As I tapered for the Hamptons Marathon last year, many people kept repeating the same phrase to me:
The hay is in the barn.
Personally, I think this phrase is stupid. Hay? Barns? How are these things related to marathon training? And also, WTF are you talking about?
But as always, these seasoned runners, triathletes and Ironpeople knew more than Naive Ali. They were telling me that after 16+ weeks of training, my work was done. It was time to taper, to cut back on my mileage and to let my legs rest, recover and regain all the strength possible to power me through 26.2 miles on Race Day.
They told me to feel confident and to trust my training. I had to believe that the mornings I had spent on the Bridle Path, looping around the Reservoir and doing long runs in NYC and beyond were enough. I couldn’t go out for one more 20 miler “just to make sure I could do it.”
I’m now 15 weeks out from the New York City Marathon.
Now is the time to be filling the barn with the hay.
A question I get from time to time is, “How do you stay motivated to work out every day?”
Well, in general, I enjoy exercise. I don’t run or spin to beat myself up or punish myself. I don’t break a sweat just so I can eat cookies for dinner. I’m going to eat cookies for dinner no matter what. I lace up my pretty little Brooks every day because I really do like getting out there and working hard.
But my motivation during marathon training season is different, and I’m more aware of that now than ever.
I’ve only been officially training for a few weeks, but every single time I’ve gone out, I’ve had the same mentality: Do this for November 4. Work hard. Push. Hit your splits. Finish strong. Get your head in the game (High School Musical-style).
I’m working my butt off now so that on November 4, as I’m riding the Staten Island Ferry to the start line and, presumably, freaking the F out, I can wholeheartedly trust my training. I don’t want to look back and say, “I wish I had gone faster during my Tuesday speed sessions,” or “I shouldn’t have slacked so hard on every single tempo effort.”
I want to know that, regardless of what actually happens on Race Day (yes, it’s always capitalized because it is a very formal day), I did everything I could beforehand to be as strong and confident as possible.
So that’s how I’m staying motivated. I have a goal — 3:59:59 — and I know I won’t reach it by shuffling through my workouts or getting high on two-a-days. When I want to do a little extra — tacking on an additional mile to a long run because I feel great or sneaking in a spin class on a rest day — I have November 4 in the forefront of my mind. Will over-exerting myself during Chisel help me run 26.2 miles in the fall? No? Then I will not do it. I can do that stuff when I’ve marathoned and recovered. But not now.
With all that in mind, can I tell you a little bit about how training has been going?
Awesome, thanks. You’re such a good listener/person who can read.
While the Crohn’s still refuses to leave my body, I managed to have a very solid week of training last week.
Highlights included a runner’s-high-inducing hillish workout on Thursday and an I-only-needed-one-bathroom-stop-OMG 10-miler on Sunday.
Thursday’s route was three clockwise loops up in the Harlem Hills, which is quickly becoming my favorite route. Coach Cane requested that I keep it at marathon goal pace (we’re using 8:45s, folks) for the duration, but accelerate on the downhills instead of using them as a place to recover. I believe his exact words were, “Trample the weak, hurdle the dead.” Duly noted, and awesomely accomplished.
Here are some numbers:
Oh look, those splits are all faster than 8:45. How interesting. Why did that happen?
Probably because I accelerated the shit out of the downhills. On my second lap, I was in the low 7:00s and I felt like I was flying. Truthfully this made it hard to settle back into marathon pace on the uphills, but usually by the time I hit the top of the second hill, I was right back where I was supposed to be.
This run was a huge confidence booster because it felt easy. And I don’t know if you know this, but running, in general, for me, is not really easy.
The other great workout of the week was Sunday’s semi-long run. Coach Cane prescribed 10 miles, down from last week’s 12 — and that’s because I was doing my run the day after a long ride.
I rode 55.65 miles Saturday, which was my longest ride ever.
And it felt very, very long. I should have picked a better route, because mine was pretty tedious, and the winds on the West Side Highway were killer. I ended up seeing Brian out on his own post-race ride, so we covered a bunch of miles together.
I’m definitely getting more comfortable on the bike, so that’s cool. I no longer white-knuckle my way down every downhill as my life flashes before my eyes, and I can finally drink from my water bottle without having to pull over and come to a complete stop. Coordination is not my strong suit, but I’m getting there. I don’t have to think so much about gear shifting, and the streets of NYC can be scary, but they don’t feel like a death trap in the same way they used to.
Still, I need to learn the rules of the road, and I’m sure the guy I almost T-boned on the West Side Highway would agree. What?! I thought he was turning! I thought you had to turn. Apparently not. I managed to squeeze the heck out of my brakes to avoid really hitting him, and I definitely did not cry a little under my sunglasses when Brian screamed and then politely lectured me on “being careful.”
I finished those 55 miles feeling good and sore in the butt. My pace was unremarkable as far as I can tell, but it was cool to mix up my Saturday morning routine.
And then I ate the best brunch ever, but I don’t have pictures of it because I was busy wolfing it down and being #fatfluential and failing as a food blogger. Sorry.
So what made Sunday’s run special?
Well, new shoes.
I’ve been running in Brooks Adrenalines since I started running and they have not failed me. They are the hay to my barn. Or something.
I fully expected the 10 miles to be a slow disaster, and I’m thrilled at how wrong that assumption turned out to be.
I felt pretty tight for the first two miles, but then I felt great. I had to repeatedly slow myself down to stay at long run pace. I cruised through Central Park, I somehow saw no familiar faces (weird) and by the time my watch hit 10 miles, I felt like I’d only been running for 10 minutes. That’s the best, right?
So while my running mileage wasn’t exceptionally high last week because I balanced it with lots of cycling, I feel like it was a strong training week, and I wrapped it up feeling pretty great.
I even got through a sweet little Pilates in the Park (that’s not really what it was called) class post-run yesterday. My new friend Dani is a Pilates instructor and an ambassador for Purely Elizabeth, so she emailed a bunch of local “We like to sweat” type people and asked if we wanted to do a Pilates class Sunday in Central Park.
At first I was like, “Meh, maybe. It’ll be after a long run, I should probably just rest.”
But then I read the rest of the email, which said, “I will bring treats for afterward,” and my RSVP was sent.
The best part of the class was that we got to lay down the whole time.
Oh, and also the company. There was good company.
Company willing to trek to the Upper East Side for more treats!
I finished the weekend by Skype-ing (or is it just Skyping?) with my favorite little buddy.
He was not very interested in the conversation, though. Evidently he didn’t want to hear about my run.
That’s why I have you.
And now we begin another week of training.
I have my hay.
I think I’m going to need a bigger barn.
(I don’t even know what I mean by that, but in my head it sounded fantastic.)
I hope your weekend was divine.
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR TRAINING: How’s it going? How’s your hay? Have you put any in your barn? And how do you stay motivated to get out there every day?