NYC Marathon Training Recap Week 2

Week 2 By the Numbers: 

Miles Run: 36.2

Longest Run: 13.1 miles

Gym Sessions: 3

Miles Biked: 52.8 (3 commutes) 

Week 2 of my marathon training was a busy one, but more because of social commitments than a sharp increase in my training load. I knew going in that I had evening activities planned on Wednesday and Thursday, and a short race (for 2019 9+1 credit!) on the schedule, and would have to work around that when fitting in my training this week. 

Monday I bike commuted to keep my legs moving after last week's long run, but didn't do anything more strenuous than that. I did indulge in some delicious arepas —maybe craving them after writing about Cartagena last week!— but you could almost consider that part of my preparation for Tuesday morning's run... 

Tuesday I went out for 8 miles with 7x100m strides at the end. I haven't done any formal speedwork in months, so incorporating quick strides back into my routine is going to be a painful but productive process — and a good precursor to real workouts further down the line. Wrapping up long-ish run with some all-out sprints is a helpful way to teach the legs turnover, even when you're tired; strides can also be a great way to warm up before a track workout, where being loosened up and ready to move quickly is also key. I used to try to do my strides on the go, pre-programming the intervals into my Garmin as a workout, but getting stuck at a traffic light could easily ruin one of these speedy sessions. Now I tack them on after my run is done, back in my neighborhood, where I've found a good stretch of flat, deserted sidewalk that I can just run back and forth on as I sprint and recover. My own mini track! 

It was still quite hot out on Tuesday so I ran that first ~7.5 miles of my workout with a water bottle, and planned to fill it up around my halfway point. Yes, I have a favorite water fountain...the Socrates Sculpture Garden fountain has great water pressure and fills up a bottle easily without spilling any or taking too long! But when I arrived at 7:00am on the dot, the garden was still locked up! I though all NYC Parks opened at dawn, but it turns out this one isn't open until 9.  Frankly, I would have been fine without filling up (or might have adjusted my route towards a different fountain), but it was quite a rude surprise to find a the gates chained shut that morning. Some park workers who arrived as I stood there in shock reluctantly let me in when I panicked/fangirled over my favorite fountain — I must have looked like such a sweaty mess that they took pity on me and let me fill up before carefully locking me back out. Guess I need to find a new favorite water fountain, and adjust my runs so I can pass by on hot mornings! 

Wednesday and Thursday I bike commuted — both days so I didn't have to rely on the subway to get home after evening events. But Thursday I also had a lunch appointment, and added nearly 10 miles on to my usual commute mileage heading to all these events! I'm not usually such a social butterfly, so in addition to feeling a bit exhausted from so much on my schedule, my usual commute distance jumped from 16 to 23 miles! Add on a straightforward 10-miler Thursday morning and I was feeling really beat up by the end of the day. Marathon training means quite a frameshift as far as "easy" and "long" runs — wasn't long ago that my mornings were 5-milers and my weekends were 10!

By this point in the week my right knee and IT band were quite sore and I started to get nervous that I was slipping back towards some of the issues I dealt with earlier this year. Keeping up with my pre-hab exercises needs to be a priority of mine, but I worried that I was irritating my knee with the sharp increase in biking mileage especially. I didn't know how common IT band syndrome was for bikers, but after googling my symptoms (rookie move!) started to get quite anxious. 

I took Friday off entirely, even though it would have been a nice day to bike commute, and evaluated my weekend plans. Because I was signed up for the New York Road Runners Retro 4-miler on Saturday, my original plan had been to run to that race and incorporate it into my long run, and move my Saturday recovery run to Sunday.  But a 13-miler, with 8 miles at marathon pace, and a 5am wake up call sounded like a tough start to the day — especially with how concerned I was about my knee. I decided to play it by ear, and make a judgment call when I woke up on Saturday: if I felt that sticking to just 4 miles (I wanted to complete the race to get a credit towards my 2019 NYC Marathon entry!) and pushing the long run until Sunday was a better plan, I gave myself permission to do that instead. 

