Well, if nothing else goes as planned for the rest of my training, I can at least say the idea of marathon training runs did. And that is huge. I think the victory for me after this weekend was ignoring the voices of reason that time after time popped up and questioned my sanity. When I signed up for both Air Force and Chicago, I was a bit nervous. Then I added Indianapolis and I was really wondering. I have never run a marathon without a taper, let alone 3 very close together. I purposely sought out articles and training plans that had how to run consecutive marathons within 2 weeks, three, and 4 weeks, but they all had an element of rest in between. But resting big for each marathon defeated the purpose of training fatigued muscles. So I essentially closed my eyes, held my breath, jumped in and hoped for the best. I took a huge risk, not knowing how the end would play out. Even though I did not race these marathons, slower long runs of this distance, even in the most aggressive of marathon training plans, are often spaced farther apart. I did that between Air Force and Chicago. But Chicago and Indy were in the same week with 2 days of running and an elliptical workout in between (that would have been a run but I was dealing with some weird muscle and nerve pain that I'd never experienced.... piriformis? Never knew I had that muscle... as always, stretching and ice were the key.. the pain is gone!). My multiple marathons are not impressive by an ultra-runners standard and I realize that. But when you slowly begin to test your limits (or what you thought were your limits) and enter into new territory, it's a big deal. I'm learning a lot about the science of running. The one thing I have done is stayed so keenly aware of my heart rate. Sometimes this reduces me to a very slow pace (by my standards... I realize this is incredibly individualized... and this also pertains to road running as trail running is much slower) On days I am very tired, it doesn't take much to reach my aerobic limit. This is when I have to ignore pace and respect what my body is telling me. On those days I may reach the highest range of my aerobic training zone at a 10:30 or 11:00 min/mile pace. I go with it, even if I feel like I can go faster. On days my body is well rested, that is now a high 8 min/mile range. I believe wholeheartedly that it is why I'm not injured and why I'm recovering so quickly. I've had to push my ego aside on many runs and slow it down. Yesterday I just kept it on HR and sure 'nuff, my pace avg'd an 11 min mile. Today I did TRX without trouble. My legs feel rested and ready for spinning and trail running tomorrow. I'm so happy that this seems to be all coming together.
I believe paying attention to heart rate continues to allow proper conditioning, strengthening and preparation of our bodies for the next big challenge. It allows us to adequately rest and recover so we are ready for the next big workout, be it speed or distance or both. You can't push hard all the time. No matter who you are, it will catch up and there will be consequences.
The other factor that has been key in my maintenance of the mileage is fueling. After following proper fueling guidelines during these longer back to back runs, I am experiencing no wall hitting or delayed onset muscle soreness. No, I'm not going as fast as I once did, but I am trading off for time spent running. In other words, when you slow down, you are out there longer and still need to fuel adequately in order to stay strong during and expedite recovery afterward.
I continue to do yoga once a week, occasionally having to use my home video if I can't get to class. I ice after long runs or when something hurts. The only time I have taken ibuprofen in the past 6 months was last week to reduce the inflammation of that weird muscle. I use compression sleeves for my problematic calves, which have not been giving me any trouble (knock on wood) and used compression tights after Chicago and Indy to help recovery as well. I am usually asleep before 9:30 every night.. Sometimes (last night), before 8:30. I also seek out sources of reading to help strengthen me mentally for those times when it gets rough. I have read a lot and I am stronger. I told Sarah that during the Columbus half marathon, I felt very weak and kind of depleted after mile 2. I stopped to use the bathroom and sat there for a minute. I told myself I have felt much worse and just because I did a marathon the day before, I still wasn't THAT bad that I couldn't suck it up and finish this strongly. I took off after my port o let epiphany and ran a rather strong, though not speedy, half marathon.
So if all this happy go lucky wonderfulness is producing a lot of eye rolling and thoughts of "Well isn't she special", let me say this... Doing the right things is inconvenient and quite honestly, a time consuming pain in the ass. Who has time to put on compression tights when you are pressed for times, much less, sit in a tub of ice? SOOO often I want to bag it and just run and get on with it. I don't want to dump spinach or chia seeds into my morning shakes. I don't even WANT a shake after a workout, much less one filled with a bunch of healthy things. I don't particularly WANT to wear that stupid HR monitor. Nor do I have the time to go to yoga at 6 pm on a Monday night. But I do all of these things because I love running so much and want to preserve it's longevity and be good at it. I don't want time off for an injury or to feel like crap when I'm doing it (although sometimes it's just a given on certain runs). Like everything, it's a trade off. And the funny thing is, I will never be at elite status or get paid for doing this. But if I am going to turn myself into the best runner that I can be, then I'm at the point where I am willing to make every sacrifice it requires. Who knows if it's one of the above factors making me feel so good, or all of them combined. I believe it is the whole package and therefore, will continue to do them all. I'm sure I'll add things and tweak a thousand times over again. I have a LOT to learn still. Different things work for some, but not for others. I'm finding what works for me. To make the blanket statement that EVERYONE should do all of the above wouldn't be right, as some research shows that yoga can actually adversely affect running performance and increase likelihood of injury. That is not the case for me and for many others, however. For now all I want to do is run my ultra well (which is *GULP* four weeks from Saturday).
Then I want to run a marathon which qualifies me for Boston... over and over and over again :)