Week 15 was probably the most challenging week of my training plan. I had a couple of 10-mile runs (one at marathon pace), an 8×800 workout, and my final 20-mile long run. I didn’t make things any easier by shifting my schedule around, causing me to run 9 days straight without a rest day. I survived though and my runs were a success, so I’m hoping it’s smooth sailing now as I begin to taper. Here’s what I did for week 15:
Monday: Ran 10 miles. I normally would have run 5 miles to start the week, but I shifted the previous week’s runs a day earlier so I’d be able to run 20 on Saturday this week. I ran on the trails at an easy pace, but it didn’t really feel like such an easy run. I got bored with the long, straight stretches of the Paint Creek and Clinton River Trails. I was okay physically. I just wasn’t very excited about the run mentally. I came across Matt when I had 3-4 miles left, and finishing with him definitely helped.
Tuesday: Ran 8 miles – an 8×800 workout. After running 10 miles the day before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my legs in terms of speed. I figured I’d run my repeats slower if I needed to. While I’ve done some of my 800s around a 6:40-6:50 pace, I told myself to aim for a 7:00 pace this time around. Now is not the time to get hurt, and I don’t need to push much faster than that if I’m aiming for a 3:35 marathon anyway. After warming up for a mile, I hit the track. I made it through all 8 repeats without a problem, averaging around 6:55 overall. I went as fast as a 6:49 pace and as slow as 6:57. I especially felt that the workout was a success because I didn’t walk at all during the recovery laps. When I’ve done 800s recently, I’ve been walking the first 100-200 meters of the recovery laps when I’ve found myself struggling to catch my breath. Maybe slowing the pace down just a bit helped enough to keep me from walking this time around. I was thrilled to complete what I considered the toughest workout run of my marathon training.
Wednesday: 40 minutes of strength training followed by a 3-mile run. I really debated if I should run or take the day off. Higdon’s schedule has workouts take place on Thursdays followed by a day off on Friday. I understand why, because I was feeling it after running the 800s. I felt okay for the most part, but my shins were pretty sore. I was supposed to run 5 miles, but compromised and ran 3 instead. I treated it like a recovery run and took it slow. I was fine and decided it would be wise to ice my shins afterwards.
Thursday: Ran 10 miles at marathon pace. I normally would have done this run on Saturday and 20 miles on Sunday. However, I was going to run 20 on Saturday instead. I really wanted to get the pace run in before my 20 and not the day after. Running 10 on Friday was not really an option. We were going to drive to Grand Rapids after work on Friday, so I couldn’t get the run in then. I start work way too early in the morning to squeeze in nearly an hour and a half of running beforehand. So, I shifted the run to Thursday. My work/running buddy Jeff kept offering to run with me, so I took him up on his offer. He’s super speedy, so maintaining my 8:13 pace was a breeze for him. We ran out and back on the Paint Creek Trail, and his company and distraction really helped. A few of the miles on the way out felt a little tough, but it felt better on the way back. With an 8:07 average, we hit my goal pace and then some. My legs felt a little stiff the next day, but they loosened up as the day went on.
Friday: Rest. I think 9 days in a row is about the longest I’ve gone without taking a break from running. I needed the break!
Saturday: Ran 20 miles. When I first saw that Gazelle Sports was putting on a 10 and 20-mile training run, I was definitely interested. For $20, the training run allowed people to run a good chunk of the Grand Rapids Marathon course with aid stations, plus a special technical shirt from Saucony was included. We had plans to go to the west side of the state to visit family anyway. I mentioned it to Matt and he was interested, so we decided to sign up and get a hotel. We actually booked the same hotel that we’ll be staying in for the marathon, so this would be a true test run for the big race day. I’d never done an organized training run before and I was excited. I was especially excited to get a preview of parts of the course.
The training run started at 7:30, and our hotel was about 15-20 minutes away. Yet another crazy early morning! The run was based out of the YMCA, which is where the marathon will start as well. We got there about half an hour early to pick up our shirts and bibs. Although it was not a race, they gave us bibs so they could track people in case of an emergency. I would guess at least 200 people were there.
