As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been working on building my running base leading into this training cycle with a few goals in mind – long and slow:
- Long: I wanted to build things up in the off season so that I could safely hit double digit long runs earlier in my training to accommodate more double digit long runs over the entire process. More double digit runs = stronger engine for my race (source).
- Slow: I checked my ego at the door and tried to do a lot of my base training using my heart rate as a guide. This often meant/still means easy runs are slower than I’m used to seeing (10-10:30/mi), but I’ve also seen improvements in how fast I can go at my aerobic heart rate (where you’re burning fat without wearing yourself out). I was inspired by Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20, but frankly the book put me to sleep and I only made it about halfway through. Despite the redundancies and not-so-great writing, the premise holds true!
With my base training at a close, I’ve shifted to more specific marathon training with an 18 week plan to get me across the finish line at Twin Cities feeling strong and proud (and hopefully smiling!). I would be lying if I said I had any interest in training just to complete a marathon. I’ll be damned if I’m missing summertime happy hours and beach days just to check a box. As as much as I checked my ego in the first half of the year, this second half is about going balls out (responsibly). Right now, my goals (which very well may need to adjust as I get further into this) are as follows:
- Sub-4 (Basic). My last marathon was in 2013, and I limped across the finish line at 4:01. That was a shitty race and training cycle (an abusive partner who constantly tells you your training is selfish makes for a rough race), so I’d like to push that result as far back as possible.
- Sub 3:50 (Real). This would basically put me back where I was on this same course in 2012, when I finished my first “good” marathon. I floated over the 26.2 miles and blew my original <4 goal out of the water with a 3:50 (~8:50 pace). I’m in better shape going into this cycle than I was back then (and I’m not training for the Bar exam!), so I’m keeping that knowledge in my back pocket. This would make TCM17 my 2nd fastest marathon and feels like pretty sweet symmetry.
- Sub 3:44 (Reach). My current marathon PR is a 3:44 from the Wisconsin marathon in 2013, where I blew up in an attempt to BQ. Coming off of TCM 2012, this was the fittest I’ve ever been, but I put so much pressure on myself that the training felt hard and I ran the entire race on the edge of a razor. This is currently a reach goal, but it would be pretty awesome if the stars aligned.
Based on these goals, I’ve cobbled together my own training plan by scavenging some of my “must have” pieces from plans I’ve used in the past, as well as some tried and true concepts:
- Periodization: I’m keeping the first month’s long runs pretty steady while I increase the difficult of everything else, and then leveraging that power to blast me into long run city. The second month sees the introduction of more pace-specific long run workouts, while the third month shifts my track workouts to longer tempo intervals.
- Evidence-Based Racing: I’ll be building mileage pretty steadily, keeping my weekly gains within ~10% and making sure that my long runs are ~<30% of my weekly mileage. I’ve also tried to keep the number of weekly miles I’m running slower than marathon pace as close to ~68% where possible (source). I will never qualify for the Olympic Trials, but I might as well incorporate the proven training theories of those that do!
- Pacing Confidence: Where I do incorporate faster miles, I’ve found that marathon pacing runs are really helpful for me mentally. They give me confidence in my race pace, and they give me successes to draw from when I’m feeling faint of heart. I’ve given myself pace runs at increasing distances each week as a touch point and to keep me honest in my goals.
- Strength Training: Something else that I’ve done – which I’ve tried to do in the past but haven’t always been successful at – is incorporate plyometrics and strength days into my weekly routine to help me fix my wobbles and create a stronger, more efficient running form. As my pal Abby says, you gotta get strong before you go long.
My training plan feels… intimidating, but my goal – as it often is in tough races – is to focus on each mile as they come. As my training continues, I’ll be keeping track of my mileage/runs on Strava (follow me!), but I’ll also be popping up here to talk about the highs, lows, adjustments, and surprises that come with building ambitious training plans from scratch. I’ll also be doing some travelling this summer, so where I can, I’ll be sharing some fun running pictures from places other than Chicago.
Are you reaching for a big goal this year? What are your key training pieces to helping you get there?