It's really and truly hard for me to believe that I am almost halfway through my taper and that I am running my second marathon NEXT WEEK!!! :)
These days I am pretty calm about it, feeling a little sleepy and pretty hungry. Craving salt and protein like none other and eating my fair share of Halloween candy (if you have not tried Dark Chocolate Mounds you are missing out!) We don't keep the Halloween candy at home but our assistant at work has a well stocked bowl at the main desk and due to the aforementioned hunger, it's hard to resist!
I have been even more quiet around here than usual because last week was a "short week": Matt got back from Vegas Monday and we headed out of town again Thursday right after work. Back to Auburn for football and I (shockingly) took Friday off and spent most of the day hanging out with my mom before joining my aunt for some basketball scholarship donor activities that evening.
That being said, my 20 miler the previous week went so amazingly well. On the 20 miler during my 1st training cycle I had a major crash and burn moment and even though it may not be clearly there in black and white, the meltdown I experienced was pretty epic. There was crying on the side of the road, tons of walking, delirious calls made to Matt and my mom, blisters...and an exhausted day spent on the couch. This time? 180 degree difference. The weather was pretty similar (read: warm by the end) but I ran smart and despite having a little bit of difficulty stringing together witty conversation when I ran into a former professor around mile 15, I really did keep my sensibilities about me. I had no blisters and managed a productive afternoon/evening of running errands and doing stuff around the house. I actually forgot my Garmin at home!!! (no, not intentionally) and I have no idea if this served to my advantage or not, but with no Garmin and no music, I was really focused on the external (enjoying the leaves, the fall decorations, connecting with others on the run) and also within my own thoughts.
During the run, I realized I was so much stronger and when I got to the bridge with a mile left and I knew I HAD IT I actually got goosebumps because I managed to shake the crash and burn cloud that had been hanging over me. Did I experience ups and downs? Of course. But on the overall it was night and day difference.
This got me thinking about my two training cycles and the differences between them. Of course I have "the experience" this time around and my work hours, while long and demanding, have been much more reasonable. Less days in the office at 6:30am and out at 7:00pm for sure. The residual fatigue from that was certainly a factor, but what about the actual training?
My first training cycle was all running, all the time. I went back and looked at the paper notes I kept and true to memory, there was a little bit of walking or "double" days involved, but yoga, cross training, strength training were otherwise non-existent. I wasn't hitting my distances or plan consistently during the week due to fatigue and scheduling but I was at least making it out there for the long runs. I also ignorantly tried to add in "speed" about halfway through the cycle, not knowing what I was doing or how to appropriately set tempos AND violating the good sense that you should not focus on adding distance AND speed at the same time. I'm pretty sure that is exactly what led to the problem with my Achilles and while that tendon has made itself known a few times these past 16 weeks, it's basically been just fine.
So this cycle? While I have not always been great about getting my recaps posted up here (maybe to your delight?), I have been keeping track of what's been going on in Excel. A quick tally shows quite a difference:
Strength: 11 sessions, generally in the form of a 30 min intense bootcamp or the 30 day shred (Level 2 or 3); when bootcamp there was a 2-3 mile run (total) that would bookend the workout for an extra dose of cardio and endurance. These workouts kicked my ass, but I loved them.
Days of run/walk doubles: At least 13 sessions of this; usually in the form of getting my prescribed run done first and then talking the dogs out with Matt for another 45-60 minutes for a hilly and brisk paced walk. Loved these (usually) and hated when daylight (or lack thereof) all but put an end to the ability to (safely) do this.
Yoga: 4 sessions. Not quite what I had in mind as far as goals were concerned but it's better than zero! It was hard to make it to the outdoor yoga or evening classes at my gym (6:00 was really not happening with work obligations and horrendous traffic) The good news is that my gym did add a Saturday class, so I was able to take this on weekends when I was in town (another reason why this number is not higher...I have been traveling A LOT this fall), as many of my long runs ended up shifting to Sunday.
Other cross training: Again, at least 15 sessions of this and not included in the run/walk double workouts or yoga counted above. This could include days where I did walking only, or hiking, recumbent bike, etc. It doesn't include all of the walking we did in Argentina which I'm sure kept my weight in check while we were gone.
Massage: Have been much better about getting worked on every 3-4 weeks though I am due, as I did not get a massage during the month of October.
This cycle I have also worked on "speed" with one session each week (progressive), alternating hills, tempo and Yassos 800s (so I have done one of each every 3rd week). These workouts have been tough but invigorating and have left me wanting MORE instead of feeling injured or burnt out. (Tempos are still my least favorite, but I have gotten them done!) I've run on trails, downtown sidewalks, roads in my neighborhood and some new neighborhoods, the indoor track, and even the treadmill. I've run alone and with friends...and withOUT my iPod.
Writing this, I know I have given what I could to this training cycle and while there is *always* room for improvement, I feel satisfied that I've found a fairly decent balance between the marathon and with the rest of my life. Who knows what will happen on race day...26.2 miles is a long way to go...but I feel physically and mentally good about taking on the challenge.