Ventura Marathon Training Week 11: Taper Goes Left

Weekly Summary: 8/31/15 to 9/6/15

I wish I could say this week was boring, and that my main problem was going stir crazy and having heavy legs (i.e., typical taper issues), but as my last post detailed, this week was spent dealing with a most bizarre injury for a runner – an upper body issue.

Here’s how this unusual first week of taper went:

Monday:        Gym – 20 minutes bike
Tuesday:        5 miles mostly easy; 3×300
Wednesday:  3 miles easy run
Thursday:      Rest, feel sorry for myself, eat cake and chips
Friday:            Rest, feel less sorry for myself, eat pizza
Saturday:       7 miles easy run
Sunday:          10 miles easy run

The chest and shoulder inflammation was not the only unexpected left turn that taper took. Earlier in the week, I had decided to throw caution to the wind and show up to Tuesday Night Track. After a two year absence. Two weeks before my marathon. Crazy much?

Beautiful night - what could go wrong?
Beautiful night – what could go wrong?

I haven’t done track in probably two years, and the only speedwork in my training cycle are a few tempo runs during sharpening phase and my marathon pace miles. As someone who has been prone to calf strains, my FMC and I are wary of the possible injury risk that track poses versus the gains, so I’ve steered clear of any interval work. Until Tuesday.

So chalk it up to the restless spirit I mentioned in the previous week combined with being tired of walking on eggshells around speedwork. Regardless, I’d started to view myself as someone “too injury prone to do track,” and I wanted to test it out. After all, I used to enjoy my Tuesday night track group, and maybe my body was stronger now. I mean, yeah, probably not the smartest idea to test this theory out two weeks before a marathon, but I also knew that even if the worst happened – a calf strain –the next two weeks of training were light, and that at worst I would miss 1-2 easy runs. So maybe it was the perfect time to check it out.

Friends, it was AWESOME.

I stumbled upon the Second Wind track group twenty years ago when I began training for my first marathon, and just like the trains, it was up and running at the same time and place: 6:00 p.m. Tuesday night at Birmingham High School. I was happy and comforted feeling that springy rubber surface under my Nikes, hearing the cacophony of sounds coming from the high school band practicing on the field, and seeing Coach Pat standing there with his megaphone and whistle. After all these years, nothing had changed.

Even though I was excited to be out there, I kept reminding myself that this had to be an easy workout. The runners break up into three speed groups, and I generally tend to be in the faster end of the middle group, which is led by three older (late 50s/early 60s) women. Now to look at them, you’d think “Aww, that’s so cute that they’re out here with their friends trying to stay in shape.” Yeah, no, these women are killers. I distinctly remember being passed by one of them during the final quarter-mile of one of my faster half marathons. They are not only my inspirations but also fantastic pacers. I wasn’t sure how fast I should/would be going, so I just hung with them as I knew we were all around the same fitness level. (Side note: One of them had already run seven miles earlier in the day!) After doing a long warm-up and some group stretching, I ended up doing a moderate set of 3x300s and a timed mile of 8:15 (I think my personal best is just below 8:00).

It was a fantastic experience, and I will for sure be back and hopefully incorporating this into my training cycle. Not only is it something that I think will make me faster, but I also realized how much I missed being in the running community. These are people who run together and race regularly and have the same, um, interest (read: obsession) with running. I enjoy being around competitive people who push me and motivate me. And even though I know I’ll never be this fast, it’s also super inspiring watching the ultra-fast people fly by me full stride like gazelles on the inside track. When I run by myself I just don’t get to experience or witness this stuff.

So, since my last post was devoted to my injury, I’ll just give an update. It has lessened a little bit in pain, and I can sleep better; however, I’m still popping Advil every four hours and icing it. After taking two days off, I tested it out and was able to finish the weekend with a seven and ten mile run, afterwhich I celebrated with this lame attempt at one of those fun and whimsical jumping photos that I see all the time on Instagram.

Probably would have looked better if I could've thrown my hands up in the air.
Probably would have looked better if I could’ve thrown my arms up in the air.

At this point, it feels like a mild-plus cramp along my arm — intermittent moderate pain with a dose of steady discomfort. While this is not an ideal condition to be running a marathon, I have firmly decided that I will be running this marathon. This is the moment for me to have my Michael Jorday Flu Game, and besides if my countryman Manny Pacquiao can fight Floyd Mayweather with an injured shoulder, then surely I can run a marathon, right?

So yeah, one more week, and I’ll be running marathon #8. Just don’t expect me to be high-fiving anyone afterwards.

Hope everyone has a great running week!

Ventura-3Total weekly mileage: 25
Long run: 10 miles (0 MP)
Cross-training: I tried! Here’s proof pre-upper body injury.


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