JC Marathon Training Week 11: The Final (Long) Long Run

Last week was the final peak week of my prep for the Jersey City Marathon, and I can finally start easing up a bit.

But this week, there was one final challenge – my last (long) long run. I’m starting the week off with a 20 miler before I taper off for next weekend’s tune up race.

I’ll do another 16 mile long run the week after that and incorporate some marathon paced running – but this is the last really long run.

Once I get through that, it’s pretty easy sailing from here. A tune up race, a few more light workouts, a taper, and it’ll be race day before you know it.

The Plan for Week 11

The last two weeks, I’ve hit 85 miles per week. So I’m happy to only be running 70 miles this week.

I’m also dropping down to one workout, and I’m going to make it a little bit lighter so that I’m fresh for the 15k race next weekend.

Here’s the plan as it’s written:

  • 20 mile long run
  • 6 mile easy run
  • 8 mile morning run, 4 mile evening run
  • 8 mile morning run, 4 mile evening run
  • 8 mile easy T workout
  • 6 mile easy run
  • 6 mile easy run

And here’s how things went.

A Sunday Long Run in Philly

My wife and I took a quick weekend getaway to Philly, which meant that I would be out of town for this final long run. But Philly is a great place to run, so that’s ok.

We were staying downtown by City Hall, and my plan was to cut over to the Schuykill River Trail for a long out and back. I woke up early, put on some sun block, made sure the bite valve of my water flask was on tight, and stepped outside.

The weather was beautiful – a bit brisk, but neither too cold nor too hot. The first mile was quite slow as I jogged through center city to the stairs leading down to the Schuykill River Trail at Walnut Street. Once I got down by the river, I started to ease in.

I passed the Museum of Art and I stopped at the Lloyd Hall Rec Center for a quick pit stop. The bathrooms are well maintained and clean. I continued on down the river, and there was a lot of activity as I got to the canoe house. There was some kind of regatta going on, and the teams were just getting set up when I passed by.

Once I got past the regatta, the crowds thinned out but I still saw the occasional runner or two. At around the 8 mile mark, I missed a turn. I was supposed to follow the road into Manayunk and then cut back onto the River Trail, but I accidentally followed the Wissahickon Bike Path along the Wissahickon Creek.

It worked out fine, though. Shortly after turning onto the bike path, a woman passed me on a bike. She warned me that a large group of around 75 bikers were coming up behind her – and she wasn’t lying. They kept to the left, I kept to the right, and we all went on our merry way. About two miles in, I was just about ready to turn around. I was also in need of a bathroom – and almost as if someone had answered my prayers I stumbled upon a bathroom at the 9.9 mile mark.

I went up the path, turned around, used the bathroom, and started back towards the hotel. My time at the ten mile mark was 1:26:46. I had kind of hoped to hit 85 minutes, but those two minutes weren’t a big deal. Once I got off the Wissahickon trail – which was a little hilly and slow, but not terrible – I’d pick up the pace for the last eight miles.

Miles 11 and 12 came and went (8:36/8:25), and sure enough as soon as I got back on solid pavement I easily sped up. The next three miles were 8:13, 8:00, and 8:05. Around the fifteen mile mark, I passed by the regatta again. The crew parents had all set up tents with make shift kitchens to barbecue, and everything smelled great.

I pushed on past Boathouse Row and back towards the Art Museum. The miles were ticking away easily now – 7:55 and 7:50.

I decided to detour by the Art Museum and run up the steps – Rocky style. I paused for a second at the top to take a photo, then I turned around and ran back to the river trail to finish up. Mile 18 was a little slow (8:11) because of the detour.

As I got back towards the steps that led up to Walnut Street, I noticed a family of four and did a double take. The mother was a woman I knew from back home in northern New Jersey. We exchanged a quizzical look and a quick greeting, and I sped on by.

I charged up the steps to Walnut Street, meandered through the city, and made my way back to the hotel. The last two miles: 7:48 and 7:47.

My split for the second half was 80:55. My heart rate was under control the whole time, and although my legs were tired from the mileage it was an easy run.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and successful long run. I finished a little faster than I did two weeks ago, and I felt great afterwards. I was able to walk around the city a bit as we finished up our sight seeing with trouble.

I didn’t quite hit my goal of 2:45 – but I’m sure during my next training cycle I’ll be able to finish 20 miles comfortably in less than 2:45.

On our way out of town, we stopped at Joe’s Steaks and Soda Shop in Fishtown to grab cheesesteaks. Along with a large order of old bay fries and a milkshake, it was a great post-long run recovery meal.

A cheesesteak and french fries from Joes Steak and Soda Shop - the perfect recovery meal.

Monday’s Recovery Trail Run

Monday morning was an uneventful and easy recovery run on the trails. I was able to sleep in a bit and get a full eight hours of sleep, and eventually I dragged myself out to get started.

Until last weekend, it had been raining quite a bit. The trails had been a mess, so I’d been avoiding them. But this morning, I thought to give them a go and see how conditions were.

The trails were pretty well dried out – although there were a few puddles to dodge. Although I was tight and slow for the first couple of miles, I felt pretty good overall. By the end of the run, my legs had loosened up and I could easily have forgotten that I’d done a full twenty miles yesterday.

The forest was just starting to come alive – little specks of green here and there. But it was still mostly dormant. Over the next few weeks, spring will come into bloom completely and the place will look completely different.

