Sunday, April 26, 2020

I ran 90 miles this week. Here's what I learned.

After running 26.2 miles on Monday to commemorate the Boston Marathon that never happened, I proceeded to run a 90-mile week. The idea to run 90 miles in one week came from my coach. The idea to start it off with a marathon was mine. Together, we make a crazy team!

Why run a 90 mile week? With no races on the calendar, my coach thought it would be a good way to challenge myself and also discover what I was capable of. I wasn't trying to make any fitness gains. In order to do that, I would have to string multiple high mileage weeks together, combined with marathon-specific workouts. Rather, I was trying to see how my body would respond to the 90-mile week and "learn" how to do it safely.

If I do end up running a 90-mile week in future training cycles, I most likely will not kick it off with 26.2 miles on a Monday. But even still, I think my experience will translate to future cycles.

Also, there is no better time to try this than right now:

  • The weather is still cool enough to push myself (I would not attempt this in the summer)
  • I don't have to physically go to work, which means I have extra time in the mornings
  • I don't have to physically go to work, which means I can wear recovery boots while working
  • I'm not training for anything in particular, so my training doesn't have to be targeted
Without having any commitments aside from working from home, I had the luxury of trying something new. I was confident in my ability to achieve this goal, but I wasn't going to injure myself in the process. If something felt strained or "off" I would shut it down and not risk it. I always pay close attention to how I am feeling during heavy training, and this week was no exception.

First, let's see how 90 miles looks in the grand scheme of my training over the past year. While my mileage was relatively low the week before, it did include a 5K time trial on Thursday, in which I pushed very hard.

Weekly mileage for the past year
As you can see from the above graph, that 90 mile week all the way to the right is by far the highest. It's important to note that I have been consistently running in the 60s and 70s for a long time, so it's not like I was able to do this out of the blue. I have been logging this type of mileage for at least the past 3 years. I have been running 7 days a week for the 4 years, so this is something that I have built up to over time. I do not recommend that someone who typically runs 40-50 miles a week try this.

Monday: 26.2 miles at 8:23 average pace
I wrote a detailed blog post about this so I won't go into the details here. I did spend the rest of the day prioritizing recovery. I was dehydrated so I drank plenty of water. I was thirsty for the three hours following run! I also spent 30 minutes in my Rapid Reboot compression boots. I wasn't really hungry for the rest of the day. We ordered a Mellow Mushroom pizza as my post-race lunch but I wasn't hungry for it until about 2-3 hours after the run. And even then I only had one slice. For dinner I had two slices of pizza plus a salad. This was really not much food, but I didn't have a huge appetite. Greg and I took a walk around the neighborhood in the evening. I think this helped in getting blood flowing through my legs.

Unfortunately, I didn't sleep very well that night, probably due to the adrenaline of the experience. Or maybe because I had a soda late in the day. I had a Pepsi shortly after CIM and I realized how satisfying soda is post race. I try to limit my soda (I had gone cold turkey for six months last year!) but I do treat myself occasionally.

Tuesday: 7 miles at 9:31 average pace
Weather: 46 degrees, partly sunny, light breeze
Shoes: Brooks Ghost

Tuesday, April 21
It was definitely a shock to myself to run the day after a marathon. I wore my tall compression socks for calf support and they felt nice. My legs were not "sore" in the traditional sense, but they were stiff and dead feeling. The only "watch out" that I noticed was that my right Achilles tendon was achey. But the more I ran, the better it felt. The first mile was definitely the hardest. I felt pretty good for miles 2-5, but then my legs got tired for the last two miles. My energy level was high and aside from my beat up legs, I felt good.

I took an Epsom salt bath and spent more time in the Rapid Reboot. During the Epsom Salt bath, I noticed that I had a blister on my big toe. I hadn't really felt it before then, but I noted that I should put a blister Band-aid on it for the next day.

My legs felt tired and achey all day, but there was no one particular area that hurt more than it "should". This is where knowing the difference between a normal ache and an injury ache is important. Everything just sort of felt equally tender and abused-- I couldn't pinpoint any real problem areas in particular.

Wednesday: 10 miles at 9:21 average pace
Weather: 38 degrees, partly sunny, light breeze
Shoes: adidas Ultra Boost 20

I tried wearing the same Nikes that I ran the marathon in, but I had to take them off after the first few steps. My toes were still tender from the marathon and I needed a shoe with a roomier toe box. When I put on the adidas Ultra Boost, it was like a massage for my feet. My toes had plenty of room to spread out and the cushion was so plush.  I wore compression capri tights, which felt great on my hips, quads, and hamstrings.

