TCM Training: Weeks 4 – 5

Hi. Hello. Oops.

Week’s Theme: What Goes Up Must Come Down.

The past few weeks have been a bit off for me, and in the week before I left for Montana, I was having to drag myself out on every run. My knees were heavy. My feet were heavy. My legs were cashed. The mileage monster got me when I wasn’t looking, and my brain just wasn’t having it. I felt a little too beholden to the red bar of progress and I think the pressure I had put on myself to hit those numbers, to hit those positive feelings, and to do so while still feeling normal had dragged me down to a negative space. There will be weeks towards the end of this training cycle that will feel hard and draining, but to feel this MEH about everything a month in is… not ideal. SO, I flipped the switch. I used our trip to Montana as a nice reset, which meant WAY less miles, but a lot more smiles.

Week 4 Week 5
Monday: 5 + plyos 5 + plyos
Tuesday: 2 x 1600 200; 400; 600; 400; 800; 400; 1600; 400
Wednesday: 0 0 [4]
Thursday: 5 MP 6 MP
Friday: 6 + strength [trail run w/ hills] 5 + strength [5.7 MP]
Saturday: 13  [5] 10
Sunday: 5 [~5mi hike] 5 [4]

Look at all of those strikeouts! Leading in to the Montana trip, I took a few days off to try and calm some weird calf and Achilles tightness that I had been experiencing for a few days. We flew in on Thursday (of week 4) and after realizing how much pressure I was putting on getting the miles in as normal, I took a step back and realizing that we would 1) be at serious elevation (Big Sky sits at 7,200ft, and parts of the park at 8,000+ft!); 2) we were there for a wedding and family time; 3) and we were spending a ton of time in Yellowstone and the Tetons, which meant a lot of long days of hiking and sightseeing that wouldn’t mesh with tired legs and mileage. At the end of the day, the conditions and the priorities of this trip meant less rigidity and more creativity.

Track Workouts: Whole lotta nope.

One of these was nixed for the calf break, and one of these was nixed for the travel back to Chicago. I’m a little frustrated to miss both of these mentally, but physically the break was necessary. I’ll get back to these someday.. right?

Long Runs: 13 and 10

Run #1: 6.1mi @ 15:40 pace. The first long run of 13 miles was done a day early to accommodate timing, and the distance was chopped in half, basically. I had scoured the internet for running trail options, but when you’re in the mountains, trails are the focus and flat doesn’t really exist unless you’re running on a normal road/sidewalk. Even if I was ok being bored to death and forgoing beautiful nature for the sake of miles, it was hard to find a long-enough, safe-enough option. I thought I found the perfect trail option in Big Sky’s “famous” Beehive Basin Trail.

Looking down from about halfway home.

This out and back run started at ~6500′ and gained 1,400′ over the first half, so in case you’re wondering, I realize now that I was crazy to think that some flatlanders could just run this like normal. We shot out of the trailhead like giddy kids, got about 100yds into the run and had to stop and catch out breath. Ultimately, slowing the pace down allowed us to be able to absorb everything, and we stopped for a fair amount of pictures. Towards the end of our climb we hit snow, and essentially traversed the last 3/4mi of our run over snowpack. I also peed behind a tree for the first time, so I think I’m officially a #trailrunner. Because we climbed the entire way up, we got to bomb down the back half like giddy little mountain goats, and I’m pretty sure my giggles echoed through the valley and kept the bears away. We got to the bridge that took us to the trailhead and I just burst into happy tears. I had thrown away all expectations and was left with an incredible experience in an awe-inspiring location.

Run #2: 10mi @ 9:40 pace. This long run was back in Chicago, and I felt like a million bucks. I enjoyed ten sunny miles along the lake path, where my legs were refreshed and happy after some time away. I took a few water fountain baths to keep myself cool in the warm temperature. I accidentally landed at somewhat progressively faster splits, so I will take that any day. On the way home, I saw a man walking a goat on a leash, so it was like Montana but different.

Final Thoughts: Time Zone Reset

I’ve struggled these past few weeks. I had an amazing two runs in Montana (on some serious hills), and some great hikes, but when I got back, that elated, joyful feeling was gone with the wind. My first run home was four miles of scowling, and my calf/Achilles tightness was somehow back after a week of pain-free running. I took another day to just sit and marinate in my funk before I turned the corner. I chose to channel some of that joy from my Beehive run and it worked. I decided to run what felt good, and somehow turned what should have been five easy miles into almost six marathon pace miles (8:41avg with my final mile close to 8:15). My legs have continued to feel good on subsequent runs, so I’m hoping that the break and mental reset did my body and brain good.IMG_3213

Our trip was fantastic and we both had exploding hearts at every turn, but while it helped reset in the short term, it wasn’t a complete fix. For whatever reason, I’ve been more anxious as I get farther into this training cycle. I have a lot of guilt around the time and energy that it takes to put in the miles, and I think a lot of my anxiety revolves around feeling like I have to fit everything into a finite amount of time (insert eye rolls, all you rock stars with babies and/or heavy work loads). I’ve committed to this race, and I’m finding it hard to say no to the things I enjoy outside of running, even where it means taking liberties with my focus. I need to be better about editing my activities, prioritizing my training. I also need to be better about giving myself a release valve for when it starts to feel like too much. I’ve told myself that if the mileage starts to feel overwhelming, it is 500% OK to fall back on my more basic training plan from my last Twin Cities race, which is 5 days of running (versus 6) and pares down the intensity a bit. I’m hoping that giving myself options will help take some of the pressure off of getting things perfect.

Do you guys get anxious about training? How do you address that?


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  1. I’m only on my first week of training for my very first marathon–so I know your program is way more intense–but I still relate to some of this already. Last week before training even started I told my sister my workout schedule and she looked at me like I was crazy–she was like, “are you trying to run yourself into the ground before you even start training?” I knew she was right but it can be hard for me to dial back the intensity. However lately I’ve been seeing so many other runners blogging about burnout and injury and the need to ease up that it’s actually helped me a lot. When people are honest about it, you realize it’s what everyone goes through–none of us are super human. I think I’m just trying to become a person who listens to her body and respects it rather than one who is forced to stop by exhaustion or injury. Work in progress! Good luck with the rest of your training, I hope you are able to adjust and find a happy place.


    • Get it, Cat! Which race are you training for? First marathon is a big deal, and I totally know how you feel. I really try my best to focus on each day as it comes, and try my best not to look ahead at what’s coming or it can feel scary or overwhelming. My biggest issue right now is anxiety around time and not being too selfish with it or too singularly-focused with it. You’re right that it helps to know others are feeling this way – marathon training is no joke, and half the battle is finding where your line is between tired and needing to dial back. Best of luck to you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Hillary!! Running NYC, I’m very excited 😊. It seems like so much of the challenge of the marathon is mental–every other distance you can sort of bite the bullet and just push, but this race seems to require more listening to our bodies and also quieting of the mind. I’ll be posting a lot through training so please always feel free to comment–I love advice from people who have been through this before! Glad to be following along with your journey as well! x


  2. I feel like there’s a very thin line between pushing yourself in a healthy way versus putting too much pressure on yourself. Only *you* know when you need to back off or push, and I like that you’re being mindful of that, which is great. It won’t be the end of the world if you go back to running 5 times a week. In fact, if it means less stress, I’d say go for it.


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