Marathon Training Week 9 – Where the Real Suffering Begins

Hello friends! I’m happy to be typing this time while sitting in a comfy chair with my feet up and a good cup of coffee to go with it all. I’m recovering from an action-packed Saturday that included my first 20 miler in over 18 months and then a wedding! The wedding was awesome in every way. I’ll admit that there were times I questioned whether my tight hamstrings would hold up during the ceremony. Luckily, there was plenty to eat and drink at the wedding and I was able to stay conscious and manage to have a great time!

So, back to this training stuff. Week 9 included my first 20 miler. Week 8 had an 18 mile run scheduled, but I ran out of time and ended up only getting 16 done. This meant a 4 mile increase in my long run and I’ll be honest, I was nervous about it. The 16 miler was enough to make me remember the pain of the marathon distance. The thought of adding 4 more miles to that feeling gave me a sense of anxiety and even a bit of fear. There was also a race this week. It may be my favorite race, the Virginia Ten Miler. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay true to my Richmond Marathon Training while at the same time racing the ten miler. I had to make it a training run. We’ll get to that later. Now let’s recap, shall we?
Monday – Cross Training

I suppose I should start logging some of this stuff earlier in the week. I can hardly even remember what I did! I actually had to go back to my Garmin Connect and check out my heart rate and steps for the day. Turns out I didn’t do anything. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t remember. I did an extra run with friends the day before, so the day off was probably a wise choice.

Track Tuesday – 2×1600 @6:01 pace, 2×800 in 2:52

This one did not quite go as well as I’d have liked.

My miles weren’t too far off of the pace. I over rested on each lap though. The plan calls for 60 second rest intervals, which are over in the snap of a finger. It was SO tough to summon the strength and to get my wind back to start the next lap. I beat myself up a bit about not being able to hit my goal paces, but my running buddies told me what I need to hear. I’ve moved on. My belief is this: If you set goals that you can always accomplish, your goals aren’t tough enough.

Wednesday – Cross Training

I definitely remember well what I did on Wednesday, because it kicked my butt. We played some basketball at lunchtime (2 on 2). We’re just playing pick up, but it’s a group of competitive guys that want to win so it’s pretty hard work. After basketball, Cody and I tried to do a quick workout that involved some hard rowing, planks and push presses. Let’s just say it didn’t last long. I think I did part of one set.

After work, I played in our 3 on 3 soccer league. Our team won again! I’m so bad at soccer, like SO BAD. However, I continue to be good at working hard and wearing people out. It’s really a lot of fun. I have to admit, this old man struggles a little more with 2 sports a day than he used to.

Tempo Thursday – 4 miles @6:44 pace, 6 miles total

New shirt! Also from Fun Run Box

Tempos have been the area that I never seem to struggle. I really enjoy them! My splits were 6:45, 6:49, 6:41 and 6:38. That’s pretty much right where I wanted to be. It helps that I’ve been having good company, although I often can’t sucker them into running my exact workout. There’s something great about having people to wake up early with. We motivate each other and try to hold each other accountable.

Friday – Rest

Thanks to Monday’s laziness (or Sunday’s extra run), I didn’t get the luxury of another rest day. Of course, the anxiety of 20 miles (10 of them a race) was making me really want to take it easy so I compromised. I went to the Y with Jen and Ben. I shot some hoops for a little while (just shooting, no games) and then did 30 minutes of the arc trainer. It was enough to loosen me up a little without killing me too much.

I took it easy on Friday, but my kids didn’t. The Virginia Ten Miler also has some kids’ events on Friday evening. It’s really awesome. They have balloons, face painting and other fun activities, followed by 1/4, 1/2 and one mile runs. Oldest daughter ran the mile and her little brother ran the 1/2 mile. I paced little brother for his 1/2 mile. He went out a bit fast (where does he get THAT) and soon realized that he would not be able to run at that pace for the entire half mile. I had to give him a pep talk and get him on his way again. He did finish. My daughter ran well, but oddly a bit slower than 2 years ago. I guess she wanted it more back then. The pictures are great. Suffering and speed!

Long Run Saturday – 20 miles at 7:44 pace

What is it about the 20 mile run that is such a big deal? It had been on my mind since I first put it on my calendar. I guess it’s the first true test of my training and of my heart. I really did consider making this one an 18 miler, since I still have 2 20 milers on the schedule and I only got to 16 last week. Eventually, I decided that I’d stick with 20. Generally, I like to make my first 20 miler a nice, flat one. Unfortuately, I didn’t have that luxury since I was signed up to run the Virginia 10 miler. The course is anything but nice or flat. It’s beautiful and challenging, but not easy. My plan was to turn the Virginia 10 miler into the Virginia 20 miler.

