Monday, December 5, 2011

The lows of marathon training and some lessons learned (Weeks 26 through 30)

English: Vladimir Bystrov. 2006 Russian Premie...Image via Wikipedia
I've been neglecting my blog the past few weeks, so I'll try to summarize the last few weeks leading up
to my first marathon. My excuse is that the weeks leading up to my marathon didn't go very well, and it's hard for me to get motivated to write these entries when things aren't going well.

Later I'll write another entry to summarize my first marathon experience. But in case you're wondering, despite the challenges I faced in November, I am proud to report that I did run and finish my first marathon yesterday!

Weeks 26-30

As I mentioned above, the last few weeks leading up to my marathon were a real drag. It seemed like it was either pain in my ankle/foot, or pain in my hamstring, or both. At times the pain was so severe that I could barely walk, much less run. And missing runs so late in the training schedule is really discouraging. There were many times when I doubted whether I would be able to complete the training and actually run the marathon.

I missed several runs during this period of time, especially during weeks 26 and 27. I'm taking the time to write out my workout summaries for weeks 26 through 30 below, mainly because I want to encourage others who are going through a similar experience to not give up. The message here is that even though I was dealing with injuries in the last few weeks leading up to my marathon, and even though those injuries forced me to miss several runs, I was still able to run my marathon and finish it. I didn't perform as well as I hoped, but I adjusted my expectations and still hit my primary goal, which was to finish a marathon.

So with all that being said, here's what weeks 26 through 30 looked like. The planned workouts are in parenthesis, followed by what I actually did:

Week 26:
Mon: (rest) rested
Tues: (5mi run) did some cycling
Wed: (8mi run) rested
Thu: (5mi run) did a 5.3 mi run
Fri: (rest) rested
Sat: (12mi run) did some cycling
Sun: (cross training) rested

Week 27:
Mon: (rest) rested
Tues: (5mi run) did a 5 mi run
Wed: (5mi pace run) rested
Thu: (5mi run) did a 5.2 mi run
Fri: (rest) rested
Sat: (20mi run) did a 18.1 mi run*
Sun: (cross training) rested

Week 28:
Mon: (rest) rested
Tues: (5mi run) did a 5 mi run
Wed: (4mi pace run) did a 4 mi run
Thu: (5mi run) did a 5 mi run
Fri: (rest) rested
Sat: (12mi run) did a 12 mi run
Sun: (cross training) did some cycling

Week 29:
Mon: (rest) rested
Tues: (4mi run) did a 4 mi run
Wed: (3mi run) did a 3 mi run
Thu: (4mi run) did a 3 mi run
Fri: (rest) rested
Sat: (8mi run) did a 8 mi run
Sun: (cross training) rested

Week 30:
Mon: (rest) rested
Tues: (3mi run) did a 3 mi run
Wed: (2mi run) rested
Thu: (rest) rested
Fri: (rest) did a 2 mi run
Sat: (2mi run) rested
Sun: (MARATHON) Ran 26.2 miles!

* That's right - I didn't do a 20mi run. But this wasn't because I planned it this way. I had planned to run 7mi on my own, then jump in and run a half marathon. But I found out after the race that there was a problem with the course, and it was actually about 2mi short. So my planned 20mi run was actually only about an 18.1mi run.

Some Lessons Learned

So even though these were challenging weeks, I did learn alot about dealing with injuries. Here are a few things I learned, just off the top of my head:

1. Don't be afraid to replace a run with rest or cross-training if you're injured. I think there were times when I tried to run through an injury and just prolonged it. Things didn't start to improve until I started to rest or replace runs with cycling, which didn't irritate my ankle or hamstring. And, yes, you can miss runs and still finish your marathon!

2. Use a foam roller. They really do work. I dealt with hamstring pain for weeks before finally trying a foam roller. Two painful sessions later, my hamstring finally stopped bothering me.

3. Ice/Heat/Repeat. This is what worked for me, but there seems to be conflicting info on this subject so I'll just say "consult your physician." But I would ice my ankle/hamstring immediately after workouts, but use a heating pad on rest days.

4. Avoid caffeine before and during runs because it causes cramping in my tendons. For weeks I dealt with intermittent cramping in various tendons around my knees and ankles. One week it would be severe, another week it would be non-existent. Then I realized that the cramping only occurred when I ate gels containing caffeine. No caffeine, no cramping. I do, however, drink coffee and diet sodas when I'm not running and have no problems.

5. Sports drinks are good; gels are good; but sports drinks and gels together are bad. So if I want to eat gels during a run, I drink water or nuun. No gels? Then I drink a sports drink.

So that's it for now. Next up is the good news - my race report for my first marathon!

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