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.
Given that it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I have no indication that anyone at all will read this, but if I don’t do it, I fear I’ll lose momentum and accountability and, thus, a solid 80 percent of what’s motivating me to keep putting in the miles. So here we are. Or, here I am, at least.
By week five of marathon training, things start to get fuzzy. Each mile is essentially indecipherable from the one that came before it; the details of each run are hard to recall: Where was I, even? Did I listen to a podcast? A playlist? Trying to look at training in weeklong chunks becomes a challenge as well: I somehow can’t remember running at all, but I also feel like all I did was run. It’s disorienting, to say the least.
And, not to get too precious about all of this, but it can be pretty lonely, too — because of the way my life (and personality) is structured, I’m not exactly getting out there with groups of fellow runners and, like, making new friends and shit. For the most part, I wake up at weird hours and in terrible weather and go run around my neighborhood by myself. Then I come home, and my wife is kind enough to say, “How was your run?” and express all the appropriate sentiments about how crazy everything is that I’m doing. But that’s pretty much it — I don’t have a whole lot of people dying to know how my training’s going. This is understandable, of course, because training for a marathon is excruciatingly boring, and hearing someone talk about it is even worse, unless you’re doing it as well. I enjoy the solitary nature of it to an extent, but man, it can be pretty intense. Thank God for the internet.
So, let’s get to last week. It was a weird one.
If you recall from my week four update, I came to the realization that I would have to wake up earlier on Sundays to do my long run before my daughter’s gymnastics class rather than after it, to avoid having to cut my runs short. This is no easy feat — we have to leave the house before 9 to get her there on time, so in order for me to be back by then, I need to be up eating and properly fueling for my run by around 5:30, and out the door by 6:30. I had 11 miles on the schedule for today, and while I didn’t make it all the way, I did log a very solid 10, with almost all negative splits. I noted on one social network or another how weird it is to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, run 10 miles, and still have to feel somewhat disappointed in yourself because you were supposed to run 11, but whatever. I felt mostly good, with an average pace of 9:47 for the day. Good stuff.
Just a regular four-mile run today, of which I have literally no recollection. My Strava tells me I ran it on a path near where I live, with splits of 9:16, 8:55, 8:59, and 8:51. Hmm.
Early-morning hodgepodge of core exercises that hurt very badly.
Ok, so here’s where things get interesting. Or, not interesting at all, really, but… complicated. I was scheduled to do a really tough speed workout today, and I was really looking forward to it — a couple warm-up miles followed by 5 x 1000s and some cool-down miles. I’d been dealing with some nasty chest congestion for the past week or so, and on this particular morning, I just couldn’t, ahem, clear it. When my alarm went off at 5 a.m., I just kept coughing and coughing and coughing, so I figured it’d be better if I took an extra rest day and did the workout on Friday, a day I’d taken off from work. So I justified it that way and eventually managed to go back to sleep for a little while. But then I woke up and realized my planning was off… I knew I had to get in my six miles of speedwork, and I knew there was a “flex day” with an optional three-mile run for Saturday. What I didn’t realize, though, was that there was another five-mile regular run in there as well, which wouldn’t have been a problem normally, except I was forced to move my Sunday long run to Saturday because Sunday was Christmas, and running 12 miles on Christmas morning officially makes you the worst father/husband ever. SO, I was left knowing that I’d come up short of my prescribed mileage for the week… a total bummer.
All of this switching stuff around left me with one other conundrum: Since I’d have to do my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday and would have to skip one of my workouts entirely, I couldn’t decide if I should do the week’s speed workout or the five-mile regular run. I’d normally be inclined not to skip the speed workout because everyone’s always talking about how important they are, but I was concerned about doing two tough workouts on consecutive days. I emailed my coach, John Honerkamp, and he shared some sage wisdom, via email:
Run easy tomorrow. No need to force the intervals when you’re less than 100 percent. The holidays screw everything up, so don’t worry about a missed run this week. Enjoy the holidays and don’t over think things. Ideally we get in 80 percent of the training. This is a perfect lesson for your readers to learn over the holidays. Life gets in the way. It’s OK. And the program doesn’t know you’re battling chest congestion.
So with that, I ran five easy miles and added some strides (quick, short bursts of faster running) at the end of each mile. Felt good, ran all negative splits, and learned how awesome the Patagonia Nano Air Vest is. Super warm, but like it’s barely there.
Like I said, this was actually when I ran my week six long run, so I’m going to save the details for next week. But here’s a little teaser: I left the house at 6 a.m. on Christmas Eve, it rained the entire time, and at one point about halfway through my run I found myself sitting on the ground, soaking wet under an overpass, about eight feet from a very busy highway, ostensibly fiddling with the music on my phone but actually just sitting there wishing I didn’t have to go back out into the rain. So that was fun!
Week 5 at a glance:
Total Miles on the Schedule: 26–29
Total Miles Completed: Ugh, 19.
Skipped Workouts: One. And a really important one. But I’ll live, or so I’m told.
High point: Even though I came up a bit short on my Sunday 11-miler, I was proud of myself for getting up and out before the rest of my day got started, rather than trying to squeeze it in later and then being wracked with self-inflicted guilt and anxiety.
Low Point: Realizing I wouldn’t be able to get in all my weekly mileage after skipping the speed workout was something of a punch to the gut.
Key pieces of gear: I’ve been spending some time in the forthcoming Asics Nimbus 19, and I’ve been loving them. I ran in the Nimbus — Asics’ high-end neutral cushioned shoe — in the 14th and 16th iterations, then moved away from the super-plush models and toward some lighter weight shoes. But with all the mileage I’ll be running over these next few months, I decided to re-embrace the more substantial shoes. And the Nimbus has come a long way since I was last in it — it’s certainly still plush, but there’s a subtle, welcome firmness to it as well. And I haven’t checked out the specs, but it doesn’t feel nearly as heavy as I remember the older versions.
I’ve already mentioned the Nano Air Vest from Patagonia, which I can’t recommend enough. It’s pricey, at $200, but it’s borderline miraculous how it manages to boast so many great qualities: warm, breathable, at least mildly waterproof.
Next week: 27–30 miles with an 12-mile long run, some hills, and New Year’s Eve hangovers.
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.