Last week's training started out as strong as Week2 but faded a bit at the end. For one thing, the summer weather arrived bringing Heat and Humidity, the problem children of Summertime. My easy run Monday evening wasn't bad, though I cannot say the same for my running mate Hugh. Hugh had his knee scoped in early April and while he has been cleared to run, he is experiencing the same post-injury issue I am going through: re-establishing his running endurance.
When you run as many marathons as we have, you get use to logging a high amount of miles per month. While we always Respect the Distance, we also expect an easy 5 mile run to involve more effort putting on our running clothes than actually pounding out the mileage. So when you miss a significant amount of time through injury or other inactivity, you are back to square one with regard to your running capabilities. It's frustrating enough re-teaching your body to run the mileage you once ran without thinking about it. But humidity doesn't help and in fact zaps your energy reserves at twice the rate of a normal run.
On Thursday I got a couple of running friends together for hill work. Hills are generally hard to come by in Chicago and the marathon course doesn't really have any, unless you could a couple of overpasses on the last two miles of the course, including the PR-killing Roosevelt Rd at the course's end. However Hill Work is a tried and true part of speed conditioning, one that I've avoided for the last few years. So I decided to incorporate a hill workout every third week, to coincide with the standard marathon training cutback week.
We met at the sledding hill behind Soldier Field to do two sets of hill repeats. As typical, before we started the mindset was "two sets aren't worth my time coming out here...I'm gonna have to do 3 or 4 sets." A set is running up the hill at 5K pace, with a return job back down the hill (pseudo-recovery) and then right back up the hill again. This is repeated four times to make one set (about half a mile of total distance). Two and a half minute rest and then another set. After running the first set, everyone was like "one more set is plenty."
And keep in mind we skipped our two mile warm up because my runners showed up with bikes and backpacks and no way to safely secure them. We counted their bike ride over as their warm up but I was essentially cheating myself out of some mileage since I only got in a quick half mile warm up. My two runners want to do something every week so we decided we'll alternate between hill work and track work every Thursday. We'll see how this goes.
On Saturday my LR was supposed to be 10 miles but because of the muggy conditions and my co-group leader having some stomach issues, we cut it to 8 miles. I could have done the extra two on my own, but I had some things to do later in the day so the sooner we got home, the better.
And this is where the mental games begins. Intuitively, I know those missing miles from Thursday and Saturday won't really mean much as long I don't continue cutting runs short. But it is too easy to fall into a routine of cutting some miles here, missing a run there and not doing my cross training. Add in the summer cookouts, street fests and other events with temptations to eat bad and stay out late and before you know it, Autumn arrives and the marathon is just around the corner. You feel unprepared and you tell yourself that you won't finish the marathon/set a new PR/qualify for Boston because you slept in one Saturday in June!