Sunday, August 23, 2009

Marathon, Shmarathon

Last fall, my goal race was the Marine Corps Marathon. I was gearing up to run 2:50-2:53 there and had a great couple of months of training leading up to it. For a number of reasons, I didn't quite achieve my potential at that race and wanted a chance to run to my potential. Within hours of completing the race in 2:57:04, I contacted my coach and asked if she thought it was feasible to run CIM in 5 weeks. She understood why I wanted to do this and agreed to write a plan for me that would help me maintain my fitness while allowing my body to recover.

I had a spectacular race at CIM, setting a personal record by more than 5 minutes, and running a huge negative split. I ran 2:50:22 and was thrilled. I decided I needed to analyze everything I had done leading up to that race and plan my next training cycle to capitalize on that success.

One of the obvious changes was running a marathon 5 weeks before CIM. I wondered whether or not that had served as a novel training session and, because I wasn't able to run it to my potential, it had been more like a workout for my body than a race. So, I talked with my coach about including a marathon-length training run in my next cycle, and we did this. I wasn't completely sold on the concept when I looked back at my training post-Belgrade because I ended up piling too many back-to-back hard workouts and races around the same time as that training run. I wound up feeling a little more fatigued than I wanted to leading up to the Belgrade Marathon.

I found the 26 miler in my workout plan again this cycle and was uncertain about whether it was a good idea or not. That is to say, I ignored the lower end of the mileage range (as usual) and declared it a 26 miler. The workout actually read:
  • 23-26 mile progression – run the first 6-9 miles easy, the next 5 miles @ ~7 to 7:15 pace, the next 5 miles @ ~6:45 to 7:00 pace, the next 5 miles @ ~6:30 to 6:45 pace run the last 2 miles @ GMP. Finish w/ 3 x 40 sec’s @ mile effort w/full recoveries. Run on rolling hills.
For those of you who have been following my blog, you've probably picked up on the fact that I tend to be much better at planning my workouts than actually implementing them. This workout was no different and it all started with a little celebration.

I hadn't celebrated anything for a while and decided yesterday would be a good day to celebrate. I started off with a 10 mile run, followed by a pedicure with Sprinkles in celebration of her birthday. When I got home, I invited the Dissin' Genius over for a fun-filled afternoon including a number of Go Jobs, my signature drink consisting of 1.5 jiggers of vodka and a 1/2 can of Go Girl. We ate chips and salsa while watching Track and Field as well as the first episode of the new season of Project Runway. We were quite polluted by late afternoon but had the good sense to make a nice pasta dinner to carbo load for our long runs in the morning.

While the Go Jobs seemed like a good idea yesterday, I felt their wrath this morning. I got to bed around midnight and woke to my alarm at 2 a.m. so I could watch the World Marathon Championships Live from Berlin. The alarm went off for all of 2 seconds before I turned it off completely and slept until 8. I laid around for a while longer, got up to have breakfast and coffee, walked the dogs, and finally was ready to run. The only saving grace today was that the weather was a relatively chilly 62 degrees when I started the run though it would get up to ~85 by the time I finished. I had originally planned to run twice around Lake Natoma so I could get some hills in the workout, but one major problem with that route is the lack of water stops. I was pretty dehydrated this morning following my Go Job adventure, so I knew I would need more regular water fountains than that loop provides since I don't like to carry my own water.

So, I decided that a run east on the bike trail from my house had enough hills to qualify as being run "on rolling hills" and left the house at 10 a.m. with the Dissin' Genius, who had 18 miles to run today. This route has water fountains every 2 miles or so. We started off the first 8 miles of this run at 7:06 pace. I dropped the Genius at the 18 mile marker where he had to turn around, and I split the next 5 miles at 6:48 pace. I dropped the pace to 6:35 pace for the next 5 miles and down to 6:24 pace for the next 5 miles getting me to mile 23. I then had 2 miles at goal marathon pace which I was able to knock out at an average 6:06 pace taking me to mile 25. I was super happy with how I felt in those two miles and how strong I was feeling at the end of this run. I did my cutdowns at mile effort and finished 26.22 miles at an overall average pace of 6:45 to finish in 2:56:29--another sub 3:00 marathon on my legs.

The advantage of doing a marathon-length training run is that you get to experience the distance under fairly low-stress conditions. I think every marathon run is a great learning experience. What I've learned about myself is that I tend to feel good at the beginning of a marathon until somewhere between 13-18 miles. I have a few bad miles and wonder how in the hell I'll be able to finish the distance let alone achieve my goal. Then, I start to feel strong again around 20 miles. Today's run followed this pattern to a T. It will help give me the confidence I need when I start to feel sucky around mile 17 in Twin Cities to know that I will finish strong.

So, this was my 15th marathon (if you count my two marathon-length training runs), and my 8th marathon under 3 hours. I like those statistics. Next week, I have less mileage (73) and a 5k race on Friday evening at the Race for the Arts. I'm not sure how I'll do at the 5k distance at this point in my marathon training, but you never know. I'm pretty happy with my 2:56 marathon today.

1 comment:

  1. AMAZING! that is so cool to run sub-3 in a workout. keep on keeping on. tracy :)