Greg ran most of this run with me and I was happy he stayed with me at my slower pace. Once again, the first mile was the hardest and then my legs loosened up the more I ran. I had a good amount of energy and I was encouraged by how smooth the run felt.

I showered and had a 9:15am conference call for work. After that call was done, a wave of fatigue came over me. I couldn't keep my eyes open. Sleep overtook me and I was out cold for an hour. When I woke up, I felt like I could barely move. I was extremely groggy. But eventually I got going and continued with the workday. I honestly felt like crap for the rest of the day and I realized that my lack of sleep on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights had caught up with me. Allergies were also a factor, as I was sneezing my head off. I drank a ton of water and I ate really healthy foods. I was in bed at 7:30 and asleep by 7:45.

I told myself that if I still felt crappy in the morning, I would end my quest for a 90-mile week.

Thursday: 10 miles, with 6 tempo at 7:36 average pace
Weather:  45 degrees, overcast, no wind
Thursday, April 23
Shoes: adidas adizero Tempo 8

I woke up feeling refreshed after 9+ hours of sleep, so I figured I would continue on with the program. I couldn't believe my coach put a tempo run on the schedule! I told myself that tempo meant "faster than easy" and I would solely go on effort, not pace. I warmed up for 2.6 miles and then started the "tempo" run.

I managed to run splits of 7:48, 7:44, 7:36, 7:31, 7:33, 7:25. I am not sure how I did that just three days post marathon, but I did. It was hard and I felt like I was running a pace of about 6:50-7:00 towards the end. The cool down was pretty rough, but I managed to knock out 1.4 miles to get to 10 for the day.

My legs felt totally dead afterwards, but I was proud at how well they held up. I was tired and lethargic for the rest of the day, but it wasn't nearly as bad as Wednesday. Thank goodness I didn't have to look presentable for work or go anywhere!

Friday: 10 miles at 9:21 average pace
Weather: 50 degrees and light rain + light wind
Shoes: adidas Ultra Boost 20

This run was pretty much an exact replica of Wednesday. Same shoes, same pace. Starting at around 10:00 and gradually getting faster with no sub 9:00 miles. The weather made it unenjoyable, but thankfully Greg joined me for the first half. My energy level was high but my legs had no pep in them.

As for my fatigue during the day, it was much improved by Friday. My energy level returned to normal. I attribute this to drinking loads of water + electrolytes in the previous days, and finally getting caught up on sleep. Plus, the marathon was now 5 days behind me so I was generally starting to be less beat up.

Saturday: 19 miles at 8:38 average pace
Weather: 47-53 degrees, partly cloudy with no wind
Shoes: Nike Odyssey React 2
Saturday, April 25

I had no idea how this run was going to go. My coach had 18 on the schedule, but I decided to run 19 instead for COVID-19. I try to be "cute" whenever I can. I called it "Flatten the Curve of COVID-19 Miler" as a reason to run the flattest possible route. I had already paid my dues with hills on Monday and if this run was going to happen, I needed to minimize hills! My route had 293 feet of total gain, which is very little over 19 miles.

For this run, I prioritized fueling and hydration. I parked my car in a flat neighborhood that had many interweaving roads. I put a bottle of water + a bottle of Generation UCAN in the car, and made sure to drink early and often. Normally for an 18-miler I drink Generation UCAN beforehand but then I don't take any other fuel during the run. But I figured I would be going slower, which would mean more time spent running. I definitely did not want to crash.

I started out conservatively at a 9:11 pace for the first mile. I projected that my average pace for the run would be somewhere between 8:50-8:55. But I just "felt" my way through the run an ended up going faster without trying to. I decided I would hammer the last mile and dropped the pace down to 7:45. I never would have thought I could do that!

I'm not sure if it was the weather, my fueling, the hydration, or a combination of these, but I felt really good the whole time. I tried napping afterwards, but I wasn't tired enough to fall asleep! I felt really good the rest of the day and I even did laundry! That night, Greg and I treated ourselves to curbside takeout from Sweetwater, a delicious local restaurant that brews its own beer.

Sunday: 8 miles at 8:48 average pace
Weather: 50 degrees and raining
Shoes: Brooks Ghost

This run went smoothly and a lot easier than anticipated. I was expecting to run it in the 9:00's but my legs carried me faster. I was feeling so good that I ran the final mile in 8:15, capping off a 90.2 mile week. I could have gone farther with no issues, but I decided to stick with the plan. I'm guessing that the 19-miler didn't take that much out of me, since I ran it at a conservative pace. Typically I run long runs at pace of 7:55-8:10, so going slower helped preserve my legs for Sunday.

