Friday, September 10, 2010


I missed a workout this week, and it has been tormenting me.

It all started with the decision to sleep in last Saturday morning and postpone my long run to Sunday.  Little did I know that this seemingly innocuous decision would create a ripple effect that would affect my training for the next 5 days.  The day after my 22-mile Sunday, I did a not-so-easy 10-mile workout that included hill bounds, one-legged hill hops, some short 3k repeats and finished with sprints.  Tuesday, I was headed to the mountains for an overnight work trip.  I had a double on tap for Tuesday: 15 miles including 10 x 800 @ <2:45 (<5:30 pace) w/3 min. recovery + 4 miles easy later in the day.  The 800s are the famous Yasso 800s--not an easy workout.

I decided that doing three relatively long/hard workouts in a row was not smart, and I knew that I couldn't possibly do the 800s at 6,000 ft. elevation, so I ran Wednesday's 8 mile easy workout Tuesday morning and punted the Yasso's to Wednesday night when I got back home.  I also needed to get in a strength workout early in the week since I had a race coming up on Sunday and didn't want to have sore legs on the starting line.  So, Tuesday night after the day's meetings, I created a mini gym at the smoker's picnic table outside our resort hotel and propped up my iPad, which happily displayed my strength workout and blasted motivational music.  This was a new strength routine for me and included lunges, one-legged squats, calf raises, step ups, squats with dumbbell presses, pull ups, push ups and squat thrusts all to fatigue.  I think I took the to fatigue requirement a little too seriously and ended up doing 2 sets of at least 30 reps of most of these exercises with up to 50 of some.

I paid for my strength training exuberance in a major way the next day.  I could barely move my tree-trunk-like legs when I got up early to do my 4-mile run Wednesday morning.  I did enjoy my scenic run on the Legacy Trail that runs along the Truckee River despite the sore legs.  I then sat in a meeting until noon and drove 2 hours to get home.  I had to peel my legs off of the car seat when I arrived home.  My hip/butt/hamstring pain and stiffness were monumental.  I was so mad at myself for doing the strength workout and compromising my running workout, but there was nothing to be done at this point.  I actually resolved to go out and attempt to run the workout that night.  I gave up after one 800m repeat around the track, but I got in 9 painful easy miles that night.

The entire run home I was trying to figure out a way to get that workout in without compromising my race on Sunday, but there wasn't an option that made sense.  If I had a relationship with the Lord like Ryan Hall, I might have asked for divine assistance, but I'm not tight with Jesus like that.  I figured I had two choices: a) run the 800s on Thursday and not race the 10-miler Sunday or b) drop the Yasso 800s and do a workout that required less recovery so I could have a chance to race Sunday.

I emailed my coach and presented her with this dilemma along with my proposed solution: plan b.  She agreed that this made sense and reassured me that missing one workout during an entire 15-week marathon program is outstanding.  It made me realize that I am indeed lucky that I have never had to drop a hard workout in a training cycle (aside from dropping my Eugene training completely due to injury), which is why this is bugging me so much.  I also rarely have to change a workout due to illness, injury or fatigue.  Of course, this is all very rational, but I am still having a hard time letting this workout go.  It made me realize that completing my workouts and doing them well is a huge part of making me feel prepared for a marathon.

I do believe I am growing as a runner in that I am better able to see where blind devotion to get in every workout and all of the mileage in a training plan might lead to excessive fatigue and eventual injury.  I learned that lesson in my last marathon training cycle, and I have now applied it to my decision making in this one.

When I made the decision not to do the 800s, as I stood on the track Wednesday night, I knew that I would only hurt myself if I pushed to try to complete the workout given the state of my worked legs.  After all, why follow a series of blunders with another?  I did run 15 miles Thursday with 12 x 1 minute on/1 minute off @ 3k effort and felt okay.  I should end up getting in all of my mileage for this week too, which makes me happy.        

I have spent a fair amount of time this training cycle comparing my workouts with what I did last year in my build up to Twin Cities.  In that program, I was running slightly higher mileage than I am now, but doing similar workouts.  I realized this week that I was in a constant state of fatigue during that training cycle and very few if any of my workouts went exactly as planned.  Most of them included generous "water breaks" even though they were run at the right paces.  In fact, I did not have a single good goal-marathon-pace workout that whole cycle, yet I ran a 2:46 marathon.

