Racing Burnout and Marathon Training

>> Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We've been racing . . . a lot. I'm starting to feel like Scully (above) -- completely exhausted. At this point, I'm also starting to hate running. I feel like a fall marathon is an impossible goal (at least with the training plan that I set for myself).

By now, I imagine you've gathered that this post won't be inspirational or even positive. I don't mean to rain on the healthy blog parade, but I want to be honest. I, Ashley, am going through a tough time with my running. Racing can be a great way to get in shape. To have fun. To reach goals. But Stephen and I didn't realize how often we were literally on the road until this past weekend. Don't get me wrong, we had a blast at the Boilermaker -- but all these speedy miles are beginning to take their toll.

Season in review:

I'm proud of my times at all of these races. I'm also incredibly proud of my trend of PR-ing with each successive race. These are amazing accomplishments. They are to be celebrated! But what I'm missing that I've always incorporated into my yearly running routine is rest. A month of light and easy running, twice a year. I usually spent both December and July in this easy phase.

But this year, we picked an earlier fall marathon. Training has already begun (weeks ago, in fact). That month of a mental and physical break just isn't there. And I quite honestly don't know what I want to do. No one is MAKING me run a marathon, so I imagine some of you out there are thinking: "Stop whining, just don't do it! Rest!" I, too, realize I could just throw in the towel.

But I have a goal. I have many goals and motivations, actually. Some of them for running, some of them not. The most directly related is my goal to run a sub-4:00 marathon. I was trained and ready to at Philly last year, but injury slowed me in the final miles. No one can predict how a race will go entirely, but by plugging my recent race times into this handy calculator (which is frighteningly accurate), I could be looking -- best case scenario -- at running a 3:40 this year!

That's a Boston-qualifying time for me! I feel like I need to at least try. If I fail miserably, so be it. But if my potential is there this year, who knows if I'll still be on my game next year. Life situations are always changing. Injuries. Work obligations. You-name-it. I want to try.

But then there's the burnout. What to do? Right now, my primary goal is to try loving running again. I can't continue marathon training with such negative attitude toward my workouts. I know I really love running. Instead of push myself with more miles, I'd like to focus on quality over quantity. I'm officially stepping down to Hal Higdon's Intermediate I plan (I was attempting to do a modified Intermediate II with a more aggressive long run schedule). If that doesn't work, I may even step down to the Novice II plan, which means only 4 days of running and a day for cross-training.

I followed the Intermediate I plan for the Philly Marathon last year. It worked well for me then, so I feel it will help me cross the finish line yet again this year. And I actually find the Novice II plan quite attractive because it could help me focus on making my workouts mean more (again, the quality over quantity thing) . . . and allow me to gain strength in other ways (thought biking and swimming, most likely).

Basically, I'm trying to re-examine my training. There are many ways to get to the finish. Maybe in this case, less is more.

I wrote this post because I'd love your suggestions on how I can break out of this bad patch. What do you do when you're feeling like your next run might make you have a nervous breakdown? Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com. I like to look at photos from after my races. Try to remember how that feeling of accomplishment melts away my sorrows. So, I'm thinking of making a photo album of these moments (like a REAL one, printing photos for once). Something I can take out and look at before a run. We'll see if that helps! And thanks for reading!

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