Marathon Training, Week 14

Things are going well! I’m having an absolute blast with the group I’m training with. I can’t believe I’ve made it all the way to week 14, which includes hill training of up to 10 repeats and 32km long runs that span 4 hours. I’m doing things I never imagined I could be capable of doing! Especially considering the fact that I’ve never been particularly athletic – I went from couch to runner about 19 months ago, and basically moved up from 10k training straight to full marathon this January. The original idea being that I would hang in there for as long as possible, and that all of this would at least help me become a stronger runner for my 10k race in May. I wanted the challenge, but I was ok if I wasn’t yet strong enough to complete the full training. And now here I am four weeks out from Race Weekend actually considering switching up the marathon – a thought that both thrills and terrifies me in all the right ways! 😉

Highlights from my training so far include going beyond the 6 hill repeats of my 10k training, and tackling the never-ending hill on Trim Road. By the time I had completed 8 repeats there, I had reached an elevation gain of 189 metres, or 620 feet! I felt so badass! I’ve definitely been getting some sort of sick, twisted enjoyment out of the otherwise tortuous hill training, lol. My approach is to just zoom up those things and get it over with as fast as possible. In doing so I’ve become a much stronger runner and people think I’m crazy, bahaha.

Sunday long runs have also been enjoyable. Particularly because the people running the marathon clinic at the Orleans Running Room love to come up with ‘themes’ for our outings. For example, one Sunday we ran around town keeping our eyes peeled for the motivational posters they left out, and we had to collect our tag from each one (I run with the 4:45 group). We also dressed in our Canadian gear because it was the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It’s little things like that which bring a whole new dimension of fun to our long runs. Plus the water stations where people volunteer to set up food and drinks for us are amazing. The treats are greatly appreciated on these runs where we’re now burning over 2,000 calories. (I never realized how much fuelling up during runs helped give me the energy to keep going until now!!) And the enthusiasm of the people running these water stations is so uplifting. Neighbours get involved, many selfies are taken. Then we’re back on the road with big smiles on our faces.

I really don’t think I could’ve handled these long runs if it weren’t for my group by my side. Not only do they help keep me at a pace that allows me to keep running these longer distances without burning out, but the conversations help keep me out of my own head and focused outside of myself too, which I really need. Thoughts like “maybe I should cut this run short and turn back” just can’t enter my head anymore.

It feels absolutely amazing to be part of Run Club and connecting with so many fantastic new friends. I’m so happy that I went for it! I walk in now and see the familiar faces of people I trained with in the 10k clinic last year, and my marathon group this year, and it’s like we’re all a big family. I love it.

Group photo with our Boston Marathon runners!

It’s a New Year

I finished up 2016 with 823km under my belt. My first full year of running, and quite the improvement over my 168km total for 2015!

My longest single run for 2016 was 21.2km, and I clocked the most kilometres during March, April, and December – just over 100km in those months!

The winter season arrived but that didn’t hold me back from continuing with my training. I had all my layers ready, and my best purchase ever was the IceSpikes I got for my shoes.

The IceSpikes allow me to stomp my way through the iciest of conditions without slipping, it’s amazing! (There is nothing more frustrating than having to waddle your way through a winter run!)

Then for Christmas we got a treadmill – which was the best surprise ever! This allowed me to squeeze in quick runs at any time of day over the busy holiday season – and probably the only way I would have been able to keep up with my training over Christmas/New Years!

Because I was able to keep up with my training, I decided to sign up for my first winter race in January: 10k at the Richmond Road Races. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined being able to PR my 10k time in the winter, but I did!! Such an amazing feeling!

My training on the treadmill shows me running at a much slower pace than when I’m outside on the roads, despite the fact that it feels like a much harder workout. I sweat buckets working out on the treadmill! But all those indoor runs must’ve done some good after all. I don’t take 10:1 walking breaks on the treadmill, so I definitely noticed an improvement in my endurance, which may have been the key factor to my faster race time.

Another challenge that I decided to take part in was Run Ottawa’s January run streak, where we run every day for the entire month of January.

Because I have the treadmill now, I knew hopping on for a quick 1 mile run those days in between training sessions would be easy for me.

I amazed myself by being able to hang on to my running streak for those first three weeks ..but then was hit hard by an unexpected bout of depression.

