It's getting HARD.
When I wrote my training plan for the Louisiana Marathon, I knew I was going to focus on more volume and longer interval and tempo runs to build up my endurance. I was going to replace my third 20 miler with a 22 miler, a distance I haven't built into a training plan in years (yes, even 2 miles makes a difference). I was going to engage in more 5-run weeks rather than just 4 runs per week. Strength and core training were going to be consistent and key to keeping my body in tip top shape. All of this meant that I was going to be doing some SERIOUS training.
So how's it all panning out?
Actually, pretty well, although I wasn't always so sure about it.
My biggest training months leading up to a marathon in the past were about 120-130 miles in volume. I'm seem to be happiest when I hover around 100 miles per month. But keeping the status quo wasn't going to do me any favors after a 2 year absence from the marathon distance. November is officially my highest volume month in the 9 years I've been running at 150 miles. Next month will be 176 miles of running. Looking at those numbers is staggering to me. But I'm hanging in there so far, and I think I am seeing the rewards of my hard work. Race day is 45 days away.
I'm definitely slower than I have been in the past. For months it really ate away at me to know that I've declined since my last marathon, and I was beating myself up pretty bad about it. But in the last week or so I've gained a sense of peace about where I'm at. The last two years have been incredibly challenging emotionally. The stress level that I've had could knock anyone on their ass, and I've had to realize that it's truly to blame for my decline. Stress absolutely wreaks havoc on your physical well being in addition to your emotional well being. While my stress level is not great right now, it's slowly improved this year. There's a lot more light in my life, although dark days still creep in. It's been a huge battle to try to reverse these detrimental effects on my body and I'm clawing my way back to my previous ability, day by day and run by run.
So while the runs themselves might not be quite as speedy as in the past, I think the volume is paying dividends, even if they are tiny dividends. Sunday was a 14 mile run with 4 miles of it at marathon goal pace. I ended up running the final 8 miles at that pace and while I was tired, it felt really great. Yesterday I had a 7 mile tempo run, with 1 mile at warm up pace, 4 miles at short tempo pace, and 2 miles cool down. My triathlon team leader told me my tempo pace for that run was to be 8:33. The previous week's workout was 5 miles of tempo (7 mile total run) at a 9:03 average, so this run was going to be quite a bit faster, and harder. After a bit of a shaky start, and an annoying uphill during mile two, I ended up nailing the run. The 4 miles of tempo came in at 34:12...exactly 8:33 average. It was NOT easy for me, but looking back on it, it didn't kill me. I felt absolutely fine after the run was finished. As I drove home I realized that by nailing this run it basically proved that my training is working.
When I first wrote up my training plan I had in my head that I really would try for a PR at the Louisiana Marathon. I'm basing my workout paces off of this goal. I'm not quite sure I have it in me to achieve this goal, but I'm keeping it in the back of my head regardless. December is going to be a crazy training month. I have to be diligent about staying healthy. But I think if I start seeing the hard work paying off even more then I will absolutely shoot for that PR.