Friday, July 7, 2017

Marathon Training for the Completely Average Runner: Weeks 1-2 of 18

Believe it or not, I am still chugging along running. I read this Quartz article recently about the importance of having 'serious' or otherwise meaningful leisure pursuits - ones where you have to practice and regularly refine your skills.
"...the weekend goal should be “eudaimonic” happiness, which is a sense of well-being that arises from meaningful, challenging activities that cause you to grow as a person. This means spending the weekend on serious leisure activities that require the regular refinement of skills: your barbershop-quartet singing, your stamp collecting, or slightly less dorky, but still equally in-depth, projects. You pursue serious leisure with the earnest tenor of a professional, even if the pursuit is amateur..."
Sounds a lot like hobby jogging to me!

Other components of a Really Good Weekend might include socialising (which may or may not revolve around said hobby - see 'church of the Sunday long run'), altruism (like volunteer work), and play. Especially play. Sometimes the early evening seems to drag as we kill time while waiting for D-money to go to bed, but sometimes there are moments of magic as we entertain him and lose ourselves in singing silly songs, having dinosaur-train face-offs, or making him laugh by sketching badly drawn animals on the Magna Doodle.

Toddler icecreamface. He wouldn't take a nap, so we went for a run so he could get a little rest...all the way to the ice cream shop.  

What all this leads up to is that I'm currently training for the Baystate Marathon on October 22. I ran the half last year and liked it; it's a two-loop course that I know; it usually has good (cold!) weather; and it's part of the USATF New England Grand Prix series so I'll have plenty of company, even if pretty much everyone else running with a club team is miles ahead of me.

Process goals for this round: 

- Commit to doing something, anything, every day, that isn't running, to support my running. Sometimes that's a bunch of squats and MYRTLs. Sometimes (often) it's stretching and rolling. Sometimes it's getting a massage...

- Stick to my training plan. I’ve been, in the past, resistant to either a structured training plan or to working with a coach beyond a running-group situation. What, little old me? I’m not remotely fast enough to deserve personal coaching. There’s so much low-hanging fruit – if I ran more, slept more, or ate better, I’d be faster.

Truth is, as a working parent, I need a PLAN to run more, or to really capture any of that low-hanging fruit at all. I don’t want to have to think about how far or how fast I have to run on any given day. I want to look at the plan and just go. I have enough to think about already: from weekend social plans and longer-term work travel/ vacation planning, to whether daycare needs an extra shirt or sun hat, to meals and grocery shopping for the week, to the status of client projects at any given time. (Who says parents make bad employees? We’re masters of logistics and problem-solving. And we get sh*t done.) I don’t want to be out there second-guessing myself or thinking ‘Maybe I don’t have time for 7 miles today, how about 5?’ and then short-changing myself and stressing out about making it up on the weekend.

So, I’m outsourcing my marathon thinking to one of my running-group coaches; she’s given me a fairly detailed and sensible-looking plan, with instructions to switch things around as needed (but not run hard two days in a row, duh), and some apparently very ambitious paces. (Yes, I already told her I have no marathon time goals!) What’s the worst that could come of it? If I manage to stick to the plan and go into the race feeling more prepared, so much the better.

Training logs, week 1 and 2 

Week ending June 25 - week 1 of 18 and probably the toughest week of the 18! Motto this week: survival mode. 

This was just hard all round. I was solo parenting this week, and had to squeeze in all my workouts (speed, tempo, long run) during daycare hours. Easy runs could be done with or without the stroller, whichever. I had calls for work most mornings so running right after daycare drop-off was out of the question; I wound up doing a few mid-afternoon runs and a few hiding in the gym on the treadmill, which is a last resort for me but at least it's convenient and efficient.

so tired. moar coffee pls

Monday - warmup, cooldown, 8x800 at 7:55-8:20/mi pace. Coach didn't specify a rest or recovery interval, so I improvised: 2 minutes of walking in between reps. (She later suggested equal rest or recovery. I do not plan that well and therefore never have time for that.) Done at 2pm on treadmill. Total 6 miles.

Tuesday - easy 5 miles

Wednesday - warmup, cooldown, 3 tempo miles at 8:30-8:50 (ran by effort - it was hot at 3.30pm). Total 4 miles.

Thursday - rest!!!!

Friday - Long run. Had to split this: 4 in the AM, 6 in PM. Again, hot (30C/ 86F) and humid - I went by pure effort. By Thursday morning I'd run 15 miles and slept roughly the same number of hours, so on Friday morning I woke up almost too exhausted to move. I did a quick stock-take: Tired? Yes. Injured or about to be? No. After daycare drop-off I hauled myself out for 4 miles and actually felt much better by the end. The afternoon 6 miles that had to be accomplished before pickup at 4, though...

Saturday - strength workout and impromptu easy 4.5 miles to and from the splash pad.

summertime view

Sunday - easy 4, in small pieces, with friends. My Strava is veritably littered with weird short runs. 1.8 miles to the subway station. 2.5 miles back and forth on a bike trail with a friend. And so on, and so forth. Also, stroller runners have the weirdest-looking Strava accounts: a mile here, two miles there, 1.5 miles in 30 minutes because you stopped to chase some ducks in the park and left your watch running...

