9 weeks to Big Cottonwood

Posted: July 15, 2013 in Training
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Week number 11 of our Big Cottonwood Marathon cycle was entered into the books with a 21-mile long run to cap off a 71-mile week – only the 6th time we’ve ever run that much in a single week and only 4 miles short of our most volume ever preparing for the marathon that wasn’t – Boston 2012.

I remember those previous 70+ mile weeks when the final miles on Sunday were a struggle.  I felt like I was pushing right up until the end and while the volume was significant – I was also running them in February and March, not July and August here in Texas.

Back in 2011 training for New York City we did train through a Texas summer but we were peaking between 62-65 miles.

Sunday’s run – and I of course try to keep any individual workout in perspective – as taken alone and out of context – no single workout really means much of anything during a training cycle.  They are akin to a spec of sand on an entire beach.  But on Sunday coach assigned my “weekend workout” at the tail end of my long run, not on Saturday as we have been accustomed to in the past.

The plan on Sunday called for 13 miles at MGP + :60 seconds – or 7:50 pace – our typical summer long run pace – and then at mile 13 shift gears and run the next 7 miles with 4:00 minute intervals at Goal Pace, alternating with 4:00 minutes at 7:35.  At the end of those 7 miles, I would run whatever distance remained at an easy pace to reach 21 miles.

I ran the hill route out of the neighborhood, then hit the Avery Ranch Golf Course for more hills and a return to the neighborhood for the first 13 miles.  I took a quick sip of EFS on the front porch of the house and changed out of my soaked through running shorts into a new pair.  My shoes were still in pretty good shape, so I decided to run the rest of the workout in the same socks and shoes.  My heavy Brooks trainers.

My 4:00 minute intervals came in at 6:51, 6:45, 6:43, 6:40, 6:39, 6:42, 6:50.  Perfect.

As I ran the last 8/10 of a mile I still felt very strong.  My form was rock-solid.  I felt like if I had to drop 5 more miles at 7:00 min./mile pace – I had that much left in me.  All at the end of a tough week of training.  Now again, not to make too much of any of this, other than the fact that the plan that Coach Carmen has put together for me this summer seems to be working.

A good mixture of easy runs, long runs and strategic rest days mixed in with long intervals, repeats on the track and 5K-10K pace workouts to spend some time at Lactate Threshold pace.   Paces that I rarely if ever ran during a marathon training cycle in the past.

The payoff when we spoke about this approach 3 months ago was to make 6:50 pace seem much easier on race day.  That if I could improve my running economy or “gas mileage”, I would have what it took to close out Cottonwood strong and run the final 10 kilometers of that race with my hair on fire if need be.

Simply put.  I feel like it is working.  Never have I felt this strong, this ready, this early in a marathon cycle.  Now it is a matter of not peaking too early, continuing to build week upon week and then when the taper arrives, sharpen my mental game so that there is not a sliver of doubt in my mind about going for it on September 14th.

From the outside looking in I received an interesting comment from a good friend.  A runner that has followed every training cycle and race that I have put together since Run for Dom in 2010.  He has seen me at my absolute best and at some of the lowest of low points over the last three+ years.  After my workout on Sunday he wrote:

“Another strong confidence booster for ya’ Joe (both today’s run and the week) … while you are always focused and motivated you seem to be even more so for this marathon – and it appears to be paying off BIG TIME. have a terrific Sunday.”

What struck me as memorable about that note is that yes, to me I feel much more focused this go round.  More detached.  More clinical in my approach.  I have been keeping emotion and desire out of it thus far – as I know on race day I will be able to summon those feelings if I need them.  All I ever have to do is to cast a passing glance at the initials D.V.D. and numbers 8-15-10 on my race flats to tap into those reserves.

But for my friend Jim to remark that even he can notice the difference this time all the way from Wells, ME – than surely there is something different going on.

That was the whole point in working with Coach this training cycle.  I feel as if I took myself about as far as I could by myself.  It was time to shake things up.  Move out of my comfort zone.  Train differently.  Commit to each workout and execute.  Emotionless.  Detached.  Focused.

Some runners believe that on race day they can surpass what they have shown while training.  That it is all supposed to magically come together when the lights  go on and the stage is lit.

For some of them it works.  But when it comes to the marathon, the truth of the matter is I have pretty much run the races I was supposed to run with a couple of bad breaks thrown in with race day weather.

If that holds true this time – I’ll take it.  The race I am supposed to run on September 14th, the one that I am prepared to run – the one that I am ready to run will allow me to reach my full potential.  In the end that is all any of us can hope to get out of the sport.  We’ve got quite a bit more pounds of sweat and effort to pour onto the road, track and trail over the next 9 weeks.  That’s fine, all part of the price of admission.

Bring it on.


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