JC Marathon Training Week 12: Finishing Strong and Starting to Taper

Photo by Mayukh Karmakar on Pexels

At the end of last week, I got some bad news. The race I’d been hoping to run as a tune up for the Jersey City Marathon – the Spring Distance Classic 15k – was cancelled due to flooding in the area.

Last Saturday, New Jersey got hit by heavy rain, and the area around this race is notorious for flooding. So it didn’t come as a surprise. But it was a momentary disappointment.

I had been looking forward to racing this and testing out just where my fitness was. This would help me zero in on a goal time for Jersey City – and it would also help me gauge how well I could do in May at the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

But that wasn’t in the cards. And when life give you lemons, you make lemonade.

So instead of racing on Sunday and spending the rest of the week recovering, I managed to fit in two more solid workouts. They went great – and I really feel like I ended my training on a high note.

The Plan for Week 12

The cancellation of Sunday’s race through a wrench in my plans, so I had to adjust some things. I was able to fit in a legitimate long run on Sunday, as well as a workout later in the week.

Here’s the revised plan:

  • Sunday: 16 mile long run with 8 miles at marathon pace
  • Monday: 6 mile easy
  • Tuesday: 8 miles easy in the morning, 4.5 miles on the treadmill in the evening
  • Wednesday: 8 miles easy
  • Thursday: 8 miles easy
  • Friday: 12 mile T workout
  • Saturday: 8 miles easy

This totaled 70 miles for the second week in a row (down from the 85 mile peak). I’ll taper harder next week (60 miles) and the final week (45 miles).

And here’s how things went.

Sunday’s Marathon Paced Long Run

I considered just going out and doing a 15k time trial instead of the race. But after giving it some thought, I figured I’d be better off testing out marathon pace.

This training cycle I focused a lot on speed and threshold – and that didn’t leave much (any) time for marathon paced running.

The weather Sunday was perfect. High 30’s and sunny. Although it was a bit windy, as I’d figure out later on.

I started off an easy out and back along Cherry Lane through the reservation. There’s a huge hill in the middle, so it’s not great for marathon paced running. But it was a nice way to warm up and pass the first hour of my long run.

About seven mile in, the hills were mostly behind me. I had a bit of a decline for a half mile, and then it was flat running around the Reservoir. So I hit the lap button on my watch and started the workout portion of the run.

My goal was to average around 7:00/mi – or slightly under.

The first mile started out fine. I eased into it, and I was on pace. But I was also going downhill, which made it hard to gauge effort. When I got back on flat terrain, I slowed down a bit and it took me a few minutes to really dial in the pace. I ended up a little slow on that mile (7:12), but things would improve from there.

I turned into the reservoir at the end of that first mile and got started on my loops. That second mile went pretty well – 6:58. It wasn’t until the end of that mile, though, that I realized how windy it was. You never really feel the tailwind, but as soon as you turn around it smacks you in the face.

The third mile, into the wind, was tougher. I didn’t want to push too hard into the wind and tire myself out, but I also wanted to maintain close to my target pace. I ended up splitting 7:04. I can live with that.

Turning out of the wind was like night and day. All of a sudden, I found myself going too fast and I had to reign in the pace a bit. 6:50.

After each mile into the wind, I felt like quitting. But once I got to the other side with the tailwind, I realized I felt fine. I was a little worried at first whether I’d be able to keep up the pace, but by this point I knew I’d be ok.

The last four miles alternated between a little slow and a little fast – 6:58, 6:48, 6:57, 6:52.

Overall, I averaged ~6:56/mi – and if you discount the first mile, it was ~6:54/mi. For most of the workout, my heart rate was 160-161. Based on past races, this is a sustainable pace for me. If my heart rate is in this range for the first half of the race, then I’m good.

My real goal (3:03) is about 6:59/mi, and my stretch goal (3:00) is 6:52/mi. So this was a huge confidence boost. Add in some super shoes (New Balance SC Elite v3), pray for good weather, and I’m all set.

Of course this was only eight mile at MP. So I’ll try one more long run workout with MP next week – just to make sure this is really realistic.

Monday’s Recovery on the Trails

I had to go to a meeting for work Monday morning, but it didn’t start until 10:30. So I was able to sleep in a little bit – just not too late.

I took advantage of an extra hour of sleep, and I eventually got moving and hit the trails. They were still a little messy from the rainy weekend, but considering how much rain we had gotten on Saturday they weren’t too bad. It was nothing like a couple weeks ago, when we had an entire weekend of rain.

I did an easy six miles out and back. I started out slow, but I wasn’t feeling the previous day’s workout too much.

I also noticed the first signs of spring starting to appear. The forest is coming back to life – a little green here and there as the shrubs start to regrow their leaves. Things will change quickly over the next few weeks as spring comes into bloom.

A Tuesday Double Feature

It’s nice only running 70 miles in a week – and only needing to do one double.

I decided to stick to the pavement today, so I could get finished a little quicker than on the trails. I jogged down to the reservoir to start my easy eight miles.

The county workers were there, getting the park ready for the spring. There are swan shaped paddle boats you can rent, and they were stationing all the paddle boats around the dock. This meant a little detour for me, but otherwise it wasn’t a big deal.

