This summer is seriously flying by. I just wrapped up week four of my Chicago training, including my longest run since the Portland Marathon last October, so I figured it was about time to share how things have been going on that front. My second summer session classes have sadly left little time for blogging lately!

I suppose I also haven’t been writing very much about my training because it’s been pretty uneventful. And by uneventful I mean it hasn’t been awesome – nor has it been horrible. I’ve been taking it week by week, creating a plan as I go (very unlike me, I should add, although I do have my long runs plotted out) and seeing what happens. I’m still only running four times a week – again, unusual for me in marathon training – and my weekly mileage has not been very high (28-34 in the last few weeks) – but it’s still early days (kind of) so I have time to build.

I’m playing it by ear to an extent because I want to make sure that each week I’m really being honest with myself about how my body is feeling. I’ve been plagued by too many injuries – albeit relatively minor ones – to not proceed with a bit of caution. That said, and this may somewhat contradict my claims of being cautious, I am also attempting a more aggressive long run approach – one that includes several 20 milers and had me running 19 miles this past week! That’s a very fast long run progression for me. I’m balancing it out with only four runs per week (for now) and minimal speed work, since my recent attempts caused my hamstring pain to flare up again. The good news is that my hamstring pain has FINALLY gone away – although I’ve learned to not assume it won’t return in a heartbeat. Of course, the moment my hamstring felt great, a new source of pain popped up out of nowhere (as usual) in my right calf/achilles area. So that was frustrating, and led to some unplanned rest days, but it seems to have subsided.

I don’t know if it’s all the strength training I’ve been doing, the extra cross training/rest days and/or fact that I’m actually getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night after months of sleep deprivation (I can’t tell you how much I love my new bed – and my two AC units – in my new apartment), but for the first time in ages I had a really strong running week this past week. It made me so happy, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it wasn’t just a fluke!

Monday I ran 5 miles at marathon pace (averaged 8:05min/mile) – it felt a bit more challenging than I would’ve liked, but I paced it out fairly well. Tuesday was cross training and a killer strength workout, which I really think is making a difference. Wednesday I did my first hill session in AGES – possibly of this year I’m embarrassed to say – which included 1-minute repeats at 6% incline and 7.8mph on the treadmill. On paper it really doesn’t sound that hard, but I was out of practice. It definitely made me realize just how unprepared I am for the Colorado race next month (!). However, I had been procrastinating doing hill training for SO long, it felt good to finally get it over with. Sometimes you just need to get past that first workout to start making real progress.

Thursday was a much-needed rest day and Friday I did 18.65M in Central Park at 9:03 average pace, plus another half mile to the subway. This was the first long run I’ve done entirely by myself in awhile, which was a bit tough, but it was nice to go at my own pace and I ran much stronger than I did in the previous week’s 17 miler. I didn’t listen to music (I only use music on the treadmill), and took advantage of the alone time to practice mental techniques like mantras, counting, breathing etc. I usually don’t mind running alone, but the park is so monotonous, and it was hot out. I ate a half banana right before I ran and to my surprise it didn’t bother my stomach (yay!), and I took three Hammer Gels, which weren’t *too* offensive in taste but the extra slimy texture may make me knock them out as gel contenders. I still have some shot bloks to try, which I know are quite popular. If those don’t work out, I’m giving up for now and will revert to my UK gels, which E is importing for me later this month.

I wasn’t sure how my body would feel after the long run, but I was fine the next day. I did a pilates machine class and took it easy. I was slightly nervous for Sunday’s tempo run, since the last time I did one I struggled! But to my surprise, running 15min at a 7:30 pace felt relatively comfortable (two days after my long run?!), and I felt fine today when I went for my recovery run of 4M.

Again, I’m hoping this isn’t a fluke – it should help that this week is a drop back week – but I guess we’ll know for sure when I attempt my 20 miler at NYRR’s Long Training Run #1. It turns out that E is arriving around 11pm the night before, so I probably won’t be getting a solid night of sleep given I have been waiting nearly AN ENTIRE YEAR for him to finally move to the US and for us to end this long distance nonsense, but that’s okay. It’s not a race – it’s just a group long run, right? I feel worse for him – running long with jet lag is no fun! Thankfully, at least as I understand it, you can do whatever distance you like so he can call it a day when he’s had enough.

Time to get back to studying – bacteria or lactation anyone? Fun stuff. I’m struggling to get excited about my classes this session, but I think that’s more due to general burn-out than lack of interest. It’s been pretty much non-stop since January and I am really ready for a break – and I mean more than a few days. Then again, summer classes are quite miserable, period. I’m just trying my best to hang on – 11 more days until I see E (BEYOND excited), and less than four weeks until summer school is over. By that point, the Fall semester will be right around the corner, but at least I have a few weeks to take a breather, enjoy being reunited with E, focus on training and get our apartment set up before the real craziness begins…