I'll leave you with a nice read from by Matt Fitzgerald that provides a good reminder of the importance of getting to know your body and how hard to push yourself.                


  1. I'm with your coach! To only miss one workout in 15 weeks is beyond outstanding! I need some of your discipline - have a great race this weekend!

  2. I'm with you and your coach - "Plan B" all the way! I can hear the crowd now: "PLAN B! PLAN B'!

    You're so far ahead in your preparations versus prior training cycles that there's absolutely no comparison. Accordingly, skipping a workout or two is no issue at all, and as *competition* vs. a Yasso-800 set is a far better gauge of fitness and readiness you're wise to do it on Sunday. Whether its your gut instinct that led you to this decision - or something that Ryan may view as heavenly sent - it doesn't matter as all that matters is your confidence going forward. Go girl! I'm looking forward to your post-race blog post afterward.

  3. i think guilt is often what gets our butts out the door on those days when our bodies are tired from the work and we'd rather just stay in, crack open the wine early and eat dinner. sure, you can take the leisurely way out and not do the workout. but can you live with the guilt? i sure can't!
    leonard usually gives us one workout a year where we can just quit. in general he likes us to finish workouts even if it means turning off the watch. or if he's there watching and things are going bad, he'll dramatically alter the workout so that we get something positive out of it. but we do have that "out" where we can just say "i'm not doing this today". funny thing is... none of us ever end up using it. well, almost never. i used my "out" when training for eugene. infact, i had the exact same workout on tap: 10 x 800 with a 200 recovery on the bike trail. i was all by myself, it was effing hot and i was not motivated. i tried one, it sucked, so i called it a day. and though i felt bad about it (and clearly it left an impression on me because i'm talking about it right now), in the big scheme of things it didn't hurt me one bit. i still got to the starting line in incredible shape. infact, as you said, sometimes it's good to just chill out one day rather then push yourself over the edge. on that day, i did not have the edge mentally or physically, so it was time to call it a day. and the cool thing is when you experience these little "failures", they actually give you a nice little kick in the ass... a new spark for the upcoming workouts. because then you are in need of redemption! i think you will get yours this weekend at the stampede. and ultimately in chicago.

  4. Is it wrong that my favorite part of this post is "but I'm not tight with Jesus like that"? Got a good snort out of me for that one.

    Of course +1 or is that +3 to the good decision, nothing will be lost at all from giving up the Yassos. It's never one workout that will make or break a cycle, it's the entirety. Though I can totally imagine the gnawing, especially since you're an overachiever type of gal.

    T-meat, cool about the one free pass to quit a workout. I think I'd not use it either but just knowing it's there would be like having an extra "get out of jail free" card. You'd feel rich just having it.

  5. So that's how Ryan Hall does it ;) I think you worked around this week and the ripple effect pretty well. Blind devotion to a workout schedule isn't really sensible. That's where these athletes with hands-on day-to-day coaches (like Hall) have an advantage. I'm sure Terrence Mahon has modified many of his athlete's workouts. Anyway, have a great race! And thanks for the Matt F article - a good read.

  6. Thanks, Cindy. Congrats on winning the fastest fetus award in your recent 5k! You rock mama!

    Mark, I can see the crowd chanting Plan B. Funny! I do feel like I'm ahead of the game this time around mainly because I'm being a lot smarter about how I feel in this training cycle. Constant fatigue is not the desired state of being in any training program, as Fitzgerald puts it so well.

    tmeat--you're one of the lucky ones (see my reply to Ewen below) in that you have a trusted coach that can watch you do your workouts and tracks your progress on a daily basis. I like the idea of having a free pass for a workout. I never allowed myself to think that way before. I just assumed that I would get all of my workouts in each training cycle. Now, I see that this is unrealistic. In fact, I do work with my coach to make minor changes to my schedule when needed due to work or social scheduling conflicts. I guess I don't see what happened this week as a failure from a workout perspective, but more as a failure to plan well. It taught me a lesson about when to do strength training, that's for sure, and it's not the day before an important workout or race!

    GIM--It makes me smile that you liked that part;)

    Ewen, I couldn't agree more. Having a coach on hand to watch you and track your progress and make on-the-fly adjustments to your program is ideal. In fact, I know a lot of athletes that don't get a long-term training plan at all. They get stuff week to week or sometimes even day to day based on how they're feeling. I am a planner, so I'm not sure that would work well for me.