Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some post-marathon reflections, and anticipating the future.

So, as winter approaches I'm getting increasingly insecure about the whole idea of an "off season" and losing fitness i worked so hard for over the summer months.  It's already happening as I'm running much lower mileage than I was.  I ordered a scale this past week.  I haven't had one because they usually depress me and I don't want to become weight-obsessed, but I am starting to see the value of a scale as a training tool... I'll be able to notice if I'm balancing food intake with calories burned properly if I see whether my weight is going up or not.  And I can do a pre-run/post-run weigh-in and try to get a better sense of my hydration needs (perhaps the most important part).  I think in all likelihood I haven't been eating enough again, and definitely more calories from fats than I should have (one day I ate avocados for dinner.  No seriously, I ate them, several for dinner, and that was all).  The chiro said for running 25-35 mpw I should be eating around 2200-2400, and I've been doing a sloppy job.

The plan moving forward is this:  I am going to do the blue (advanced) training plan out of the book Daniels' Running Formula for I think about 12 weeks (this was the first week, though I've missed at least one run due to my brother's visit).  Then, I'm going to switch to his marathon plan and prepare for a May marathon.  The blue plan is basically designed to help you build overall fitness and work on speed without huge amounts of mileage.  Daniels has a scientific-ish approach to running where you determine what he calls a VDot number based on a 5k race time.  You then take this number and use his chart to calculate the paces you should run various workouts (he has E-easy pace, M-marathon pace, I-interval pace, R-repetition pace, and T-tempo pace).  If you follow the plan you should be able to increase your vDot by one about every 3-4 weeks, so your training paces will increase.  So in theory I should be faster in 12 weeks and can then switch onto the marathon training program, which has speedwork too but also more mileage.

My feelings about doing another marathon are mixed at the moment.  Things I liked about the experience/reasons I want to do another:

  • I felt really great in training, mentally and emotionally.  My life had structure based on workouts that I absolutely would not move (my Saturday long runs).  I had specific pre-run and post-run routines that I always followed.  I felt good about myself for the most part.
  • I felt really great physically in training.  I mean yes there were bad runs and yes there was pain, but overall I felt better and better as I saw myself handling more and more distance.  
  • I felt better about myself generally.  I slimmed down a little bit, and I got more muscle definition which was awesome.  While these were pretty small changes, these were things I thought would never happen to me (I thought I was just "built" how I was, and would always be that size/shape).  
  • I really started to enjoy food without guilt.  I sometimes felt bad about eating bread, pretzels, etc before because these are the more processed carbs and I feel like if I were really healthy I'd be getting my carbs from veggies, fruits, whole grains, etc.  But I got to the point where I was just so damn hungry all the time I was eating everything without guilt.  And overall bread and pretzels seem relatively harmless anyway, as foods go.
  • I felt like I knew what I was doing with calorie intakes and thus I lost my fear of getting fat all the time.  (Thanks mom, for this one.  Growing up she was always obsessed with her weight and calorie counting and I feel like I sort of inherited that a bit.  This was the first time I've EVER done calorie counting and mostly it was to eat MORE rather than LESS, but I definitely always have this abstract lingering fear of getting fat regardless of what state I'm in, just as mom always did.)  So marathon training let me feel more in control of that fear.
  • The race itself was a challenge to be faced and overcome.  I was able to plan, pace, and hang tough, and this was a good feeling.
  • The energy on race day was pretty exciting.  The journey from mile to mile was a lot of fun as well, running around the whole city, etc.  
  • The feeling after finishing was amazing, and it stuck around for days.
  • I like being a "marathoner."  It has a nice ring to it ;)
  • I like how being a marathoner has helped me to become part of a running community.  I've enjoyed getting to know the folks through Cbus Pacers and I like the potential to meet more runners/cyclists/athletes by being one myself.  
Things I didn't like about training/reasons I'm not sure I want to do this again (but probably will anyway):
  • Am I doing this again because I really want to, or because I don't want to be one of those people who just do a marathon to "check it off a bucket list"?  I kind of feel like to ensure my status as a Real Runner, I need to do a second or third marathon, so I'm not one of those many one-timers who does it once and is satisfied.  Ridiculous, but definitely I'm thinking about where my motivation might be coming from if I do this again.
  • It's really really hard for me when the weather is cold and ick to want to get my foot out the door.  There are a lot of days where I simply DON'T want to run.  I've definitely noticed this is seasonal, too... so it's hard to say if I'm just like "eh I ran a marathon, so I'm sick of running" or if it's more "ick its cold and I'm depressed and I'd rather stay inside on the couch throwing a pity-party."  I tend to think it's more the latter.  I could take winter off somewhat at a reduced training intensity, but then I'm just going to feel worse about myself for being lazy and will regret the "wasted" time when spring comes around and I'm still slow and have to get myself back into mileage again.  I probably have to mind-over-matter this one, and then training kind of becomes a slog I have to get through rather than that really special part of my day that I'm looking forward to.
  • The shorter daylight hours are making this really hard now.  If I run in the "evening," I have to basically be running by 330 or it will be dark before I'm finished.  This is difficult because it cuts into my daytime productivity with writing and work, which affects my mood in other negative ways as I feel bad about myself for not getting enough done and guilty for fitting a run in.  I really have to run in daylight because the trail is unsafe at night (even dusk makes me a little nervous). And the early mornings are just so damn cold. I know people run in worse climates than mine and I know I did it last winter just fine, so I'll probably adjust, but it sure does suck at the moment. :(
  • I hate speed training.  I loathe it, really.  Whenever I'm faced with an interval workout I basically spend all day trying to come up with ways to justify skipping it or moving it to the next day.  Yet I don't feel I can justify another marathon unless I start working more intently on this part of my training.  I do not want to run for 5 hours again.  So my choices are basically don't do another marathon or suck it up and do the speed training.  How can I be mentally tough enough to get through a marathon but such a baby about speed training??  I have no will power with some things I guess.
  • The memory of that one awful 21 mile run is still lingering with me. Why would I want to willfully do something that makes me feel that level of pain?  I've never experienced pain like that in my life.  Granted it was a one-time deal and even the marathon itself wasn't as bad, but regardless.  I have some fears about it now anytime I imagine myself setting out for a long run that's over 18 miles.
  • Miles 19-24 of the race were a real sonofabitch.  Unsavory is putting it mildly.  Now that the sheen has worn off the "yay I ran a marathon" thing I'm now starting to remember how bored I sometimes am on long runs, how much mental energy those final miles took, etc.
At this point I guess I have decided that the "goods" outweigh the bads, so I'm just going to have to suck it up with the "bad" things.  As I said I have training plans and will do another race in May most likely.  But it's making me question myself a lot that I have these negative feelings and doubts about my sport.  Most runners seem to just be like... omg running!  always on a running high!  sometimes maybe a bad run but omg running!  And I'm about 75% "omg running!" and 25% "i'm not really an athlete at heart, am I? why is running always such a battle?"  Maybe some self doubt is healthy somehow, I don't know.

