This weekend may end up being the make-or-break weekend of Project 14Forty.  It wasn’t supposed to be that way as I was only scheduled for 6 miles (5 Saturday, 1 Sunday).  When I created the training plan, I had a tough time trying to figure out the11 weeks between Phunt 50K and Umstead.  I’ve been doing 3 straight weekends of long runs followed by an off weekend, however this left me with an extra weekend to deal with after adding in a one week recovery after Phunt and a two week taper.  I was planning on really racing Phunt so I decided to add in an extra off weekend here to let myself recover.

Well, that was the plan.  As this past week progressed though, I started to think I didn’t need another weekend of sleeping in.  My legs felt good.  My mind and motivation felt good.  I felt ready and excited to get back into training so I decided to pull my next back-to-back long run weekend forward a week.  Then I looked at the 20 and 15 miles scheduled and thought that seemed a little on the light side.  I had done 25 and 15 leading up to Phunt so decided that 20 and 20 would be my 2 runs.

Now those of you that ready my last post might be lead to believe that I’ve already started backsliding on my expectations setting.  That I’m pushing myself to over-train in an attempt to go harder in NC than I would be able to otherwise.  I’m not going to lie and say this isn’t possible, but I don’t think that’s the case here.  I believe this is a case of me listening to my body.  Typically, this means dialing back your training and/or taking a day off to recover.  But listening to your body can and should also swing the other way.  Not as frequently or often perhaps, but occasionally when the stars align right.  Sometimes you stress your body and it responds better than you think or fear it might.

My 20 mile run on Saturday went well though my legs were a bit on the sore side.  This may come a surprise, but this tends to happen when you’re out running for more than 3 hours.  But was it a good sore or a pre-injury sore?  Now my mind starts going back and forth on whether or not it’s wise to drop another double dime on my legs so soon after a hard 50K.  Am I about to screw things up by adding in too much stress, too soon?  Throw in that I’ll need to get up at 4:30am on Sunday morning to get the run done before church and my motivation is dropping like a rock.  It’s not that I don’t mind running before the sun comes up.  It just seemed like such a chore.  It was going to be cold.  It was going to hurt.  It was another loooooong run after I had just already done one.  And it wasn’t even on my schedule this weekend!  Would I do it?  Should I do it?  Could I do it?  These and many more questions were going through my head as I went to bed Saturday night.

Then my alarm went off this morning at 4:30am and I was up and out the door.  People ask me how I can run 100-milers and this morning is the answer to that question.  It’s having the discipline to get up and put in the miles when you don’t want to.  Heck, it’s even more than that.  It’s having the discipline to put in the miles when you don’t even really have to.  This weekend was not a central part of my plan for Umstead when I created it, but I feel it’ll end up being the defining weekend in this training cycle and not the 2 races or my max mileage weekend.

This was not a rainbows and unicorns run though it had much more to do with my mind than my legs.  Yesterday I cranked out a 9:41 pace (9:31 for the first half) and today I was only a little slower at 9:52 (9:45 through 10 miles).  The route was over paved roads (10 miles), gravel/fire roads (6 miles) with several trails tossed in for good measure (4 miles).  The total elevation gain was in the 1700-1800 feet range or about what I’ll face at Umstead.  So while my legs got me around in decent shape, my mind was counting down the miles before I even got to 1.  I remember thinking half mile down, 39 more to go.  Arrrgh.  Luckily, I rallied a bit after I got warmed up and was able to gut out the first 10-12 miles.  Once the sun came up and I got into the back half of the run, my mental state started improving as well.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say I cherished the run, but I could at least appreciate that I was running relatively well and not in too much physical discomfort.  And 40 miles over the course of a weekend is nothing to sniff at.

With this weekend behind me now, I’ve modified my upcoming schedule.  As opposed to 20 miles next Saturday, I’m planning on 25.  The following weekend I’ll do 25/20 as planned and then add in a 27-miler on my additional weekend.  I’m still running two 5-milers and three 1-milers during the week.  All of my runs, including my long weekend jaunts, are done at whatever pace my body feels like going.  Maybe I’ll try doing speed or tempo workouts again in the future, but it’s not something I felt comfortable incorporating into this training cycle as I was already adding in the long back-to-back training runs.  We’ll see how much they benefit me down the road, but I’m already recovering from them quicker than I have in the past.  I think it’s because I’ve finally gotten a decent endurance base under me after the past 4 years.

Hope your training is going well, too.