Sunday, May 17, 2009

A small slice of humble pie

The first week of "hard" training after a marathon is always a humbling experience for me.  My brain should know that I am not going to be in the same shape I was before the race, but for some reason I never quite accept that fact.  I spend quite a bit of energy agonizing over what pace I should shoot for in a lactate threshold (LT, aka tempo) workout, how fast 5k effort should be and how I should feel after the workout is finished.  I feel crushed if I don't meet my unreasonable expectations.  

I took 11 days off after Belgrade.  I mean completely off--no running, no cross training, nothing. That is the longest rest from running I have had since I first started.  I believe I really needed the mental break.  Physically, marathons don't beat me up much.  I had no soreness after this marathon.  I normally get a little tightness in my calves, but I had nothing at all.  My brain, on the other hand, needed a break from the intense focus I had been giving to this crazy pursuit.

I had always heard from coaches of elite runners that they give their athletes a break as much for their mental as physical recovery after a marathon.  I think this was the first time I really got that.  After Belgrade, I finally relaxed and had a new perspective to contrast with my life before the race.  I was so focused for the 2-3 months leading up to the race it made my brain hurt.  It really took about 3 weeks for me to recover mentally and start getting excited about starting a new training cycle.

This week marked that three week milestone and a return to a 7-run-per-week schedule including two intense training efforts.  I had a tough workout scheduled for Tuesday and was nervous about it for over a week before.  It was 10 miles overall with a short warm up, 25 minutes at LT effort then right into a 25 minute fartlek bout.  

My anxiety was a result of the scarring I had developed from my first hard workout back after CIM.  My CIM time was so far off any of my other PRs, Coach Nicole told me it was hard to come up with new target paces for me.  She did come up with some based on the marathon time.  When I saw these new paces, I freaked out.  I thought to myself I couldn't possibly run those paces!  But, they were the equivalent of what I had just done at CIM.  So, my first workout out of the shoot, I attempted to hit the new paces even though it was an effort-based workout.   Ridiculous.  Predictably, I failed to reach these paces and actually fell apart quite spectacularly at the end of that first workout.  I was humbled.

So the scars were fresh, and I thought I should shoot for something more reasonable this time around.  I decided I wouldn't program my Garmin and would just go by effort for 25 minutes. That worked fine until I looked down at the pace reading on my Garmin and saw 6:10 pace and it felt hard!  I was determined to prove that I was faster than that and sped up slightly.  Now, I was averaging 6:08 pace and couldn't hold it.  I stopped for a *water break* after only about 5-6 minutes into this bastard workout and regrouped.  

So, I started up again and my body gravitated back to an unreasonable 6:07 average pace.  I stopped at least 3 more times to catch my breath before I was done with the 25-minute workout.  I did end up averaging 6:07 for that portion of the workout, but that was not LT effort.  So, I totally missed the boat on that part of the workout.  What a moron.

I completed the fartlek without incident and spent the whole time cogitating on all of the data calculations I was going to do when I got home to make myself feel better.  I thought I'd check out the humbling workout from the last training cycle.  I was very happy to see that I was having trouble back then even holding 6:25 pace for the same amount of time and had to stop and walk when I pushed it into the 6:10 range.  So, maybe I wasn't as out of shape as I thought.

That workout made me set a new standard for Saturday's workout which I luckily got to do with one of my Early Girlies, Sprinkles.  She's also coached by Nicole and does many of the same workouts as me.  This one was 13 total miles with a warm up, 15 minutes at LT effort and then 8 x 75 second hills at mile-3k effort, finishing with strides.  My new goal was to run the LT effort section without stopping for a water break--lofty, I know.  I set a reasonable pace for myself this time and met my goal.  My pace was 6:11.  I was secretly disappointed that that pace felt harder than I wanted it to, but I was also proud of myself for keeping a pace that I could hold for the whole time. What I can't do (even though I am right now) is think about the fact that I ran 6:06 pace for a half marathon just a couple of months ago.  I'll get back there, I know. Baby steps.

The hills were hills.  Brutal as ever.  I was doing them at mile pace to start--too fast--but then calmed down and ran them closer to 5k pace.  This weekend also marked the first days of 100+ degree weather in the Valley.  Even though we were smart and started at 6, we didn't miss the heat.  It will take some time to acclimate.  I hate acclimating.

I got in all of my strength training and core work this week too.  I also started back into my routine of stretching using the TP  massageballer twice per week to make sure I stay injury free.

Next week:  30 minutes up a hill at LT effort.  This is the workout I dread the most.                 


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