One of my oft mis-quoted quotables is a version of the last few lines from T.S. Elliot’s The Hollow Men.
This is the way marathon season begins. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
It’s not news to me, but I always fear taking a break, even for a week, because my head does crazy things. Not like other athletes who complain about the lack of activity, I don’t mind that, I know my body likes the rest after a hard effort. It’s about the coming back. I’m always afraid that somehow I’m going to return to sport and I’ll have lost the joy or taste or the aptitude I had previously for it. Like this whole triathlete thing was a fluke.
Newton’s First Law states that “”An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” This is so my life. If you set me on a course, and it’s not intolerable or offensive to me, I’ll just keep doing whatever the fuck I was doing until something disrupts me. I actually lost a TON (ok, 1/20th of a ton) of weight just relying on inertia once I found something that worked. It wasn’t the healthiest, holistic way of losing weight and relied on counting calories and 100 calorie snack packs and fat free cheese (shudder), but it led me to where I am today, so that’s a good thing in the grand scheme.
I tend to fear rest simply because of the oomph needed to get inertia going again. That’s why I’ll never go into off season without a goal race planned and a projected time to exit. I fear it would be too easy to forget I love to race and remember I love wine and my couch too much.
Usually one week isn’t all that much, but I had the combined and completely irrational fear of “what if I’ve lost all my fitness” and “what if I haven’t taken enough time off to mentally be ready to handle training again” (one or the other might make sense, but not both at once!). I’m pretty sure you don’t lose any measurable fitness in one week, and I’m pretty sure 8 weeks of training isn’t anywhere close to my burnout point, so, yeah. Brain woogies.
I had a… let’s just say… annoying-ish Monday, and my husband was stuck late at work so I was solo and I had other stuff to do and I was tired and didn’t feel like it and cranky. However, since this isn’t my first rodeo, I knew that was EXACTLY WHY I needed to run, however short or slow it was. I also knew I was kinda bored of my usual route and needed to get groceries, so I drove to the grocery store, which happened to be a block from a nice two mile stretch where a lot of folks run and bike, so I set out there.
Half a mile in, I felt great. I finished the loop and kept dancing around my car because I didn’t want to stop. Nothing fast, just 4.5 miles easy, but I was happy. I half hoped my husband got home and decided he wanted to go for a night run, because I was up for 5 more miles no problem.
We knocked out 4.5 more miles in the morning on Tuesday, and 3 at lunch, and my week was looking up! I was getting the miles just as I could, and little snippets of runs instead of big ambitious miles made the recovery easier, right?
So then why, on Wednesday, did I wake up feeling like I got hit by a freight train? I still don’t have a great answer, but I was pretty much flattened – tired, no voice, sore throat, so I worked and slept. Zero training. Thursday, I woke up feeling exactly the same. Bleh. I felt a wee bit better by the end of the day (or maybe just not any worse as I expected to come down with something), so I gingerly got on the trainer and spun for 40 mins.
I felt pretty great after, and had ZERO change in symptoms on Friday morning except the daily allergy pills I had started on Wednesday just in case seemed to have kicked in because I felt less tragic overall, and decided at that point to get on with my life.
I ran 3.5 miles after work with Zliten and our headlamps. Mile 1 was sludgy (to be expected). Mile 2 felt great (though I stayed at my snail pace anyway). Around mile 3, I started feeling a bit weak and kept slowing so I jogged it in and called it. Probably one of the worst feeling runs in a while. I was not encouraged by this.
Saturday morning, I woke up feeling ok, and it was 65 and rainy outside, so I HAD to get out there to play in the puddles. My run plan was only to run until I felt worse than when I started (which is pretty much never on normal runs), or til 10:30, whichever came first. While I kept it snail’s pace again, after mile 3 or so, the normal magic happened and I found myself speeding up just a bit at the end and extending the run to 6 miles, even though it was a little past my projected quitting time.
I hit the trainer for 45 mins while the Kona Ironman Champs kicked off. There may have also been champagne toasts and chips and dip eaten, so you can tell how SERIOUS that cycling work was, right? It was a little less rewarding to watch Kona than last year when we rocked an 18 mile run first, but two hours of activity was just about right, I felt good that day but really tired by the end of it and slept great (and 10+ hours) that night.
