Marathon Training, Week #9: February 27-March 4, 2017

A revamped training plan, increased mileage, a Mardi Gras run, and some stress at the dentist . . . some of the highs and lows of this week.Monday

Six miles easy, which I did at a pretty quick pace for easy miles.  I think I had extra spring in my step.  The weather was warm, which I love (tank tops in February? Hell, yes, ma’m!), and I ran on the other side of town for some new scenery.  The route included a pretty golf course neighborhood, a greenway covered in mulch around a lake, a fire road through some forest, and a paved greenway with a lot of trees and uphill.  

Tuesday

Three miles easy with the half training group.  Gina went with the three easy miles after our tough, hilly, hot twelve miler on Saturday, and she also surprised everyone with Mardi Gras King’s Cake, beads, and nuun hurricanes.  (Gina is a New Orleans native, and she was feeling homesick as all of her Louisiana friends were posting about their Fat Tuesday shenanigans on Facebook.)

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Photo by Gina James

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Wednesday

Cross training at home: kettlebell swings, lateral lunges to work on strengthening the glutes, ankle mobility work on the stability cushions, and foam rolling.

Thursday

After a disappointing dental visit, I just wanted to crawl under a blanket on the couch and eat comfort food.  Plus, the weather had changed, and it was cold and windy.  Part of me did not want to get my run in, but the sensible part of my brain, luckily, is stronger than that reptile part that just wanted to hibernate for the night.  I knew that if I successfully repeated the mile repeats workout on my training plan, I would feel strong and accomplished and, hopefully, get past the crankiness from the dentist.

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And sure enough, it worked! Six miles with three mile repeats sandwiched in there at half marathon race pace.

Friday

Rest.

Saturday

Eight miles with the half group, starting at the NC Art Museum, running out Reedy Creek and into Umstead, turning right onto Turkey Creek trail, and turning back at the four mile point.  This is one of my favorite runs.  You have three distinct sections on the way out, and the same three (but in a different vertical direction!) on the way back.  The first section, about a half mile in length,  is downhill through a commercial/industrial section of town.  It makes for a nice warm up.  Then you go through a short tunnel underneath a road which marks the next section. This section is a paved greenway alongside a quiet road.  On the right, there is a horse farm owned by the NC State University veterinary school. It’s lined with white fence and pretty horses watching you run. On the left side of the road, there is forest owned by the university.  This section is a rolling, net downhill descent.  You pass a lake and some beautiful houses, and it ends with an uphill climb that leads you into Umstead State Park. Immediately into the park, we turned right onto the third section of our run, Turkey Creek trail, which is part of the bicycle and bridle system, although a little narrower than the Reedy Creek trail.  It is mostly downhill on the way out, with turns left and right and some uphills.  I ran with the 12-13 group, and I was engaged in conversation most of the way, which made the first four miles seem to fly.  It’s more challenging on the way back as it is a net uphill climb, although you still get some flats and downhills to recover for the next uphill.

