Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

Sunday, September 20: 20.06 miles in 3:37:32 for a 10:51 pace.
Before we get too far into this post, I would like to highlight these excerpts from 2013:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 5.58.29 PM

And 2014:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 5.59.08 PM

UNBELIEVEABLE.

I have run a 3:37 every. single. year. How does that even happen?!?! After running two 3:37s in the past, I was bound and determined to run ANYTHING faster than a 3:37 this year, and absolutely could not believe it when I turned the corner about 75 meters from the finish line of this year’s 20 miler and saw my watch at 3:36:5x, meaning I wouldn’t break 3:37. I don’t think I have ever, in my entire running career, been this predictable over a certain distance. Someday…someday I will break 3:37 in the 20 miler…

Anyway.

Sunday was PERFECT. Well, mostly perfect. It would’ve been perfect if it had been overcast instead of sunny, but beggars can’t be choosers, and in terms of temperature, humidity, and wind, Sunday was perfect.

20milersunrise

It also had a very pretty sunrise, so I suppose I can’t complain.

Despite my lackluster peak week, I felt super, super ready for the 20 miler. Though training certainly has not always been fun this year (by any stretch of the imagination…I’m looking at you, like all of July and August, and Labor Day weekend), I have had a pretty solid training cycle and have, by and large, been very happy with the quality of this year’s training. I had no doubts about my ability to have a good 20 miler.

Even more importantly, this year I went into the 20 miler with the intention of negative splitting. When I did my overanalyzing of last year’s 20 miler, Pete left one of the most helpful comments ever on my blog, mentioning that it looked like I was going out too fast. How this had never occurred to me is anyone’s guess, but that really stuck with me, and has been in the back of my mind on many long runs this year as I’ve faded away from the group on the last miles (which, for the record, has also happened time and time and time again over the past two years. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I should probably be locked up ASAP.) With that in mind, I decided to “bandit” an 11:00 pace group (I was assigned to a 10:30 pace group and, theoretically could’ve told CARA I wanted to move back, but…I didn’t. Whatever. It’s not like the group assignments are actually enforced at all.) in order to run with a group that would FORCE me to go slow with the intention of ditching them around 10 miles, or 15 miles at the latest, in order to negative split the 20.

This more or less worked. I did start with an 11:00 group, and though I felt like we were barely moving, I knew that strategy would likely pay off in spades later on. All was going well until mile 2 or so, when my uterus was like, “Oh, you thought you were going to get through this period without cramps? That’s cute. Let me remind you who’s boss around here.” That pain train continued through mile 8 or so, which was every bit as terrible as it sounds. I tried to convince two different aid stations to give me Tylenol (not that Tylenol has ever helped me, but I figured it was worth a shot) to no avail. I knew they wouldn’t give me ibuprofen, since ibuprofen is generally a big no-no during a run (hence why I hadn’t taken any that morning), but Tylenol is usually considered all right, at least from a not-going-to-die-of-kidney-failure standpoint. All of this stopping, along with a couple of hormone-induced bathroom breaks, meant that I lost the 11:00 pace group I started with somewhere around mile 6. Regardless, since my bathroom breaks/aid station painkiller begging didn’t take that long, I was still in the general area of 11:00s, and more or less stuck with that pace.

The miles ticked by much faster than they ever have before on the 20 miler, and I was quite surprised when we got to mile 13 and I realized I only had seven more to go. I kept passing landmarks where I remembered feeling terrible in 2013 and 2014 and still felt super great, and by mile 15 or so, I knew that unless I literally died–like, heart stopped beating died–this was going to be, at least from an endurance/feeling standpoint, the best 20 miler I had ever had. I hit mile 17 when my watch read 3:06, which meant I had exactly 30 minutes to cover the remaining three miles if I wanted to do a sub-3:37. I hadn’t done anything faster than a 10:29 all day (though some of my mile splits aren’t entirely reflective of my actual moving speed, because I stopped at multiple aid stations to refill my water bottles. Of course, on marathon day the clock will keep running as I do that sort of thing as well, but nevertheless, I was running faster than some of my splits imply.), so knocking out three consecutive 10:00 miles seemed…ambitious. But who am I to shrink away in the face of a challenge, right?! I felt solid, so I picked up my speed and turned in a 10:13 mile, a 10:12 mile, and a 9:38 last mile.  *celebrates excessively*