I decided to run the entire course alone before the actual race started. That way I’d have the thrill of the race and the crowds to push me through my 2nd lap. The first 10 miles weren’t that bad, other than how much sweat I lost. I was feeling pretty good. I had 12 minutes to get ready for the actual race. I quickly changed shirts and changed shoes, threw on my race number and headed to the start. I saw some familiar faces and was excited to join them, though I really wanted to run my own race and didn’t want to get caught up in racing with them.

I used Tailwind for my run. I’m really starting to like it as a single solution for our endurance needs. It hydrates, fuels and caffeinates. Unfortunately, due to some sort of water belt malfunction, I lost half of my supply for the race before the first mile was over. Oops! Despite the rocky start, I felt pretty good for the first couple of miles until we got to the first big hill. It was then that I realized that the 2nd lap was going to hurt. 

Everything hurt. Everything. I kept telling myself that there wasn’t a single thing wrong enough to stop me from running. It all added up to be quite a bit, but no one thing alone was bad enough. My legs were painful and tight. My lungs burned. I was so thirsty. My feet were tired and sore. I wasn’t injured. Physically, I could have continued. Suddenly, I didn’t. I stopped running. I started walking. I walked for maybe 15 seconds before I said, “no more of this!” I started back up again. The problem with stopping for me is that once I do it, it becomes easy. I stopped again. Other runners tried to encourage me. I listened at first and joined some of them, only to be lost again. Eventually, I stopped trying to join them. At the end of it all, the walking isn’t all that noticeable on the clock but to me it’s a significant mental hurdle. I must get stronger mentally. My Boston Qualifier may depend on it.

I did finish and overall I’m pretty happy with the result. I got in 20 miles after doing only 16 the week before. I did it on a course that most people don’t even like to run once. I feel pretty good today. My next 20 miler will be better, and flatter. I will be ok.

I plan to write something more on the Virginia 10 miler at some point. It’s a race that deserves a full report, that’s for sure. I focused on my training for this post.
Anybody else up to their 20 milers yet? How are they going?



22 Replies to “Marathon Training Week 9 – Where the Real Suffering Begins”

  1. 18 next Sunday–my first time. I was super confident after 16 miles felt pretty easy last week, but then the half marathon I ran this morning was kind of shit. Working on getting my mental game back together. Congrats on the 20, lookin good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So much of it boils down to the mental game. Try your best not to worry about the bad half marathon and think about the good 16. Sometimes it’s like a closer in baseball, every closer blows one here and there but the good ones can quickly forget and focus on the next one. Your next one is going to be great and even if it isn’t it will take you one step closer to being ready.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear I could inspire you. Nothing wrong with skipping runs to avoid injury. I know the excitement of finally getting back to it. You can use that great feeling to have a great run! I do track my mileage on Garmin Connect and Strava. I did read your post and it was very good. 😀


  2. One of the top 10 female finishers is from Dallas and works with my coach. A picture of her popped up on fb of her and a picture of you was right next it. Really threw me there for a second! Great job on a tough week! And coffee in a comfy chair sounds nice! : )

    Liked by 1 person

  3. HUGE props to you for doing a difficult course, not once but *twice*! You made it through the entire 20 miles – that’s an accomplishment and is totally inspiring! 🙂 I don’t have anything more than 16 on my calendar for quite some time – 20 intimidates me!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am.. and yes, they peak their long run at 16 miles. I do have a tentative 17.5 mi trail run on the horizon and maybe will go rogue and attempt 20 sometime before my training is up. I feel uneasy about never getting to 20 but let me tell you… stacking the workouts the way they tell you to is starting to make the 10mi long run feel a lot more like a much longer run, exertion-wise, which is I guess what they’re aiming for!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s very inspirational to hear the struggles and the overcoming of struggles (i.e., lung burn, wanting to walk, the fatigue) of people who are so much faster than me. I greatly appreciate you sharing and showing it’s not all a cake walk (as I see some runners just glide down the trail hardly breaking a sweat, it totally annoys me, lol). So do you have any advice for getting past the mental breakdown of lung burn? I tend to slow down when when that starts up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One thing I love about running is the shared struggle of runners of all levels. The only advice I can give is to spend more time getting used to that burn. Speed work helps. Also, I try to remember that the feelings of pain and fatigue are just signals to my brain that can be overcome. There’s a great book called How Bad do you Want it? by Matt Fitzgerald. The book gets into the idea of mind over muscle. I suggest it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That was a good idea, running the course first and then using the race for the second half! We don’t have a lot of 10 mile races here but I’ve done a 4 mile WU, half marathon, 4 mile CD. I’d much prefer finishing when the race finishes, lol!!!
    Way to push through and get the miles in…very inspiring!!! You are speedy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great week and awesome 20 miler. I dream to one day hold a 7:xx pace for 20 miles. Incredible. 🙂 We all go through struggles – mental and physical – and overcoming them is part of the joy of running. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

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