Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marathon Training

This post is more for me than anything. Hopefully you don't find it incredibly boring. I use daily mile to track my miles and workouts, but I don't keep a running journal. I don't have a method of easily reviewing my past marathon training cycles, so I'm trying to do that here. That way, I can refer back to this post when I plan out my training for Boston, which has to get done soon...

Past Marathon Training Summaries:

Marathon 1:
Peaked at 40 running miles a week. All my running was easy (10:00 - 11:00 pace) with the running stroller. I only did 3 "long" runs: a 14 miler, 16 miler, and 18.5 miler. I did do a lot of intense cross training with the bike and row machine. For the time each week I spent running, I spent more time cross training, but I was nervous about injuries. I was hoping that the cross training would help my time. I had no illusions of grandeur here though. At that time, my current 5K yielded a predicted time of 3:35 for the marathon, but I knew that I had not trained properly. I was also lucky to even get to the start line, as I had pneumonia a few weeks prior. Marathon time = 3:51.

Marathon 2:
Peaked at 35 running miles a week. All running was hard. I did four 20 milers (8:45 pace, 8:15 pace, 8:00 pace and 7:47 pace). I also did a lot of intense cross training. Again, for the each week I spent running, I spent more time cross training. I did have illusions of grandeur for this race. My recent half marathon had predicted a 3:18 marathon, and having run some really good long runs, I thought a 3:20 was doable. I feel silly now for thinking that. 35 miles a week just isn't enough (for me) even with cross training, but again I was nervous about becoming injured. By race day, I was both sick and injured. Marathon time = 4:15. Side note: I don't think all hard running works for me. This was similar to the FIRST program, where you run three days a week and cross train other days. I felt awful all the time.

Marathon 3:
Peaked at 55 running miles a week. By this time, I figured I needed to run more. Almost all running was easy besides MP runs. I did a 20 miler, 22 miler, 24 miler, and another 20 miler. Most of my long runs were around 8:25 pace, while my MP runs were around 8:00 pace. By the end of this cycle, my IT band was bothering me. I had to take a week off. By race day, I was really sick. Sick enough that I almost didn't run the race. This was just a tough training cycle because Emily was only 8 months old and a terrible sleeper. Marathon time = 3:40.

Marathon 4:
Peaked at 57 running miles a week. All running was easy besides MP runs and long runs. At this point, I was getting tired of marathon training, but I was irritated that I hadn't even come close to a 3:20 yet. I did two 20 milers and a 22 miler (all around 7:47 pace). I was injury free and healthy at the start line. Marathon time = 3:26.

Marathon 5:
Peaked at 49 running miles a week. I mixed hard and easy running. Now I was thinking that I needed to mix in some hard runs with my easy running, but I was nervous that hard running would get me injured, so I backed off the miles a bit. I did at least two hard runs a week (tempo and interval). I only did three 20 milers though. The fastest 20 miler was 7:30 pace and the other two were around 7:38 pace. It's around this time that I started getting faster all around. I ran a couple sub 19:00 5Ks and a 1:29 half. And with the 7:30 pace 20 miler I did, I thought I had a 3:15 marathon in me for sure. I was injury free and healthy at the start line. Marathon time = 3:22. This race made me realize I needed to run more miles, while still doing tempos and intervals. I know I did all the right workouts for this training cycle. I just didn't have the miles, and I think I need long runs that are longer than 20 miles too.

Marathon 6: My Most Recent Marathon Training Cycle

Here's where I decided to change my training strategy. I can't complain about my previous marathon times, but according to every race predictor I've found I should be able to run faster than I ever do. I use my most current race times, but I can't even come close to the predicted marathon time (and I don't have a lot of confidence that I can). I'm sure one reason is that I didn't train properly, but I also think I might have a "high rate of fatigue." I have read in "Lore of Running," that the race predictors use some form of equation that estimates your race time based on fatigue rate. If you have a higher rate of fatigue than the average runner, then the estimators aren't as accurate. What determines your fatigue rate? Well, according to "Lore of Running," it has something to do with brain chemistry and max VO2 scores. He goes into detail about it all, but honestly I didn't read it carefully. I was more interested in getting around the issue.

