.
It's GO TIME! You get to take out on race day what you put in today in the workout.
He's big on the well analogy...meaning all the work and miles you do in training are going into the proverbial well, which you're filling up over the 4 months that you're preparing for your race. The harder you work, the more you fill the well. Then, on race day, you're basically dipping into a well that's overflowing with untapped awesomeness.
Ok, so first things first. I made a playlist. Nothing gets me more fired up for a hard effort than a list of fresh tunes. Thank you, Spotify. Then, I dropped my girls off at school and headed to the YMCA with my game face on. I might have belted out some songs as I drove. No, I definitely did do that. I'm not ashamed. One of my current mantras is "DON'T THINK, JUST GO" so without wasting any time, I threw my stuff in a locker, hopped right on the treadmill and got started. I eased in with a slow, 2 mile warmup. Then I cranked it up to 6:35 pace and settled in for the long haul. My first 3 or 4 miles were fine; tough but doable. Again, this is my tempo pace and I do a lot of shorter interval work at this pace. When I got to mile 5, I started to feel the shift in effort. I was still holding on but it was getting noticeably harder. I tried to stay relaxed and light on my feet. I also continuously drank water, which is one of the few bonuses of running inside. When I'm on the machine, I do everything I can to avoid watching the clock so I wasn't exactly sure where I was when the belt suddenly stopped. Crap. I'd accidentally pulled out the emergency chord. BUT...to my great surprise I'd done 7 miles so I only had to eek out 3 more which, even if it hurt, I knew I could do. I reset the machine and started back up. I took the pace down to 6:31, just to see how it felt. With only 3 miles left, I figured I could try it out and then go back up if need be. These miles were really, really hard. Every 800m felt like 2 miles and I could feel my heart rate rising as it adjusted to my effort. As I chugged along, I gave myself a little talking to, one of my many pep talks that morning. I reminded myself that this is exactly how it feels at the end of a marathon. This is when I have to dig in and hold on. You're not giving up on race day, I told myself, so you aren't giving up now. And finally, 10 miles later, I was done. It was hands down one of the hardest workouts I've done. Ever. I can't express in words how happy I was that it was over. I got myself together, cooled down and left the gym feeling both relieved and happy. And very, VERY, tired. When I got home I logged my workout and then went about my day in zombie mode.
I shuffled through the rest of my day feeling totally drained and in need of a nap, which I took in the parking lot of my daughters' school as I waited to pick them up. Fifteen minutes of bliss. After that, I was just counting down the hours...minutes...until I could go to bed. Such a winner, I am. I tried to be present for my girls as they did their homework but even they were wondering what was going on with me. Finally, around 9:00, I checked my email one last time and saw the following note from Lowell:
I just realized I did a huge oops on today's workout. I asked you to do 10 miles at tempo pace instead of marathon pace. I can't believe I did that. No wonder you were apprehensive and having a minor panic attack this morning. That was a ridiculously challenging workout I asked you do...and you did it! If that doesn't tell you that you are capable of running a marathon at 6:45-6:50 pace I don't know what will.
Part of me is sorry I did that, and part of me is happy I did that by accident because you did more than I would have deliberately asked you to do. Wow, what a workout.
OMG. What a freakin' workout indeed. Here's how I responded:
That is so funny. I did have a moment this morning where I wondered if there might have been a mistake. But, I guess I just assumed you were trying something new and bumping my MP pace down, so I just went with it. It does make me feel better to know what happened because it was hard as hell. But, then, like you said, the silver lining is knowing that I could grit it out. I will tell you that I haven't felt this tired in a while, so I should sleep well tonight.
'Funny' might be a bite of an understatement, but I did have to laugh a little. Not only was I not expecting the workout but I did it totally wrong. But, I did it. And, I was pretty freaking pumped about it. First, because I'd gotten my shit together and made the mental switch to get the workout done. And second, because I'd done something I probably wouldn't have thought I could do if I'd known what was going on. Go figure. The mind is a powerful tool, even when we trick it, maybe more so. And the body is capable of so much more than we ever can imagine. I love that. Not that I would ever willingly put myself in this situation again. At least not in this training cycle. (insert wide grin again)
Listen to this:
RWM MP MADNESS