A New Normal

The first few weeks after a marathon are always a little weird. After spending 16+ weeks training and spending most of my time focusing on a specific goal, it feels weird to have so much free time. This going home right after work thing and having time to get mani/pedis and play tennis with my friends — is this how normal people live?

To add to the weird factor, I normally have another marathon looming in the not too far horizon; but for the first time, I’m taking a significant amount of time off (eight months) before I start my next training cycle so I can focus on getting faster. This means no daunting, time-consuming 20 mile runs — just tempo runs, speed work and the occasional short long run (max of 15 miles) so I can maintain some endurance. I took eight days off from running after Eugene, and now I’m enjoying stress-free runs as my body continues to heal. It feels nice to just run and focus on recovery without stressing about starting a new training cycle.

I’ve come to love and embrace the marathon lifestyle, but I’m pretty excited about my new normal. I’ve trained through the last two summers, and I hated it both times. Summer is the best time of the year in Seattle, but training made me hate our beautiful weather.

Seattle Gas Works ParkThis is mainly because I’m not a huge fan of waking up at 5am on Saturdays so I can get my long run in before it gets hot. Nope, not a fan at all.

This weekend I took advantage of my new normal by strolling through the Farmers’ Market on Saturday and celebrating my bday/mother’s day on Sunday.

Issaquah Farmer's MarketAs I mentioned in my last post, I have thoughts about Eugene. A lot of thoughts, actually, but I don’t want to bore you. Here are my main takeaways from my Eugene meltdown:

1. I need to have a strong base BEFORE I start training for my next marathon.
My speed and endurance sucked when I started this training cycle, and I spent the first half of training building a base from which I could train. When I start training for Eugene 2014, I want to have a strong base so I can hit the ground running (ha) on Day 1.

2. I need to run my long runs faster.
I ran almost all of my long runs at a 10 min/mile pace. No wonder I got so tired at mile 18 — my body wasn’t used to sustaining a 9 minute mile pace for such a long time. I’ve learned this lesson in the past, but now there is no denying this training mistake.

3. I need to become mentally stronger.
When the marathon got tough, I fell apart. I went from “woohoo! I’m with the 4-hour pacer — I can totally do this!” to “Eff? You’ve got to be kidding me — another 6 miles? Marathons are dumb. Why do I PAY to be in so much pain? Sub 4 ain’t happening, might as well walk” in a grand total of five minutes.

There was no fight; I mentally collapsed (FAST) and gave up. No matter how well I train, miles 20-26.2 are always going to hurt like hell, which is why I need to practice being mentally strong and pushing through the pain during tough training runs. It’s naive for me to think that I can just “suck it up” and push through the pain at mile 20 of a marathon; I need to practice dealing with pain and discomfort so I’m ready for the final 10k.

4. I need to get faster.
As soon as I crossed the finish line in Eugene, I had one simple resolve: Must. Get. Faster. I felt similarly after finishing the Honeywagon Half Marathon with a stupid six second PR, but I could do little about it since I was halfway through Eugene training and needed to balance building endurance with trying to get faster. Now I have the gift of 7.5 months of no marathon training, during which I can focus on speed. And, let’s face it — running fast is much more fun than running slow.

What’s next?

Lots of half marathons!

I love marathons, I really do, but half marathons are a much more manageable distance for which to train. You don’t have to go on crazy long training runs and they don’t consume your life. I also recover from half marathons within a few days (unlike marathons, which take me a full month to recover), so I can quickly bounce back from a race and resume training.

My next race is the Rock N Roll Seattle Half Marathon on June 22. I was originally registered for the full, but I wised up and switched my registration to the half. Although it would be cool to be one of those people who can run marathons for fun, I’m not there yet. Not even close. Even running a marathon for fun would wipe me out and take time away that I could spend on getting faster. At this point in my running, getting faster trumps running a marathon just for the sake of running another marathon.

My plan is to train through this race and use it as a training run to prepare for my goal races this summer: See Jane Run Half on July 14 and the Labor Day Half Marathon on September 2.

Oh, and I’m getting married in less than three months, so I should probably stop being a deadbeat bride and get on top of this wedding planning business…

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