NYC Marathon Training Recap Week 7

WEEK 7 BY THE NUMBERS: 

Miles Run: 50

Longest Run: 18 miles

Gym Sessions: 0 

Miles Biked: 40.1

Finally had a week of training with no lost miles — and it was my first 50-mile week of this cycle! Week 7 was pretty intense but I'm really pleased with it on the whole. 

I got off on a questionable foot when I tried to do my 10-mile Lactate Threshold run Tuesday morning, but had such intense heel pain that I decided to push the run to the evening. Googling scary symptoms is usually more alarming than helpful, but in this case I think it was for the best: I'd been wondering if this sharp, stabbing pain in my heel was some sort of Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis, because both have plagued me in the past, but the location of the pain and the fact that it was sharpest in the morning but faded over the course of the day (and sometimes even the course of a run) were different.

A little research lead me to believe it's the pain of a heel spur — where my heel has been stressed by plantar fasciitis and has tried to cope by making a little calcium deposit at the point of attachment.  I wear off-the-shelf insoles (with stiff "plantar bridges") to keep arch pain and plantar fasciitis under control but recently realized mine were almost 2 years old, and so worn out and squishy that they were causing me some pain and tenderness on their own! I had replaced them within a few weeks of realizing how decimated they were, but I now think that my early weeks of marathon training on wobbly insoles stressed out my feet and lead to this issue. Earlier this year I wasn't running as much (and the bridges were still in better shape), but it makes sense that as I amped up the volume and intensity of my training, and put more wear and tear on my shoes and insoles, they'd start to break down faster. I also think that bike commuting is keeping my calves tight, which can exacerbate any Achilles or plantar issues, and am now keeping a calf stretcher/foam-roller under my desk at work so I can be better about stretching my soles and calves after I commute in. 

I felt well-rested Tuesday morning, but after my round-trip commute a tempo run sounded like a really daunting task. 10 miles doesn't feel like a very "long" run anymore, but the 5 miles at HMP had me nervous. However, I didn't want to give in to the temptation to push my run any further — especially because mornings had been so painful and my heel was feeling fine at this point. I took some pre-workout, which I usually reserve for lifting and not running, and hit the road. 

I set my Garmin to give me 4 warmup miles, 5 tempo miles, and a cooldown mile at the end but at the end of mile 3 was feeling loose and decided to jump right into the workout. I was concerned I'd crash and burn if I waited any longer, and wanted to take advantage of the positive energy I was feeling (though that might just have been the preworkout). At 8:35 and 8:38 my first two tempo miles were slow, but my heart rate jumped up to the mid 180s the entire time. I took a breather after those two and turned around to head back the way I came along my usual out-and-back route. I struggled a little more (especially up a long steady incline) and ran 8:48 and 8:41, but was able to grind out an 8:33 mile for the last tempo mile, even over the biggest hill in the neighborhood.

I was really struggling at that point but was glad to put in some hard work overall. I slowed down by almost 2 minutes per mile but couldn't get my heart rate to come down.  I'm not sure if it was the heat, humidity, hard work, or preworkout that did it, but to be safe I think I'll keep it for just the lifting sessions when I need a boost, not runs where it messes with my heart rate and perception of effort.

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I was not about to head out for even 4 recovery miles the next morning, less than 12 hours after that workout, so I had another day of running after bike commuting coming up. I like to think I'm getting used to the double days and getting stronger, but it's a taxing routine! These four miles were slow and relaxed, and I tried to focus more on the beautiful NYC skyline than my stiff legs.

Keeping up my nighttime routine this week, I planned to do my Thursday 11-miler after work as a run commute. Tuesday had me doubting that I'd have the energy for a bike commute and run right after, but it feels like such a waste of time to take the subway home and only then get to start my run. My office in midtown Manhattan is about 7 miles from home, so last marathon training cycle I used the run commute (with some detours) to fit in long mid-week runs instead of trying to cram in 11, 12, 13 or even more miles in the morning. There's only so early I can realistically wake up, and run commuting in the evening allows me to get sweaty and fit in my run with a little bit of efficiency by cutting out one of my commutes.