Towards the end of the first mile, I recognized someone up ahead. It was a friend of mine, who I usually only see running on the weekends. But this week was spring break – so she was out late on a Tuesday morning.

I slowed down to jog a mile with her while we chatted. It turns out she is also running Jersey City – so we commiserated about wrapping up our training cycles and preparing for the race.

At the end of that lap, she was done so I sped back up to a comfortable pace and finished my next three laps.

After work, I hopped on the treadmill for an easy 45 minutes. Uneventful, but I got the miles in.

Another Trail Day on Wednesday

I returned to the trails on Wednesday for an easy eight miles.

Something happened, and my watch didn’t start at the beginning. Eugh. I noticed a little less than a mile in.

But luckily I’ve run this route many times before, so I know how to hit eight miles exactly. By the end, my watch had tracked 7.2 miles – but I logged it as 8.

I was feeling even better than on Monday. The earlier miles were still a little slow, but today my last two miles were around 9:20/mi.

All in all, I was feeling good and happy to cross off another day on the way to race day.

Thursday: An Easy Day in the Rain

Initially, I was going to run my threshold workout for the week Thursday.

However, the weather looked pretty bad – heavy rain all morning. I didn’t know if I wanted to do 12 miles in that. It also occurred to me that I wouldn’t be doing my long run until Monday (since Sunday was Easter), so I could afford to shift the workout to Friday.

So I swapped Thursday and Friday on my original schedule, and I planned for an easy eight miles.

When I woke up, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the rain had let up after all. It had rained lightly overnight, but I decided to risk the trails anyway.

There were a few puddles here and there, and it was a bit muddier than Monday. But overall, it was a nice run.

The extra day of rest – and the lower mileage – must have done me some good. Because after the warm up mile, I found myself averaging around 9:00/mi.

I finished my eight mile route in just under 1:14. On a typical easy day, this route takes me 1:16 to 1:17. Must be feeling pretty good.

Friday: A Last Big T Workout

When Friday came, it was time to give my big T workout one final shot.

I ran the same workout I’d done a few time before – 2 x 5 minutes at threshold with 1 minute walking recovery, followed by 3 x 10 minutes at threshold with 2 minutes walking recovery. My goal was still 6:25 to 6:30/mi.

As usual, I started with a nice, long warm up – four miles. I ended with some strides, drills, and leg swings. Everything felt good, although I noticed there was some wind again. This wind is really killing me this spring … eugh.

But whatever. Into the wind we go.

The first rep, with the wind behind me: 6:20/mi. Great.

The second rep, into the wind: 6:29/mi. On the slower end, but perfectly fine for a headwind.

Things got a little harder with the longer reps, especially since the last half mile or so was typically into a headwind.

The third rep, I split the mile in 6:24 and ran the last bit at 6:27/mi. Nice.

I was getting tired, but only two reps to go – can’t quit now.

The fourth rep, I again split the mile in 6:24. But either the wind kicked up extra hard or I was starting to fade. I ran the last bit at 6:36/mi, for an overall pace of 6:28/mi.

At the start of the fifth and final rep, my legs were a little dead. I started out slower than pace, but after a few hundred meters I got on track. I split the mile in 6:31 – and then I pushed it into the wind to finish the last bit at 6:29/mi.

Overall workout pace: 6:27/mi.

I really wish I could get a nice day, without wind, to do one of these workouts. The uneven effort always makes it hard to pace things, and I wonder if I could get down to 6:25/mi without the fluctuations.

But I’ll still take this as a win. Combined with Sunday’s long run, this is another data point signaling that 3:03 should be a soft target – and sub 3:00 just might be possible in the right conditions.

An Easy Trail Day on Saturday

I wrapped up the week with an easy eight miles on the trails.

Unlike earlier in the week, I did feel extra stiff this morning. That was a pretty tough workout yesterday, and I was feeling it.

The first mile was super slow – like 11:30 slow. It took a few miles, but I eventually loosened up.

The forest is continuing to come alive. There was a lot more green than at the beginning of the week – and I noticed some buds on trees. In a couple of weeks, the place won’t even be recognizable.

After the halfway point, I felt a lot better. I was still a little slower than usual, but my stride wasn’t as short and choppy.

At the end of the run, I ran into a friend of mine. I always see him post about the trails on Facebook – but we rarely ever run into each other out there. It was nice to chat for a minute, but I caught up to him at the tail end of my run.

If I wasn’t going into taper week, I probably would have just done an extra mile or two. But at this point, eight is plenty. Need to rest.

Looking Ahead

It’s hard to believe there are only two weeks left until race day. When I ran my long run last Sunday, I was actually confused about the dates in my head. I thought there was a whole extra week in there somewhere – and there isn’t.

That means it’s time to really start to taper down. The last two weeks, I’ve come down from peak mileage but I’ve still been hitting my workouts.

Next week, I’ll have one final long run workout – 16 miles with a significant chunk at marathon pace. From there, it’s easy sailing and lower mileage until race day.

As luck would have it, I’m also going out of town to visit family in Minneapolis on Tuesday. So having some new places to explore will help keep me sane while I’m spending less time running.

I’m shifting my long run to Monday, since tomorrow is Easter. And that will be my last real data point to inform my pacing at the race. So cross your fingers and hope things go well.

Until next week – keep running!

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