View from Fremont Bridge

The Anatomy of a Great Week

8 weeks to DC.

Last week was a good great week. The kind of week that makes you think you’ve cracked this running thing, that all the bleeding nipples, sweat and tears have been worth it, and that maybe things are clicking into place. A week to stop, smell the roses, and then get on with the remaining 8 weeks of training.

So what does a good week look like to me? Well, it goes something like this:

Monday | Easy Run | 6.25 Miles

This is the easiest, hardest, most important run of the week. Easy, because it’s only 6 miles and at an intentionally slow pace. My training plan says I should be running these at about a 9:27 pace, which is pretty slow for me, but I’m bringing them in around the 9:05 pace, which is comfortable. Hard, because it’s actually tough to slow down and run at a slow pace. Hard because it’s usually the day after my long run, when my legs are still sore from a 16 or 18 miler on Sunday, and when even dragging my ass round a 6 mile loop in the neighborhood can really seem like a chore. Most important, because you just have to get your week off to a good start. Miss Monday and you are playing catch up all week. Miss Monday and everything is off balance. You can’t hit the ground running if you miss Monday.

Tuesday | Strength Run | 6 x 1 Mile Repeats (+400m jog intervals + 1 mile warm up / cool down)

Speed and strength training are key (according to the books I read!) to improving race pace, and running faster for longer. This type of training is brand new to me in 2015, and something that has added some interesting and really challenging variety to my training. Earlier in my plan I was doing speed workouts at the track, and now I’m back out on the road and trails with longer distance repeats. Last week I went around Greenlake under some mean and moody skies, dodging the debris of the prior weekend’s windstorm, and hoping I got finished before the heavens opened. It’s also the kind of run that tests your self motivation – it’s just you vs. your stopwatch with target paces that are designed to be challenging, and specifically faster than your goal marathon pace. If you’re not tired at the end of these runs you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

Wednesday | Rest Day

I don’t think you can underestimate the value of a rest day. This isn’t just about doing nothing, it’s about letting your body and mind soak up the exertions of previous days and take profit from the work you have been putting in. I believe they are key to reducing the risk of injury, and key to helping to keep your spirits up when things are becoming a bit of a slog, which inevitably they can, even with something you are passionate about. All running and no rest make Rob a sore boy. I love me some Wednesday.

Thursday | Tempo Run | 8 Miles (+1 mile warm up and cool down)

The purpose of a tempo run is to practice running ever increasing distances at your target race pace, and for me, this is one of the best barometers of how my training is going. I mean, if I’m completely knackered running 8 miles at my target pace (8:23 for the record), then good luck to me getting through 26.2 at a similar pace.  Last week I blew the doors off it. I don’t know why, but I just felt really good, and I let it go, running sub 8’s on all but one mile. I usually wouldn’t do this – the purpose is to practice running at a specific pace – but last week I felt good and just decided to open up and let go.

Friday | Easy Run | 8 Miles

It was relaxed, it was 8 miles, it was fun. I ran it too quickly (and I really need to watch that).

Saturday | Long Run | 16 Miles

View from Fremont Bridge
Towards Lake Union from Fremont Bridge. Just one of great views I enjoy running around Seattle

Typically I’ve been running long on Sundays, but this week my schedule had me move the long run to Saturday. The weather was perfect; sunny, but about 10 degrees cooler than it has been of late, and I had a real determination to follow up the prior weekend’s 18 miler with a strong 16.

Generally I love long runs. They can be a real test of will (especially when it’s blowing a gale or hammering down with rain), and, unlike say a 6 mile easy run which you can just lace up and go on, they are something you need to prepare for. You need to watch what you eat and drink the night before and the morning of, you need to consider clothing, and you need to think about how you will hydrate and feed yourself on the 2 – 3 hours you’ll be on your feet, not to mention thinking about the route. I’m always aware of route planning for long runs, and I take care to think about where I’ll be at my furthest point from ‘home’, be that my actual home or where I parked my car. Measuring distance is a refined art, because the online mapping tools don’t always get it spot on and there is nothing more frustrating than reaching your intended finish point after a grueling 16 miler only to find you still have another 3/4 miles to go according to your GPS. Ultimately the long training run is pretty much like preparing for an actual marathon, which I guess is the point!

Over the years I’ve had good long runs and bad ones. I’ve finished dead on my feet, and finished with energy to burn. Whisper it, but a couple of times I’ve had to call in a ride home because I’ve miscalculated something and ran out of juice before getting home.

In keeping with this particularly awesome week, all I can say is I really enjoyed this run. I decided to repeat the same course as two weeks prior when I’d had such a bad time of it, figuring that it would be a good measure of progress. I’m pleased to say it went very well. Although my overall pace was similar across the two runs, I ran negative splits this time (which I was delighted with), and at the end, despite tripping and falling (embarrassing and not a little painful) at around mile 14, I finished the run feeling like I had a lot more gas in the tank, as opposed to the totally beat feeling I had running the same course two weeks ago. A real confidence booster.

Sunday | Easy Run | 6.4 Miles

Rob & Yoko
Can’t beat running with old friends

The best thing about what otherwise would have been a perfunctory two laps of Greenlake was that it was the first time in literally months that I was able to run with my longtime training partner and dear friend Yoko. This year, for a multitude of reasons, our schedules, fitness levels, training goals and even desire to run have not been in synch, so it was an absolute treat to get out and catch up. Yoko is also running in DC, so hopefully we’ll get a couple more runs in together before the main event.

So why was this week such a good week? I mean it was the 10th week of 18, nothing special from that point of view, and not a point in previous training cycles where I’d had any kind of breakthrough.

I attribute it to a combination of factors:

  • The training is beginning to work
  • The weather has cooled off a bit
  • I took one (the first!) unscheduled rest day the previous week
  • The stars just happened to align

Whatever the reason, It’s important to recognize those moments along the way when everything just goes right, as opposed to always lamenting and accenting the negatives. I think a positive frame of mind can go a long way, and if nothing else, hopefully helps to put a smile on other peoples faces. Long may it continue, and even if the next week, or the one after that don’t quite go as planned, I’ll be looking forward and expecting that the next great week is just around the corner.

My numbers for the week and my training to date are below. Keep moving, and keep smiling my friends.

Last week’s awesome numbers looked like this:

week10

And for my training to date:

week 10 cumulative

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