But Saturday morning rolled around and I felt solid enough to run. My boyfriend was going to join me for the long run/workout/race combo, and around 6:15 we hit the road. Of course, as we were heading right to the Retro Run, we were already wearing out bibs and some goofy costumes — but most of the people we saw at that hour were other runners! We even passed a few wearing bibs and clearly doing the same "multitasking" commute to the race.  Heading over the Triboro Bridge to Randall's Island, North into the Bronx, and over the Willis Bridge into Manhattan at an easy pace warmed us up, and at mile 5 in Harlem we eased into my marathon pace miles. 

I haven't quite decided what "marathon pace" will be for me this fall. Last year, I arbitrarily aimed for 8:30 miles, which was a stretch goal, but I worked hard towards it! Unfortunately when I raced in Philly I couldn't hold that pace and came away with more like an 8:55 average. My race was by no means a disaster and I was satisfied, but know I can do better — however I also want to train smart (and race smart) in order to make the most of my work as I shoot for a new PR. The NYC course is tougher than Philly, with a lot more elevation from its many bridges, and objectively I'm in worse shape than I was this time last year, so I think adjusting my goal pace to 8:45 is appropriate. I'm aiming to PR, but I want to be realistic about my fitness, too! As I continue training, or even as I am mid-race, I can set more aggressive goals, but for now this will be my working "marathon pace."

And if Saturday's run is any indication, that pace is on-the-nose, and maybe a hair slow. The four miles we ran towards the race start went really well — one was slow but I blame a sharp hill we needed to climb into Central Park, and we made up the time later on! And given NYC's course profile, hill training (well, bridge training) is going to be a big part of my routine, so I'm glad to run into miles like that and test myself. 

We made a pit stop at a port-o-john on the racecourse as we ran towards to start line — instead of waiting in line at the many, crowded bathrooms near the corrals, we had our own private ones! We continued downtown through the park, running backwards along the course, but were soon shoo'd off to the side of the road by course marshals clearing the way for the lead runners. They came flying by moments later, and as the first few corrals followed we had some entertainment checking out the speedy runners and their retro costumes. We continued against traffic (in another lane, relax) towards the start and when we arrived, joined in another wave right before their starting gun. The staggered start really worked in our favor here! Because our priorities were my marathon-pace miles and earning our 9+1 credit, and not PR'ing this race, all we needed to do was cross the start and finish lines. Not like we'd be winning the race with a stellar net time if we'd started up front, anyway!

Jumping into a 4-mile race after already logging 9 was a bit of a strange experience for me, though! I'd never combined activities like this before, and the familiar 4-mile course felt longer than ever before. But everyone was working hard, there were lots of fun costumes, and some runners even brought speakers to play "retro" hits as they ran, so the race was a fun one! Right as we approached the finish line, we even noticed a group of runners dressed for the occasion that we'd passed earlier. They'd been running officially while we were still heading against traffic towards the start — I let my competitive side take over for a moment and got a kick out of lapping them as I crossed the finish, even though they didn't know I suddenly saw them as competition! 

Despite our best efforts to plan our run distances perfectly, we still had a tiny bit more to go. We popped out of the finishers chute and ran along the road to reach 13 miles — at which point my boyfriend pointed out just how close we were to a half marathon. So we ran back and forth a little more, just to get the "bragging rights" of a casual half! I'll have to let that mentality go as my runs get longer and 13 becomes just another distance, but at the time it was a fun little bonus.  Then we finally wrapped up, stretched, and relaxed a bit in the post-race party before heading out for some brunch. 

I hit the gym for a quick weights session later on — I thought an upper body "push" day would be manageable despite the morning’s workout — but found I was pretty beat. After my major lifts I decided to pack it in, and spend the rest of the day relaxing and recovering! Sunday morning I fit in 5 easy miles and leg day, which I was worried would also be tough, but I bounced back quickly.

Focusing on PT exercises and lifting heavy this weekend could be the start of a good routine — just need to keep it up! Week 3 of training should be straightforward, though a vacation the week after might mean my schedule has to be adjusted a bit as I’m away from home!

But I’m headed to Vermont, for the beautiful outdoors, and expect my trip to be a fairly active one. At the very least, I'll fit in some unstructured trail running and hiking, and this vacation is early enough in my training cycle that I feel comfortable being flexible. My training will still be there when I get back. Just one week to go...!