The Great Taper has begun! Week 14 is the third-to-last (antepenultimate, FYI) week in my 16-week training program for the New Jersey Marathon. It is also my first week of tapering, which basically means I’m taking it down a notch. I still logged 48.38 miles this week, down about 9 miles from the week before. I probably could have notched it down a bit further, but too late now!
I’ve been following the training plan of my running club, the NY Harriers, but also kind of doing my own thing as far as determining how far to run on my easy days and how many miles to run a week. So far, it’s worked out pretty well.
I made a comparison chart with each of my (so far) two marathon training cycles’ average stats listed side by side: weekly mileage, daily mileage, number of interval/tempo workouts, my weight, amount of sleep, etc. It’s been cool to see how much stronger this cycle has been. I’ll share it once training is done and I have all the data.
Here is what I did in my training’s antepenultimate week (I am going to use that word all the time now).
WEEK 14: April 8 – April 14
Monday was, as usual, my day off from running. I did an upper body workout – Fitness Blender, but a different workout from the one I usually do on Mondays. I love routine, but sometimes it’s nice to switch it up a bit.
Tuesday I decided to do something crazy: not run. I’d had a pretty intense long run on Sunday and my legs were still feeling it. I probably would have been okay doing a short, easy run, but I followed my gut and took the day off, only doing a yoga routine for runners courtesy of Yoga with Adriene, a series I discovered while recovering from the NYC Marathon last November. I like Adriene’s vibe and this routine is simple and easy, but some of the stretches are challenging (in a good way).
Wednesday I dove headfirst into a track workout: 6 x 800 at goal marathon pace (~8:35) with 400 jog recoveries. I felt great in this workout and it was amazed at how slow marathon pace felt! I’ve gotten so used to running faster at the track, so remaining at MP was a slight struggle in terms of holding myself back: 8:24, 8:23, 8:23, 8:28, 8:26, 8:27. So a little faster than intended but that’s fine. I followed this up at home with one of the more intense lower body workouts from Fitness Blender.
Thursday was an easy 4.3 miles at 9:43 pace in Central Park. A bit shorter and faster than I set out to do, but I was feeling eh – nothing serious but I think just the cumulative effect of 14 weeks of training in my legs. Also, post-workout days are always harder. So I ran around the reservoir and back home where I did an upper body workout and called it a day. Besides, I had a big workout the following morning…
Friday was one of my most challenging (and best!) days of training thus far: a 10-mile marathon pace tempo run with a 1 mile warm up and 1 mile cool down. I ran this along the Hudson River where it’s nice and flat – same location as my last two long tempo runs. I’m happy to say I nailed this workout. I felt so good afterward (see header photo). I’ll write more about this run below.
Saturday I returned to Central Park for an easy 6.57 miles at 9:40 pace. Yikes, my easy runs have been getting faster. This is the taper period and I need to reel it in. This was also the first humid day of the year, so maybe I was eager to get this run done.
Sunday was my long run: 17 easy miles in Central Park. NYRR’s Shape Women’s Half Marathon happened to be that same morning, and I spent almost three hours running right alongside it, seeing almost the entire race from the two front runners to the back-of-the-pack walkers (including a total of three women who collapsed!). This was an interesting run and I’ll write more about it below.
TOTAL MILES: 48.38
Some Noteworthy Things
On Tuesday I bought Deena Kastor’s book Let Your Mind Run. It came out in hardcover a while ago but I prefer paperbacks (easier when you move, something I’ve done too many times). I went to the Union Square Barnes & Noble the day the paperback was released and it wasn’t on the shelf. It took this very kind staff member about a half hour to locate a copy from their basement but he finally did!
I had just finished reading Meb Keflezighi’s how-to running book Meb For Mortals and was eager for something a little more biographical. So far I’m enjoying Deena’s book. I’d love to finish it before I run NJ so I’ve been making an effort to read as much as I can each night before bed, even getting into bed by 8:15 just so I have more time to read. This has also resulted in more sleep, a win-win.
Friday’s 10-mile tempo was something I’d been anticipating since the beginning of training. I remember seeing it on my schedule way back when, thinking “Oh god, will I be able to do that?” Ten easy miles is one thing, but ten miles at goal marathon pace on a random Friday would be a true test. Not that a successful tempo run necessarily predicts a successful marathon, but an unsuccessful tempo run might not.
I did everything I could to simulate race day: I ate my usual breakfast. I wore my race shoes (I would get a new pair the following week, but the same model). I listened to my race playlist, something I’m still tweaking. I wore my fuel belt with my Nuun/water bottle, taking a few sips every 2-3 miles. I ran along a flat course just like the race course. The only thing I did differently from race day was wear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves because it was a little cool out.