I assumed that I needed to run more miles. Hudson's "Run Faster," has a table that gives you a general feel for how many miles a week the average person needs to run to be a certain competitiveness level. My miles a week for my 5K and HM training matched up with his suggestion for a "competitive" runner. To be in that same category for the marathon, I'd have to run 60-70 miles a week, so that's what I aimed for. I also assumed that I needed to do two hard workouts a week (interval, tempo, or MP). And I'd need to actually run my long runs easy to reduce the risk of injury, but that was going to be difficult (for me). I usually wind up running my 20 milers at or faster than my race pace. To motivate myself to run easy long runs, I switched from running for distance to running for time. I also decided that I would attempt to do some form of MP run the day after my long runs. So when I was out there for a 3 hour run, and I had thoughts of running faster, I would first think, "it doesn't matter how fast I run, I still have to be out here for 3 hours" and then "I need to be able to run a MP run tomorrow."

This training cycle was a lot longer than my past cycles too. Usually, I consider my "marathon training" to be around 12 weeks. Any longer than 12 weeks requires patience (on my part), and I find that irritating. Too much training, not enough racing. This was also the most miles I've run during any training. In college, I often ran 55-65 miles a week, but I had never made it to 70 plus miles in a week before. It's funny though, then I was training for the 5K, and I thought marathoners were completely off their rockers. I assumed that if I was running 65 miles a week during 5K training, then I'd have to run something like 140 miles a week to train for a marathon. And that was crazy talk...well 140 miles a week is still crazy talk, but here I am a decade later thinking that 65 miles a week is a lot for marathon training. It's funny how time changes our outlook...

I've included a summary of my weekly training below. You'll probably notice that the first 4 weeks built up miles, then I backed off for a week. The rest of the training cycle alternated between a build week and back off week. This isn't typical, but I had hoped it would help me stay injury free. I think I might try something similar to this for Boston, but make my MP runs faster and include some TM incline for the last few miles of my MP runs. I don't think I want to increase my mileage. From what I've read, once you get to about 70 miles a week you should really start doing doubles. I hate doubles. Running twice a day just makes me miserable. Maybe at some point I'll try it again, but it's not going to work for me right now.

Week 1: 44 miles - Base building.
Week 2: 52 miles - Base building.
Week 3: 60 miles - Base building with both a tempo and interval workout.
Week 4: 66 miles - Long run on Sunday, 17.25 miles @ 8:34 pace (average HR 134).
Week 5: 60 miles - Monday was 10 miles @ 7:27 pace
Week 7: 71 miles - Sunday long run of 20 miles @ 8:18 pace (average HR 136)
Week 8: 64 miles - Monday was 10 miles @ 7:22 pace.
Week 9: 74 miles- Sunday long run of 22.15 miles @ 8:07 (average HR 136).
Week 10: 60 miles- Monday was 10 miles @ 7:22 pace.
Week 11: 76 miles- Sunday long run of 23 miles @ 7:56 pace.
Week 12: 60 miles - Monday was 10 miles @ 7:32 pace. Mile repeats @ MP pace
Week 13: 47 miles - Sunday long run of 20 miles @ 8:00 (next day stroller 10 miler @ 8:11) -SICK
Week 14: 60 miles - Monday was a 10 mile stroller run @ 8:11 pace.
Week 15: 76 miles - Sunday long run of 23 miles @ 7:47
Week 16: 54 miles - Monday was 10 miles @ 7:05 pace. This was week 1 of tapering.
Week 17: 35 miles - I had planned to run 45 miles, but I was tired and took the "long run" day off.
Week 18:  42 miles (including the Marathon) Marathon time = 3:11 (Though I'm super happy with this race outcome, the race predictors were still quite a bit off. Those calculators have me running a 3:03 - 3:07. I'm not sure I have that in me, but now I'm thinking I might just have a sub 3:10 in these legs.)

That's it! I'd be willing to bet that this particular training isn't good for a lot of runners. For one thing, I've noticed a number of people out there actually run what the predictors say they can run. In that case, I'd think this type of training would be a bad idea. I mean, running 10 mile MP runs the day after a long run seems a little silly, but I think it really helped me. It definitely helped me mentally during the race. I'm guessing that it helped me physically too, though it's hard to know for certain. This was my most consistent marathon. My first half was 1:35:30, and my second half was 1:36:30, so my second half was only a minute slower than the first half. That's really good for me.

