Marathon Training Week Eight: During Which I Fell Flat On My Face. Twice.

All those footprints are mine. Every one of them. 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

Alright, here we are at the halfway point of my training. There have been ups and downs, certainly, but I’m going to say it’s been a net positive so far, since I’m this far in and there was a solid 15 minutes yesterday when I allowed myself to think I will actually achieve my goal of running this thing sub-4. Also, lots of people I don’t know have said lots of very nice and encouraging things to me on various social networks, and that has felt very good. Thanks for reading. Here’s how last week went…

Sunday, 1/8

Just after I finished my run last Saturday morning, a steady snow began falling and didn’t let up until around midnight. So with the ground covered in a good six inches of the white stuff, I knew my Sunday Long Run was in question. If you recall, I’d skipped the previous week’s 13-miler altogether, so the thought of ditching another one was enough to send me into a deep panic. And besides, the city is pretty good about clearing the path I run on, so I figured I’d be alright. I was not. When I arrived at the path at around 6:30 a.m., I found that it had not been touched — not by a plow, a human, or so much as a squirrel.

After sitting in my car with a cup of coffee for about 45 minutes, at which point the sun came up, I hopped out and set off on what I knew wouldn’t actually be much of a long run at all. The conditions were just terrible, far worse than I thought. As soon as I started, I felt my feet slipping all over the place, and it was physically taxing to have to engage my body so consistently in such an unnatural way — so unnatural, in fact, that about a half-mile in, I fell, in slow-motion over the course of what seemed like 45 seconds, flat on my face, like a pitcher forced to slide head-first into second base. It was not pretty, and I was glad to be the only person dumb enough to be out there. I picked myself up and was back on my way — and then a few minutes later it happened again. I laughed, took a few photos, and packed it in after just 2.6 miles.

Later that afternoon, during a visit to my parents’ house, I managed to tack on an extra four miles on a treadmill in their basement. Treadmills are terrible, especially when they are located in a room where the ceiling is so low that you hit your head on it every three seconds. So, 6.6 total miles for the day — far cry from the 11 on the schedule, but I was still pretty proud of myself for squeezing in what I did.

Monday, 1/9

Still in search of a strength-training program that works for me, I did each of these exercises that didn’t require one of those giant balls, which I do not own. Strength training, I was reminded, is painful.

Tuesday, 1/10

Due to some unusual circumstances, I was able to run late in the afternoon on Tuesday, which was awesome. I don’t know if the time of day had anything to do with it, but this was one of my strongest workouts of the whole program so far. Speed work was on the schedule: a one-mile warm-up followed by 7 x 1,000-meter intervals with 30–45 seconds of walking between each, followed by a cool-down mile. I felt strong on my 9:23 warm-up mile, and then stayed strong through six 1,000-meter (.62 mile) intervals, which I ran at an average of 5:05 (or around 8:10 per mile). I ran out of time and had to skip out on one interval and my cool-down, but still… I certainly felt like the workout served its purpose. A hard-won 4.7 miles. 

Wednesday, 1/11

A day off.

Thursday, 1/12

A simple four-mile regular run was planned for today, but I overslept by a bit and had to cut it short at 3.3 miles. The most notable thing about this run is that it was unseasonably warm and I got to wear shorts. Oh, and it was my first time out in the new Brooks Launch 4, which I enjoyed far more than I thought I would. 

Friday, 1/13

I move my runs around so much that it’s hard to keep track of which ones I’m supposed to be doing when. I wasn’t even totally sure I was going to run at all on this day, but when I found myself up early anyway, I figured why not? Then, like an idiot, I got caught up with some work emails and wound up barely being able to squeeze in two miles. But again… better than nothing. 

Saturday, 1/14

Just another plain-old 4-miler, basically, but one that felt really good. Started out with a 9:24 first mile and progressed down to an 8:27 fourth. Still not breaking any speed records, but my paces are getting just a little bit faster across the board. 

Week 8 at a glance…

Total Miles on the Schedule: 22–26

Total Miles Completed: 20.7. Not bad considering my snowed-out long run. 

Skipped Workouts: None, but again… that fucking long run. 

High point: Lots of good vibes this past week. Falling down in the snow was actually pretty awesome, at least the first time. Finishing my speed workout on Tuesday was pretty glorious, and managing to get out a bunch of days in a row was pretty good too. I finally felt some momentum building.

Low Point: Well, at a certain point, probably on Monday, I realized I was exactly halfway through my training program, which is a pretty daunting thought. But still, I feel like I’ve made some pretty big strides even since then…

Key Pieces of Gear: Was super excited to get my hands on a jacket I’ve been wanting to test out for a few years now, the North Face Isotherm, which is warm, reflective, water-resistant, and features stretchy side-panels for added mobility. And as an added bonus, I wore it five days in a row (the fifth of which was for a 14-mile run), and my wife has yet to complain that it’s stinking up our apartment. What else? The Lululemon Metal Vent Tech Hoodie has proven to be a great mid-layer on those really cold days. Also, I know I mentioned the Brooks Launch 4 earlier (and I will discuss that shoe in greater detail next week, since I actually ran my Week 9 long-run in it yesterday), but another Brooks model deserves some attention this week: I wore the Pureflow 6 for my speed workout, and I couldn’t have been happier. A super natural, barely there seamless upper leaves plenty of room for the foot to spread out, and the flexible midsole adds to its quick feel, as does its ample but slightly firm cushioning. And I’ll give yet another shoutout to the Saucony Breakthru 3, which just might be the best all-around trainer I’ve tried throughout this whole ordeal: it’s not too bulky, its upper is beautifully constructed and unobtrusive, and the combination of cushioning and responsiveness is damn near perfect. People never talk about this shoe, and I have absolutely no idea why. Give it a shot. 

Next week: 29–32 miles, of which, spoiler alert, I have already completed 17.6. 

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