In the past, I’ve always had rather short term goals. My longest training plan has been about 8 weeks, mostly because I didn’t know any better, and because it is admittedly very hard to imagine planning further in advance than that, especially when you’re just starting out.
Later, it was just a matter of necessity; my training plan for the Brooksie was 8 weeks by necessity; I only decided on that October race in August. And the 4 week interim between Brooksie Way and Stomp the Grapes was really not time for training. Overall, I should have planned last fall with Stomp the Grapes more in mind, rather than planning to Brooksie and letting Stomp the Grapes suffer (but not too badly) because of a long training season with some overuse creeping in.
Because of that lesson though, I decided to start my Pittsburgh Half Marathon training 14 weeks out, with enough time to include what some of my running mentors have called “drop back weeks”, where you switch out all the tough runs for easy miles, and let your body recover so you can surge into the next phase of your plan. Conveniently the first of those aligned with my best friend’s Bachelor Party weekend, meaning I wasn’t be in the awkward situation of trying to run 10+ miles with a dry mouth and a pounding headache.
I ended the week prior with a 9 mile distance run, a different distance, but the same long run as every Sunday. The sun was shining bright when I woke up, and it was 9am, but it was cold. You could already tell the day would get warmer, but it was only 30 degrees and rising. The nine mile run started out cold, but by the end I was shedding layers, carrying my gloves and sweating through my shirt. That feeling at the end of a long run was washing over me, part impending soreness, part ravenous hunger, and I thought about how I wasn’t going to run ‘that hard’ in the coming week. I won’t go so far as to say I was skeptical, because the science of it makes sense to me, but just because taking a break feels like cheating.
Luckily, that was about the last time I thought about it. Because of the bachelor party festivities, I had a 4 day trip that would bridge 3 of my 4 runs for the week. After a 4 mile run on Tuesday, I was scheduled to run 4 miles Thursday and Friday as well as 5 miles Sunday. Now on a normal vacation, this wouldn’t be tough at all. It might even be a welcome activity; a chance to start each day off right.
But this was a bachelor party weekend. I’d be battling the dread demons of dehydration and exhaustion if I was planning on running in the morning, and I’d be kidding myself if I thought I was going to run between the activities of the day.
Still, I managed it pretty well. My 4 mile Thursday run sort of morphed into a 1.5 mile stomp in the woods, as Swem and I explored the ridgeline behind the house on arrival day. To make up for that slightly shorter (though still aggressive) run, my 4 miler on Friday was a 5.5 mile exploration of the hilly mountain roads of Candler, NC. Where I was greeted by this sign.
Good reason to turn around, eh?
Plus, not one to be caught channel surfing, the groom-to-be lead me and a crowd of 6 guys on a hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah. While all kinds of things have snuck on me and surprised me about my newfound fitness, my mood and ability to just go out and do this hike was one of the best. The mile-plus hike to the summit was what the guy with the most local experience called a “little walk in the woods”. In fact, over about 8/10ths of that mile we climbed almost 700 feet. A few of the guys were a lot slower on their feet than me (especially after the prior nights festivities) but I was glad to hang out with them. Still, it was nice to not be the guy who was winded.
Then, Sunday morning, before departing the hills of western North Carolina, Swem and I enjoyed another 5.5 miles of said hills, reprising my run (complete with stopping to see the community watch sign) from Friday. It was nice to get road run in, and justify our breakfast that morning, before getting into the car back to Nashville for my flight home.
So all in all, my 13 total “EZ “miles were traded in for 11 easy miles, 1.5 miles of trackless woods wandering, and 2.5 miles of hiking. Not exactly a beach chair and an umbrella drink, but less than I’m used to!
That dropback week, which was a couple weeks ago now, was quite a turning point in my training. Coming soon, some tales of my new speedwork, and finding those summer 5k legs I’d packed away for the winter.