Spring Race Training: Week 5


I originally wrote a beautifully worded and utterly fascinating post for this week. But then WordPress failed to autosave it and it’s gone forever. So the clumsy, awkward presentation that follows will have to suffice.

I ran a shade under 90 miles this week and it feels quite natural to do so. To be fair, this was my average mileage over the summer, so it’s not a new experience. However, what is different this time around is that I’m not completely flat-on-my-back exhausted all the time. I’m doing three days of doubles per week now (and that’s set to go up to four days soon). Over the summer, I was doubling at least six days a week, sometimes seven, and I think that was way too much. I also didn’t have as much variation in the mileage from day to day as I do now, which I believe also contributed to an inability to truly recover.

Previous posts already talked about the bad run on Tuesday followed by the good one on Friday. I was thinking about these two runs and what made one bad and the other good and remembered a subject I’ve meant to write about but haven’t gotten around to. So I may as well do so now. The topic is hormonal fluctuations and how they can affect athletic performance in some women.

As I’ve tracked my training over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a distinct pattern of performance degradation or enhancement depending on where I am in my menstrual cycle. To put it in simple terms, I run with all the speed and grace of an arthritic platypus in the days before and during my period (luteal phase), after which I gradually, but quite dramatically, evolve into a gazelle hopped up on speedballs in the four days or so before ovulation (follicular phase). If you find that you mysteriously run better or worse at certain times in the month, you might try tracking where you are in your cycle to see if there’s a predictable relationship. On a related note, some studies have shown that women taking oral contraceptives may also experience lower VO2 max during the luteal phase and/or elevated body temperatures (which can affect hot weather running), so there’s a double or triple whammy for some of us.

So you know all about Tuesday and Friday already. To bring this full circle: If you look at the four days that are outlined in red, that’s my period. Tuesday fell on the first day, which is often my nadir in terms of running performance. After that, things start to look up. I hope this means that I’ll be at my apex come the weekend.

Apologies if this is way too much information, and more than you wanted to know. It took me awhile to figure out that there was a connection between cycles and performance. I wish I’d read something similar much earlier so I could have cleared up some mysteries (and timed my races a bit better).

What’s left is a few recovery days during which I was pretty tired. But that’s what they’re there for. Today’s long run was a blast, actually. I woke up after 9.5 hours of sleep feeling great. The predicted inch of snow didn’t materialize overnight and we instead had a day of light rain, but never heavy enough to soak me through. I felt so good on my run that I threw in an extra mile, and picked up the pace in the second half, running several at 7:50 or well under. I’d like to be doing my garden variety long runs at a slightly faster pace than I’ve been doing them thus far (a flatter course on a clear path with no wind certainly helped today), so I’m going to be trying to get my average down closer to the 8:00 and below range over the coming weeks.

Week 6 bumps things up to 95 but removes the tempo running on Tuesday, adds a speed session of 300m repeats (for which I may break out the shiny new spikes), and ends with a 25K race/training run on Sunday.

20 Responses

  1. Hiya! I was wondering if you’re using a specific spreadsheet format to track your runs… your color coding a formatting looks like something a lot of people are using… is it some kind of standard format? 😀

    Thanks! 😀


  2. Kelsey — nope, it’s entirely original. I’d be happy to send you a blank copy to work with if you’re interested, though.

  3. Glad you mention this about your period, I had mine last week and have been dutifully writing in my logs for about 3 months what day it is during, so I can get a grasp of how it affects me. Mine doesn’t seem to follow a cut-and-dried recipe for slower or faster, sometimes my period seems to dole out exceptionally speedy runs, though I’m not on the pill, so I don’t have that in the mix. Do you find your resting HR goes up or stays the same during this time?

  4. A lot of miles this week and not so much treadmill ;-).
    Nice to now about the period and i think iam in the no run period!.
    Julie,you do good run work and nice to read your blog, it make my feels better.

  5. Flo, I’ve never thought to look at resting HR as part of all this. Probably because there are so many other factors (sleep quality, timing of harder workouts, and alcohol intake, to name a few) that could skew things one way or the other.

  6. wow..am very impressed with the mileage julie! have been following your blog since i found it a few weeks ago. which marathon are u training for and what kind of pace are you hoping for? i am surprised at your training pace..seems slow for some of the race times i have seen you have done. but i guess when there are so many miles in the week?? have never and probably will never reach this many miles so i would not know.

  7. Hi, Stephanie. I’m training for the Newport, OR marathon in late May. Shooting for something around a 3:05, but it’s 14 weeks away, so we’ll see what seems feasible as I get closer to race date, for better or worse. Race pace for that would be 7:04 per mile.

    And never say never.

    • yeah i guess i should not say never..but most likely, no???

      i hope i did not offend you with the slow pace thing. i am just curious as it is something that i have been wondering if my training pace is too quick. the pace calculators have me running a much slower pace then i do or ever have. but it is something i may try as i start upping the mileage a bit. are you following a plan in preparation for oregon?

