Half-way to DC

I have now happily blown past the official half-way point in my 18 week journey to the Marine Corps Marathon start line. The mid-point of any kind of project or activity (especially one that is sustained over several months, like a marathon training plan) is always an interesting moment in time. If things are going well, it can put a spring in your step and fire you into the second half in good spirits. Alternatively it can breed over-confidence and actually cause a dip in the effort required, by tricking your mind into thinking all the hard work has already been done.

On the other hand, if your training has not gone as expected (and that can be for any number of reasons; health, pressures of real life, motivation or whatever), then half-time is an opportunity to reset, refocus and redouble your efforts to get on track. With 9 weeks to go (and assuming you’ve been doing some training, maybe just not enough, or just not the right training) I think you still have time to get to the start line in some kind of shape. It may be that you need to modify your goals and expectations for your target race, but at half-way all is not completely lost – you still have time to get your shit together.

So how about me? I think overall, I’ll give myself a solid B grade. Some things are going really well and I am hitting my marks, whereas hand on heart, in some other categories, I know I have room for improvement.

Here is the breakdown so far:

Progress Against Plan:

I’m really happy with this. In the 9 weeks of training (which ended Aug 23rd) I was batting 1.000 on scheduled workouts. 53 training runs planned and 53 workouts run. I’m going to tell you this is not as easy as it looks. Pressure of time, weather (and remarkably in Seattle this summer that has meant ‘too hot’, not ‘too wet’), motivation, and in some cases straight up fatigue have all been my enemies in getting it done. But get it done I have.

I’ve been to the track for my speed interval sessions, run my weekly tempo runs, and in every case I have hit my time marks (some with more room to spare than others). I’m doing all my long runs, and although I’m not blowing away my time goals, I’m hitting them, and that is what counts.

What could I do better here? Well, I could still run my ‘easy’ runs slower and I’m worried that over the course of the plan this is actually detrimental to my overall effort. More on ‘easy’ running another time. I’m also not thrilled with the quality of my long runs. I’ve been up to 16 miles twice so far, once was fine (and by fine I mean I ran at or just above target long run pace, and felt like I had juice in the tank at the end), and once I totally bonked and could not have run another step once my watch beeped me at 16 miles. I’m not sure why, but the key with bad runs as I’ve learned along the way is not to dwell on them. If there is something obvious to fix, then fix it, otherwise just put them behind you and move on. 

Body:

Hmmm. Man I am tired. And more than a little achy. The massages continue to help me, no doubt about that, but the cumulative effect of 53 runs in 9 weeks, and 50+ miles a week on the road and track are leaving me sore. I’m going to dial back a little on the overall volume (not the intensity) for a couple of weeks to see if that helps. My Achilles tendons are definitely letting me know they are not happy with me right now and all up I think I just need a bit more rest.

Nearly all the conventional wisdom in training is that it is better to be under-trained than over-trained, and I think I’m building a good enough base to handle a few less miles for a couple of weeks. 

ComparisonI compared my stats for the first half of this 18 week cycle with the full cycle of training I did when I ran my best ever marathon (a 3:30 in Victoria in 2011), and on nearly every count I’m blowing those numbers up, hence my confidence in giving myself a slight break on running volume for a couple of weeks.

Spirit:

OK. I’m still waiting for that breakthrough moment in training when you push through the tiredness and soreness and come out the other side. When everything clicks into place and you are running smooth and easy. The running equivalent of pinging a tee shot right down the middle of the fairway or catching a soccer ball sweetly on the half-volley, and rippling the net. I’m not there yet. But I will get there. 

More to the point, I am really excited about going to DC. Never been before, and it’s going to be great.

Other stuff:

I’m doing better on the long run hydration, still figuring out the in-run nutrition, and as per my last post, have some great new running shoes, so all is good on that front. My overall diet is still all over the shop however, and I have some reading and research lined up to see what I can learn about improving on this front. 

That’s it for now. Whatever you are working on, and whatever stage of progress you are at, take a moment to celebrate where you are, how far you’ve come, and keep your eyes on the objective ahead of you. It’s not done, till it’s done. For me, that is the start line in DC. Can’t wait.

Keep on moving.