A few weeks ago, in the middle of a particularly taxing workout on the 17th of January, I ran out of energy. That, by itself, is not so surprising. I was running hill sprints, and frankly, was running too fast. Even after I dialed the pace back some, it was still a very challenging workout. I was unable to complete the assigned intervals; a new experience for me.
Two days later, a slightly less challenging workout was assigned, a tempo run that was progressively faster as the workout went on. The fastest pace was at my half marathon PR pace, and only for five minutes, so it should have been a relatively straightforward run, but it taxed me almost from the very beginning. I had a side stitch 20 minutes in, and fought to maintain my fighting spirit over the course of the remaining half hour. I finished the workout, but it hurt way more than a run of that difficulty should have.
The next day was Friday, and my assignment was five easy miles. I managed just three. My legs felt heavy, and my pulse was racing much faster than my slow pace would normally indicate. When I ended the run early, I started thinking about how to handle Saturday’s workout, which was scheduled to be a twelve mile progressively faster tempo run. I emailed Coach Braz and let him know that he could either have the mileage, or he could have me running at that speed, but not both.
Coach responded by having me dial the pace way down, and he altered the workouts for the next two weeks to be much lower in intensity. Even so, I was still hitting the wall pretty regularly. For the next week, all of my workouts felt slow, almost like I was carrying around an extra twenty pounds with me. I had a five mile race scheduled on January 29. My current goal for a five mile race is somewhere around 38 minutes, but the best I could muster that day was 40:48. Still, I ran negative splits, going faster in every mile, so it wasn’t a total loss. Since then, we’ve been gradually adding more speed into a couple workouts a week. It’s been going well, and as of Saturday, I feel like I’m back. I had a 12 mile run, and because my Garmin is “in the shop,” I ran by feel, not knowing how fast I was going, just enjoying the effort and not working too hard. I ended up clocking 9:01/mile, which is a pretty good pace for a “slow” weekend run for me. I probably should have gone a little slower, but I was enjoying myself and I didn’t feel sore afterwards. Not bad for someone who won’t run another marathon for another 228 days!
Take-aways from hitting the wall last month: First, I think it was inevitable. Coach Braz was pushing me harder and harder. When you meet every challenge you’re presented with, it makes sense to keep trying to go further and faster. Find out where the wall is, so to speak. Also, I have never trained at this intensity, with regular speed work two days a week, running five days a week, and cross training on one of my “off” days. Also, I’ve only run this many miles once before. By the time we hit the end of March, I will actually have trained more intensely and run more miles than I did preparing for the Pittsburgh marathon, and March is still be two months away from the start of Berlin training. If my future starting point is better than my previous best, I’m excited to see what happens this year.