I’ve really dithered about whether or not to write this post, let alone publish it. It’s basically me reflecting on this past training cycle so whilst it’s useful for ME, it may be a little too much navel-gazing for you, so please feel free to come back another week!!
I’ve also dithered about posting this because I clearly didn’t PR last Sunday – I melted at mile 8. Which was frustrating because I felt like this had been my best training cycle for a very long time. But how COULD it be such a great training cycle if I hadn’t achieved my goal? Surely the proof is in the pudding!
I discussed this with the girls over the weekend and they persuaded me that it could still be a great training cycle, despite the lack of PR. As we get a little faster, it gets harder and harder to PR. Initially every race is a PR and we’re awesome but eventually we get to the point where everything needs to come together perfectly to make it happen. Last time I PR’d at Healdsburg, I was new into my running life – it was the first time I ever went sub-two. There was ‘padding’ in my running records. Now, four years later, I’m closer to what I’m actually capable of. I still think there’s a minute or two that I can take off, but it’s not going to be easy. I’d need a flat course, a colder day, less wine…
All of the above to say that I think the below reflections are still valid, but I’ve not forgotten that all the wondrousness didn’t result in a PR.
With that said…these are my thoughts.
I started the training cycle in mid August, post road-trip, feeling like a tub of lard. I was fresh back from 6 or 7 weeks of traveling when my healthy-eating habits had disintegrated and I was one sluggish lady.
8 weeks, not 12 weeks
The biggest difference was that this training cycle was only 8 weeks, rather than the traditional 12. I’d been running all summer but slowly, for fun, exploring…never very long or very hard. I was initially totally freaked out about the missing 4 weeks, but it also took some pressure off. I’d do my best and I’d see what happened.
In retrospect,I think the shorter timescale both worked for and against me. The shortened timescale meant that every week counted – therefore I was more focussed and I enjoyed it more. On the whole, I came out of each week feeling stronger. However, once again, my race fell apart due to lack of endurance so maybe I needed those extra four weeks to build up endurance!
More longer runs
Usually I only do 12 or 13 mile runs. This time I did several 13 milers, two x 14 milers, 1 x 15 miler. That built confidence. I’ll add in more longer runs to my next cycle. Also, I really enjoyed those longer runs!!
This was the first time I added fast finishes to my training. I did three. One was 13 miles with the last 3 at goal pace. One was 15 miles with the last 5 at goal pace and one was 13 miles with the last 5 at goal pace. I seriously loved doing those runs and it definitely built confidence. I hoped it would build endurance but obviously not as much as expected. However it definitely taught me what 8.30 pace feels like and how to hold it! Useful skills.
The other big change was running on a track. I’ve always included interval sessions in all my training plans but I’ve run them all on the Bay Trail that runs round my town. This time, I made an effort and drove pretty much every week to the High School track in San Mateo. On most other weeks, I ran at the less-than-perfect track around my local park (where the corners are pretty much 90 degrees).
The High School track was a revelation. I NEVER expected to love it but I seriously did. I love running in circles, apparently. I love feeling like an Olympian as I dash around. I love studiously ignoring all the High School football and soccer players training in the middle. I love the floodlights. I love running hard and stopping my watch on each lap. I seriously have loved it and I think it’s made me a much better runner. I have NO idea why running on a track would be more effective than basically the same workout on a concrete trail but apparently it is.
Running with friends
The other delight of this training cycle was running with friends. I got to do two long runs with Jen and two long runs with Lisa. In addition, Lisa and I met most weeks at the track and ran together there. It’s just been so nice, especially on the long runs. Those miles have flown past. I need to prioritise this more in the future.
The first four weeks of the training cycle included at least two days of cross-training…namely cycling as I ‘trained’ for the Tour de Tahoe. It was a bit of a hassle fitting those long rides especially into busy weeks, but I think it was great to get that cross-training in at the start of the training cycle. I did much more cardiovascular exercise but without the strain on my running legs.
After the ride, I did very little (i.e….zero) cross-training and that was a shame and something I really regret. It was nice to have the additional rest days (three per week) and actually I wonder if those rest days kept my legs fresh for running but I’d like to find cross-training activities that fit more easily into my life for at least one of those rest days in the future. (I did promise Grace I’d start swimming once Healdsburg was over…)
What didn’t work as well?
The thing that bugs me the most is that lack of race endurance. In both my 10k and this half, I faded 2/3 of the way through the race despite (in this case) some longer, fast-finish runs. I can only keep working on this.
I definitely didn’t rock this. My last long run was the Sunday before the race – 13 miles with 6 at goal pace. It was rough. I did hold the pace, but I felt pretty awful at the end. My legs were toast. So I purposefully scaled back my taper and did two very, very easy runs that week, nothing else. I have no idea if that was the right thing to do.
My nutrition throughout the training cycle was pretty decent (not perfect, come on) and I was happy with my weight on race day. However I definitely didn’t focus on nutrition enough during Taper Week. I probably shouldn’t have had that extra glass of wine the night before. I do NOT think it contributed to missing my goal but I think it shows a lack of steel will to PR! (It was very nice though).
Gels are horrible. I did not like my gels during the race. I planned to take three, at miles 4,8 and 12. In the end, I took one at 4 (which took me a mile to get down) and one at 9 which was horrible. I definitely need to try different race-day fueling options because I think my Gu days are numbered.
If you made it this far, congratulations!! I know it’s a lot of drama for a middle-aged hobby-jogger’s failed PR attempt but it’s been helpful for me to get it down on ‘paper’ so thanks!!