      • Stephanie — no offense taken. I actually thought it was pretty funny considering how I’m killing myself to run fast on some of the hard days. Easy (recovery) days are meant to be really easy — like around 65% max heart rate. So I run those dead slow. Everything else depends on the purpose of the session.

        I’m working with a coach — Kevin Beck (linked on the right hand side of the screen under “Experts”) — who has designed a customized plan based on my history, goals, specific target marathon and available races to do as training/tuneup runs. He tweaks things along the way based on how things are going from week to week.

        Prior to this, I either designed my own schedule (with varying degrees of success) or worked with one of the higher mileage plans out of Pete Pfitzinger’s book “Advanced Marathoning,” (volume 1; I noticed the plans in volume 2 are quite different), a book that I highly recommend if you can’t afford or don’t want to work with a coach.

      • i wish i had signed up for one of these plans! i actually purchsed one of greg mcmillan’s custom plans and am not finding much that is ‘custom’ about it! i filled out a lengthy 5 page questionnaire when signing up and never was able to identify anything in the plan itself or the intro email that was personalized to me! nor is there anything mentioned regarding assessment mid-plan to see how things are going…which is so vital. i should have done more research!
        anyhoo…thanks for the pace info. i think i always knew i was training too fast but to hear others more or less confirm it helps. tomorrow’s run will not get faster then 8min pace!! today is a day off…ahhhh….

      • Stephanie — I don’t know if Kevin is taking on new “coachees” at the moment, but you could always drop him a note and find out: kemibe@gmail.com. I’ve been very pleased with my work with him so far.

  8. Um, platypuses don’t run. Arthritic wombat would have been better.

    It was interesting information – coaches of female athletes should know about that. Boxes outlined in red was almost too much though.

    That was a pretty good week. I noticed the rejuvenating pace of the recovery runs. The mix of training sessions is working well.

    Did you change the comments to make them ‘upside down’? Not sure about that!

    • “…platypuses don’t run.” Precisely.

      Yes, the mix is working very well so far. I still can’t believe how much I killed myself over the summer in the pursuit of the same level of mileage, with too little consideration given to quality or recovery.

      I’m not sure about the “stacked plates” format for comments either. It matches the format in the left column. Maybe I need a reader poll, since people don’t waste enough time on the Internet.

  9. No, throw the stacked plates against the wall – that format just makes something which is confusing even more confusing.

    The main problem with it is that 99% of blogs use the method where the first comment is at the top, with other comments proceeding in time order down the page. Hence you’re asking your readers to follow the comments in an unnatural way. If your method had been used first and every other blog did it that way, it wouldn’t be a problem.

    Stephanie’s comment was interesting. From your earlier training (pre-Beck), I thought most of your running was too fast – even for a 3:10-15 marathoner. Many runners train like that and are unwilling to make recovery runs truly fit the definition of recovery. The quality of their hard days is therefore compromised.

    By the way, be careful with the spikes – maybe only do a little of the session in them at first. Don’t trip over when walking around.

    • I had the same thought about the comments format — while it may make sense from a user experience point of view (it avoids scrolling), it doesn’t fit the industry norm, so the user experience argument goes out the window.

      I’m resetting it.

      I feel better since having slowed down the recovery paces. I also run the aerobic efforts by feel these days — meaning I keep it in the mid-70s and see what I end up with, which can be quite different from day to day. I have a pace in mind, but if I don’t hit it, I don’t worry, since I’m more concerned with it falling into a fairly liberal range.

      I will go easy with the spikes. I may just try them out on a non-quality run day (practice) so they’re not a distraction during a real set of intervals.

  10. Ah, that’s a more comforting user experience. Scrolling is something we’re used to on comment pages. It’s hard to convince people something is better, even if it is. Like Betamax and VHS.

    Maybe do the strides in the spikes prior to switching shoes for the track session? Later you could switch shoes half way through. You’ll run faster in the spikes.

    I thought wombat would be good because 99% of people see wombats as short legged slow moving mammals. Therefore an arthritic one would be exceedingly slow! Actually wombats are very fast (over a very short distance), which is why many end up as road kill – they get onto the road fast, then slow down. They’re also very tough. If you ever run over one, they’ll wreck the underside of your car!

    • 99% of people? Maybe where you are, friend. Ask any American to describe a wombat and see what you get. They’ll probably think you’re talking about a ShamWow, or a fruit bat, or…well…something they’ve actually heard of…

  11. Sorry. 99% of people from the southern hemisphere. Or, the 1% of Americans who’ve been to another country besides Canada.

  12. […] be very slow during the end of my cycle. Yeah, it’s the female troubles. This sort of thing has happened before (paragraph […]

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