Today is my last long run. What a training cycle it has been.
Leading up to Thanksgiving, we had pretty decent weather. Then Mr. El Nino hit. We got a major snowstorm right before Thanksgiving and the temps plunged. From then on, the temps stayed in the teens, and we got blasted with snow on a regular basis. As I look out my window, today is the first day that the temp will be above freezing in a long time, and I see the story of this training: run outside with spikes or run on the treadmill.
When I signed up for a Jan half marathon, I knew the risks of training during a super El Nino. We live at the NE edge of the Palmer Divide, at 6500ft. We get more snow than Denver; more snow than Boulder; more snow than just about every city on the eastern slope of the Rockies. An El Nino, for us, usually means, big snow and warmer temps. We didn't get that. We got big snow and plunging temperatures.
I was mentally ready to do most runs on the treadmill; then, take my long runs outside with my spikes.
Being that this was the first half marathon that I've ever trained with Liz, I thought my plan was solid. After all, I've done so many half marathons that I know the routine. I started getting into the training and realized that Liz don't play when it comes to half marathon training.
Before I knew what was happening, she had me running faster long runs, for shorter periods of time than I've ever run.
Liz turned my whole idea of half marathon training upside down. We worked with heart rate zones, but we primarily worked with pacing. There were days when I looked at the paces and my first thought was, "how am I going to do that?" In the back of my head, I kept hearing, "She wouldn't put this on your plan if you couldn't".
For the first time ever, I enjoyed half marathon training. No. I didn't enjoy it. I loved it. I felt like I was making very real strides in my fitness level. She took what I loved about short races and turned it into a half marathon plan that I enjoyed.
Still, the weather made training tough. On the day that I was supposed to run a 10K, I was broken. I'd reached my limit. I did a walk/run for most of the race, cursing the entire time. I was furious at myself for thinking the race course would at least be decent. (Decent in Colorado terms). When I hit my time limit, I walked over, turned in my chip and took a DNF. I wasn't going to take a stupid risk running outside fast, risk ANY type of injury/fall when I had a big goal on the horizon.
I sent off a blast email to Liz saying, "NO MORE OUTSIDE RUNNING. I'VE HAD IT."
She went through my training log and started giving me treadmills instructions. Do this, but DO THIS if you are on the treadmill.
Repeatedly running 2 hours on a treadmill is mentally draining, but I learned tricks for making it easier.
Keep all nutrition close (as in within reach). If I stopped once, I will stop twice, three times, four times....
Keep the curtains open. Turn on the tv for extra light. Aim the SAD light directly on me.
With my race being in AZ, I took the opportunity for heat acclimation. I turned on both space heaters, set them to 80 degrees, and had them blast me; one in front,one on the side. I refused to turn on the fans on the treadmill. I ran uphills; I ran fast, all with sweat pouring down my face,while looking out the window at a snow packed, ice covered world.
In a way, I thought if I was going to have to suffer a run on the treadmill, I was really going to suffer.
Day after day, week after week, I ran on the treadmill. Every week, I found a way to make it harder, more miserable.
I'm down to my last two weeks. I'm down to my last long run. Today and for the rest of the week, the temps are supposed to be in the 40's. Too little, too late for me. At least, I know that my last two weeks of training will give me the chance to run my easier runs outside.
Now, it comes down to race strategy. Liz and I talked about my plan. She sent me an email that was the most touching email I've ever gotten, from anyone. It brought tears to my eyes, probably because there are few people that I respect as much as Liz (as a person and an athlete). After I read the email, I knew that no matter what, I will do this.
We can't control any external circumstances when it comes to racing and training. We can only control our attitude.
On January 17th, I'm going to line up at the start. I am willing to experience any amount of physical pain to make that PR happen. I don't care what the weather is like. I don't care what the course is like. I have a coach that believes in me. I believe in me. Now, it's up to me to make it happen.