Sometimes you start to feel like you’re closing in on those big, crazy goals you set for yourself. Like maybe that ultramarathon is doable. Maybe running (racing?) two marathons in a week is possible. You might break three hours this year after all. It hits you in the middle of your long run, when you’re knocking out marathon-pace miles on tired legs. It hits you when you look at your training log and see week after week of totals you never thought you’d get to.
The last time I felt myself getting faster was about two years ago when I inched toward 70 miles per week. I can certainly look back through my training logs and see good weeks scattered over the last two years, but I can’t remember this exact feeling. In April 2013 when I wrote about getting faster, I said what worked for me was basically running more and incorporating speed work in to my already high-mileage weeks. But back then I didn’t realize how much room I had for improvement. I took another five minutes off my marathon PR and took seven minutes (!) off my half marathon time. Hell, maybe I don’t realize how much farther I can go even now.
The last week of January was probably the hardest training week I’ve ever run. It included ice and freezing temperatures most days, too. I know there are more of these in my future. After seeing the results, I’m sickly excited about them. On Sunday afternoon, I felt legitimately exhausted. I didn’t run 100 miles (only 93), but I ran faster, harder miles than I ever would have scheduled on my own. It looked like this:
- Monday: Easy 8-miler and a gym workout for about an hour and a half. It was just starting to snow, but the pavement was clear. Easy meant 8:30 pace.
- Tuesday: 10.7 miles in the snow with YakTrax in the morning. Another 6.3 miles on the treadmill in the evening.
- Wednesday: 12 miles with speed work at Hains Point. Temperature was in the low 20s. Miles at 6:54, 6:36, 6:38, 6:34, 6:41, 6:41.
- Thursday: 10 miles at 7:45 pace.
- Friday: Easy 10K at 8:30 pace.
- Saturday: Half marathon race on an awful, icy trail. Finishing time (1:29:09) is less than a minute off my half marathon PR. Warm up and cool down for 18 total miles.
- Sunday: 22-mile long run. I could only manage an 8:28 pace after the race.
I never would have planned a long run the day after a race in my old training plan, but I now have confidence that I can at least finish a long run the day after a shorter race. It just might not be pretty. I think slower runs like these, combined with speed work (see Wednesday) are why I’m seeing real gains. I’ve also started taking easy runs seriously. By not running at a sustained 7:40 pace, which I used to feel like I needed to hold just to feel kind of fast — by just taking that pace up another 30 or 45 seconds, I’m able to save my energy for the harder speed workouts.
My next race won’t be a PR. It’s the Austin Marathon a week from today. I have no hopes of running a PR on a hilly course in the heat after four consecutive 90+-mile weeks. But I will probably set more aggressive goals for Boston and Big Sur.