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Thursday, April 19, 2012

adapting and adjusting

After every big race I try to take a step back to give myself some time to recover and to reflect on how my training and racing went.  I look closely at my training plan - what speed work I was doing, what paces I was targeting and what I was actual running, my nutrition and hydration strategies and how they were or weren't working for me.  How many miles I was running each week and what my peak mileage came in at for that cycle.  Whether or not there was variety in the types of workouts I was doing - hills, intervals at the track, tempo runs ... long runs with race pace miles and also recovery runs done at the proper pace.  Did every run have a purpose - and was I true to that purpose each time I laced up my shoes to get out there?  These kinds of things tick through my head as I try to think of new ways to approach my training, and as I look ahead to the next goals I want to accomplish.

My last marathon training cycle was a big one for me.  In the fall when I was training for MCM, I peaked at 50 miles - more miles than I had ever run in one week in all my life!  It was a major victory for me and I was so proud and amazed.  I ran MCM in 3:41:56 - a huge PR for me.  But I wanted to improve and knew I could do more.  After looking closely at my MCM training, I decided there were two areas I would bring my focus to as I headed into RnR training - increased weekly miles and a faster long run pace with more marathon race pace miles.  I would do this only so long as my body was responding well to it, though - I did not want to get injured and if my body started telling me I was doing too much, I would pull back.


I built my mileage slowly and conservatively.  I ran 6 days a week, once per day (I have still yet to do a double day in my running life - but that will be changing soon as I head into my next marathon training cycle).  I ran several 50 mile (or more) weeks over the winter, and my peak mileage week during RnR training was 64 miles.  THIS was HUGE!  Months earlier 50 miles in one week was a giant accomplishment, and now here I was doing that regularly with no problem.  Wow.

It is pretty much incredible to me how the body will adapt.  And how the mind adjusts along the way.  This is how we learn to believe in ourselves and how our dreams can become reality - we step outside that comfort zone.  We go to that edge and we take a chance.  If we stay in our comfortable place where there are no risks -- then there will likely not be rewards.  And we have to constantly be aware of where we are along our path, because we can so easily get comfortable and complacent again.  If we want to grow and find the true depth of our strength and our capabilities, we have to dig deeper and we have to go farther into those places that scares us.  I believe that with all of my heart on so many levels in life, not just with running.

I remember at the beginning of RnR training, when I built my training plan and saw those 60+ mile weeks on the schedule.  My stomach got butterflies and I was scared, terrified even.  What if my body couldn't handle all those miles?  What if I got injured and ruined my chances of running the marathon, much less a PR and a BQ?  How would I balance running all those miles with three kids in the winter months, plus my business and my volunteering responsibilities and all the chores and duties as a stay at home mom on top of it (agh, laundry!)?  I took a deep breath and decided I would take it one step at a time, one day at a time.  I trusted it would all be okay, and that if it was meant to be -- it would happen.  If not, I would at the very least come out of it learning something new about myself.  In many ways, I couldn't really lose.

Each week as the miles added up I found that my body was handling it.  It was intense, but it was also intensely FUN and REWARDING.  I was excited.  I was grateful.  I was getting faster and stronger and more faithful.  It was also tiring though, and I was ready for a break once I crossed the Finish Line at RnR a little over a month ago.

My plan after the marathon was to take the rest of March to recover and then use April and May to improve my fitness at shorter distances before I start preparing for my fall marathon in June.  I built a training plan for myself and I'm enjoying it SO much.  The funny (and amazing) thing about it though, is that I ran 53.5 miles last week.  I am NOT training for a marathon and this is my weekly mileage?!?  This is such a classic example of adaptation.  I'm in my (new) comfort zone right now and it makes me happy to be here.  I love that 50 mile weeks are my new standard mileage.

Don't worry though - it's not all completely comfortable.  My focus right now is on getting faster at shorter distances, so each week I have a tempo run that kicks my butt and a long run (up to 16 miles so far) that is challenging me a ton.  I've got three races this Spring - my 10 miler this Sunday, a 5k in May and a half marathon in June.  I want to PR in all three of them, so that means pushing myself and going outside of my comfort zone on race day.  It scares me, but I won't know if I don't try.

How do you tweak things after a training cycle?  What goals do you have for the Spring and are you taking yourself outside your comfort zone to get there?

5 comments:

So awesome! I love seeing how our bodies are so capable of adapting to higher intensity/mileage. Runners get to see this in such a clear way, and it's so rewarding. Can't wait to hear how those races go for you! Get those PRs!!

I sort of keep my milage high year around, good or not, that's what I do. I like to run year around and target several races throughout the year. As one get's closer, I'll up the intensity, but the miles are there for me year around, high or low.

Outside my comfort level? I plan on signing up for a 50 miler this year. That will blow my comfort zone away!

I took myself out of my comfort zone, and I'm injured! GAH! I tried chasing the PRs and lost. Actually, I think I lost because I neglected my strength training. My mileage was getting up into the 60s, and I just didn't have the time with school/kids/life to get to the gym to lift. And I should have taken 10 minutes after my runs to do core work. Lesson learned!

Best of luck on your spring races, Jess! There is no spring here. We just go straight to summer. Supposed to be in the 100s over the next 4 days-ALREADY!. My goal is to survive until it cools down and then hit up some fall coastal races.

I am focusing on some shorter distance events for now. My next full is NYC in November and that feels forever away. It's hard to go from marathons to 5k's. To me it's just not as mentally rewarding although the pain seems pretty real when you are sprinting at 5K pace!

I agree about the mileage build-up. 50 just feels good- even when I'm not in marathon mode. I am hoping to add a few doubles in my next cycle as well. I just don't want to overdo it and get injured... I guess I'll just see how my body can handle it as the time comes. Good luck in your upcoming races! Btw- how is your sister doing? Any update?

That was a nice post, an inspiring post to have for those who were joining marathons nowadays. Thanks for sharing, looking forward for more updates.

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