I’ve made it to taper. The past 13 weeks have been full of early mornings, endless amounts of Honey Stinger waffles and energy gels, and miles, miles, miles. My last post a month ago feels like ages ago.
The past four weeks were full of the big, scary runs. First, my 19-mile run with the last 10 at goal pace. I was nervous going into it that morning, but I ended up feeling silly that I had been nervous because it turned out to be a solid run. The benefit of training with a group is there is always a faster runner around who is happy to stick with me for my faster miles.
Then I had to travel for work. Not a huge deal, but I’ve never had to travel during one of my peak weeks. I juggled around my schedule a bit, moving my 10-mile easy run to Monday, skipping my strength training on Tuesday because I had to leave the house early to get on the road, taking on eight miles on the hotel treadmill Wednesday morning, working a few hours before driving three hours home, and getting back up the next morning for my recovery miles. That Thursday was also my birthday and my BRF from Columbus, Katie, arranged her work travel schedule so she would be in RVA for the night! No rest for the wicked. Luckily, she was pretty tired from her week so we didn’t do anything too crazy and were in bed at a time that we probably would’ve laughed at just a few years ago.
My next big run was my “monster” 20-miler. This was a two-mile warm up, 16 miles at goal pace, and a two-mile cool down. I actually went up to my parent’s house to do this run which meant getting back in the car Friday mid-day and driving up to nothern VA. I wanted to do the run on the multi-use trail so I could minimize the need to stop for street-crossings/traffic. My training group was also on a cutback week, only doing 12 miles that day, so not having to run extra miles before the group run was an added bonus. The weather was around 50 degrees, a bit misty, and humid. I felt confident going into that run, but I haven’t done much running in this training cycle in the mid-temperature range so I wasn’t too sure.
My parents live about a mile from one of the trail heads, so I was able to just run straight from their house. I headed out in my tank top and shorts, but ended up turning right around and going back for my arm warmers. I was glad that I did, because the misty weather made it feel a bit chillier than 50. The first two miles of my goal miles were part of a long incline which made those a little rough. Knowing the trail has its ups and downs and that not every mile is going to be an even split on race day, I gave myself a pace range to stay within instead of trying to hit a specific pace every mile. Once I got into the swing of things, the miles just ticked off one after the other.
If you had told me in high school that I could run from my high school to my rival high school in the next town over, I probably would’ve told you that was a very nice thought to have about me, but not likely. Not only did I run from my house to my rival high school, I ran back. At marathon pace. I have a friend named Jessica who went to my rival high school and has always been a strong runner. She used to run on the trail from her house in the next town over to my house and it always amazed me because I could barely run three miles. But this day, I ran further than that. Just proof that what you could or could not do in high school doesn’t really matter now.
But I digress. I felt strong and in control my entire run and those last two goal-pace miles back down the long incline were a little too fast. I finished that run feeling proud and confident. And nervous.
Because, naturally, “I only ran in my goal pace range for 16 miles, how am I going to do that for 10 more?!” I pondered this over text message with Katie who tried to convince me that I’m ready and my legs will be fresh. I’m not too convinced because that seems crazy. What I do know is that this has definitely been one of my better marathon training cycles.
My final peak week wasn’t anything too crazy. It came together with a 22-mile run at easy run pace. I got to enjoy this run with my friend Angela who will be taking on her first marathon at Shamrock. She has been working hard these past few months and I know she is so ready to go. It was really fun to finish up this momentous run together and welcome her into taper.
So now here I am in taper mode. My mind is already going a little crazy even though I know everything else is out of my control. Physically, I’m feeling pretty good. I had wanted to get in with my chiropractor before my monster 20-miler, but it just wasn’t going to happen with all of my travel that week. I did get in last week and will be going one-to-two times this week and next week to make sure everything is in good shape for race day. I’m sure my body will welcome the slightly lighter mileage and intensity.
I can see an obvious improvement in my fitness from my heart rate alone during all of my runs. When I finished my easy-paced 22-miler on Saturday, my watch advised only 25 hours of recovery. My fitness is there, the question is simply one of if it will all come together on race day. I guess we will see!