Oh my gosh, you guys, I’m just over the moon with how well things went on my 20. Even if my overall time was the same, this was a night and day difference from my previous 20s. Going out slow was SO key and made all the difference in the world, so I plan to employ that strategy during the marathon itself. I have had so much trouble trying to figure out how to effectively run a marathon, and if this 20 miler is any indication, I think I may have finally gotten a grasp on what I need to do to have a successful run. I’m sure my harder training throughout the summer had a major impact on the success of this run as well, but I think having two of these under my belt to begin with made a big difference as well. And mentally, I’m all there right now. Like I mentioned with my midweek 10 miler last week, for whatever reason, I’m not struggling in the head department as much as I have in the past in terms of getting overwhelmed by what I need to accomplish – not that I’m complaining!

And though I can’t imagine too many other people are interested in my year-by-year mile splits and 10 mile stats (especially 10 mile stats, because I’ve run enough 10 milers to have that time actually mean something to me), I have found it incredibly useful to have them here in this, my digital training log, so:

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 8.26.14 PM

2013 Pace Splits: 10:32 first half (1:45:21); 11:12 second half (1:52:08) — +0:40 pace positive split; +6:47 overall
2014 Pace Splits: 10:21 first half (1:43:38 [YIKES]); 11:05 second half (1:50:51) — +0:44 pace positive split; +7:13 overall
2015 Pace Splits: 10:56 first half (1:49:29); 10:45 second half (1:47:35) — -0:11 pace negative split; -1:54 overall

GAH. So happy with how this went 😀

Monday, September 21: Rest.
I got a sports massage, if you want to count that as activity (I don’t). I got on exhale’s email list when I went there through ClassPass, and earlier this month they sent me a coupon for 50% off a 60-minute massage during my birthday month. I could never afford to go to exhale otherwise, but the 50% off coupon brought the massage down to close to what I’d normally pay anyway.  My massage therapist was INTENSE, and this was the opposite of a relaxing experience. On the bright side, I no longer have anything even resembling a knot in my back. Haha.

Tuesday, September 22: Dance.
Just hip hop for now. I’m skipping breakdance until after the marathon (and maybe after the marathon. And maybe forever. Haha. Definitely over that class on Tuesdays…). We learned new choreography, but it was also to Major Lazer: this time to Lean On. This time last year we did a Beyonce-themed session, and if we do a Major Lazer-themed session this year, I will be the happiest 😀

Wednesday, September 23: 8 miles in 1:29:23 for an 11:13 pace.
Yikes. I don’t know what happened on this run, but I was a total turtle. Miles 4-8 were all 11:xx paced, and that was pretty discouraging, especially in light of how well I ran the 20 miler. The route I took on this run did kill me once before earlier this season, so maybe that was part of it? I was also pretty worked up going into the run. I was dealing with a lot of life stress on Wednesday and discovered, to my immense frustration, that my heart rate monitor has decided to stop working. Based on my stats, this heart rate monitor’s battery should only be halfway through its lifetime, but none of my Bluetooth-enabled devices were able to pick up a signal from it. Unless I’m dead (which I don’t think I am, based on the fact that I feel very much alive), I can only conclude that my heart rate monitor must be dead. I tried it with a different strap to no success, so that’s not the problem. Changing the battery sounds great in theory, but unfortunately the little thing you twist with a coin to open up the battery case won’t work. At this point, I think my only option is to send it to Polar and hope they fix it, but there’s no way that’ll be solved before the marathon. It’s really annoying, because I’ve very much enjoyed tracking my heart rate this marathon season, and have also used heart rate monitoring in ALL of my workouts (except dance) since last November or so. This totally throws off all my data tracking, which is something that’s really important to me. Of course, I could get a new HRM, but considering that this is the second Polar HRM I’ve had die this year (the first one survived an entire calendar year before it died, rather than all of four months), AND considering that the batteries seem to be essentially irreplaceable (I can’t open the battery compartment on my original HRM, either), I’m not exactly eager to invest more money in a new one. Not having an HRM also makes my Polar M400 way less useful than it originally was, because in the past, I could use it to track ALL of my workouts–strength, yoga, climbing, running, November Project, whatever. Now it only functions as a GPS watch…which is better than nothing, but isn’t what I want, now that I’ve gotten used to having data from every workout I complete. I’ve poked around the Internet a little bit, but I have yet to find a watch that would track everything I want it to while using wrist-based heart rate monitoring, which I think is what I’d be more apt to try next, since if the HRM is built into the watch itself, it can’t die independently. #firstworldproblems

Thursday, September 24: 4 miles (tempo) in 41:03 (9:26 and 9:36 tempo miles) for a 10:16 pace.
My feet were once again dragging to start this run, so I was really surprised that I was able to do 9:xx tempo miles. I haven’t done any sort of speedwork in such a long time, and I’m glad I was able to get this in, even if my non-tempo miles were much slower than I would’ve liked them to have been.

