My last training run for the Shamrock Marathon is on the books.
I pretty much used Hal Higdon's Intermediate I plan with some modifications. After reading Hal's marathon book, I can see why he designs his plans the way he does. I like the structure of Hal's plans, particularly the intermediate plans where there are back-to-back hard workouts. But I didn't think the mileage was high enough to get me to my goal. I tacked on an extra mile to all of my long runs (except the week I was supposed to run a half marathon race and the two 20 milers, and even then I ran a little bit more than what the plan called for). I also added some extra distance to my other runs. On average, I ran about 3-3.5 miles per week more than the plan called for. I never quite made it to that magical number of 50 miles a week, but I wasn't trying to. I came close enough for several weeks. I ran every single run on my training plan. That's a first.
I stuck with everything that I incorporated into my Chicago training cycle. No music, yoga, compression socks/sleeves, strength training, and some other stuff, plus a training goal marathon pace 15 seconds per mile lower than Chicago. I can't isolate the individual contributions of each change, but they all seemed to help.
I gained lots of practice at seeing mile splits starting with 7s. Remember when I said mile splits in the 7s scared me? Not anymore. I routinely hit splits in the 7s, sometimes without even trying. My mindset went from "Splits in the 7s? Ooo, scary" to "Yeah, splits in the 7s. Excellent!" By the end of my training cycle, mile splits in the 7s didn't even feel that hard. I never though I would say that.
Midway through my training cycle, I successfully raced a half marathon on a treadmill. It actually wasn't awful and I would do it again. Of course, now that I have said that, I probably will have to do it again some point in the future.
I need to put a word of caution out because I know I ran faster than I was supposed to. With a marathon goal pace of 8:00, I should have done my long runs around an 8:45 pace. Yeah. Not so much. Most of my long runs were in the 8:10s. My three longest runs were solid. One of my 20 mile runs was under 8:20. The other 20 miler was under 8:10. I ran 19 miles at just over 8:10. I should mention that I ran comfortably at those paces and distances, and they definitely got easier over time. I never though I would say that, either.
In all three of my previous marathons, I got injured somewhere in my training cycle. For RnR Mardi Gras, it was during my 20 mile run. An issue with my shin. Thankfully, it was minor and easily handled with extra rest and athletic tape. For Cox Providence, it was a serious injury to my ankle. I think I rolled it by stepping funny in a pair of Crocs. I missed several weeks of running and subbed in lots of cross-training. I ran the marathon anyway because I felt OK by the time the race came around. I did not have the race I wanted, though. For Chicago, it was another flareup of the ankle injury. I took a few days of extra rest and missed my last 20 mile run. Oh well. Like Cox, I was OK for the race. I didn't have the race I wanted, but it was because of the weather and not because of an injury. For Shamrock, my training went smoothly all the way to the end. This is the first time I have not gotten injured. This is a big deal. Maybe I just got lucky, or maybe everything I am doing is working.
I had some lingering issues with my ankle that I have been watching carefully. Mostly just minor irritation easily managed by stretching, Body Glide, compression socks, and rolling my foot on a tennis ball under my desk at work. I never got sharp pains that forced me to stop in the middle of a run. I didn't rely on ibuprofen or Biofreeze to reduce pain and inflammation. In fact, I haven't touched ibuprofen or Biofreeze this training cycle. The pain was very low-level to non-existent, and there was no inflammation. Much better than what happened in my training for Chicago.
One of the things about running a marathon is that you never know what will happen when you get out there. That's part of why I like marathons. You just cannot predict what will happen. Something goes wrong physically and/or mentally at some point, and you need to overcome that challenge.
Overall, I had a really good training cycle that exceeded my expectations. I am physically stronger. I am mentally stronger. I am going into the Shamrock Marathon uninjured and confident. Priceless. Stay tuned, folks.