The problem with big key workouts is sometimes they just don't go as planned, and sometimes they just don't feel that great! Thanks goodness that has not been the case for the majority of my workouts building up to Boston. Before Columbus there were plenty of "blown" tempos, and many track workouts that ended in seriously slow repeats. But this build up almost all of my key workouts have been achieved since switching to marathon focus, and those that weren't met before during the lactate threshold phase weren't too far off.
I can't lie, training for a spring marathon and living in the Midwest is many times an exercise in frustration. You can't race much, weather screws up your plans a lot, and a lot of times you deal with injuries. The lack of sunshine affects your mood, and it is sometimes hard to find the confidence that you easily obtain during the build up to a fall marathon. I've definitely had some highs and lows mentally this build up, and unfortunately I seem to be in a mental low this week. Possibly because I had a tough work week, possibly the reality of racing in just over two weeks is hitting me and that brings with it some fear. Without any real races since the Kent 5k I find myself in familiar territory wondering just what my body is actually capable of.
All of that leading into todays last long run. And boy was it a doozy! Before Columbus we did a big 18 miler two weeks out too. Then the goal was run 6:35-6:45 for 18 miles, we ended up averaging 6:34 and I went on to run 6:30 pace at Columbus. This go around goal was 18 miles with 16 averaging 6:25, last 5 of the 16 at or better than 6:20. We hooked up with some our teams fast guys to try and get more of a race feel and learn to sit back "in the pack" and take advantage of their company.
Well I just didn't feel good today. Despite the great company and pretty good weather I was just juiced. It probably didn't help that the pace was a little aggressive, sitting at a 6:29 average for the whole run at mile 9 which included a 7:29 warm up mile, we had been running an average of 6:24 pace from mile 1 through mile 12 when we were to pick things up. Thought I would get a bounce at mile 11 when we stopped at the car to get water and gel and I stripped down to shorts and a t-shirt. And I did get a brief boost, but that was killed quickly after about 1.5 miles into the pick up. I was struggling and I really just wanted to quit. I wasn't doing poorly. I was right around 6:20 pace, but I was just dying to do it. I kept searching for some motivation to get myself in gear but I could not find it. At mile 15 I noted that I was at an average of 6:28 pace for the whole run and told myself that at 16 I could head straight to the cool down. 6:28 is pretty darn close to 6:25 and I was just not feeling it. I walked for a few minutes after mile 16 and sucked it up and decided to try and at least give one more mile a good effort, but the mental damage was already done, I had quit and I was disappointed. I eeked out a 6:23 and then suffered my way through a 1 mile cool down.
I have not been that mentally or physically juiced by a long run in a long time. I spent the next few hours beating myself up for not just finding that other mental gear and pushing through. Funny how 6 little minutes of suffering was just too much for me to withstand today, and how 6 little minutes are the difference between being thrilled over a run and beating myself up about it. Mostly I am just dissapointed because I thought that I had gained enough strength and mental "callusing" that this type of thing was in the past for me. Turns out I am still human :)
After an easy swim, a long hot shower, and shopping for some friends I am feeling better about things. Better to have a "bad*" run today than in two weeks at Boston. Let's hope I got that out of the way and that now I am ready to rock and roll at Boston! I have two weeks to get my mental "A" game ready and my body recovered from this training block.
*Even with two miles close to 8 minute pace the total average pace for today's 18 was 6:31, albeit with two brief breaks. And 15 miles at 6:24 pace is certainly the fastest 15 miles I have ever run. Not bad for sure. Just wish it had felt a bit better :)