Sunday, October 1, 2017

Trusting the Process and Beating the Heat

In my previous blog post from last weekend, I wrote:

Since the majority of my workouts this cycle have been in warm weather, it's difficult to know if I am any fitter than I was for my Myrtle Beach training cycle. My times for the workouts are almost identical, if not slower.  I don't have a tuneup race or a workout that has made me think "wow- I've made a jump in fitness." Rather, the theme has been trusting the process, cranking out the workouts as prescribed, and hoping that my 7:27 goal marathon pace is realistic without any evidence. 

I didn't have to wait very long for my evidence. And it came on a day when I least expected it.

Thursday, Sept. 28
It was 72 degrees on Thursday morning, and I was scheduled to run my hardest workout of the week. The workout was 2 miles at half marathon pace, 5 minutes recovery, 4 x 1-mile at 10K pace, with 3-minute recovery jogs in between. Not an easy workout by any means! Because it was so warm (at the end of September nonetheless!) I briefly considered moving the workout to Friday, when it was forecast to be 54 degrees. I've moved workouts around before due to weather conditions. Ultimately, I decided not to move it because I had a 20-miler scheduled for Saturday, and I wanted to give my legs a day to recover. It had also been almost a week since my last hard effort, so I felt like I really needed to put in some quality miles.

I woke up, drank a serving of Generation UCAN, got dressed in a sports bra and shorts, and was off to do the workout. My mindset was that I was going to run this based on effort and not stress about the paces. I had performed this exact same workout seven weeks prior in the heat, so hopefully I would be a bit faster and that would give me somewhat of a confidence boost. But effort was definitely the focus.

I ran the exact same route as I had run in early August-- the same route I typically use for hard efforts on the road. It's mainly flat, with some inclines and declines here and there. Nothing more extreme than 10 feet per mile gain or loss. I started out running, the first half marathon pace mile in 7:03. I remembered that I had run it in 7:05 last time, so I was tracking pretty similar. It felt tough to settle into this pace, but once I did, it was "comfortably hard." I settled in and ended up running 6:48 for the second mile. Wow!

As I jogged my five-minute recovery, I realized that I felt pretty good, and that my second mile was a lot faster than it had been in August- 6:48 as opposed to 7:00. Now it was time to crank out the 4 x 1-mile at 10K pace. I ran the first mile, which was the hardest because it was a net incline. 6:38. Wow, okay! Faster than expected. As I jogged my three-minutes recovery I was both delighted and worried that I had over-run it and would fall off at the end of the workout. But that didn't happen. The second mile at 10K effort was 6:30. And then 6:22! And 6:28 for the last mile. So, these miles averaged 6:30, and my 10K PR pace is around 6:43, and that's in cool weather. When I ran this workout in early August, my average pace for the 10K miles was 6:52.

The average of all six miles was 6:38, which is still faster than my 10K pace! In 72 degrees. This was the workout that I had been waiting for. The workout that was my "evidence" that the training was actually working. Up until this point, I felt like I was flying blind. I was unsure if my 7:27 goal marathon pace was realistic. And now I am thinking that 7:27 might actually be conservative.

Lesson learned: trusting the process works. And I'm so glad I didn't move the workout to Friday with cooler weather. Running those paces in the heat was exactly the confidence booster I needed, and it happened when I least expected it. Best of all, I didn't feel all that tired afterwards. I've felt a lot more beat up after other workouts than this one. I felt great, and ran my uphill cool down in the 8:30's.

Here's a snapshot of my week:

Monday: 8.2 miles easy at 8:34 average

Tuesday: 11.3 miles at 8:01 average. My coach advised me to run this at a pace of around 8:00, which is the fast end of my easy range. I had done this same run a few weeks back and my legs had begun to tire during the last three miles. This week, my legs felt strong throughout without tiring at all.

Wednesday: 6.9 miles easy at 8:41 average

Thursday: 11.1 miles
This was the workout detailed above, plus warm up and cool down.

Friday: 8.2 miles easy at 8:33 average
Amazingly cool weather, as was forecast!

Saturday: 20 miles at 8:15 average
Saturday, Sept. 30
My coach suggested that I run this at a pace of 8:15, and then speed up to around 7:50 for the last few miles. I ended up running an 8:15 pace without even trying-- it felt like my natural easy pace in the cooler temps! I ran the last three miles at 7:46, 7:53, 7:52. I faced a 20 mph sustained headwind for the final two miles, so the effort level was more in line with a 7:20 pace. But I was determined to keep pushing and run those miles as close to 7:50 as possible.

Sunday: 3.4 miles recovery at 9:21 average

Total Mileage for the Week: 69

Here is a snapshot of my marathon training so far. I've run 60+ miles every week for the past six weeks and I'm still feeling great. Fingers crossed that this continues and that the summer heat has gone away for good! Only five more weeks until race day!


  1. You're definitely strong this go 'round - that workout was awesome! I can't wait for cooler weather, too - I think I'm getting faster, but it's hard to know. I'm glad you got a definitive answer before your big race.

  2. This is why I slogged through my runs in the heat--experience tells me that this will all pay off in cooler conditions. Sometimes it's hard to see the why when we aren't seeing any gains. Glad to hear it paid off for you!

  3. What a great workout- and whole week of workouts. 60 miles a week for so many weeks straight is pretty awesome and shows just how strong you're getting. I too love running a good workout in less than ideal conditions because that gives me way more confidence- but I am glad the temps are cooling off everywhere. It feels so much better and the runs don't wipe you out as badly. Some of those summer runs would leave me tanked for the rest of the day.

  4. Great week of solid workouts - great confirmation that you're on the ball for your training. Nice work! I'm going to steal your workouts at some point I think ;-)

  5. in the "process" - it isn't necessarily how well or how great each individual workout goes....rather the cumulative effects as the training schedule cycle progresses. Your running some pretty impressive workouts and it definitely shows you are progressing in your conditioning. Everything points to high potential for success in your upcoming Indy Marathon. -4:58 was good enough to get me accepted into 10th consecutive Boston Marathon. I hope our paths cross out there so I can say high and wish you well in person. Cheers!