It’s one of the things I love about trail running – the scenery is constantly changing.

Tuesday’s Easy Runs

Tuesday, I was feeling pretty good.

I woke up and hit the trails again. Despite being the first official day of spring, the weather started to shift back towards a(nother) last gasp of winter.

It was a brisk 36 degrees and cloudy, but the trees provided some protection from the wind. I loosened up pretty quickly, and ended up finishing the 8 miles with an average pace of 9:25/mi.

The previous day, I had run 9:45/mi. And there were a couple days this training cycle where I was really fatigued, and this same route took me ~10:00/mi.

So that’s a good sign that – with the peak mileage and tough workouts behind me – I’m feeling good.

After work, I hopped on the treadmill for a quick 45 minute jog to pad my mileage. Everything felt good, and it was uneventful.

Wednesday’s Easy Run with Strides

Wednesday, I left the trails and returned to my usual route at the reservoir. I only had one workout planned for this week – with the race coming up – but I planned to run some strides today to loosen things up.

It was still a bit chilly – 37 and sunny – but not quite as bad as the day before. The sun helped. But I was beginning to wonder if spring would ever really be here.

I felt good and loosened up pretty quickly. After 4 miles, I stopped for some leg swings. Over the last 4 miles, I added in 2 sets of 6 strides – around 100m each. The strides themselves were a titch slow, but overall my pace was pretty comfortable.

After work, I hopped on the treadmill for my second double of the week. Again, uneventful.

Thursday’s T Workout

The plan for Thursday was to run a shorter, easier T workout than I had been doing. I wanted to practice race pace for Sunday but not overdo it and tire myself out too much.

So instead of 40 total minutes at T, with longer 10 minute reps, I planned on a simple 6 x 5 minutes at T. I thought I programmed that into my watch and synced it before I left the house. Apparently … it didn’t sync.

I got down to the reservoir and warmed up. I was only putting in a total of 8 miles – and I needed to drive to the office – so I only ran one lap (~2 miles) for a warm-up. After a few strides and some leg swings, I was ready to go.

The first rep started ok. The pace was a little slow – 6:35/mi – but I think I was still warming up. The next rep, I was right on target with a pace of 6:24/mi.

I started the third rep, and as I came up on the 5 minute mark, my watch beeped and told me I was running too fast. Oops. It might have been a tailwind, or I might have got a little out of control. But as I looked at my watch, I also noticed that I had 5 minutes left in the rep. Huh?

Apparently, the workout hadn’t synced – so instead of doing 6×5, I was doing 2×5 and 3×10.

Oh well. Just go with it. So I finished up that third rep. I split 6:21 for the first mile (a little fast) and averaged 6:39/mi for the last half mile. Partially, I think I was tired from going too hard in the beginning – and partially there was a headwind slowing me down. But the rep averaged out to 6:27/mi.

For the final rep, I split 6:25 for the first mile. Perfect. I could feel myself slowing down towards the end, and my watch was showing 6:40-6:45. The actual average for that segment was 6:35 – and the overall rep was 6:28/mi.

All told, it was a decent workout. I had some minor pacing issues, but all four reps were between 6:25 and 6:30/mi. That’s my goal pace for Sunday, and that’s what I was aiming for in this workout.

Friday on the Trails

With the workout out of the way, all that was left for the week was two easy runs.

Friday, I hit up the trails for an easy six miles. I slept in to get a little extra rest. It was another cold day, but it looks like spring will be back next week.

It was a nice, relaxing run. Despite having a workout the day before, I was feeling fresh and quick.

The first mile was slow and easy, but I naturally sped up towards the end. The final three miles were 8:55 to 9:10 – not particularly fast, but on the faster side for a trail run.

A Soggy Saturday Morning

Saturday morning, I was out of town for a conference. I woke up early to get in my six easy miles before it started.

The weather was atrocious. It was supposed to pour all day. I was hoping it might still be light early in the morning, but it was a pretty steady rain the whole time.

Luckily, it wasn’t that cold. With the temp in the mid 40’s, it wasn’t too bad. I threw on a quarter zip over my shirt to try and keep me dry, and I stepped out into the mess.

The conference was in the Princeton area, and there’s a large complex of hotels and corporate offices. The whole area is wooded, and there’s a nice jogging path that circles the complex. I got turned around a few times and took a few extra small loops, but it worked out perfect. I hit 6 miles just as I got back to my hotel.

Other than the rain, it was a nice place to be away for a conference and run in the morning.

I got back to the hotel, and I was drenched and cold. I stopped by the breakfast area to grab some hot coffee and a plate of hot food. I gobbled it down, warmed up, and went about my day.

Looking Ahead

I planned on spending some time reflecting on the week – and all my training – to plan out a strategy for tomorrow’s race.

But then, after I got home, I got an email from the race organizers.

With the torrential downpours, the area of the race is prone to flooding. And sure enough, they had to cancel the race after consultation with town authorities.

I was bummed for a minute, but it is what it is. This wasn’t the goal race – it was just a tune up along the way.

Instead, I think I’ll switch tomorrow to a short, marathon-paced long run. 16 miles, with an easy 8 warm-up and the final 8 at around marathon pace. That way, I’ll also be good for a T workout during the week – and I can decide whether I want to do a time trial or another long run next weekend before I really taper off.

Either way, there’s three weeks to go until the marathon. I’m feeling good about my training, and I like my chances.

How’s your training going?

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