My Run SMART Project Marathon Pace Workout

I did my first Marathon (M) Pace workout on The Run SMART Project Jack Daniels’ 15-Week Marathon Plan this past Wednesday, March 26th.   My daily schedule in the VDOT O2 Application called for nine miles at M Pace, 8:13 per mile.  The graphic below shows my training calendar and the exploded view of the M Pace workout:

MP Workout

As the day unfolded, I had three doubts about being able to successfully complete the workout:

  1. First, I had to wake up at 0430 on Wednesday morning and then drive for four hours to work at a client’s location.  I didn’t get to bed as early as I’d planned and only got five hours of sleep.  I was tired by lunchtime.
  2. Getting enough carbs was my second concern.  I have been losing weight on Nutrisystem while increasing my training.  I have to work extra hard to make sure I don’t cut myself short on carbs leading up to quality workouts.  And it’s harder to eat right when I’m travelling.
  3. Finally, it was cold and very windy on the road along the Chesapeake Bay where I planned to run.  I walked out to my car at lunchtime and was hit with a frozen blast of forceful wind.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain a consistent pace, much less an 8:15 pace, running in that wind.  I didn’t feel confident about being able to gauge an M Pace effort.

There was a time when I would run an easy twenty-miler at 8:15 pace, but that was ten years ago.  It’s not easy anymore.  It will be again, but not yet.  As the workday drew to a close at 1630, it was time to erase the doubts and get the workout done.

CybexJust the thought of running gave me a shot of adrenaline and a second wind.  Scratch Doubt #1.  Thinking about the carbs during the day, I ate a few bananas (checking off two Nutrisystem Smart Carbs) and an extra Power Bar (38 grams of carbs, only 21 grams of it sugar) in addition to my normal Nutrisystem menu.  Scratch Doubt #2; I was carbed-up and ready to go.  To stack the deck in my favor, I bought a day pass at the local gym so I could do the workout on a treadmill.  Take weather out of the equation and Scratch Doubt #3.  Now I was psyched.

After I changed in the locker room, I did a set of pull-ups.  As I’ve lost almost twenty pounds, I’ve gone from being able to do one pull-up to being able to bang out six or seven.

I got on the old Cybex and did a slow warm-up mile, walking my way into a 12:00 minute mile pace.  Then I dialed in 7.3 MPH and tried it on for size.  It felt quick but manageable.  My breathing was fine, no respiratory discomfort, but it was hard to imagine going the full nine miles, if only because of the extreme boredom I was sure to experience.

After a few miles, I noticed several people were getting on the treadmill next to me, poking at the control panel for a minute or so, and then walking away.  I looked over and saw the letters “Err” on the display.  Just then a distinguished-looking gent in gray sweats and a cotton pocket-T did the same thing.  I said, “You might want to unplug it and plug it back in again.”  He said something I couldn’t understand, and kept hitting buttons. Oh well, I tried to help.

Then he walked away like the others.  But he turned right and walked along the front of the treadmills, and sure enough, he leaned down and pulled the plug just like I told him.

My old Cybex lurched to a stop and almost threw me over the console.  He was aghast and re-plugged me and apologized profusely at the same time.  I laughed and told him it was OK, that I needed a rest, and could he pull the plug out again in about twenty minutes?  He laughed and found the right plug for his machine and it worked.  He thanked me and got a few miles in and then headed off for the weight machines.

I was at about three and a half miles into the nine.  It was taking forever.  I was starting to feel some effort, but was still breathing easy.  I counted my cadence for a minute, and then recited the alphabet, which took a whole tenth of a mile.  I wasn’t any less bored, but at least now I knew I was taking 180 steps per minute and nearly 6.8 yards per letter.

By the halfway point, my legs were feeling stiff and tired and I was now counting hundredths of a mile.  After not running a lot for the past ten years, and getting ten years older in the bargain, I’m realizing that simply training my muscles, tendons, ligaments, and whatever else is holding me together is a bigger issue than getting into aerobic shape.  My legs were not keeping up with my lungs.

During the final three miles I remembered why, during the final miles of all five marathons I have run in my life, I have sworn never to run another marathon.  This wasn’t an idle threat I was making to myself.  I let twenty-five years go by between marathons one and two.  Now I was feeling that same dog-tired numb-legged feeling after only six or seven miles.  I soldiered on and was almost giddy when the end was in sight. Then I was done.  I felt a little dizzy and leaned on the old Cybex as it fell silent and I rested my head in my hands.

A voice jarred me out of my stupor; “You’re still here?”  It was the distinguished-looking gent back from his work with the weights.  I laughed and said, “Where were you when I needed you?”

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