NYC Marathon Training Recap Week 8

WEEK 8 BY THE NUMBERS: 

Miles Run: 54

Longest Run: 20 miles

Gym Sessions: 0 (this is becoming a problem)

Miles Biked: 35.4

Week 8 of my NYC Marathon Training Plan marked a few milestones: highest mileage to date, and my first 20-miler of the season. Week 7 was also a big one, and I felt the fatigue this week, especially as I gritted out 35 of my 54 total miles on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

That's not to say the beginning of the week was a breeze — even after just a Monday bike commute, my Tuesday recovery run was quite the slog. I pushed through 7 miles, and instead of closing my run with a series of 100m strides, gave in to the temptation to hit my prescribed milage with easy miles alone. In hindsight that was a pretty weak decision, and I know I should be prioritizing the tougher parts of my workout, and I'm disappointed in myself. I've always been pretty stubborn and I have the stamina to push through long distances when I need to, but speed doesn't come as easily to me (and I lose that type of fitness quickly). I need to work harder than I want to admit to get any speed I used to have back, and it's always going to hurt. Avoiding those workouts is only going to disadvantage me long-term, especially as I have speed-related goals on the horizon, not just distances I want to cover with no time constraints. 

Like last week, I did my mid-week long run after work on Wednesday. 12 miles is a long enough distance and time commitment that I would rather have a late night and shift my workouts to the evening than try to fit that workout in super early in the morning before a commute, post-run routine, shower, and breakfast — and this week I went out for a drink with a friend the night before, making a 5am wakeup even more unattractive. A beer or two won't ruin a run, but getting 4 hours of sleep might!

After a full workday and decent amount of sleep, my 12-miler went as well as I could have hoped. I took a circuitous route from my office home to Queens, heading downtown to the Williamsburg Bridge and then up through Brooklyn before taking the Pulaski Bridge back to Queens, and felt good about my decision to add some elevation and a bit of the NYC Marathon course to my run. I didn't push the pace and only took my handheld water bottle instead of my camelbak like last week, but didn't have any trouble as far as hydration.

 
 

Running parts of the NYC marathon route to "practice" feels a bit like cheating — but my Type A side doesn't want to pass up the opportunity to check out the course before race day, so there are no surprises and I can come up with a detailed race strategy (and hopefully stay calm, instead of psyching myself out and getting intimidated by the bridges in particular). I remember studying the Philadelphia Marathon course last year and still being surprised by the one large hill in the first half: somehow I convinced myself the slope on the elevation profile was the small bridge the course crossed, and not a long climb after that point. I didn't panic and adjusted my pace and effort well in the moment, but don't want to make such a silly mistake again. With the exception of the Verrazano Narrows, I've run all the bridges included in the NYC Marathon course at some point, and this fall I'm using bridges like the Queensboro (part of the course) and the Williamsburg and Triboro (not included in the race) to introduce elevation into my workouts while also getting used to their specific challanges particular challenges. The Pulaski and Willis Avenue Bridge are smaller obstacles, but I'm also making a point to run them to set my mind at ease and find some motivation to come up with varied long run routes that push me to explore the city. 

Thursday's rest day was over all too soon — with a bike commute and another drink after work, scheduling Friday's tempo workout for the evening was an easy decision. However, even if I hadn't had plans, I probably would have decided to do my workout at night, so I'd have a little extra recovery time between Wednesday's long run and that hard effort. The 10-mile run with 6 at lactate threshold pace is still one that's tough for me, and when I realized the weather would be just as oppressive as it has been for the past few weeks, I decided to alter the workout to 10 miles with 6 at marathon pace: crashing and burning during a series of separate, faster miles wouldn't actually help my body adapt or increase my fitness, while getting a few extra marathon pace miles (effectively the same as weather-adjusted half-marathon pace miles) would have some mental benefits and still tax my body enough to give the workout some value.

Sure enough, my 6 marathon pace miles (which were remarkably consistent!) went smoothly and felt "comfortably hard" as a tempo run should, with my heart rate in the lactate threshold range instead of just below, given the heat and humidity. Intellectually, I know that summer running involves some adjustments, but it's still worrisome that my tough tempo pace now is my intended race pace in November. But when it comes to listening to my body and pushing myself in productive ways, I think this run was effective. 

