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.
After building some momentum toward the end of week eight, I managed to carry it with me through the first part of week nine, but then… sorta lost it. But then sorta got it back! My God, this whole process is a fucking roller coaster — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that I'm a 38-year-old who's afraid of roller coasters and has literally never been on one? No? Cool. Let's take a look at last week…
Sundays are typically my long-run day, and on this particular Sunday, I had a fairly intimidating 16 miles on the schedule. Also on the schedule, though? Another early gymnastics class for my six-year-old, followed by a birthday party for my two-year-old. So with errands to run and loose ends to tie up before the festivities began, I made the decision to push my long run to Monday, which I had off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But still, I found myself up early enough to squeeze in a few miles around my neighborhood before the day’s craziness started, which I’ve come to realize is basically the best way to deal with any impending craziness. The streets were icy and the wind was pretty intense, but I was happy to be out there, for what was the fourth day in a row. Just 3.6 miles, for some reason it felt more impactful than that, in a very good way.
Out the door by 6:15 for some coffee and a bagel with peanut butter, and then on the pavement by 7:30 for what was to be 16 miles. The path I run on most regularly is a simple, mostly flat stretch of 2.4 miles, so as an out and back, with a little tacked on through the lot where I park my car, it’s exactly five miles. I don’t know why, but I’ve taken to doing my long runs on the path rather than on the streets — most would probably find it incredibly boring, but I like being able to break it up, both physically and mentally, into these five-mile chunks. It’s good to be able to take a little breather, get a gel or a drink from my car, without having to worry about carrying too much stuff. There’s temptation to stop and rest for too long, of course, but I’m doing my best to fight it. I also worry that I’m doing myself a disservice by not running a hillier course, but I’ll deal with that a little further down the road.
Anyway, I started out slow — mile one at 10:11, and mile two at 10:01 — and then started to speed up a bit. Mile three came in at 9:48, mile four at 9:40, and mile five at 9:30. I stopped at the car for some Honey Stinger Cherry Cola Energy Chews, which are fast becoming my favorite source of fuel, and was back on my way for the middle third of my run. I knew I’d ended mile five too fast, so I made a conscious effort to slow back down, at least temporarily. Mile six came in at 9:45, seven at 9:37, eight at 9:23, nine at 9:22, and ten at 9:03. Back to the car for some more energy chews, a ton of water, and, if I’m being honest, a longer rest than I should have taken. When I headed back out, part of me knew I was going to wind up cutting things a bit short, so instead I made an effort to pick up the pace: mile 11 wound up at 9:23, 12 at 9:20, 13 at 9:10, and my 14th and final mile at 8:41.
Even skimping on those last two miles, this was without question the strongest run of my program so far — I felt good throughout, and though there was a little more down time than I’d like to admit, it was really, really encouraging to have gotten faster as I went. My legs felt a little wobbly and unstable at the end, and I worried that an old IT band injury was on its way back, but after some foam rolling and a couple days off, I was pretty much back to normal. Part of the reason I was concerned is that I ran in the Brooks Launch 4, a shoe I’ve been thoroughly enjoying for shorter runs, but that’s considerably less cushioned than the shoes I’ve been wearing for my long runs. The lighter weight was certainly welcome, and I’m happy to report the added firmness had no negative impact — and maybe even helped me pick up the pace a bit.
A total rest day, aside from my commute, which involves a fair amount of walking and climbing up and down stairs, none of which was very pleasant today. Ouch.
A second consecutive day off. Sorry.
As much as I wanted to stay in bed and try my best to justify a third day off in a row, I knew I’d hate myself for it later. So I dragged myself out the door at 6:30 — about a half-hour too late to do the day’s prescribed workout exactly how it was designed. I was supposed to do two warm-up miles at a relaxed pace, followed by two miles of fartleks — specifically, 60 seconds of hard running followed by 30 seconds of easy running — then one mile at a pace a little bit faster than my “regular run” pace, and one more as a cool-down, for a total of six miles. My shitty version of this entailed one warm-up mile instead of two, and just a half-mile of that prescribed “push” mile after the fartleks, for a total of 3.5 miles. Because I completed the speedwork portion of the workout as instructed, I felt pretty good about things, but looking back at my data, I’m a little bummed to see that I was only running my “hard” sections at around 8:15 pace. Regardless, not a total loss, and I certainly felt like I worked hard.
Ignored another early-morning wake-up call for what was supposed to be a regular old four-miler, but decided to pack my running gear and try to get in a few miles on my lunch break. The good news is that Central Park is a lot closer to my office than I realized; the bad news is that it started raining while I was out, and I didn’t want my phone, which I was carrying in my freezing cold hands, to break, so I headed back to the office after a quick 2.5 miles.
I hate not running on weekend mornings. It always feels like such a huge waste, because compared to my weekdays, it’s relatively easy for me to find the time on weekends. But that’s what I did on this day. For no reason. I just didn’t run.
Week 9 at a Glance…
Total Miles on the Schedule: 29–32
Total Miles Completed: 23.7. Ugh, I really blew this on Friday and Saturday…
Skipped Workouts: None in their entirety, but portions of most of them. Which is becoming a pattern and, most likely, a problem.
High point: Even when a 14-mile long run was supposed to be a 16-mile long run, it feels pretty great.
Low Point: Nothing really stands out as particularly devastating this week, but coming up short of my weekly mileage goal despite the strong start was definitely a bummer.
Key Piece of Gear: The aforementioned Brooks Launch 4 showed up in a real way this week, as did the Brooks Pureflow 6, which I wore for a second consecutive speed workout, and which, despite my weirdly slow pace, seemed to feel a little bouncier this time out, which was awesome. Also, after months of rocking exclusively Balega and Smartwool socks, I finally gave the Elite Merino Cushion sock from Feetures a shot, and I'm perfectly happy adding them to the rotation. And, lastly, I'll take another moment to recommend the Cherry Cola Energy Chew from Honey Stinger — I'm not gonna go all crazy and tell you this is the greatest tasting thing you'll ever eat, but as far as sickly sweet, mid-run fueling sources go, I find this one perfectly pleasant.
Next week: 31 miles, including my first tempo run of the program…
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.