I have followed quite a few training plans: Higdon, Galloway, Hansons, and McMillan, just to name a few. I try to stay very faithful to the (running aspect of the) plans, so when I reach an outcome, I don’t spend too much time wondering if the outcome was a result of the plan or my deviations from the plan. No, instead I totally blame the plan!! Kidding!
After trying ALL of the plans over several years in an effort to qualify for the Boston Marathon (an effort which was simultaneously successful – I BQ’d – and unsuccessful – I still wasn’t fast enough to make the cut), I was facing some serious burnout, both physically and mentally/emotionally. This past May after my hamstring decided to sabotage my latest BQ attempt, I picked myself up after the race and put together a mashup the plans I’d successfully followed, with the intent to try (again) at the Ventura Marathon (the one that is happening next weekend, in fact).
I joined a gym so I could get out of the searing desert heat for my long runs. I didn’t want to take any chances that I wouldn’t be able to train at a hard pace. My PT was very encouraging of my recovery and my goals. I embraced strength training. I aggressively shed my marathon training weight. I was all in.
Or so I thought. Because as it turns out, I wasn’t all in. I wasn’t in at all.
I was heartbroken. It felt, well…it felt like shit to have qualified for Boston and not make the cut. There’s no other way to put it. Boston qualifying times are basically invisible moving targets. As a runner who is not a “gifted athlete” in any way, in order to qualify for Boston I trained myself into the ground in order to run at the cusp of my speed potential. Three times. And in the end it wasn’t fast enough. Maybe I’ll never be fast enough?
If I’m being totally honest, I went into Mountains2Beach with a fearful attitude. Because I was totally afraid. Not of not qualifying. But of just barely qualifying. I mean, what would I do then? Wear myself out trying yet again? Wait to get cut again? If you haven’t gone through that, I promise you this: you cannot imagine how demoralizing it is to wait out that registration week, to get that rejection, and to read the joyful responses from those who did survive the cut. It sucks. Trust me. No amount of rationalizing makes that experience suck any less.
In any event, I went into M2B fearful; I had a plan B race and I told my husband if I felt like I wasn’t having a good race at M2B I’d just drop out (yes, DNF) so I could try again in a few weeks (why get hurt right)? But then my hamstring… It blew up I guess. And that was at mile 15-16. I should have just stopped right there, but I knew in my gut that even if I had, I wasn’t going to be able to run hard in a few weeks. I was done. So I crawled to the finish line.
My desire to stay in the fight is strong, though. So initially I did. Until one day in July. July 17th to be exact. I completed an 18 mile training run nowhere near where I needed to be. I could see the writing on the wall. During that 18 miles I cried. I walked. I beat myself up mentally. And by mile 18 I knew I needed to let this goal go.
I’m an avid follower of all things Another Mother Runner: the books, the authors, the podcasts. It’s a great running group. And I knew they had a heart rate training plan. I thought perhaps that heart rate training would completely shift my focus from speed to effort. It sounded like exactly what I needed. So I signed up!
I am now a little over one full week into the AMR “Excellent Half Marathon” Heart Rate training plan. I find myself feeling ambivalant about this plan.
On the one hand, my ego takes a solid beating everytime I look at my statistics on Garmin, Strava, and now Training Peaks (where the plan is posted) as well.
On the other hand, something inside me is overjoyed that I don’t have to worry about running fast (at least, for now). Anxiety has been noticeably lifted; for me, that is a BIG deal.
The plan suggests a PR is possible at the end of this journey. I’ve (tentatively) selected the Phoenix Rock and Roll Half Marathon as my goal race. My current PR (from a downhill race) is 1:50. I feel like my faith in my ability to improve as a runner would be restored if I could beat that time next January.
So I guess I’m all in again.