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Monday, March 11, 2019

Mid-training injury and illness; a long and fast workout

Although I haven't had to take time off, I am actually working through a little injury right now. About ten days ago, I was running tempo mile repeats on wet asphalt and my foot slipped, causing me to pull my hamstring. I immediately had it treated with acupuncture, and I have been able to run on it, but it's still painful. Worse, though, is that I have some compensatory stiffness and pain surrounding the hamstring. Mostly, the pain is in my IT band, which is working overtime to stabilize that knee joint. To make matters worse, I stupidly rolled and massaged that area aggressively, and made it super sore! Right now, I am still running with a compression wrap, and I can feel pain when that leg is fully loaded.

And also - there is the mystery illness I have been dealing with, too. Long story short, I begged my nurse practitioner for an ultrasound because I felt terrible and knew something was wrong. There was a mass on the ultrasound that will require a specialist to diagnose and so now I have to go down that road - but hopefully it is benign and treatable and I can get well and move on. I wish that wasn't a vague post, but the US reading was vague!

Despite all this - I am running well! This past week was a lower-mileage week, and I do think that I am suited to somewhat lower mileage. My easy days are mostly slow five-milers, which allows me plenty of rest, and my workout days have been strong. The focus this cycle seems to be mostly on long runs, and I've been able to get those done with no problem. After a very good 16-miler with 10 at marathon pace (6:47), I was ready for the next big workout: 18 with 15 at marathon pace. Summer is well on its way here, and Sunday was supposed to hit 82F, but it was still low 70's early in the morning. However, it was incredibly foggy and muggy! The Power Milers met at the park as a team, and did this workout as an out-and-back on the levee. It's a good choice if you want to make sure you won't have any stoppage at all, since there are no vehicles and it's a non-stop path. But you can run into some terrible headwind/tailwind situations. Luckily, the wind was minimal Sunday, and our biggest concern was the dense fog. Man, if Boston is 100% humidity, I think we'll be ready!

We tried to group up for this workout, but our team paces are rather strung out this year. We had three strong groups, but then we had a long string of loners. I ended up alone, although in retrospect I was close enough in pace to Mike to run with him. But I got in front of him at the very start, and we stayed in that position throughout. The fog was so dense that I couldn't read my Garmin - even if I'd turned the light on and held it to my face, the moisture clinging to the screen obscured it. So mile one was fast, 6:42. And mile 2 was slow, 7:00. And then I decided to just run by effort, forget trying to read pace. The miles ticked by, and a couple of guys on our team biked between groups with water and Nuun. I grabbed water twice on the way out, and as I turned at 7.5 got a look at the women and men behind me. For the most part, we all ran really strong!

The way back was a bit harder. I wasn't looking at overall pace, but I kept hitting miles in the 6:40's. I did start to get thirsty, but luckily our bikers were there, and I grabbed some Nuun and Powerade Zero on the way back. I had brought a gel with me, but I have done all the workouts this cycle fasted, so figured I should stick with that. I had my eye on the runners ahead of me. Some were struggling, and I passed them or closed in on them, and others were much stronger than I, speeding up on the way back and pulling away. I run the levee pretty often, so on the way back I sometimes play "get to the next landmark" - "Almost to the Huey P Long Bridge. Then get to the flea market." "Pass Causeway Boulevard, then Ochsner is next, then the bend in the river." "Cooter Brown's and St. Charles Ave, then the downhill off the top of the levee. First entrance to the Army Corps entrance...pass my street..." etc. That countdown rolled through my head, and I was astonished to see mile 14 before I knew it. I was suddenly tired, but pulled off a 6:39 for the final mile of the workout. I didn't slow too much for the jog home, because I had coffee duty at church. That left me with a 6:56 average for almost 19 miles, and a shocking (to me) 6:44 for the 15 miles. I ran the second half about a second per mile slower than the first - not good - but then, we also had a tiny headwind on the way back. All in all, I was happy with the workout, but it left me with questions.

  • If I can run 15 miles in a workout at 6:44, is 6:54-6:56 too soft a marathon goal?
  • Can I...gulp...start looking to break three hours? That's a goal I've had my sights set on for years, but always in a "one day when I am fast" sense. Am I getting close?
  • Should I take this workout seriously, or remember that a straight, pancake-flat, on-course assistance workout isn't the same thing as a hilly Boston? 
  • Or will I feel faster on race day, between taper and race-day energy? 
Lots of questions over here, and not a lot of answers! Hopefully the next few weeks of training will guide me as I determine marathon pace!


  1. I'm glad you pushed for the US. I hope you can get the mass identified quickly so you know what to do going forward. All the prayers and good thought that it's benign and easy to deal with.

  2. So....1) yes, I think 15 at 6:44 (if not an all out effort) is indicative of sub-3, though my concern would always be that one had left part of one's race in that workout.
    2) as you noted and know, Boston is different. And I think the athlete's village experience also costs time. When I was targeting Boston last year, I just assumed that I'd run about 5 minutes slower than I would on any other course.

    I hope you get good answers on the mass soon!

    1. I do have some concern that I raced that workout! Just because it was SO much faster than intended. And the whole Boston/athlete's village aspect does worry me. Otherwise, I would think that was a good indicator workout. As it is, I am a little more hesitant to believe it as true marathon pace.

    2. FWIW, before CIM, I did 2x5 miles at what felt like a pace I could sustain for the marathon distance (didn't look at my watch) with 1 mile in between at 7:45-8:00. Those 5 mile segments felt very controlled - I couldn't call them easy, but I felt like I could have gone 10 straight or done 2x6 without duress. Then I ran 6:47 pace at CIM. I think that if you felt like you were really fighting starting at 8 or 9 miles, then the pace is too aggressive. If you still felt controlled and comfortable at that point, then perhaps that's a viable pace if the weather gods smile on you. (just my unsolicited less-than-2 cents)


    3. I've done 2x4 miles at MP at 6:45 and it felt very smooth and doable and that was about a month ago. BUT. I think your point about straining is a good one. I wasn't straining during the last workout, but I was also very aware that the workout ended at 15 miles, if that makes sense. I sort of started the countdown. If I had 11 more to go, would I be able to hold off on that end-of-workout feeling? Also, I am considering that this is a giant jump for me. My recent almost-marathon was 7:03 pace, so I'd be cutting off a big chunk of time. That's just hard to do in real life. For now I am planning to use 6:46 as my marathon pace WORKOUT goal, as long as it is feeling good, but will actually run the race at a slower pace. I can always pick up the last few miles if I feel good, but I don't want to risk a blow up from taking it out too fast! Thanks for all your advice, it is really helpful, please keep it coming!

  3. (err....meant to note that the marathon effort miles for that workout averaged to 6:45 both times I did it. That's a key detail. I did that workout twice.)

  4. Sorry to hear that you are dealing with this hamstring problem and also the mass. You are running very well right now and I do think that Sub-3:00 is in the cards for you. Speaking of cards, Boston is always a wild card, so it could be there or maybe in the fall.