I could feel it coming on in the weeks prior, but because there was always so much going on I would try to distract myself with the next task or activity. And at night I would blast tv shows into my head until I fell asleep so that I didn’t have a chance to think too much and trigger that downwards spiral. Every morning I would wake up with a start, as if someone had sent a current of electricity through my heart. Just a pure jolt of anxiety to start my day. It was inevitable.. Each day I became more and more anxious and it became harder to repress. I stopped being able to sleep and even eat, and dropped a good 20 pounds in the span of a few weeks. Then one day I woke up with the darkest of thoughts swirling around in my head, and I knew I was done fighting. I had reached my absolute lowest point.

The next couple of weeks are a blur for me as I immediately fell ill with a fever too, which lasted for a few days, then developed into bronchitis; lots of sleeping, lots of blasting sounds into my head so that I wouldn’t have the chance to think or feel. I went back on medication to help bring me back, but it didn’t feel like anything was helping this time around. I had never hit such a low like this before. And I was wracked with such guilt and shame because all I could do was sleep and lie in bed for days on end.

I don’t know how many other runners out there also suffer from debilitating mental health issues.. How you manage it and how it impacts your training. But for me I was at the point where I was just done and couldn’t picture myself getting back into running ever again. Having just become a member of Run Ottawa’s Team Awesome, My Peak Challenge, and Oiselle VolĂ©e, I felt like I had failed and let everyone down. I had also signed up for the full marathon clinic at the Running Room and had already missed the first two weeks of training. I felt like I was in way over my head and should probably back out of everything.

Fast forward to today and I’m doing a lot better than I was before. Though I’m taking on a whole lot less than I had been previously. Trying to keep myself from getting too overwhelmed; trying to stay stable. My life is very simple these days.

I did venture out to join my marathon clinic for a run yesterday evening, however. I quite enjoyed the outing, though I still feel incredibly terrified by this challenge I’ve set for myself – marathon ready by June when I’ve only run a half marathon distance once?!? But I guess it doesn’t hurt to try and see how long I can keep up, while at the same time benefiting from the training.

I feel my enthusiasm for running coming back, and so I’m just going to take things one day at a time.

The Importance of Slow Runs

Since running a 5k PR of 32:29 on April 29th, I have been fuelled by my success and continuing to push myself to run faster for all my training runs. 

Fast forward to today and you’ll see that I haven’t been able to get the same distance out of my runs, nor maintain the same speeds, and am just feeling so weak and sore.

So yesterday’s talk at the Running Room came at just the right time. We discussed the importance of Slow Runs.

As you’ll see in my training schedule, each run is labeled with its type. As I am working my way up from 5 to 10k, this is more of a conditioning program to ease my body’s adjustment to the increasing distances. That’s why you’ll see mostly ‘easy’ and ‘steady’ runs. 

As we progressed, we started adding in strength training of runs up an increasing amount of hills. Then we’ll finish up with some tempo runs to really push ourselves and see what we are capable of after all this training! 

It’s at this point, we were told, that sometimes runners start dropping their easy runs in favour of the more difficult ones, because that’s when it feels like you’re doing the most work. And, hey, race day is only two weeks away!

However, Slow Runs are of great benefit to a training program too. These runs work to help you develop the muscles needed to run longer and faster distances. They help set up your lungs and cardiovascular system for more efficient running. They help train your body to tap into fat reserves to help fuel your runs instead of merely relying on glycogen stores (which are limited).

Furthermore, if you take all of your training runs at a pace that’s faster than necessary, you will start to experience reduced performance on your harder workout days. 

Case in point: me after powering through  my first 10k race this Sunday, followed by a quick neighbourhood run, then our biggest hill training session ever. 

The stress of never taking an easy run can actually hinder your progress as this increases your risk of injury and burnout from overtraining.

This information blew my mind as it was something I was going through right as they were taking about it! So I really took their words on board and went for an easy run that evening, at about 1 minute slower than my usual pace, and I walked away from that run feeling amazing.

The funny thing is, once you start getting faster, the slow runs can feel just as difficult as the runs where you push yourself. It’s actually hard to force yourself to run slow! But, as I’ve learned, they are critical to your continued development as a runner.