Dog Days of Training

Dog Days of TrainingFor those who have committed to a marathon in the early fall, you are now entering what I have jokingly called the dog days of the training cycle. In the coming weeks, you will see your highest mileage weeks, as well as the hottest temperatures outside, and without a doubt, these weeks will be your biggest test of both mental and physical conditioning to date. If you are in your first marathon training experience, it may send you into a bit of a mental tail spin. The extra mileage can put you at greater risk for injury. The hotter temperatures open up the door to more hydration issues that need to be addressed. With all these things to consider, why would anyone choose to run an early fall marathon??? Ugh! The dogs days indeed! When you don’t want to do anything, but you know you must to be race day ready.

Last year, when I was training for my first marathon in late October, I was training hard for it, following my plan. At the time, I wasn’t working, so I had lots of time to focus on training. Which was one reason I chose the Hal Higdon intermediate 1 plan. I thought I would be able to handle it without the other distractions of life to impede my running. At some point about 6-7 weeks in advance of my marathon, I felt depleted – mentally and physically. I was almost in tears when it was time for a run. I had to take a couple extra rest days because I physically was exhausted. Then the extra rest days made me worried that I couldn’t complete my training and wouldn’t be ready for the race. So I tried to push myself even more, and the cycle of being depleted continued. Finally after a particularly bad run, I made the decision to drop my training back to an easier plan; I took it back to the Hal Higdon novice 2 plan.

The result of taking my training back a notch: I felt FANTASTIC! Giving myself the permission to ease up a bit – while still trusting that I would be ready for race day – made a huge difference in my experience. My body was able to feel stronger by cutting a few miles off my plan each week. My attitude toward training was different; I didn’t dread the running any more. I looked at each week and felt that the slightly adjusted mileage was so much more doable. And because of that, I completed the training with a renewed sense of purpose and energy.

Then on race day, I was able to go the distance. Maybe not as fast as I had originally planned (well, there were other factors that went into that, such as a bulging disc in my back), but I crossed the finish line and did it (leg) injury free and with a smile on my face.

Fast forward to today. I’m back to following the Hal Higdon intermediate 1 plan (loosely, as I have the Marathon du Medoc in early September, which is a fun marathon that I am not worried about my time. The timing of this then my first ‘real’ marathon in the fall, Chicago, makes it a bit hard to follow a plan to the letter). I am coming up on a 41-mi week and a 44-mi week in August (my longest mileage weeks ever) and I’m working a full time job this summer. In a couple weeks, I’ll know whether I can complete those weeks. And neither of them are my 20-mi long run weeks, so I’ll have that to look forward to as well. All I know is that if I can’t finish the miles as they are outlined in the plan, I’ll still be giving it my best shot. This year, though, I have given myself permission to cut back if I find I can’t make all the miles happen.

Whether I can meet the intermediate plan mileage goals or not, I’ll still be ready to line up in the Medoc (and drink wine along the way!) and then again a month later in Chicago, where I will be shooting for a PR of 4 hrs. My dog days of training are here, and I’m ready to take them on and enjoy the challenge this year. No dread for me, as I know that I will get through them and will be ready for race day – whether I complete the planned mileage or not.

Are you struggling with the upcoming longer mileage weeks, these dog days of training? Are you feeling it physically, mentally or both? Be kind to yourself and allow yourself the chance to ease up on your miles a bit – even take an extra rest day when you need it – to ensure you can go the full distance.

I look forward to seeing you at the start line on race day!

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4 thoughts on “Dog Days of Training

  1. Great to see you back updating your blog…life can get so crazy, hard to fit in everything! Great post and I’ve reached the point to when sometimes you just have to let the training go. I started the year with one of my goals to PR at the 4 main distances, but I’ve since accepted that is simply not likely to happen with the focus being on multiple marathons, the maniacs, and my first ultra. My training has become a bit inconsistent but I’m ok with it…at least for this year. I am looking forward to Tulsa in November and I really enjoyed your race report from last year…also not likely a PR race for me but I will try to target more consistent training. Medoc should be a crazy fun experience and then you will be ready to crush Chicago and nail that 3:59:59 🙂 Happy training!!

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    • Hi James! Congrats on the Maniac achievement. Be sure to register yourself as one for Tulsa. They take very good care of the Maniacs there.

      Yes, I’ve been very bad about blogging. Work, visitors, running, travel – and I haven’t really ‘felt’ any topic lately. But I’m reading posts on FB running groups about people who are pushing themselves into injury, running in pain, being miserable, and I just had to make my own statement about being OK with easing up on the training. I think that is why we always have a few goals in mind: the A goal, if all things are perfect, the B goal and the C goal as the absolute ‘lowest’ expectation. So many people beat themselves up on not having the run of their lives every training run. I’m glad that I got that out of my system last year and realized that I can take a step back if I need to. I may need to readjust my expectations for the race, but it’s fine to do that too.

      I’m honestly not sure Chicago will be my 4 hour run. I’m nervous about the large size of the field being prohibitive to run at the pace I need. But if I find I’m not going to make that original goal, I’ll be looking at Richmond to try it again. Or maybe Houston in January. Regardless, I want to have fun with every course I run, and as long as put in the training, I think I can do both.

      Happy running today, my friend. I’m sure we’ll meet up at a race one of these days!

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      • Great points Robyn…this year is when I have had to let go of my race expectations. With so many marathon races on the calendar, there’s no way I can go out and run my beat my PR every time out. I’ve still only gone under 4 hours once though which kinda bugs me, but being a qualified Maniac is awesome! Don’t worry too much about crowding affecting your pace in Chicago…it is a crazy huge event of course, but the corrals are set up very well – just make sure you are in your corral within 15 minutes of the closing time! I had to run back to the corral behind me because I was a minute late to my assigned starting gate. But, that aside it wasn’t a big issue…the streets of Chicago are super wide and while you will have “friends” the whole way, there is room to hit your pace. And, the crowd will pull you along – it is amazing. Hopefully, you will get cool temps…it got hot on me at the end. Also, plan on getting a shuttle from the downtown hotels to the expos…much easier. Look forward to following your progress and meeting you at a race somewhere on our journey!!

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  2. Glad I made a mental note to go back and read this. I needed this message this week. Thanks. Hope the miles are going well friend. And looking forward with big smiles to November and December.

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