Learning to bake my own sourdough is a fun challenge, but this stuff is a lot more substantial than pre-sliced, store-bought loaves.

Learning to bake my own sourdough is a fun challenge, but this stuff is a lot more substantial than pre-sliced, store-bought loaves.

After five recovery miles on Saturday, I set my sights on Sunday's long run. For me, the first 20-miler of the season is an exciting workout, a benchmark and a goal in and of itself, but also a distance to take seriously. I have been noticing that I'm more inclined to be respectful of a 20-miler than "just" a 16- or 18-miler, and because I prepare better —from prioritizing sleep to carboloading and staying off my feet the day before—  my longest training runs go better than the ones that should be a bit less taxing. In this case, my preparation was pretty effective, though I made the foolish decision to change up my breakfast routine the morning of. After I downed some homemade bread and jam (which I though would digest more quickly and easily than my usual oatmeal with PB2 powder) I realized I was still eating a dense, high-fiber food that my body wasn't used to, and even though I gave myself some extra time to digest I still I paid for it in the first hour of the run. Fortunately once my stomach settled I felt energetic, and overall I don't think my nutrition held me back. 

I also decided to get up early for this 20-miler, so I wouldn't have to spent 3+ hours running in the midday heat and humidity. I didn't get out the door as early as I wanted (a combination of snoozing my alarm and trying to digest my breakfast...) but heading out in the 7 o'clock hour is still a huge improvement over a noon or 1 pm start! Again, because of the intimidating 20-mile distance, I adjusted my schedule to have the best possible run and sacrificed sleeping in and spending the morning at home — something I haven't done for my other long runs this fall, and I absolutely noticed the difference. The last hour or so of this run was markedly hotter and brighter than the morning hours, and I was glad I knocked out the first 10-15 miles before this midday heat set in. I noticed I only drank about 16oz of water over the first 10 miles, but once the sun was higher in the sky and I had another hour of running (and sweating) under my belt I was drinking much more — I filled up my 20oz bottle twice in the back half of my run, drank at water fountains I passed, and soaked my headband in water to keep cool, as opposed to my first few miles when I was barely sweating and had even felt chilly. 

With that said, I tolerated the heat pretty well and didn't bonk. I wanted to test out different fueling strategies but after the bread issue I'm glad I didn't have a chance to pick up any new gel or other options, and stuck to just dried dates as usual. I did run into some logistical snafus, as part of the FDR East River Esplanade I tried to run along was closed and I had to backtrack and adjust my route in Manhattan, and then a shooting (unbelievably) in Astoria threw another detour in my way and I had to avoid an active crime scene, but if anything, the changes kept me focused and entertained. On that note: running from Astoria over Randall's Island to the Bronx, from the Willis Avenue Bridge down to the Williamsburg Bridge and back up through Brooklyn is an incredibly diverse tour of New York, and I've started to enjoy using social media to track where I am and look at my surroundings with fresh eyes. I don't want to get distracted when I'm in the middle of a tough workout, but when I'm logging so many straightforward aerobic miles, using the lens of social media to find something new or interesting about a familiar route keeps me tuned in and engaged without getting bored or panicky about the run itself. 

I didn't finish the 20-miler as quickly as I did at this time last year, which was a disappointment, but not unexpected. On the other hand, while I'm feeling pretty beat up at this point in the week, I'm not feeling so worn down that I'm on the verge of injury — and with my heel issue cleared up I'm optimistic about continuing according to my plan. I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that I might not PR this November, but I also don't want to write the race off already and sell myself short. As ever, the physical challenges I'm taking on are substantial, but I think my mental game is just as weak as it's always been and just as big of an obstacle that I need to overcome. I have years of athletic experience and a detailed and comprehensive physical training plan, but still, finding the balance of pushing myself and caring for myself, believing in myself and acknowledging my limits, being tenacious and being willing to fail, and staying sharp on training days as well as race days is up to me alone.