Well, it's getting down to crunch time now. I'm getting to the point where my fitness should be reaching the apex of what I'm going to achieve for this training cycle and, if it's not, there's not really a damn thing I can do about it now.
To judge the level of fitness, Pfitz recommends a couple of tune up races. Living in South Dakota, tune up races aren't all that easy to come by (auctions, on the other hand, are a weekly occurrence....anyone need a used tractor?), which means that I've had to resort to time trials during this training cycle. Time trials are essentially a race against yourself as you try to run as fast as you would in an actual race but without the stimulus of competition to spur you on. In other words, the human ego makes it "easier" to run faster when you have the fear of getting beaten by someone than it is to just go out and run fast. Two weeks ago I ran a 6 mile time trial and realized afterward that at the pace I had done it, I could have set a 10K PR (why I didn't run 6.2 miles that day is still beyond me). So, for this week's time trial, I decided to tack on the extra 0.2 mile and see what happened. But, more on that later; here's how the week went overall:
Monday - 6 mile recovery in the morning and 4.2 more in the afternoon. My quads are as sore as they've ever been after my 18 mile downhill marathon pace run the day before. I honestly feel like I just ran a marathon, especially as I hobble up and down stairs at senior citizen speed.
Tuesday - 9.2 miles including 5x600m intervals. The track workout went well even though my quads are still sore. I briefly wondered if I was going to puke or pass out (or both) after the last interval, which indicates that I must have run it hard enough (although I guess I could have run it harder since I didn't do either). This workout certainly didn't help the quads out any.
Wednesday - 6 miles recovery. The schedule called for an easy 14 miler but after one mile, where I felt like I was running about 8:30 pace but actually ran 9:30, I knew that 14 miles wasn't in the cards. My legs, quads especially, had had enough. So, I settled on a recovery run instead in the hopes that the 14 miles would be doable the next day.
Thursday - 14 miles easy. It's amazing what a difference a day makes. Again, I could tell after the first mile how the run would go. Running at the same perceived effort as the day before for the first mile, I clock an 8:03 and maintain that pace without much effort for the entire run.
Friday - 7 miles recovery with 6x100m strides. A day of "rest" before the time trial.
Saturday - 13.2 miles including 10K time trial. I jogged around town for 4 miles to get warmed up then head out on a 10K out and back course. Ended up averaging about 6:30 miles for a total time of 40:18, nearly a full minute less than my official 10K PR of 41:15. After stumbling around for awhile while trying to contemplate the numbers on my watch (I hadn't separated the warmup miles from the time trial miles, so I was trying to add and subtract minutes and seconds with my oxygen deprived mind), I determined that I had indeed set a PR and set out for a 3 mile cooldown. When I got home, I was finally able to figure out what exactly my 10K time had been and almost didn't believe it. It's good in the sense that it shows my fitnessed has improved. It's bad in the sense that it's so close to being under 40 minutes that I now have something new to obsess about.
Sunday - 20 miles. Pfitz always throws the tune up races/time trials into the schedule on the day before a long run so that you can teach your body to run through fatigue. Well, mission accomplished on that one, Pete. I definitely felt like I had run a hard 10K the day before. The 20 miler didn't actually go badly (except the part where my gel flask bounced out of my pocket unnoticed and then got run over before I realized it was gone and ran back for it, forcing me to return to the house to grab some gel packets instead). My legs were just more tired than they usually are during a long run. But, again, that was the whole point.
Total - 79.6 miles
So, 14 weeks down, 4 to go. More importantly, only one more big week left before I start to taper. I'm at the point now where I just want to get this training cycle over with before something bad can happen. I've been fortunate, knock on wood, to make it through with nothing more than a few nagging aches and pains that taper will hopefully take care of. My concern now is starting to shift from not being fit enough to run a 3:10 to being fit enough, but not being able to do it because of some injury. I can tell that the taper madness will be especially fun this time around....