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Cutting Back

September 6th, 2011 | Posted by Lindsay Runs in Blog Posts - (14 Comments)

I’m back from Stone Harbor with a bit of a tan, a calmer head, a happy tummy from eating and drinking to my heart’s content, and slightly refreshed legs.

Oh beach, you relax me

Last week, the increasing mileage really got the best of me and I hit a new low: I stopped out mid-workout. After finishing a speedy 15 miler feeling spent (see, told you why I wanted to slow down…), a super easy 7.5 miles along the bridle path Wednesday night, and 2.5 slow shakeout miles Thursday morning, I hopped into Thursday night’s workout feeling a bit flat. ‘No biggie’, I thought, ‘it’s normal to have heavy legs while bumping up mileage. I can hang tough.’

The planned workout was 3×2-mile repeats at half-marathon pace. I tried to stay relaxed but my legs were not feeling it. I tried to stay with the group and ran even 6:31 splits for the first 2-mile interval. Perfect. I dropped back a bit and tried to recover around the Harlem Hills to get ready for the 2nd repeat. My first mile was around 6:44, and I absolutely lost it on the last mile. My breathing wasn’t really heavy, I just felt like I couldn’t keep or pickup the cadence and effort. My hamstrings were seizing up and my calves were like bricks. After my 2nd repeat, I just stopped. I knew if I continued and even tried to squeeze out a 3rd repeat, it’d be way off pace and dig myself deeper and deeper into the hole of exhaustion. So I didn’t.

On one hand, I am proud of myself for recognizing my limits and stopping. This was not the normal kind of tired that I push through day in and day out. This was not something I could or should push through. On the other hand, I am pretty frustrated for not finishing. I don’t know the last time I’ve had to drop out of a workout or race. I don’t want to feel like stopping is an option come November 6th.

I took a lot of time to analyze things over the long weekend, and decided it was time to change up my training plan.

Adjusting this week's mileage goal

I’m taking a cut back week. Also known as a down week, I’m dropping my mileage this week in an effort to rest and refresh my legs slightly. My original plan called for a gradual mileage increase leading up to a peak and then decreasing for 3 weeks of taper. Sort of like climbing a single mountain peak up and up until the tip, and then dropping down significantly. This worked for me last year, but it’s clearly not working this year. My runs have been so hot and cold…but mostly lukewarm. I’ll have a few great runs or workouts here and there, but the majority of my everyday runs are sluggish and I’m just not getting anything out of them.

My mileage hasn’t increased (yet) from last year, so I attribute my fatigue to the increase in intensity. I’ve incorporated weekly CPTC workouts into my routine, most at half-marathon pace, whereas I only did a total of 5 workouts leading up to the marathon last year, mostly at marathon pace. I really want to stick with these workouts as I genuinely enjoy working out with a team, and I truly believe the more I work out at 6:30-6:40 pace, the easier 6:49s (2:59 marathon pace) will feel come race day.

While I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘listening to my body’ (Think it’s taken too lightly: I’d run half as much, sleep in every day and eat pizza and burgers in bed if I really listened to my body), this is a time in which I feel it is important to listen and be open to changing the plan. I knew I was being ambitious this training cycle by setting higher goal mileage and increased workouts, and I want it to pay off on race day. But that approach isn’t working right now and I need to be able to remain flexible to get to the starting line well-trained but well-rested. It’s only September 6th (2 months till marathon!) and I’m about to embark on a good 6 weeks of serious training. It’s too early to feel fatigued.

I’ll probably aim to hit around 40 miles this week, give or take, a big drop from the planned 55. I ran around 8 miles on Sunday at the beach, and averaged around 7:20 pace because I was running with my speedy friends Nicole and Sean before Nicole raced a 5K, and it was flat. I didn’t run yesterday, and I have no plans on running today. I’ll probably still get in a workout this week, and see how I feel come Saturday for a long run. I’ve always been curious about cut back weeks and know they’re pretty popular in training plans, so I hope to begin next week feeling a bit refreshed and ready to tackle a few weeks of 60+ miles. I’ll continue to re-examine my plan and play it by ear. I might take another cut-back week in early October if my body needs it.

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Other highlights from this weekend include:

I golfed for the first time in my life!

Beach time with my handsome man friend :)

And ice cream from Springer's- I got strawberry cheesecake, but ate it before it melted!

How did you spend Labor Day weekend? What are your thoughts on cut back weeks, and changing your plan based on how you’re feeling?