I haven’t blogged about marathon training in a while because, quite frankly, marathon training hasn’t really happened in said while. On June 23rd, I started training for the Munich marathon, following the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST)’s Novice 1 plan. It’s a 16 week program that I’ve already successfully trained with to complete the NYC Marathon. The plan for the NY Marathon was slightly different, but the methodology is the same. It worked well for me. What I like about it is that it keeps the number of runs to a minimum, which, in turn, allows you to cross-train. Instead of running 5 or 6 days a week, you do 3 hard running workouts and get “time off” to play other sports. In my case, this is CrossFit, something I’d be miserable without. [In fact, FIRST encourages you to cross-train, though they’re recommending other sports such as rowing, swimming or cycling since the FIRST methodology was originally created for triathletes/ironmen.]
The first few weeks of marathon training were tough, but doable. I put in some great efforts, especially considering that I came back from a longish running break. You can read about my early progress under the Munich marathon tag.
But then the end of July/August & real life happened. Week 13 is when things started going south.
I missed my first run, only to miss two more the following week. Unfortunately, thanks to personal obligations, job craziness, insomnia and a fairly severe depressive episode, this pattern continued all throughout August, causing me to skip 5 (out of 15) runs, modify 6 and only complete 4 as scheduled. Despite scaling back in favor of more (bad) sleep, I was overtrained and felt like I was in the worst shape of my life. No matter how hard I tried to rest, my body just didn’t recover as quickly as it should. August was, without a doubt, a total training disaster and as I moved into September, I paid the price.
Fast forward to the first week of September. After treating myself to some vacation time and a handful of modified runs, I had to realize that my body could just not handle the volume, without having built continuously through August. Because even little & slow running is too much if you’ve not been running as consistently as you should have. I ended up with an inflammation in my left foot (feels like it’s a tendon), something I’ve been trying to fight with rest and painkillers.
The last two weeks had me complete the LSD, sometimes under excruciating pain, but skip the shorter runs. Meanwhile I’ve increased the number of CrossFit classes because I felt like I had to do something and because I know that CrossFit is beneficial for my marathon training. Sure, there’s no way around the LSD when training for a marathon, but there are other ways to build strength in your muscles and your cardiovascular system. If there’s one thing that’s not hurting for once, it’s my knees, thanks to the stability I’ve built through CrossFit. I also feel that my posture is much better when I run, thanks to increased core strength. Yay, less back pain! And obviously my muscles have benefited; I feel like takes them a lot longer to grow tired during my long runs and that they’re able to recover faster. Even my endurance is not as awful as you’d expect.
In the end, it’s “just” the tendons in my feet that can’t deal and CrossFit can’t fix those. [Here’s me being proof that Crossfit does not cause injury. It’s actually helped me be injured less. Knee pain used to be a big running-related issue for me.]
Last weekend was my personal D-Day; the day that would determine whether I should even attempt the marathon or not. The 20 miler (32km). During the week, I skipped my short runs (intervals on the track and tempo) and added a rowing workout instead. After this peak LSD, I was going to know where I stood.
While the run was incredibly tough and by far not as comfortable as the 20-miler I did before the NY marathon, I completed it well enough that I’ll be able to start in 3 weeks. The first 4 – 5 km were pure hell, but after that, it was actually a pretty decent run. Only the last few KMs were painful again, but who knows how much of that was just mental and how much the adrenaline on race day will help me push through? I was as slow as a snail, but if you’re injured, you’ll have to accept the fact that a PR is extremely unlikely. I’ve revised my goal for this marathon a long time ago: to simply finish. It’s just the way it is.
If I’ve learned one thing from this training cycle, then it’s the fact that unfortunately, as much as you love working out and enjoy challenging yourself, real life still happens and sometimes, it messes with you big time. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Missing a handful of runs when marathon training is not going to interfere with your race goals. Missing & modifying 6 weeks out of a 16 week training plan is an entirely different beast. All that’s left for me now is to accept the challenge and try my best.
For the next three weeks, for me this means spending some more time on the rower during the week and completing my LSDs on the weekend. It’s not ideal, but it’s what I’ll have to keep doing until the marathon. I know that unfortunately, my body can’t handle the additional runs right now, especially not hard runs. So here’s hoping that while rowing is not running, it’ll help build some additional endurance while I give my foot as much rest as I possibly can, and that rowing will be enough to help me finish on October 12.