I can't believe how fast this has come. All of a sudden I am wrapping up my peak week of training and am only 3 weeks out from the Cornwall Marathon. Between a few races, some horrible Ottawa winter weather, lots of travel, and a bit of an injury scare, this training cycle has really flown by. Now seems like a good time to take a step back and reflect on hows my training has gone since I ran the Hypothermic Half Marathon 5 weeks ago.
I came off the Hypo Half on a huge high. I was stunned with my time. 1:21:58 was over two minutes faster than my previous personal best, which is a huge jump for me. But ever since my experiences and challenges in Boston and Chicago, my confidence with marathon racing has taken a bit of a beating. I no longer go into races full of confidence, setting audacious goals and publicly stating the low times I wanted to run. Deep in my mind I have those confident thoughts, but I'm finding myself apprehensive - maybe even scared - to say it out loud. I know I've put in an incredible training cycle and am honestly in the best running shape I've ever been in. So why am I underselling myself? I think it's my subconscious way of protecting myself. Confidence has always been something that I've grappled with. Every time I get comfortable with it, I seem to get knocked down a peg or two. I guess that's the way life goes though.
So here I was, fresh off a 2 minute half marathon personal best, getting comfortable with confidence again. I found myself day dreaming of how fast I could run Cornwall. 2:57? 2:55? Sub 2:50? Okay, that's a bit out there, but it is a "someday" goal of mine. Confidence is not a bad thing - it's actually a really good thing. You just need to understand how to manage it, and more importantly, how to channel it towards your goals. Know that there will be ups and that there will be downs. But trust your training. Know that if you put in the consistent, dedicated, hard work that you will continue on your upward trajectory.
Following a confident week of training that saw me crush some epic Yasso repeats in a blizzard and a monumental 32km long run, I entered week 10 with my head held high. Strong. Confident. I kicked the week off on a Monday morning with an audacious workout - a 20km run with 4 intervals of 10 minutes at tempo pace (3:45) with only 90 seconds rests in between. All of this before work. All systems go.
The next evening I met my friends at OCRC for a Tuesday night run. I was sore and tired from the crazy workout the day before, but I was excited to finally get a chance to run with the OCRC gang. I haven't been around much as my volleyball schedule often conflicts with the Tuesday night runs, but since I was on an off-week I was able to make it this time. It was a relatively mild evening, but there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. I took off with the lead group of regular speedsters - Scott, Alex, Nadine, Blair - just to name a few. We were clipping pretty good - probably a bit too fast for my tired legs on that night. Somewhere between my tired body, the slippery conditions, and that quick pace I tweaked something in my right glute. I didn't feel it immediately, but I felt something nagging that evening. I definitely felt it the next day.
Terrified that I'd injure it further, I scrapped my Wednesday workout and immediately texted Jade for some physio advice. She pulled through (as always), identifying the area called the piriformis and gave me a variety of stretches and exercises to do to help alleviate some of the pain. I took the rest of that week off, cancelling my main workouts and even my long run. That was a really hard thing for me to do. I had just built up all this confidence. I was on a roll. I was hitting my stride. And now I was cancelling long runs. But I knew it was the right thing to do. The last thing I wanted to do was run through this "nagging issue" (I refused to call it an injury) making it worse and potentially jeopardizing my spring race. Over the next two weeks, I scaled things back, visited Jade 3 or 4 times for treatment, and made sure I was warming up and stretching properly.
Runners: Don't be afraid to go to physio. It's honestly one of the best things you can do for yourself, even if you think it's just a small nagging issue. Get it addressed. The only thing worse than not going to physio is actually going to physio and not listening to their advice. That's just a waste of everyone's time.
Back at it
11 days. That's how long it took me to fully recovery from my piriformis issue. I know that sounds like a terrifying amount of time to "miss" for most marathon runners, but it was so worth it. And honestly, you won't lose any fitness during that amount of time. I kept myself busy with yoga, volleyball and some shorter, easier runs. On that 11th day I hit the streets for my first long run in a few weeks. I headed out that Saturday morning with 32km ahead of me. I was admittedly nervous and apprehensive, but it wasn't long into my run that I knew that I was going to be okay. Things felt great. Not only had Jade helped relieve the tension and tightness I was struggling with, but since I had been taking things so easy the last 11 days my body was well rested and I had a ton of energy. 32km in 2 hours and 25 minutes. Confidence re-acquired.
That brings me to my peak week. This is the week in your training, typically 4 weeks out from race day, where you hit your peak mileage. This is what you've been building up to. After peak week, you begin "The Taper", three horrible weeks of scaling mileage back and taking things easy before the race. It's horrible because it's a total shock to your body's system. You've been spending months building and building, going further and faster and then - you start to scale back? But I haven't gotten to my goal yet. That race, it's right there. Just a few weeks away. Why am I slowing down now? Ah, the taper. It never ceases to throw me off.
One of the main differences between my training cycle this time around and past trainings has been my mileage. It has increased significantly. Here's a quick example. During my peak week this year, I totalled 124km in 7 days. This is far more than I had ever done before. When I ran my personal best marathon in Toronto, my peak week mileage in training was 50km. When I trained for Boston it was 58km. Last summer when I trained for Chicago it was 90. So yeah, you could say I've upped my mileage a bit.
My peak week featured a wide variation of workouts, from a 24km trail run with the back half at goal pace to some pretty intense tempo interval workouts to some good old fashioned easy runs. The week was capped off with an epic 36km run. Not just any 36km run, but one that had me really pushing myself in an attempt to replicate the grind of a marathon. After running the first 24km at an easy pace (4:40/km), I picked things up to run the final 12km at goal marathon pace, which is about 4:10/km. A 36km training run is hard enough as it is, but throw in 12km of a fast pace after nearly 2 hours of running and you really test your bounds. I'm not gonna lie, it was tough, but once I got my legs turning at my goal pace speed I kinda just locked it in and grinded it out.
Not only was this run a great test of my fitness and endurance right now, but it also helped me rediscover some of that elusive confidence I've been trying to hold on to.
3 weeks to go
I can't believe there are only three weeks left until race day. This training cycle has really gone by pretty quick. Each week has presented a new set of challenges and achievements. But that's what I love about it. To me, training is as much fun - if not more - than racing itself. I love the challenge and the progression. I love working hard, day in and day out, one block at a time. I love the feeling I get when I hit a new speed or reach a new distance. I love feeling strong, fast and fit. I love how therapeutic it is, not only for the body, but also for the mind.
With that said, the race is the ultimate goal. I am very excited for Cornwall. This race means a lot to me. It's my chance at a bit of redemption. My chance to prove to myself that I can run a fast marathon, and feel good while doing it. I know I've done my part. I've put in the work - the countless hours and kilometres of dedicated training. All I can hope for now is a good day that goes my way. As I've said before, there's your plan and there's the marathon's plan. Here's hoping they align on the 28th of April.