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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Marathon training: two months to go

Houston is just eight weeks away, and our training has gotten a little more serious. It's a little more serious for me regardless of time and training, simply because the Power Milers do so much more hard work and run so many more miles than I usually do. Here's how training has intensified in the last few weeks:

  • We've already done two twenty-milers, which is way early in training for me. Both of these went very well for me, even though both had less-than-ideal weather: warm and humid for one, and extremely windy this morning for the second.
  • We kissed our day off good-bye. Yep, no more days off. The last break I had was October 27th, and the only reason I got that day off was because I was running the Jazz half the next day. My only "rest" now is a day with five or seven easy miles. Surprisingly, I noticed a huge improvement by skipping rest days. Right away I felt stronger. The difference was mostly how strong I felt, physically and aerobically, early in the run. It's like I'm always ready to go. I am a little concerned about injury or overtraining - My knees have been aching, and I've already started needing less and less sleep, which usually means my body is pumping out cortisol - but as far as running goes, it was time to make that move. I'm no elite, but for now, five easy is rest. 
  • We've reevaluated our paces. I started out marathon training with the goal to PR, specifically run a 3:05:xx (my PR is 3:06:11). But as time has passed and workouts have been completed, our group coach looked through everyone's goals and adjusted them. He moved me to a goal 3:02! That's a huge pace jump for me, but I actually think it is doable. If I stay healthy, I should be able to accomplish that. My races haven't always pointed to that kind of projection, but I have had strong long runs. As of now, my goal marathon pace is a terrifying 6:57. Yes, it starts with a six. That's scary. But exciting! 
  • We're being stingy with our rests during long runs. I am much more comfortable with our long runs now, and one reason is that everyone is making an effort to minimize stops. With such a large group, it can be hard: we develop lines for the bathroom or water fountain. But we're not just shooting the breeze, at least. I get the longest breaks of anyone, because I run from my house to our meeting place, then wait around for our run to start. So I run a little over half a mile, then take a lengthy break. I don't mind that much, because I've barely even started the run, so I don't think it really matters. Today I waited seven minutes, but sometimes it's more like ten or twelve. So for today's 20 miler, I had about twelve total minutes of elapsed time minus moving time, and only five minutes were mid-run: one group water stop at mile five, one combined bathroom/water stop that I really could not avoid - taken during the break mile in our workout - and then a few minutes at mile 19.5 chatting with the guys who were finished/cheering others on before jogging home. 
  • We're also being stingy with our fuel. Like, extremely stingy: it's nonexistent. We're doing all our long runs as glycogen depletion. This is really severe for me, because I cannot eat before I run unless I want to risk GI bleeding later. So I wake up, have a cup of coffee with cream (so maybe 30 calories, if that?), and head out for 20 miles. In the later stages of both long runs I've taken two salt tabs, but they only have 5 calories each, so I'm virtually fuelless. This was something I was really worried about initially: I was so sure I'd bonk. But not only have I not bonked, I've felt really strong at the end of the runs. This is so counter to my usual long run outcomes that this fact alone is giving me great hope for a solid race in January.
  • We're adding hard workouts to our long runs. No long slow distance here: it's all work, all the time. Today our 20 miler started with ten easy (80 to 85% of goal marathon pace, or for me, around 8:05 to 8:20 pace), followed by four miles at goal marathon pace, one mile aerobic float (about 20-30 seconds above marathon pace), then another four miles at marathon pace before one easy mile cool down. That's quite the workout! 
So how did today go? It actually went really well. It was incredibly windy today, so we decided to do our marathon pace workout on the park's 1.8-mile oval track to at least be able to alternate headwind and tailwind, rather than do it on the levee as an out-and-back, which would have been brutal. We started with a ten-mile loop, easy pace, but I didn't know the route and everyone was going much faster than I expected. I tried to be as true to my pace as I could without losing touch with the group, and it worked out OK - I think I ran right at 8 minute pace for that part of the run. 

I made it back to the park and launched right into my marathon pace miles, opting to skip the water and bathroom break others were taking - which was a bad idea; I had to go so bad for that first set of MP miles! The wind was making pacing really tricky: as I usually do in the wind, I work too hard, and my miles kept ticking off much faster than my goal pace. My first segment of four miles was 6:53, :47, :47, :49. I wasn't running with anyone in the group (too bad; it would have been nice to work with someone), but we kept passing each other in the park and everyone was so motivating! I felt like the tailwind parts were like flying; the headwind was a ton of work. I rolled right into the aerobic mile, which I ran in 7:31, but I did make a dash into the bathroom: that just couldn't wait any longer. I also chugged some water at the fountain, because the only other water I took in was at mile five. By now I'd run fifteen miles, and I geared back up for the final four marathon pace miles, worried that the pace would feel much more challenging so late in the run. But it didn't. I cruised through in 6:49, :53, :47, :49. I did start to struggle on the last mile. My throat was so dry that my breath kept catching and kind of gagging me, but I had no problem holding the pace. As soon as I ran the fourth mile, I made a beeline to the water. The fastest guys, who were long-finished, were waiting for others with water bottles, offering water on the run (which was such a nice gesture, and one I should have taken advantage of!). I hung with them for a few minutes, cheering on the last members of the group as they made their final pass, before jogging home. Overall, I felt good: tired, like I'd worked, but not bad at all. I can definitely feel myself getting stronger, and I have high hopes for this marathon! 


  1. Whew, what a workout! Love when your workouts build confidence as well as physical conditioning. Though I have no idea how you go without water as well as fuel!

  2. I'm so jealous of you how guys train and your paces. I really wanted to try stopping taking so many rest days (granted most of my "rest days" are yoga days so I'm still doing something, but I was running 6x a week). Then I ended up hurt this week, bleh. It's so neat that you have a group to train with for Houston and that you're all pushing each other to be your best. You're going to rock it out too, 8 more weeks!

  3. Dang you are working hard! I can't wait to see how you do in Houston, though. I know your hard work is going to pay off! Hopefully you get good race weather!

  4. You are definitely getting into great shape - I'm with your coach that I think closer to 3 is totally possible for you! That's a really solid long run workout. Also, I 100% agree about getting rid of rest days - this last cycle was the first time I ever ran 7 days/week and I thought the endurance difference was huge!

  5. Your training is so impressive, and what a great opportunity to have such a strong group to help push and encourage you!

  6. I really enjoyed reading this blog because I like to see how you are going from really fast to ridiculously fast. I don't take rest days in training, and I think that as long as you take your easy days truly easy, you will be fine. Some people cross train on their rest days, but introducing a new activity that your body isn't used to, in my opinion, creates more of a strain. Also, regarding the fuel, using Generation UCAN is an option to train without overloading your body with carbs, but getting enough to avoid bonking. I'm really excited to see (literally) what you do in Houston!