I ran 90 miles in one week at an average pace of 8:46.

And I feel good today! I definitely plan to take it easy next week, although I feel like I could handle a "normal" week of training without any problems. Best to quit while I'm ahead and feeling good. Here are some interesting stats:

  • During Saturday's long run, I hit 25,000 miles in my training log, which I have been keeping since January 2008.
  • I am now on day 104 of my run streak, averaging 8.3 miles a day since Jan. 14
  • My longest streak is 122 days, so I have not beaten that yet
  • Half of the mileage was completed in two runs (26.2 + 19) both in the same pair of shoes

What I learned
Primarily, I learned that if I am sensible with my paces, I can handle a 90-mile week without running doubles. However, this would be much more of a challenge if I had to commute to a job every day and get dressed up for that job. I still think I could do it, but I would be more stressed with the
logistics, and any kind of stress wears the body down even more.

Sleep is key! My mid-week bout of fatigue was no joke. I was so tired on Wednesday. Once I caught up on sleep everything was okay, but the sleep deficit was hurting me.

Hydration is key! I started the week dehydrated from my marathon. Of course, that was the warmest and most humid day of the week. Any other day of the week would have provided better conditions. But regardless, I need to stay on top of my water intake.

Warm epsom salt baths are amazing! I took a Dr. Teal's Epsom salt bath every day and they were so soothing. I really think this helped keep things loose. I could even multi-task by drinking water from the faucet.

Keep the easy runs easy. On my easy days, I let my body dictate my pace, not the Garmin. I would naturally speed up as my legs loosened and usually would feel better the more I ran.

In terms of aches and pains, the most achey thing all week was my mid to lower back. I kept asking Greg to massage it and I applied Salonpas patches. I really, really wanted to get a massage. It's better now than it was a few days ago. I think Thursday was the worst of it.

I wasn't noticeably more hungry than I normally am, but I was noticeably more thirsty.

Finally, the fact that I kicked all of this off with a 3:40:02 marathon means that I could run a marathon much faster than that! My endurance is really strong right now and the irony is that there not a single marathon in sight. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this challenge and I am glad I took the opportunity to run a lot before the weather gets too warm for me.


  1. Congrats on 90 miles! Since traditional racing is on hold it's up to us as runners to find new ways to improve and enjoy the journey, and you and your coach nailed it with the marathon/90 mile week. I've realized that it's to my advantage to stay at high (for me) mileage for the rest of the spring to take advantage of the cooler weather.

  2. 90 miles is awesome... You're closing in... 30 more and you'll be elite runner status!! Actually this was a great thing for you to do because there's no races in sight and who knows when there will be one!! So you can test your limits and it sounds like you pushed it... Makes me think about when I was 19 years old, and for a brief period was working three jobs and wanted to try and do 100 hours (not counting the commute.) Unfortunately I got to 96 and literally passed out on a supermarket floor (overnight stocking I was doing back then.) If I made it thru that shift it would have been exactly 100 but they sent me home.

    I like that you're taking these different times and finding ways to challenge yourself and see what you can handle. I know your best marathon times are still in front of you as doing things like this helps you in the future knowing it's not overly risky tp up the mileage which in theory should help you whenever your next marathon comes. Keep up the great work!! Proud of you!!

  3. First...YOU and your COACH are friggin crazy doing a 90-mi week that includes starting with a pseudo Boston Marathon in VA hills! But I see what makes you tick and you need that "challenge" to sustain your inner well being. Just be careful in this crazy approach and I suspect you doing those low-intensity 9:30 average pace runs are key to your accomplishing your mission. I commend you in that as many marathoners complain they can't run slow, but it is clear that you know how to do the consistent slow pace runs that are key to recovery. I have used Dr Teal's plant-compound infused Epsom salts as well as the foaming bath versions for years. It does help a lot to revive and loosen up dead running legs! And much times I just use the Dr Teal's soaks cause I 66-yrs old and got very stiff and much time lower back pain issues that soaking each morning start the day...gets me back into more normal movement...but all my soaks are in as warm/hot water I can get out of my hot water heater! Good job and results in your 90-mi week mission...just don't make a habit of it? LOL!

  4. You've kept things interesting even without races and I wanted to read how the 90-mile week went! Not that I will ever attempt since I get injured if I tie my shoes wrong...but it's just interesting to read how normal people with full time jobs pull off these high-mileage weeks (honestly, even pre-baby 70 miles was a challenge for me logistically. It might be impossible now!). But kicking it off with a marathon - well, that's especially challenging! Smart to dedicate extra time and effort to recovery. Looks like you came through with a strong week, no injuries, and a confidence boost!