Friday, September 25: Rest.

Saturday, September 26: Rest.

WAY too many rest days this week, again. I know it’s taper, I should be saving my energy, blah blah blah, but I am NOT okay with taking three rest days two weeks in a row. It makes me feel lazy and gross, and I don’t like that. If all goes according to plan, I should get back to my normal activity level this week. Thank goodness. I’ve been slacking a bit on the PT front, and hopefully reduced mileage (and, consequently, more free time) will encourage me to get back into doing more than two of my PT exercises per day. I also really need to focus on getting to bed as early as possible for the next two weeks. My sleep was a little hit or miss during peak week and wasn’t great last week (not necessarily in terms of quality, but in terms of getting to bed on time, or, even better, getting to bed early), and that needs to change ASAP. I’ve been hanging around some people who have colds, and now is not the time to acquire their germs. As always, my diet could use a bit of help as well…must. resist. office. treats. I can do whatever I want in two weeks, but right now I really, really, REALLY need to do everything I can to take care of myself so I’m good to go on race day.

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8 thoughts on “Chicago Marathon Training Week 16

  1. Starting slower during the race is SO key! For the marathon where I felt strong the whole time (Milwaukee in 2011) I started with a pace group that was running at :15 per mile slower than I wanted and ended up passing them around mile 8 and never seeing them again 🙂 So, yes, definitely employee that strategy if you can at Chicago.

    As for your heart rate monitor, have you thought about taking it to a watch battery replacement place and having them open it for you?

    • That’s definitely my goal! We’ll have to see what the weather looks like, I suppose…I’d really like to go out with 4:45 pace group, since that’s my goal time, but I also don’t want to kill myself doing 10:50s early on. I’d rather do 11:10/11:15s for the first bit and 10:15s/10:30s for the second bit than start at 10:50 and die…though if the weather is accommodating, 10:50 may be more reasonable. We’ll see!

      That’s actually a genius idea, and I hadn’t thought of it at all. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. You just reminded me to go find a massage place this morning to schedule an appointment at. I’ve noticed a HUGE difference in my running this year with the negative splits. I have more energy at the end which in the past made no sense to me. I’m planning on starting with a pace group 15-30 seconds slower than my goal pace in a few weeks to give it a shot. I’m really glad you’re so happy with how the 20 miler went!!! Running the last mile that fast is amazing!!!

    • It seriously makes SUCH a night and day difference. I have to admit, from a mental standpoint, negative splitting is tough (both with starting out feeling like you’re barely moving, and doing that knowing you’re going to have to run a LOT faster later on when you’re used to dying), but oh man, that boost you get from still having energy at the end is incredible! Big fan.

  3. I’m in the same boat as you — took too many rest days last week. I got a big head after that 20 miler haha. That’s FREAKY that you ran the same time for the past three years…crazy haha. Wait you can’t take ibuprofen during a run? I definitely did….elaborate! Haha

    • I mean, you *can* take ibuprofen during a run, in the sense that they’re not going to disqualify you for doping or whatever, but it’s definitely not a smart thing to do. It’s generally frowned upon to take painkillers of any sort during a run, because if your body wants to tell you something is hurting, it’s probably important for you to listen to that. Ibuprofen is also rough on your GI tract, as is endurance sports, so you’ve got a double whammy if you’re doing both at once. And on top of all of that, ibuprofen is more likely to cause kidney damage if you’re in a state of dehydration, which, during a run, is pretty likely. If you HAVE to take something, it’s usually recommended that you take acetaminophen (Tylenol) over NSAIDs (ibuprofen or naproxen), but it’s better to take nothing at all if at all possible.

  4. Glad your long run went well. So weird that you’ve run 3:37ish for three years. In the past I’ve taken ibuprofen because I always get pain in my legs and that is the only thing that helps. Well, I don’t have Ibuprofen anymore so Tylenol will do. However, I took Advil on Sunday and that worked so much better.

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