"It's taper time!"
Hard to believe it, but the Goofy Challenge is only 3 weeks away. That means we are entering our beloved taper phase. *sighs contentedly* As such, I think this is an excellent time to reflect on the highs and lows of this relatively brief training period.
Training for the Goofy Challenge is similar to training for any marathon: run a lot of miles. The main difference is that one needs to become accustomed to running two long-ish runs on consecutive days. For me, this meant doing a middle-distance run on Saturdays, followed by a long-distance run on Sundays. My training buddy, Kristi, took the opposite approach, by doing a long run on Sundays followed by a middle-distance run on Mondays, just because this worked better with her schedule. Either way, the idea is to get the legs used to running while tired. And boy did we tire our legs out!
As I mentioned earlier, training for this event was relatively brief. We both ran late-October marathons, which we then had to recover from before we could ramp up our mileage again in preparation for Goofy. So my weekend training schedule looked like this:
Week 1: Saturday - 6 miles, Sunday - 14 miles
Week 2: Saturday - 7 miles, Sunday - 16 miles
Week 3: Saturday - 8 miles, Sunday - 18 miles (and a brutal 18 miles it was, thanks to three straight weeks of building up)
Week 4: Saturday - 6 miles, Sunday - 12 miles (ahhhh, relief!)
Week 5: Saturday - 10 miles, Sunday - 20 miles (that was today!)
Weeks 6, 7 and 8: Taper!!!
So yes, this was a very condensed and accelerated training plan, simply out of necessity. I would not recommend anyone but the most seasoned marathoner / crazy person attempt this plan.
After logging 30 total miles this weekend, I now feel well-prepared to take on the 39.3 miles of the Goofy Challenge. And I now have a pretty good idea of how I'll feel after finishing the Goofy Challenge: very, very tired and pretty damn sore. But at least I'm prepared for that feeling!
The great thing about this training weekend was that it felt much better than my training weekend two weeks ago. The 8/18-mile weekend was definitely a low point in this training schedule. About 6 miles into the 18-miler, my legs started to feel like lead (and Kristi said the same thing, so it wasn't just me!). The last 3 miles of that run were a death march for both of us. Kristi and I both commented that neither of us had felt so completely and utterly horrible during a long run before. Needless to say, it shook our confidence a little bit.
But it's amazing what a recovery week can do for the mind, body and soul. Week 4 of training was exactly what we both needed to rest our tired legs and prepare for peak training week.
So the lesson out of all of this is that, at least for me and Kristi, three weeks of mileage buildup in a row is a bit too much. But the recovery week worked its magic and we were able to finish our peak training week with renewed vigor. Or something resembling vigor.
I would like to take this opportunity to give a little shout-out to Mother Nature for being relatively cooperative during this training period. Late fall / early winter marathon training is not easy. Especially for those of us who are self-proclaimed cold weather wusses. I hate the cold. And I hate the wind. And did I mention that I hate the cold? But somehow, we managed to run three of our five long runs outdoors, including today's 20-miler. We battled some serious wind during these outdoor runs, but it still beat running around in circles at the gym.
And now I'd like to give a HUGE shout-out to my training partner, Kristi. I wouldn't have gotten through all of my long runs without her. Indeed, it's extremely likely that I would've bailed on my 18-miler at about Mile 10 if she hadn't been there suffering right alongside me. Misery really does love company!
People often ask me "What do you think about while you're running for so long?" Maybe a better question would be "What don't you think about while running for so long?", but when you have a buddy to run with, it really does make the miles go by much more quickly. We certainly don't talk the entire 20 miles, and the last several miles tend to be very quiet as we become more internally-focused on our bodies and just putting one foot in front of the other, but there's something calming and reassuring about having someone else to share the experience with. So thanks, Kristi, for the camaraderie.
And you know what else Kristi is always there for? The post-long-run food. The best part about long runs is when they're over and we get to go eat delicious things at our favorite local restaurants. Today's cuisine of choice? Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Is there anything better on a chilly winter's day? I think not.
So it seems to me that successful marathon training is really composed of two critical features: running many miles (with a good friend), and eating tasty food (also with a good friend). Yes, I think that about sums it up. Now, without further ado, let's get this taper started!
*does happy taper dance*
Peace. Love. Train.