I spent all day Thursday fretting about my run commute — from what I was eating to how much water I was drinking, how sore my legs were and how my foot was feeling. I didn't think it would be a long day at work but that was also a concern! Running in the morning means I'm never subject to interruptions, but evening workouts can be derailed by work obligations. Still, I headed out a little before 7pm, into 90 degree heat although the humidity had dropped a bit. I was wearing my scratchy camelbak, which I think I'm going to need to replace with a proper hydration vest if I continue wanting something bigger than a handheld water bottle: it jostles around if it's loose enough to let me breathe, but if I tighten it up the majority of the weight I'm carrying falls across my diaphragm, stomach and ribcage, instead of the shoulder straps which are too big for me. I find it really hard to run quickly and with good form because of this, and don't always want to feel like I'm trading comfort and a natural gait in for the knowledge that I don't need to worry about finding water fountains to refill my handheld. The backpack allows me to take a few things with me, but for a run commute home where I'm going back to work again the next morning, I only need to carry a few small essentials like my phone, keys and metrocard.

Just 3 miles into my run commute...

Just 3 miles into my run commute...

Still, the run commute went well overall. I ran from Manhattan over the Queensboro Bridge and around Astoria before heading home — a slow and hot run, but consistent and a solid midweek effort. Friday was a relaxing rest day, and on Saturday my 7 miles with 100m strides was hot but pretty uneventful. I'd considered switching my short Saturday run with Sunday's 18-miler so my long run would be on the day with the best weather, but decided I preferred a chance of rain to a hot and humid day. I had been signed up for the NYRR France Run on Sunday ages ago, as one of my 9+1 credits for the 2019 NYC Marathon, and wanted to fit it into one of these two runs despite the forecast and hassle of getting to Central Park for an 8am start.

My initial plan was to hit the road about 6am and run 13 miles by the 8am start (taking the long way, with an extra loop of the park thrown in) and then pick up the race, using its 5 miles to finish out my long run. I was setting my alarm early enough that I'd have time to drink some coffee, eat, and warm up my heel, when I realized that I could fit in an extra hour of sleep if I ran a shorter distance to the race, and tacked on the rest of my miles by running back home again after! 

When my boyfriend and I left the house at a civilized 7am on Sunday morning, I was pleasantly surprised that the rain had held off but the weather was still nice and cool — our run to the race start was comfortable and even a bit cool. The Queensboro Bridge is a long slog of a climb, especially early in the run, but wasn't too much of a struggle. It does make me worry that starting the NYC Marathon with the Verrazano Narrows Bridge will be tough — I handle inclines fairly well, but not if I am not properly warmed up, and I like to have a solid 2 or 3 miles to get my body in order. But I don't think I'll be running much before the marathon! I'm too afraid of wasting my energy and burning out early. I didn't warm up beyond some dynamic stretches at the Philly Marathon last year, partially because of this fear and partially because of a rainy morning, but the flat course worked in my favor and might have taught me a bad habit. 

Around mile 5 we reached Central Park and saw the first corrals crossing the race start. My boyfriend jumped in right away but I ran off to find a portapotty, so I had to join in the very back of the pack when I ran back to the stream of runners. I'm no speed demon, but my first mile or so was full of traffic and I spent a lot of time and energy dodging around people walking right from the very beginning of the race. I soon moved up in the pack and found some breathing room, and picked up the pace a bit from excitement and adrenaline. The rain I had been expecting for days finally began, and the light cold showers felt fantastic as I cruised up and over the Harlem Hills. After running the bridge already, they weren't intimidating at all, though they're the most significant incline in Central Park and by far the steepest section of this race. I kept my pace under control but moved along steadily, and by the time I crossed the finish line the rain was wrapping up. The France Run had a post-race festival like many NYRR events do, but after hitting the bathrooms again I began the journey back to Queens. 

What better time to rock my French  Lege-Cap-Ferret Semi-Marathon  shirt? 

What better time to rock my French Lege-Cap-Ferret Semi-Marathon shirt? 

With only 10 miles done so far, I had to take a circuitous route home: back from Central Park over the Queensboro, up the Astoria waterfront, and eventually back to my starting point. With such pleasant and cool weather, and because I didn't have any trouble with fueling (stuck to dates, though I want to practice more with gels that are smaller and easier to carry) or hydration (I used my handheld and refilled at the NYRR water station), my run was really smooth overall. I have to admit not needing to take the subway or pay for a cab was a fun little bonus, and I felt the one long run with three distinct sections kept me entertained and engaged, without feeling too tired out or overwhelmed by the distance I was covering. 

In the end, this week was a confidence boost I desperately needed: reaching my intended mileage, having a long run go well, and working through my heel issues left me feeling really good by Sunday afternoon. Next week the mileage of my midweek long and weekend long runs will both increase — but I'm feeling up to the challenge and although the marathon itself is still really daunting, I'm starting to feel like my training is adding up to something.