Messy in the Middle

You can’t skip day two. You can’t skip the second act. After one of the most draining (and unsuccessful) workouts I’ve done in months, I finished off my day yesterday by reading another chapter in Brené Brown‘s Rising Strong. I was on a segment called “You Can’t Skip Day Two” when I got glued. This is how she describes it:

Day two, or whatever that middle space is for your own process, is when you’re “in the dark” –the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.

The words rang deep within me because I knew that was what I am currently experiencing in my Trials marathon cycle, and it’s what I’ve been through every other cycle, too. On “day one” things start off great because you’re fresh and excited. Then the volume catches up with you and every run becomes a grind – even 4mi jogs at 9:15 per mile.

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My “day two” started 7 weeks out, the week of Jacksonville Half. With a PR Marathon pace of 5:50, it was tough to hit 5:52 pace in my workout earlier that week. Then, after missing a couple nights of sleep due to the fact that Cole and I had a puppy visitor who needed to go outside and pee (and do all kinds of other things) every couple hours, I managed to pull one out at Jacksonville. But to be fair, if you plug my 2:33:15 PR into McMillan Calculator, it says I should have been in shape to run almost a minute faster than that – for almost two years now.

One of my favorite stories to tell people is about that PR 2014 Boston Marathon buildup. At the beginning (day one), I did some incredible workouts including winning the Tallahassee Marathon on February 2nd in 2:46 as a first Marathon Long Run, and 3 weeks later I ran a 4:56/9:54 mile/3k double-PR at the 2014 Princeton Invite – plus a 36:32 10k tempo in between the two. And things were going almost just as well at the beginning of this cycle, but then, during that PR buildup (just as I am also feeling now), everything became a struggle. And, as they say, the struggle is real.

Thanks, Kevin Hanson!

Thanks, Kevin Hanson!

I vividly remember a run where I almost quit running altogether half way through a 6.5mi run. I found this gem in my log from March 28, 2014 (3 weeks and 3 days out from Boston):

Still feeling like crap. I actually considered quitting today. Like for good. Fortunately, I was 3.5mi into my run and had a long way to get back, so after I walked for a little bit, I jogged home, and still dragged myself back out for some strides which felt fine.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me other than some serious seasonal affective disappointment with this goddamn weather. I’m f***ing sick of it. Thinking I probably need a day off for mental reasons if not physical. Now, of course, if somebody told me I couldn’t race tomorrow, I’d be pissed. It’s definitely the stupid weather more than anything having to do with running.

Okay, I’m done bitching for now. I’ll take my anger out on the course tomorrow.

As some of you know, winter and I don’t get along that well, so that was indeed part of it. But then the very next day, I raced the Monument 10k in Richmond and ran my road PR of 34:14 (just 5 seconds off of my then 10,000m track PR). It’s funny how drastically everything can change from one day to the next.

The rest of that marathon build-up was just like that. God awful one day, and extremely rewarding the next. It breaks you down and makes you so proud of yourself when you can get back up and go again (rising strong ☺). In fact, in that buildup, my day two lasted right up until the very last workout 5 days before the race.

Really disappointed by this workout. Honest marathon pace effort for 3x mile but after the first 2 at effort were so slow, I pushed beyond honest effort for the last one:

~4mi warm-up

6:03.4, 6:02.5, 5:50.6 (2:55 rec with ~100m jog)

2mi cool-down

Translation: I had trained to run 5:48-5:50 pace, but when I went out to run 3x a mile at marathon pace 5 days before the race, 6:03 and 6:02 were what came out. And I was supposed to run 26.2 of those. Fifteen seconds faster.

I was crushed, and I vividly remember telling Wendy Thomas when I saw her at the elite fluids drop-off the day before the race “I’ll just be happy if I break 2:50. In fact, I’m afraid I can’t even do that.” She must have thought I was the worst sand-bagger ever because wouldn’t you know it, the next day the stars aligned and I ran 17 minutes faster than I thought was possible.

Photo Cred: Kevin Morris

Photo Cred: Kevin Morris

Day two of marathon training is unpredictable. It can be exhausting and rewarding at the same time, but honestly it’s my favorite. I’ve come to love it, especially after that confidence-building experience with Boston. Even when it sucks, I know that I am working harder than I ever have at anything in my life.

Especially knowing what I know now about how things can play out in day three (even after the worst day two ever) there is a glimmer of hope in every workout you have to fight yourself to complete. There is a pride in almost pooping your pants during some of your last intervals. There is a comfort in knowing that you can’t run any faster than 9min pace on your afternoon shake-out. There is beauty in the mess. And as Brené says,

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You should definitely get a copy of Brené Brown’s Rising Strong if you haven’t read it yet!

 

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