Marathon Training Week 11: The First Sign of an Injury?

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MensJournal.com Senior Editor Mike Conklin is running his first marathon, the Rock 'n' Roll DC Marathon, on March 11, 2017, and he's documenting his training here with weekly posts. Here's last week's. You can also follow him on Twitter and Strava

I’ve been exceedingly lucky throughout this entire training cycle, in that my commitment to strength training has been, well, non-committal at best, and yet I’ve managed to avoid even minor aches and pains, let alone actual injury. This past week, though, I’ve been nervously ignoring a nagging pain on the outside of my right shin, which I am scared to death may actually be shin splints? But then the pain actually spreads to the outside of my right calf, so I think it may just be tightness? It started on Tuesday and was mostly gone for Thursday and Friday’s runs, but then came back with a vengeance during my long run yesterday, which is technically part of Week 12, so I’m not allowed to tell you about that till next week. Anyway! Here’s how week 11 went…

Sunday, 1/29

The real story of Sunday’s scheduled 17-mile long run starts on Saturday night, at a big family dinner to celebrate my father’s birthday. I wouldn’t say I got drunk, exactly, but I would say that I had somewhere between one and three more beers than I probably should have under the circumstances. Tack on a gigantic burger and a few bites of some ridiculous brownie sundae thing I split with my wife, and you could say conditions were not optimal for one of the longest and most important runs of my whole training program. I felt the chances of me putting in a good effort slowly slipping away — even as I lay down to go to bed, I knew it wasn’t in the cards. But still, I got out of bed and headed sort of aimlessly down to my running path, where I sat in my car dividing my time equally between hating myself and trying to come up with a plan for salvaging the run at another point during the week. When I decided I’d done both sufficiently, I made my way outside for a sad and unpleasant 3.5 miles.

Monday, 1/30

A day off, which would have felt far better had I, you know, earned it.

Tuesday, 1/31

Alright, so Tuesday was set to be a big day. Due to some strange circumstances involving snow and childcare and a particular fitness product I was supposed to be testing, I wound up working from home and planned to get in as many miles as I could right after dropping my daughter off at school. All went according to plan until a little over a mile into my run, when I realized it was far colder and windier than I thought it would be, and my painfully cold, numb hands caused me to stop and turn around — a slow, painful 2.6 miles to start the day. Then a few work things came up and I got stuck in front of a computer for longer than I’d have liked. By the time I was finally able to sneak back out for some more miles, it was snowing like crazy, but equipped as I was with my trusty, heated HXT Marathon Mittens and my newish merino wool buff, I actually felt pretty great, adding 3.5 more to my daily total. After a few more hours of work and a quick spin in the dryer for my gear, I headed back out for a third time to log another 2.1 miles before I had to go pick up my kids. 8.3 total miles for the day: not quite the long run I’d hoped for, and I honestly have no idea if they served any purpose whatsoever because of the way I split them up, but… I certainly felt better about myself than I would have if I’d done nothing.

Wednesday, 2/1

Squats, lunges, planks, and burpees late at night in my living room… because I'm still not quite ready to accept "too little too late." 

Thursday, 2/2

On the schedule for today was a tough speed workout: a 1.5-mile warm-up, plus nine 800-meter (half-mile) intervals and a one-mile cool-down. As usual, I woke up too late to get the entire workout in, so I had to skimp in a few different ways. I cut my warm-up down to a mile, only did six 800s, and totally ditched the cool-down, for a total of four miles. Not ideal, of course, but I felt super strong the whole time, running each interval at around 3:50 or 3:55, or, well below 8 min/mile pace. It was nice to see three consecutive miles of splits below 8 minutes: 7:55, 7:50, and 7:51. So yes, I came up short on the mileage, but it was nonetheless a hell of a start to my day.

Friday, 2/3

Another early-morning wake-up call for a short, regular pre-work run. Nothing much to report, except that I continue to see slightly quicker paces on these runs: 8:53, 8:39, 8:28, and 8:18. I hope, if nothing else, my habit of running negative splits will help me come March 11.

Saturday, 2/4

An easy, late-morning three-miler before Sunday’s long run, which I figured I absolutely had to complete if I want to continue acting like there’s any chance in hell I’m going to run a marathon in a month. (Spoiler: I did, and now I feel awesome and am pretty sure I’m gonna with the whole race.)

Week 11 at a glance…

Total Miles on the Schedule: 31–34

Total Miles Completed: 22.4. This is what happens when you're an asshole and you skip your long run. And when you can't wake up in time to do a full speed workout. 

Skipped Workouts: I think I can pretty much go ahead and say I just straight up skipped this week's long run. 

High point: My abbreviated speed workout was a whole lot of fun, as was traipsing around in the snow a few different times on Tuesday. 

Low Point: Eh, it was more of a slow burn of misery this week. 

Key Piece of Gear: Another new shoe showed up this week: the New Balance Fresh Foam Boracay V3, which I'd been waiting anxiously for since I started seeing its existence bandied about on various running websites. I ran in the first version a few years ago, and then for some strange reason the V2 just wasn't available in the United States. It's back now, though, and it's a lot like what I remember from V1: a solid everyday shoe that feels substantial, like it's gonna be able to eat up whatever miles you throw at it. The cushioning is ample but far from mushy, and because of its slightly narrow fit, it feels like less shoe than is generally required to achieve quite this level of plushness. I'm exactly 3.6 miles into its lifespan, and I'm positive it's only going to get better with time — so much so that it's already high up on my list of possible marathon shoes. 

Next Week: 21–25 miles. I'm supposed to be dialing things back next week to recover from this past week, but, ha, it turns out I don't have all that much to recover from. The good news is, it's only Monday and I've already got 15 miles under my belt for week 12. 

For more info about the United Airlines Rock ‘n’ Roll Washington DC Marathon, follow them on Twitter or Facebook, and to join in the conversation, use the hashtag #RNRDC. And if you want to sign up to join me on March 11, use the code RUNNINGDC to get $15 off your race fee.