Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 5-8

Instead of recapping my marathon training on a daily or weekly basis, I am going for the corporate-style quarterly update. I am hoping to provide some business style charts, a la:

Since there are 16 weeks of training there will be 4 updates. Each one will be comprised of the quarterly report (like in business, but with less corruption and pantyhose. oh, and no bogus bonuses) and a topic germane to marathon training. So check out how I have been making out and then let us all know how your training is going (marathon or any other distance/race)!

Miss Update 1 – Weeks 1-4? Read it here!

Update 2 – Weeks 5-8

Quarterly Report

Summary: The good vibes of the first quarter continued and were joined by the new sensation of really sinking my teeth into this training cycle. These weeks are probably analogous to what I hear the the second trimester of pregnancy is like – the reality has set in, you are feeling like things are progressing, but it’s not too uncomfortable yet. Long runs ranged from 11-16 miles,which are lovely distances – not so far as to be intimidating, but most more than half the big day and that is great for confidence. The weather in September was nothing short of spectacular, which gave many of the runs a utopian quality.  Hill work was the name of the game this quarter, which can be hard to come by in these parts. But I did the best I could, running up and down many of our coastal bridges. Also started with more tempo work, which gave me some anxiety. I ran less with friends this quarter and after so many group runs through the summer, I really missed it. During a training cycle I have a tendency to get wrapped up in my plan and found myself declining invitations to run with others because it did not fit perfectly with what I was planning for the day. This is something I am going to work on for Q’s 3 & 4 – flexibility (gasp!!).  Overall, though, a solid quarter that prepared me well for my monster month (running lingo for the peak training period of a marathon, characterized by high volume, high intensity and lots of wondering why you are doing this to yourself in the first place).

Tweaks and twinges: Happy to report that my plantar fasciitis is on the mend! I spent the last 4 weeks stretching, rolling and icing the hell out of it. It really is amazing what you can do with problems like PF with a little consistency. Tight hammies and butt muscles continued to do well – never perfect, but also not getting worse (as was the case when I trained for Chicago). Again, it is the constant rolling and icing I have to thank for that, and will continue to do both for Q’s 3 & 4. One of these days I am going to get my gait analyzed and see what’s doing. Until then, it’s me and my foam roller against the world!

Mental Runitude: Remains high! As mentioned in the summary, I battled some anxiety but that is to do with worrying about hitting my goal times and not about with motivation or anticipation for the race. There are about 8 of us doing either the half or full this year, and plans are already in place for a group dinner and other pre-race fun. Knowing that these folks are also out there, grinding out their workouts and dreaming of PR’s, has really kept me excited this quarter.

Topic du Quarter – MENTAL TRAINING

You often hear that “running is a mental sport”. While I think my legs and heart would beg to differ, I have to agree that an awful lot of what happens between the start and finish line is determined by what goes on up in your own little grey globe. I have learned along the way, however, that you must train your mind just as you train your body. You cannot simply assume on race morning that your brain is capable of  getting you through dark periods when the rest of your body is screaming, “for the love of god please let it be over!” if you have not properly prepared it. Just as you systematically log long runs and intervals, you so must get your mind ready for the task you set before it. The following are the ways I prepare my grey matter. I use all these techniques throughout the training cycle, not just in the days or weeks leading up to the race, to ensure they are good and ingrained in my brain (I might even be doing some right now!).

Visualizations – It’s time to get new age-y and bust out some visualizations. You can pick whatever you like – one that I often gravitate towards is to picture the race clock flashing the number that is my goal time. I like to picture myself running towards the finish line, seeing the clock and realizing I am going to make my goal and letting myself imagine how amazing that is going to feel.

Fake Outs, or if this were 1992 SIKE! – I also like to trick myself mileage wise – for example, if I am runing an 18 miler, instead of thinking at mile 13, “only 5 to go!” I think, “halfway!!”. At mile 18 instead of  “this is my last mile!” it is “only 8 more to go, hang in there!”. This helps me wrap my brain around the idea that 26 is the goal and to work out what each of those miles will feel like as I am out there running them and what I will say to myself to plow through them.

Mantras – Back to our hippie selves… again, you will hear runners tell you to pick a mantra to use during the race when you need something to help you refocus or to help pull you out of a painful period. These work well, but again, you must practice them during training, or it will just be a meaningless phrase that makes you think “mantras are for suckers, this is not working at all!!” I prefer a variety pack of mantras and use them in different situations. I also like to use different ones for each training cycle so that it feels fresh and personal to that race. For Philly 2012, I have been using these: “dig deep” (whilst picturing a shovel in soil, love me some visualizations!) when I am feeling tired, “dial it in” when I am working on marathon pace runs and “good girl” when I hit a split or if I get back on a pace I fell off of. Since I will have been saying these things to myself for 4 months by the time 11/18 rolls around, my mind will be plenty used to what I mean when I say each one.

Positive Reinforcement – From a very young age, my dad introduced me to the concept that you really only have yourself to rely on.  I can remember even from the time I was in elementary school him saying things like “you are born alone and you die alone” (this was sandwiched in between quizzes about percentages and American history. There is no one on this planet quite like the Franksters and I would not have it any other way!). Far from being morbid or depressing, these on-going conversations left me with a strong sense of self and the feeling that if I wanted something out of life, it was up to me to make it happen. The love and support of family and friends are crucial, he taught me, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the donuts.  This can be easier said than done, especially when facing a challenge as daunting as a marathon. I often give myself pep talks (out loud) during training cycles. I was also struck by the advice Sherry’s coach gave her when working on making her feel like a runner and am planning to steal some of the ideas. Get ready for post-it notes telling me “You can do it!” all over the house, GD!

So there you have it – a few simple things you can and should be doing in the months leading up to race day. You may have other techniques that work (if so, please post below!) but the important thing is that you do something to prepare your mind. It is easy to be self-deprecating and negative about your race (“I’m not fast enough”, “I’ll never make it, it’s too far”, “My training is going terribly”etc.) but I am here to tell you that it is okay to believe in yourself, to work hard for results and to lay it all on the line. What do you have to lose? So gooo, you! And me! And all the other nutters out there for whom 26.2 miles on a Sunday morning is just the right amount of crazy!

How is your training cycle treating you?

What are your mental tricks?

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 5-8

  1. Apparently, this is blog catch up & comment day for me!

    I employ many of the same tactics that you do: visualization (the iconic photo finish, arms raised in victory), mileage tricks (“oh, it’s only 1 more 5k”), and mantras (I have two: “Define Yourself” which I stole from Deena Kastor and my personal favorite, “What could you give today, if you didn’t have tomorrow?”). I use the latter two a lot.

    Towards the end of tough races, I will often break the course down into a single mile. There’s a 1 mile stretch in my neighborhood that I have run a thousand times. On a typical training run, that mile seems to pass by at the blink of an eye, so during I race, I will often use that particular visual or feeling of “time” to remind my brain that 1 mile in whatever race I’m running at the moment, isn’t any longer than the 1 mile stretch at home that I can run with my eyes closed. It seems to help.

    • capeislandrunners

      oh man, i totally do that! a .1 of a mile is “one tiverstock” (the street i grew up on), .25 is a lap around the track, any number of tenths can be broken into boardwalk block, etc… Really helps!

    • capeislandrunners

      and thank you for commenting day, i love it!

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