Don Kern, the director of the Grand Rapids Marathon, was there and talked to the crowd before the start of the run. We lucked out with the weather – it was in the low 50s and clear. Since this wasn’t a race, the start was kind of uneventful. The crowd got moving and Matt and I followed. The roads were not closed, but we only spent about a mile in town before we hit trails. There was very little traffic at that hour anyway. The crowd was so big that half of us were on the road and half of us were on the sidewalk. The first mile or two was a little slow, but then people spread out a bit more. Matt is training for the half marathon, so he signed up for the 10-mile run. It was an out and back course, so he was able to go out a little farther before he turned around to get more than 10 miles in. We ran the first 5-6 miles together which helped pass the time.
Most of the run was on the Kent Trails / Indian Mounds Rd. It is basically a paved bike path, and we had run on a portion of it when we did the River Bank Run 25K in May. It’s a tree-covered path that’s very pretty and peaceful. As the 20-mile runners got farther out, we went through a park and along a main road before turning around and retracing our steps. When I got back to the bike path, the pretty and peaceful aspect was harder to appreciate as I got tired and bored. That stretch is pretty desolate. On the way out, I always had a number of people close by. People were much more spread out on the way back. Miles 15-17 were the toughest for me. Although my pace was still decent, my splits slowed down for those 3 miles and it was more of a struggle. As we got out of the tree-covered portion, I stopped at an aid station around 15.5 miles. Most of the stations were unmanned, and people could help themselves to water, Gatorade, oranges, Oreos, and pickle juice. That station didn’t have the snacks, so I put some extra water in one of my bottles and kept going. I had it in my head that I needed to at least try some of the Oreos. I wanted to wait until later in the run in case they didn’t sit well. About a mile later I hit another aid station. There was a friendly volunteer and that table had Oreos. It was the one thing I had to look forward to at that point in the run! I stopped my watch for a couple minutes and ate a couple Oreos as I stretched. They were wonderful, and then I trotted on happily. It’s possible that the Oreos boosted my mood and/or blood sugar, or the stretching and brief break helped my legs. Maybe it was some of both. My pace picked back up for the remaining 3 miles or so and I had a strong finish.
There was a table about a mile from the finish where a guy from Gazelle cheered for the runners very loudly and enthusiastically. He made me smile and I’m sure that helped too. Right around the corner, I ran into Matt. He had come out to help run me in. I knew that I had less than a mile left and I got pretty excited. I was about to finish 20 solid miles and I felt good! It felt very empowering to finish those 20 miles. I realized that I don’t care what kind of pace I run for the marathon. I’m just going to feel so excited that I’ve done it when I finish.
At the end of the run, there were bottles of water, apples, and some bread from Great Harvest Bread Company. We hung out for a little bit, then headed to the car where I also had a Clif Builder’s Bar to eat. I found out that Matt had been able to swap my t-shirt, and I was thrilled. For some odd reason, small shirts were white while all of the other sizes were orange. White shirts are usually my least favorite and often seem to be see-through. I signed up for a small since that’s typically my size even though I knew I’d be stuck with white. They had extra shirts afterwards, so Matt asked if he could swap for an extra small. I was worried it could be too small, but it was actually just right. I really like the design of the shirt, so I was happy I’d actually want to wear it.
I was really glad we did this training run. I knew if Gazelle was involved, it would be a good event. When it comes to running stores, Gazelle is one of the best. They have locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Holland. When we’re on the west side of the state, we love to stop there.
Sunday: Ran 5 miles. Matt and I ran 5 miles together near the Battle Creek area, where we were visiting family. I thought my legs would surely struggle after 20 the day before. It was a nice surprise that I held up just fine.
Totals for the week: Strength training once, ran 56 miles.
I’d like to think I’ve made it through the hardest part now…aside from the marathon, of course. Aside from some aches and pains (my shins and my left hip) I’m holding up pretty good. I’m feeling confident and I’m looking forward to cutting back on the miles as I taper for the next few weeks.