A busy spring full of track meets and lab reports to grade has gotten me a bit behind in my blogging! I’ve been meaning to write about my recent marathon, and am finally getting around to it! We headed to Toledo, Ohio on a Friday evening after rushing home from track practice. We were actually rushing so much that I forgot my wallet….. and didn’t realize until we were over an hour away from home. Lucky for me, my trusty husband had some money, and the race was small enough that I didn’t have to show an ID to pick up my race packet. Off to a bit of a rocky start, I for some reason felt strangely calm heading into the weekend. I’ve had such a busy spring between getting married in March, track season, and a few changes at work that I really hadn’t put much thought into my race. I actually didn’t even sign up for the race until probably two weeks prior to. I had been completing the long training runs with a friend who was running Boston, but had a hard time pinpointing what my race would be.
We arrived in Toledo, picked up my packet, and hit up a nice brewery for dinner- the Maumee Bay Brewing Company. Great food! I usually head to bed the night before a big race with nerves, and usually have a hard time getting any sleep, but this time was different. I felt calm and confident!
Race morning I was up by 5am. The race started at 7am, so I didn’t have a lot of time to get my breakfast down and digested prior to the start of the race. Breakfast was……… lemon cake, coffee, and a banana. For someone who teaches sports nutrition, and coaches sports nutrition….. I really don’t follow the rules very well. As I tell my clients, whatever works for you- stick with it!
The race forecast was awesome- 40 degrees at the start, no wind, and a nice sunny day. Naturally, I had picked a race that was pancake flat. I felt good, no aches or pains, no glimmers of doubt, it was a perfect day for a PR! I’m sure there were many runners that rocked the course that day! The race went off at 7am, I was actually a bit cold when we started, but quickly warmed up by the time I reached 6 miles. I started out slightly behind the 3:15 pacer (another reason I had chosen this race). My plan was to stay with the pacer until ½ way, depending on how I felt. The 3:15 pace felt easy, I found myself struggling to hold back a bit. I was glad when we finally reached ½ way (1:37), I was ready to go! I said goodbye to my new pacing friends, and quickly cranked up my music. The miles seemed to clip by easily- but at mile 20, things started to feel a bit labored. My nutrition plan had gone fine, I did struggle a bit to choke down my last GU at mile 20, but was glad to get those last calories in. My husband was at mile 23 with our two dogs. I was so happy to see them, but too tired to actually talk too much! They ran with me a bit. Those last two miles seemed like they took forever. The finish line finally came, and I was happy to have reached my goal- a PR! My second ½ was 1:32 and some change. After finishing, I immediately thought I was going to puke. The day had warmed up nicely, and the sun was beating down. I grabbed a pepsi, and was feeling better after about 20 minutes.
I like running a controlled, negative split race, but every time I do this, it leaves me wondering if I could have gone faster! If I could close in a 1:32, what would happen if I had sped up a bit in the first half (say- 1:33 or so)? I suppose this is what keeps me coming back to the marathon. I suppose after completing eight of them, I should be figuring it out by now right?!?!
That’s actually what I love most about training, and also about programing a race plan for my clients. I love finding out what works best for what type of people. That is the beauty of coaching- the same thing does not work for every person, and one single individual can change in terms of needs, as well as strengths and weaknesses over the course of one year!
I usually do a marathon about once a year (the rest of my training is dedicated to triathlons- DUH), and this is the second year in a row that I’ve had a substantial PR. I love looking back at my various training plans to see what I’ve changed, and how my workouts have progressed!
I did one workout per week, usually a track speed workout (I love being on the track, its my favorite!!!). I would also do one long run per week, progressing to about three 20 mile runs. I also did quite a few road races along the way (I love racing). This worked pretty well, I thought, my long runs were around 8:00-8:30 pace. Total weekly mileage was pretty high for me, between 50-55 miles generally. Marathon day was 3:25.
I continued the same long run schedule, including three 20 mile runs. The pace this year was a bit better (7:50-8:10 pace). I also switched from a lot of speed work to adding in quite a few tempo runs, usually around 6:45-7:00 pace, and distances varying from 3-8 miles. I liked this plan, I had switched to some tempo runs because I was training for this race in winter, in Iowa, and it was -20 degrees some days. Tempo runs could easily be done on the treadmill. Weekly mileage was a bit lower (40-45 miles), I was trying to keep up with swim workouts, and I had a brand new TT bike sitting on the trainer in my basement. Marathon day was 3:15.
Continued the same long run schedule, but after two ironman training cycles, marathon training started to feel pretty easy. I know, I’ve completely gone off the deep end. I made a few major changes that I think made a big difference. I continued to do 1-2 workouts per week, these were hill repeats early on (between 150-500m hills, and jog back down. Complete 5-10 sets depending on the distance), and some tempo or longer interval workouts later on (3x 2 mile tempo, or 1 mile, 1200m repeats). Also, because this race was in April, I had most of the winter to train, and I did a bit of snowshoe running when I could, and included a ½ marathon snowshoe race as well as a 15 mile snowshoe race. I really loved it- there is a great snowshoe trail series in the Madison, Wisconsin that was super fun!
My main focus was certainly on my long runs. I tried to make sure I felt fresh leading into a long run, and for the most part I kept them under 8:00 pace. I would alternate weeks with a shorter long run (13 miles) and a true long run (20 miles). During the shorter long runs, I tried to push the pace a little. Not full out, but pretty hard. Average pace for these between 7:20-7:30, and average long run pace was pushing 7:35-7:55 on most. Total weekly mileage was about the same as the previous year, between 40-45 miles.
Overall, I felt that the hills helped to build strength and power, whereas focusing on the long runs being up-tempo, and tempo runs being slightly faster than race pace really helped with pace specificity. Or, it could have been that I got a beautiful race day, perfect weather, and choose an extremely flat course!
Next up: training for Ironman KONA! I am about two weeks into training so far after taking a few weeks easy following the marathon. Stay tuned for training updates and more fitness blogs! :)
Tapering 101…. The hard facts from a mediocre marathoner