Week ending July 2 - week 2 of 18

Monday - off

Tuesday - Track. Warmup, 2x400, 2x800, 2x1600, 2x800, 2x400. Let's be honest, I only did this because it was on my training plan. This is not the sort of workout one prescribes oneself. At least if one is not a masochist. 1:56, 1:53, 3:49, 3:48, 8:11, 8:24 (here you begin to see me getting grumpy and giving up), 4:07, 4:10 (pause here, as the sky became very dark and lightning crackled suddenly in a way that suggested I should not be out on a great big open a track), 1:56 (mad dash home), 2:06 (final 400 completed on treadmill next to a very surprised woman on the elliptical).

and legs up! 

Wednesday - 5.5 miles easy

Thursday - warmup, cooldown, 5 miles tempo running by effort and really struggling with paces. 9:03, 9:28, 9:06, 9:55 (traffic light), 9:21.

Friday - 5 miles easy

Saturday - 11 miles that went by faster because I went haring off exploring a new route. Up hills, down hills, into a new and much greener (with much larger backyards!) part of the city that I hadn't known existed, along a river, a slightly hairy highway crossing, around America's first 'rural' cemetery (Mt Auburn), and home. This run featured Singapore levels of humidity, where you break a sweat before leaving the house. I still can't fathom people who run, voluntarily, at midday or late afternoon in the summer.
Sunday - 2.8 miles total, stroller, in 3 parts, kind of like a symphony (you know, four movements) that was missing a fast bit, because my legs were once again dead.

Currently reading: Robert MacFarlane, Landmarks. MacFarlane is hailed as an up-and-coming member of the new generation of nature writers (and what have I done with my life?), and this book rambles gloriously across the UK collecting stories and words like ammil (the icy casings of leaves and grass in the morning glowing in a mist of sun) and rafty (of weather: misty, damply cold). This book makes me want to start my own word-hoard.

Currently listening to: the podcast 99% Invisible. On the Modern Necropolis episode I learned why people began to move cemeteries out of the city (churchyards, hillsides, etc) into their own separate spaces. In Boston, a city so old it predates the original Brexit by nearly a century and a half, you can still see historic burial grounds right downtown, next to the local churches and chapels. Later, epidemics of disease and a general sense that being so close to the dead was unsanitary forced burial grounds out of the city and into more rural areas.

Currently eating: Vegetables. All summer I crave vegetables. I don't usually like raw vegetables. And I don't often like raw vegetables anyway, so sometimes I stir-fry baby greens with some garlic (and a dash of oyster sauce, or sprinkled with feta and balsamic, or whatever - it's versatile). But right now? Mini Persian cucumbers with a little ranch dressing on the side. Radishes with mascarpone and honey. Mmm. 


  1. I think the "one thing that isn't running to help my running" is SUCH a good goal. It's super easy, rewards are obvious, yet..wy do we skip those little things?!

    1. Seriously! For me personally, I know that the stumbling-block isn't the amount of physical energy and effort required - it's the *mental* effort of planning when to do it, what exactly to do, etc.

  2. Great start to your marathon training! I feel like I've been overwhelmed all year with random things, so I'm seriously in awe of mom runners like you who manage so many different (and more) responsibilities. Best of luck!

    1. Ha, I don't think I have that many more responsibilities! I think the only difference between kids/ no kids is that when you have kids, especially small ones...there is no downtime. Literally. None. When they're awake you're always 'on', even if you're just keeping an eye on them while they play by themselves, and when they nap you feel you have to do something useful, like dishes or work or dinner prep or cleaning. To manage it all, I have lists. Notepads full of lists. Evernote notebooks full of lists. A family Google calendar and a work Google calendar and a diary. All lists, all the time.

  3. I think you said so many important things here! I think Cat (from myheartscontent) calls the type of thing they're talking about the quartz "Type II fun" & has blogged about trying to explain it to kids before. I had no idea there was a fancy real word for it!

    I agree that kind of fun is super important--not sit-around-and-eat-ice-cream fun, but hard-work-improvement-personal-accomplishment fun, and I think way too many people get down on their "eudaimonic" hobby and especially on investing valuable time and money on it because they're "not that good at it" and therefor somehow "don't deserve" to really work at it or get professional help/coaching/etc.

    (And honestly, I think there's a lot to be said for the busier/time challenged among us in particular getting coaching or committing to a real plan or whatever, not just because it keeps us accountable but because when your time is limited, you want to get as much bang for your minutes as possible.)

    Good luck with your training!!

    1. Thanks! I totally agree with that last point - about getting as much bang for your time as possible! Something else I hadn't expected was how useful realtime coach feedback would be. I can email a barrage of questions and have them answered, by a coach who knows me and my workout habits, within a day or two.

  4. Good job! You're pretty amazing to go run when the nap is resisted! Happens a lot around here! My kid gets motion sick, so stroller jogging never became an option, let alone in the kind of heat we are having. I think you're doing such a good job fitting your passion in -- totally worth investing in some coaching for! I think you'll do great on it!

    At this point, I just pride myself on working out 5-6 days a week just at the minimum, ha ha!

    1. You're too kind! I imagine you're dealing with truly *scorching* weather, and that in LA, taking the kid out for a midday run instead of naptime just wouldn't work. It's all about figuring out how you can fit it in, in a way that works for you and your family (and your life, et.c. et.c...) I have a friend in LA with a two-year-old who's run two or three FULL marathons post-kids. I honestly don't know how SHE does it!