On that note I suppose I should get ready and head out for today's 1200m repeats :(


  1. I wish you lived by me. Like so so so hard. I think we'd be such good RL friends and you'd understand me. I feel JUST like you do. Almost exactly.

    I did my first outdoor run today and it was awful. I cried about 11 miles in, I was so done. I haven't gotten my facemask thingie or my tights yet. I was woefully undergloved and my hands just turned into solid ice about 5 miles in. I was supposed to do 18 but I headed for home early and only did 14.

    I was so miserable and cold and tired. I feel like an absolute failure for dropping miles out of my LSD run - it's the first time I've done that. I only worked out three times this week (FAIL), I didn't hit my mileage goals (FAIL!) and I missed my calorie burn by 200 (FAIL!!)

    I feel fat and lazy and awful.
    I'm going to go use the spin bike tomorrow to at least remedy those last two things - but I feel just exhausted. I didn't really do any down time after the marathon with that second one looming and I just feel tired and blue.

    I wish I had a local friend to run with and who would understand all my weird food shit and my exercise weirdness and all that. And who could eat my nummy baked goods. ;) I feel so bad right now and I feel lonely on top if it. :(

    Anyway, blah blah blahblah I'm stupid...
    I hope things smooth out for you, too.

  2. I wondered some of the same things after my marathon. Did I really want to put myself through all that again? If you think you need a small break, you should take it. Maybe run some shorter races for a while. I realized that after a break, I needed running. I do love it and I realized it more after the break. I hope you can sort all this out and feel good about yourself!!! :)

  3. I've definitely noticed that it's easy not to eat enough on a vegan diet if you don't pay attention. And / or load up too much on fat. It's especially difficult when your activity level is so up and down. I don't really have any helpful suggestions as I'm struggling to find equilibrium myself right now. Let me know if you have any breakthroughs!

    As for the running, I agree that the goods seem to outweigh the bads for you. I think being aware of both helps you keep track of your motivations for running, and keep it being a positive influence in your life. And I think the more you do it, the more you'll overcome a loathing of speedwork and a fear of a repeat episode like the 21 miler. In fact I think acknowledging those bads and working on them could turn out to be a really positive experience for you in it end.

    So.. did you do the repeats? ;-)