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Sunday, January 29, 2012

How I train: Q and A

Thanks for all your questions and comments on my "How I train" series. Here are some I didn't get to:

Vanesssa asked:
What was your typical weekly mileage training for your first marathon vs. now?
I mentioned that I used to run about 20 miles a week (first marathon) and now I run about 45 miles a week (need to increase!) but what I didn't mention was the standard deviation. I am much more consistent now - before I'd have weeks with just 6 miles total followed by weeks with 12 or 28. Now I might dip to 30 after a race or peak as high as 65 on a race week, but generally I'm in the 40 to 50 range.

Nelly said: Not sure if this is the case, but you look way more powerful now than you do in that picture above from your first marathon. Not sure if you feel the same way.
One thing I didn't talk about what weight training. I do try to do weights at the gym once a week for just that reason: increased power. I think speed work might help, too, although hill sprints would be better. All I need is a hill...

Ali Mc asked:
I really want to know how someone like me (a relatively new runner) could train for their first marathon differently. Everyone says train to just finish but I'd love to BQ on my first one you think that's possible??
Oh gosh. I don't know, I guess it depends on your base. I really think a runner shouldn't attempt a marathon until he or she has been running for several years. Not that finishing a marathon is insanely difficult; just doing one too soon can be disappointing. A young runner may get injured and will probably have a worse finish time than if they had waited until they had a very good base. I think if you have been running at least 30 miles a week for at least 6 months, and you regularly run in the double digits, and you've completed several half-marathons, and your half marathon pace is BQ pace or better, you will probably BQ at your first marathon. But that is total conjecture. 
Kyria asked:
So, you said you never really did taper before, but do you follow a training "schedule" at all? Or just wing it? You seem kind of like a wing it kind of girl. Do you do speed work? Pace work? Hills?
Where do you find the time? Do you run in the dark?
While I use a training schedule as a guide, I mostly wing it. The training schedule just helps me plan when my long runs should be. I only do speed work on Monday nights with the Varsity Sports group, so if my training plan has additional speed work I just do a regular run. I almost never wear a watch, so I don't do any tempo runs or marathon pace runs or all that jazz. 
Now that I work a set schedule, I run in the mornings before work. I get up at 6:00, and try to be out the door by 6:30.That still gives me time to get a ten-miler in, shower, get ready for work, eat breakfast, and get to work before 9:00. Sometimes it is dark, but that's ok; I live in New Orleans so you know there is NO crime. 

Mickiruns asked:
Would you mind including a "I wish I knew ____ when I was training for my first marathon"? 
Don't wear different underwear on race day! Ow, chaffing! 

I usually run 5-6 days per week and for me, reducing my mileage has actually been more effective. 45-50 miles per week are usually my max during marathon training. That being said, it could have been the combination of doing more comprehensive workouts (gym, yoga, lifeforce) that has improved my muscle imbalances so I'm not injured like I was before. 
Well said, I think cross-training for muscle strength is a great way to prevent injury while increasing all-around fitness. Too bad I suck at everything except running (I wish you could see me attempting soccer as a kid, it was tragic).

Christy asked:
My question is how do you stay injury free with the increase in miles?
Ah-hah! Great question! Mileage increase should be snail's pace slow. But once you are up there, you're golden. Stay where you can tolerate it. It's the changes that put you in danger, not the actual higher mileage. For me, after I ran a marathon in fall of 2010, I had built up to around 40 mpw and stayed there by simply adding on races incessantly. I have gradually increased that to 45 or so over the course of almost an entire year. The key is to maintain mileage so you don't have to build back up.

Kinza said:
I would love to hear details about your eating habits.
I eat fairly well. Besides three square meals, I snack a lot, mostly on mixed nuts, fruit,  or crackers and cheese. I don't have the most ideal diet, but I keep junk food to a minimum and I'm a healthy cook. Our most damaging meals come from eating out, which we do about once a week, but since my hubby and I both love food - and live in New Orleans - we aren't about to give that up! I don't drink soda or any sweet beverage at all, and I have raw fruit or veggies with every meal. I drink red wine several times a week and I'm a coffee addict, but I drink a lot of water, too. I could be more careful with my diet, but I'm fairly content with it.

Char said:
I don't get how you think you suck at distances over 16 miles and yet run a 3:09 marathon. Clearly you don't actually suck - is it that you don't like going so far.
Well, that's kind of you to say, but I actually do suck. I have just had to persuade myself that crappy long runs don't equate to crappy marathons, or I'd be perpetually worried about my performance. I routinely hit the wall, fall off pace, get sick, or quit early during long runs! 
In fact, in all my ten races, I've only had one good twenty. Read about it here

Thanks for reading all my training posts and for your comments! Of course, it turns out that the week that I put up posts all about running and training I ran fever and had a cold and missed running for three days - plus skipped a long run for my next race. Not an auspicious start to training. 


  1. Yes, NOLA is safe...:) As long as you stay on the proper side of St Charles.

    Thanks for all the advice! It's interesting to see how other people get it done!

  2. Yet another link to bookmark!! Thanks for all of the input - definitely something I will be looking back and rereading once I finally get to catch my marathon. :)

  3. Thanks for answering these questions. Interesting to note the consistency of your training is so important.

  4. Great answers! Thanks for answering my question, I didn't even realize that I asked one, haha

    And I see what you mean about food in New Orleans, the food there is the best of any city I've been to in the US.

    And yea a 3:09 marathon means you are an awesome runner and don't suck =)

    Glad that you got the blog following sorted out!

    I just realized that about Davila now about running in shorts! Maybe that's another reason why I like her, because she looks like one of us out for a regular Sunday jog! Only she is running 5:30 miles, haha