Sunday, I had considered a little more activity since I felt much better, but it’s my normal rest day, so I observed it. We did laundry, batch cooked, picked up a bit, and binge watched Family Guy in between it all because it was brainless and it was exactly the day I needed.
And now, I arrive at today. I wouldn’t say I’m 100%, but I’m definitely in the 90s and plan to resume the run all the (easy) miles plan this week. While I’m not happy I was knocked down a bit last week, I can’t have picked a better week for it to have happened.
Week 1 (10/6-10/12):
- 21.5 miles/just over 4 hours running
- 33 miles/1.5 hours of cycling (trainer)
- 0 miles of swimming (according to plan)
- 0 strength sessions (oops)
Week 2’s plan is a little more. Physically I’ve got the allergy issue I’m dealing with, but mentally I feel a little more ready than last week to rock, so maybe taking things a little easier last week wasn’t so bad of an idea.
- 38-44 miles running/7-8 hours running. If I feel sassy, I’ll run a few miles of one of my 5 milers as a tempo, but for now, I’m all about building an easy base since during tri season, I was about at 15-25 miles and I raced a half ironman two weeks ago really hard and I’m doing more so my body may need time to continue to recover and adapt.
- 1 trainer session. Easy, with the goal of spinning out my legs the day after my long run. 1-2 hours as sounds good.
- 0 swims. I don’t want to get to January 1st this year without any pool/lake time since the race, but I’ll fit it in next week.
- 2 arms/core sessions + stretching. Nothing long, nothing fancy, but doing something to work these out. 20 mins for the work, 10 mins for the stretching. I need to find an hour per week to do this.
It’s always a weird transition, going from triathlon season to marathon season. While it doesn’t sound that different (run more, swim and bike less), it’s a paradigm shift in my head.
See, there are tradeoffs between doing triathlons and doing marathons. There is a simplicity to marathon training when triathlon is anything but simple. Balancing three sports of workouts, trying to time everything right, making sure you don’t fuck up and put a hard swim set at lunch when you have a 2.5 hour smashy smashy brick 5 hours later. When you’re running, it’s pretty easy to keep track of not doing run speedwork right after you’ve done run speedwork!
It’s a huge act of keeping the plates spinning – which I love – but can get to be tiresome. Also, keeping all that gear straight! There’s practice goggles and race goggles and caps and pool earplugs and lake earplugs and wetsuits and tri suits and don’t even get me started on bikes and nutrition and hydration and thinking about whether it’s a brick or not. And, let’s also not mention packing up to train or race elsewhere. It feels like you’re packing for a month long holiday, not a day or weekend trip!
Last week’s (sorta failed, but still applicable) plan was: Run. How simple is that? Generally easy pace but not stressing out about it. Whenever I have time. This week, we’ll get to a bit more structure with an actual long run goal range of 15-18 miles, MAYBE a gentle entry into speedwork – just a few miles faster than the easy, chatty, non-thinky zone to wake the legs up, and some arms/core work to stave off the fall putty upper body marathon problems. But, in general, the plan this month is to run. Occasionally fast, long every week or two, but just do the work – 35-50 miles per week.
The flip side is I really didn’t feel up to running at some points last week, but the idea of activity wasn’t offensive. During tri season, I could easily switch that around to be a trainer, spin class, lake swim, pool swim, maybe even a rare weekday ride outside, or even a brick with a short run, but with only running, there is run or do not run. This week, I think I’ll be less cranky since we get some fall weather, because when it’s nice pretty much all I want to do is run outside above all else, so there is that.
So, while I’d rather have had a BANG and have completed my 35 miles as planned last week, I’ll take a whimper over nothing any day. However, my confidence could use a good week this week since we only have SEVEN (yipes) weeks until the marathon. I feel WAYYY behind even though I know that’s incredibly silly because I started from just about zero with 8 weeks to rocking the shit out of a half ironman, and this seven week block is starting from FAR from zero, but that’s the reality of my not-so-rational brain right now and I just need a good week of running to make those gremlins go away.
Question of the day: How sick do you have to be to rest on a planned workout/training day?