I went to bed last night, thinking, there are runners who will be starting their 20-week marathon training plan for NYC this weekend. I am so jealous. My 16-week training plan does not officially start until mid-July. The thought makes me crazy giddy like this goat. Afterall, this is the longest I've ever held out for a marathon since the end of 2008. I've averaged about a marathon every 2-3 months. After The Avenue of the Giants Marathon in May, I took a break from long runs. It's been a couple of years since I've had the chance to just run with no prescribed training plans.
I must admit it is quite nice not to have to think about it or plan the next long run. I've gotten to enjoy the local 5Ks and my neighborhood 4-miler. What's great is that I've shaved just under a minute in both courses. I take that as progress. With continuous training before, I was always going two steps back with each step forward. Needless to say my short races were filled with lackluster performances. Now, with no marathon training to think about, I feel like I can push a little bit more, hence my course records.
The furthest I've gone long was in the middle of May for the birthday memorial of our running club's founder. We ran his favorite 8 mile course. Yesterday was my first long run since then. I was a little unsure of how I was going to complete my 8 that I had planned for this weekend. (I had to shuffle my run since we are out of town for a baby shower.) My thought process was, if I can do 8 now, then surely I can start the training. It's been a while since my long run, I am thinking for sure I've lost some stamina. And if I did, there's no better time than now to work on it.
I picked the hilliest 8 miler possible close to where I work. This course played a "thorn" in my training from Dec to Jan. I was injured and the hills was just not my friend. It exacerbated my piriformis so badly that I had to back off speed and any kind of hillwork. Long runs were cut in half, if that. So going back to this place, literally was going to be either a confidence booster or it's just going to kick my butt. I had to find out.
I took to the hills nice and slow. If you could only hear me, it was as if I was taming a wild dog, talking to it, "Easy, nice hills, not gonna bite, just let me by and I will be on my way." I was trying to hold an even effort from the flats to the top. The course had long stretches of gradual inclines that seemed to take forever to crest. I had my Garmin Forerunner with me, but I didnt look at it at all. I like to know that I can have all my splits downloaded to my computer, but as far as feeling the pace, I just went with my feelers. I need to be able to put a pulse on what even effort feels like without the aid of my watch. I surprised myself. I have to do this more often--run without the Garmin.
For a hilly 8 miles I ran a 9:15 pace. I am very happy about that. I ran feeling like it was not a hard effort at all compared to the time I ran it in January. I felt like I could have gone longer, even with the heat. There was not a single moment where I felt my quads burned with lactic acid, so I knew I hit the right pace. This was a pleasant surprise to me since two nights ago, on Wednesday, I felt super drained. I ran 3x1 mile repeats and felt like I was going to puke in the second mile repeat. So much so, that I thought the pain of the fast pace was just too much to bear. My body told me, "Enough!" and I was only too happy to get off the track. But my running buddies didn't let me off the hook. After being coaxed for another mile, we finished the workout. The satisfaction of not quitting is immense. Pain is really temporary, quitting is forever. After the speed workout, I knew for sure I may be cancelling this long run, since I assumed my legs would be tired. Again, I was wrong. I'm starting to see the pattern here of my thinking the worst.
So now that I've managed to run a respectable 8 miles, what's the verdict? Am I going to stick to the Runner's World 16-week training program or shall I give Hal Higdon's 18-week program a try? In the back of my mind, there's the Hanson Brothers' tip to runners, "Stay consistent and be patient." They both agree that it takes a while for a program to show results and that you may have to stick to it say, a couple of years before you see some positive changes. I've only stuck to the Runner's World program one time (the other two times I had to tweak it because of injuries/ back-to-back marathons). It's probably not enough to rule it out. But then again, Hal Higdon's Adv. I program is much more detailed and talks about the purpose of each training. I like knowing what the purpose of each run is, what it's supposed to do and what I might expect. That forces me rule out the possibility of my tweaking the program. I might have to give Hal a nod. Afterall, I have his book, I didn't realize that it's been sitting on my desk for about--oooh---two years now...please don't laugh.