Once again, the music helped push me along. I paid attention to my form, making sure to use my glutes, not slouch, keep my shoulders relaxed, and feel like my bottom half was powering me forward as opposed to me dragging it along. By the halfway point, I knew I would do it.
I kept a pretty steady pace for the first nine miles, staying in the low 8:30s (mile 7 in 8:38 was when I took a Gu which required me to remove my gloves and slow down to throw out the wrapper). When I saw I had one mile to go, something kicked in. Maybe it was the rush of knowing I only had a mile to go and I was going to do it. I thought about my mom and how lucky I am to be able to use my body in a way that she wasn’t able to at the end of her life. I suddenly felt so grateful and happy to be alive. I ran that last mile in 7:56.
I couldn’t believe it! Even a year ago, I don’t think I would have been able to do this as a training run. Hell, just a year and a half ago in August 2017 I ran my first 5K in a long time at an 8:34 pace. That was all I could muster for 3.1 miles. Amazing what the body is capable of when you put in the work. It blows my mind sometimes.
Another humid day just like the day before, but I’ve run in worse. It was in the 60s, so at least it wasn’t scorching hot. I wore a tank and shorts because that’s what I wear when it’s above 60. (I am still seeing so many ladies in long sleeves and leggings when it’s in the 60s and most of them have jackets tied around their waists. For some reason I don’t see men runners with jackets tied around their waists. What is up with that? Someone needs to do a study on this.)
So yes, I had forgotten about the Shape Half Marathon happening that same morning in Central Park. I’d originally thought about signing up for it, but decided against it when I realized I should be running easy that day. Knowing me, I would have pushed the pace and two weeks out from the marathon might not have been a good time to run fast for 13.1 miles. I don’t see the point of signing up for a race I’m just going to run easy. Besides, the race shirt was bright green and SO not my color. 😜
When I entered the park, it was about 8:15 am and no runners had come through yet. About a mile into my run, the two front runners came charging forward. I can only assume they were Meseret Ali Basa and Gadise Fita Megersa. They were literally running side by side. The rest of the field was a few moments behind.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the next few moments of the race because my headphones crapped out! They still turned on, they just stopped connecting with my phone. I pulled over to fiddle with them but couldn’t get them to connect, so I just forged ahead sans podcast. I would just run in silence. I figured the race would be enough distraction.
(I looked it up later and learned that sometimes bluetooth devices will stop connecting when in large crowds. I assume that is what must have happened: when the surge of runners approached, everything got messed up. Weird because it’s never happened to me before.)
I was actually relieved to not be running the race. I ran easy, hovering around a 10:00 pace for most of the run. The course was a bit congested – especially on the southern end of the loop – because all of us non-racers had to share a lane with cyclists, walkers, horse carriages, etc. It cleared up a bit as we ran farther north.
I looped around the park twice, and as the runners peeled off to finish on the 72nd Street transverse, I found myself running alongside the back-of-the-packers. Many were walking, some jogging slowly. I figure if you’re doing more than you were able to before, you’re doing great, so more power to them.
I did see two women at two different points who had apparently fainted: both were on the ground looking unconscious but had people around them holding up their heads and I overheard talk of help being on the way, so I assumed they were in good hands. And later on the north end of the park I saw another woman being taken into an ambulance on a stretcher. I guess the humidity was a factor.
The weirdest part of the run happened when I pulled over to try my headphones one more time (still no luck), and an older woman walking her dog asked me what the race was.
Me: The Shape Half Marathon.
Her: What is that?
Me: It’s the Shape Half Marathon.
Her: Shape… Half… I don’t know what that is.
Me: It’s the Shape Half Marathon.
Her: I don’t know what that is.
Me: Well, that’s what it is.
I literally did not have the energy to explain what Shape or a half marathon was, so it wound up being pretty much the funniest conversation I’d had in months.
The only negative parts of the run were tiny little sore spots in my lower body: the bottom of my left foot and my right knee kept giving me twinges of soreness that didn’t bring my run to a halt or anything, but were just annoying enough. Luckily, I haven’t had either ache since. I think I was just pooped.
Eventually I made my way out of the park and ended up at NYRR’s Run Center where I picked up my bib for the Run as One 4M this weekend. Looking forward to that race, which I might not fully race. But if I do, at least it’s only 4 miles and not 13.1.
I decided to stop by Dylan’s Candy Bar to indulge in some post-run sweetness. I allow myself a treat or two on long run days. I love Dylan’s but try to only go there a few times a year. Worth it. (And yes, this was all gone by the end of the day.)
So that brings week 14 to a close! Two more weeks to go.