On another note, I hope everyone has remained safe through Sandy. I'm in Mass. We've been lucky so far. My house didn't even lose power. During last October's freak snow storm we lost power for 3 days, which was actually way better than most of the people around us. We've being seeing updates from NYC, and it looks really awful there. Thoughts and prayers for all those stuck in a bad situation.


Karen said...

When you first mentioned race pace the day after a long run I thought it was GENIUS! I may even steal that idea from you next time around.

The calculators have never worked for me, I'm most experienced with training for marathons, so it predicts wicked fast 5Ks and half marathons that I just laugh at. I'm also still relatively new at speed work.

I loved hearing about your strategy and training process. Everything makes so much sense :)

Michelle said...

I never run what the predictors say. Drives me crazy. Per the predictors I should have done 3:55 the last 2, but I did 4:10. I don't know my peak miles exactly, but it is somewhere in the mid 40's with 3 20 milers and 1 21 miler my last training cycle. This time I want to up my miles to mid 50's (no way could I do 70--no time and I am afraid I would get injured). I want to do 2 20 milers, a 21 and a 22 miler. I really want to break 4 hrs and feel like such a failure that I haven't.

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle said...

My other thought for me is I am wondering if I do my long runs too fast. I always feel like I am pushing on those and my pace on my last training cycle was 9:15-9:25 for runs 20+ miles. My goal marathon pace is 9:09. I always read about how your long should be quite a bit slower(for reasons I can't remember). I always figured faster was better, but am now wondering if there is something to that. I always feel like I am red lining at the end of those runs. What are your thoughts about paces of your lung runs?

Katie said...

@Michelle: I'm torn. I know lots of people suggest 45-90 seconds slower per mile than you're planned race pace, but I feel like that's too slow. At the same time, if you're redlining it, that's probably too hard. My fastest long was almost 30 seconds per mile slower than my race pace, but two others were 40 seconds slower, and the other two were a minute or more slower (but those 2 sort of had me mentally freaking out about my planned pace). So what am I saying? Well, maybe 40 seconds slower would be a good aim? You might want to try running with a HR monitor too. Oh, and finding a course that's not crazy! The last one with all the trials is probably where you lost that 10 minutes!

And according to Pete Pfizinger "Long runs not only increase your ability to store glycogen, they also allow your muscles to conserve glycogen by burning more fat." (He doesn't mention pace though.)


Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

Katie, love this. Love your progression and how you are able to individualize your training. Also love your ability to not take running too seriously:) I think you absolutely did what works for you! For me, I prefer now to do workouts within the long runs. Because of this, I don't do MP the next day (though my coach prescribed that for some people).
About the pace for the long runs! Basicly, the faster the run, the more it is worth. The Hanson plan does not have runners run more than 16 miles at once, but the pace is fast. So, a slug 24 miler is worth a fast paced 16 miler. They both work the aerobic system. Just my 2 cents here. I also think that the faster you get, the more you need to push the envelop in order to get faster, and the less a generic plan will work for you.
You, my dear, will easily go sub 3:10 at Boston. In fact, I would no be surprised if you go sub 3!

Raina said...

Katie- Loved reading through all of this!! Thanks for outlining everything so that I can copy it ! ;) Kidding, but in admiration of your skill and new PR.
I would be afraid of running MP for so many miles the day after a long run just because it's back to back quality- even at an easy pace for the LR, but Pfitz (as you bring up) does put races right before some of the long runs to make you run on tired legs. Interesting how you flipped it around. Also, Pfitz advocates that a long run start off in a pretty easy pace, and finish faster- but still below MP. (He says 10-20 percent below GMP is optimal for an average).

I can't believe you started at 4:15 and now are already planning for the next one- one I am sure will bring you closer to the calculator predictions!! (which also drive me nuts- haha) . It will be fun to see.

Tia said...

Well, I am a little behind reading this but I loved this post. What a great way to learn from your past and find out what works and what doesn't work for you. I might need to do something like this sometime! We are so similar in our times and a lot of our training styles. Pace calculators put me at a 7:01-7:06 MP range but I am not matching up yet. I am right on in all my other events within seconds. My overall mileage was a little under but this is the most I have ever done. Thinking I will up it a tad for my Boston spring cycle.

Anyway, I love learning how others train and reading about their training process. Thanks for sharing this!! Good, good stuff! :-)