Right around late September, training took a step backward. I was still getting in a run every day, and for the most part, still making the distance I needed to. But my pace suffered and I didn't feel good when I ran. A huge part of getting through long-distance races is attitude and an overall sense of well-being while you run. That wasn't there.
Part of that may have been diet; I've been succumbing to junk food more often when it's offered (you know, someone brings donuts to the break room, etc). And a few weeks went by when I didn't do any floor exercises. You'd think that would make me run better, at least at first, but evidently not.
On top of all that, I've been busier than normal with work and personal stuff. I moved recently, so a lot of free time has been dedicated to unpacking, settling in, and a lot of paperwork. And that means not enough sleep, which affects your run.
Oh, and it gets dark early enough that I never finish a run in daylight anymore. I slow down a ton when I can't see well. A co-worker was kind enough to give me a headlamp recently, and that helps, but I'd rather have sunshine. That wouldn't be such a problem if there were less things to do at work and I could leave less than two hours after classes are done.
For some reason, this last week has been a lot better. The only thing that's changed has been the floor exercises; I've started inconsistently doing them again. Again, you'd think that would make me run worse, at least for the first week while strength gets built back up. But apparently not.
I always do long runs on Saturday morning, primarily because that's one of the only times I can. This morning, it was a comfortable temperature of 20-25 C, which means warm for a long run. And it was incredibly humid.
Surprisingly enough, I was slightly ahead of a 3:00-hour marathon pace when I reached the halfway point: my own apartment. I stepped inside for some sports drink and snacks, wrung out my sweaty clothes, put them back on, and got back out there.
The route I chose was two loops, run "washing machine" style, first clockwise, then counter-clockwise. This time, that meant the two hardest hills on the route would be at the end of the first loop and at the beginning of the second loop, nearly back-to-back. After taking them on a second time, I was suprisingly only about 30 seconds behind a 3:00 marathon pace, and still felt good!
By the time I got to Blue Hole Park, mostly downhill and on pavement, I was back on pace. Run each km in an average pace of 4:17 and I'll complete a marathon in under three hours!
At Blue Hole Park, right around km 31, I ran 1 km in 4:23. Then in 4:31. Oh no, not another collapse around the 30 km mark!! I dug deep and managed to run the next few km in ~4:15, despite being on a surface that usually makes me slow down. With 6.2 km left to go, I was back on pace, with nothing but good surfaces and inclines at best, followed by a great downhill at the end.
Only one problem - I'd done the math wrong in my head, and a 4:17/km pace isn't fast enough to finish a marathon in under 3:00. 4:16 is. That's only one second on average, but that meant I'd have to run each km in about 4:07 from here on out. On this part of the route, 4:07 isn't such a problem, but hoding that pace with 37 km behind me?
Starting there, the first km was on a 4:06 km pace, and the next two were both sub-4:00. A three- hour marathon was in the bag, especially with that last two km all downhill. Even so, it took effort to hold that pace for the last 15-20 minutes.
Managed to hit the 42.2 mark and complete an unsupported marathon in just under three hours! Still wasn't home yet, so had to run another half-km to finish it up.
I can't remember what my longest purely training run was, but it was definitely shorter than a marathon. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new standard. And to think that I didn't taper, carb-load, or wear race shoes. I put on a standard running kit, wore my trainers, and went running and did floor exercises the night before, and even morning of!
Eventually, the goal is to run nearly 1.5 times as far and log 60 km training runs on weekends. We'll see...