Because I wanted to run 16 miles for the day, I repeated the same route immediately after, on my own this time.  I had prepared a playlist on my iPod to pick up for my second half, but I decided to leave it in the car and listen to the sound of my feet instead.  When I re-entered Umstead, I saw that crowds of spectators had popped up to watch the Umstead Trail Marathon that was taking place there at 9:00 a.m. I turned back onto Turkey Creek, and it was only a few minutes before race officials on bicycles passed me, followed right behind by the leader of the race, a bald, bearded man in shorts and tank top (even though temperatures were chilly, in the 20s), who fit perfectly my stereotypical vision of a trail runner. He flew past me from behind on the downhill trail.  Before I hit the turn around point for the second time that day, another half dozen or so men in the race passed me, and there were spectators scattered here and there on the trail sides, as this section is close to a road where they are able to park and walk onto the trail through the trees.  On what would have normally been a quiet and lonesome run, I had friendly faces saying “good morning” to me every few minutes, even though it was obvious (due to no bib and my slow pace as the racers whizzed past me) I was not participating in the race.  It got even better after I turned and started back the uphill section of Turkey Creek.  Now there were a lot of racers coming through, facing me, and I made sure to say “great job” to each and everyone of them.  Even though I was running uphill which made it hard to expend that energy to talk, it gave me energy back to watch most of them smile, say thanks, and many of them said “good job” back.  The running community is so awesome. The trail running community seems even a step beyond this, more gracious, more humble, more kind.  I suspect that the encouragement was welcome at this point (I think they were on mile 13-15 when I saw them), especially since crowd support is so minimal at this race (I usually race the half marathon in the park in May, so I’ve experienced what they were experiencing, as least half of it.).  I saw the first female coming down the hill at me, and I realized I know her.  Her name is Linda, the running program coordinator at LifeTime Fitness where I’ve done some training programs and races. This woman is beautiful and in beautiful shape, looking like she does some major cross training in addition to her running.  She’s in her 50s, and every time I see her at a local race, she is placing in the top three.  (Sure enough, I saw a post on Facebook later in the day–she had won first place female.  In the results section of the race website, it lists her time as 3:32, running an 8:07 pace. Amazing.)

Once I left the park for the second time, everything got quiet again as I made my way back uphill past the horse farm and onto the final half mile stretch.  My mind was washed over with feelings of gratitude for the morning I had just had.  Good company with good people during the first eight miles . . . the energy I had absorbed from the marathoners racing down those trails . . . lots of quiet alone time, which I really needed to shake off the stress of the week . . . texting back and forth with Gina after the run, a positive presence whom I am so thankful to have in my life . . . and feeling really good on the drive home, physically good, although tired, but not too sore at all.  An epsom salts bath and walk with my dog once I got home topped off the good feelings of the run. This is why I love running, days that feel like this.  

Sunday

Crosstraining at Orange Theory.  Fleet Feet used to be located next to one of these independently-owned branches of the fitness chain before FF moved to the other side of Park West.  The other half marathon group coach, Larisa, does her cross training at OT, and she was able to get us a free Sunday afternoon class.

When you go into OT, they provide you a heart rate monitor (some had wrist bands and others, including me, had a chest strap) that shows real-time heart rates on monitors in the studio during class. Our trainer, Tyson, gave us some tips on the rowers (water rowers rather than the fly wheel type that we use at CrossFit) and the treadmills. Half of us started with this cardio portion of the workout, about 25-28 minutes of switching back and forth between treadmill and rower.  We had a list of directions (incline, effort, and distance for the treadmills, distance for the rowers) to follow and were able to just go. They played loud, motivating music, and you could watch your heart rate (and compare it to others’) on the monitors.  In the middle of the class, my group switched with the group doing the strength training. For this, he showed us the exercises we would do, put the names and illustrations for them on a monitor, and adjusted people’s form as necessary. We did goblet lateral lunges, tricep raises, kettlebell swings (with dumbbells), core work, weighted lunges and something called a tuck jump (sort of like a mountain climber but a little more plyometric).  We did this for about the same amount of time, working out for about an hour total.

At the end of the class, you see your results (time in the zones, calories burned, average heart rate, and points) compared with others in the class.  I had the highest points and calories and one of the highest heart rates.  I’m not really sure what this means as far as my fitness level; I think it means I’m working too high as far as effort and am in too much of an anaerobic state. Immediately after the class, they email you the results, and if you are a regular OT goer, it would also show you your results for the week, month, etc.

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Photo by Larisa Bar

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In general, I really like this workout.  I still prefer my CrossFit gym, but this was a nice thing to try with friends on a Sunday afternoon. Mileage: about 2 miles on the treadmill, plus rowing and cardio-paced strength work.

Mileage for week: 33. And I feel good.  Some slight adjustments, and it’s coming back together.

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