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Five Weeks Away:My Update on Marathon Training

Posted Mar 28 2010 9:20pm
It's come to my attention that a few of my teammates and blogger friends want to hear more about my running and preparation heading into the final month of NJM training. All I gotta to say to these people is Why aren't you on DailyMile and if you are, why aren't you following me? If you are, then you'd see that I practically write a novel on each of my workouts complete with goals, objectives, statistics and my assessment of that particular run. I spend a lot of time comprehensively drafting these entries not because I'm a complete running geek (which I know I am) but because I want to force myself to be more focused this time around. One of the criticisms I got from a review of my last marathon training cycle leading up to 2009 NYCM was that the plan lacked direction and purpose. Many of the runs and the paces I ran for the runs seemed completely arbitrary with a narrow differential in terms of pacing. In other words, my recovery runs were for the most part too fast, my long runs were too slow and my speedwork lacked variety. I was very determined to change things this time around. So I made sure to lay out specific goal paces and objectives for each run, varied my speedwork every session in terms of tempo, intervals, and hillwork, and forced myself to run slower on easy/recovery days and run faster on speedwork days. At the end of the day, I reflect on what I did and comment on whether I successful achieved my goals for that day's run. The result of all of that work is what I choose to record and share on the DailyMile.

One thing though which doesn't translate so well to my daily musings on DailyMile is my perspectives on training in a global sense. As I take a step back and reflect on the state of my marathon preparation with the race now just five weeks away (Yikes!), I want to share how I think my training is going in each of the three areas (speed, endurance, stamina) that will hopefully translate to a PR performance in my spring marathon.

Speed - One thing I know about myself is that I'm a speed guy through and through. Although I was never a sprinter in high school or college, I think I encapsulate the attitude when I'm burning rubber on the track, sporting my lightweight racing flats, and daring anyone within shouting distance to keep my pace or get out of the way. I just love how my body feels when my leg muscles are working so efficiently and propelling my body so fast through the air that it feels at times that I'm flying! For that reason, I always expect my speed workouts to be my best quality running of the week. And thus far, this has been the case. I incorporated a bunch of Yasso 800s into the plan this year (something I didn't do last year) and surprise surprise, my legs have held up through most of them pretty well. I take every precaution not to do too many or do them too fast to avoid the risk of injury and so far my times have been right where I expected them to be. My last 800s workout saw me complete 7 sets at a clip of 2:48-2:54 each with 2:50 recovery between each. The effort was hard, but not too hard and I think I could probably go a few seconds faster on each if I really wanted to be ambitious. I feel good about them though, especially after posting a 5K PR two weeks ago, so I'm going to continue doing these about once every other week until the marathon. More recently, I've gone back to doing mile repeats as well with the hopes that the longer distance will help a little bit more in the late stages of the marathon.

Endurance - Everyone knows that doing long runs is key to any successful marathon training program. Not everyone knows though that running them at the right pace is just as important as the mileage. Last year, while training for the NYCM, I did a lot of long runs. 5 X 20+ milers and 1 X 18 miler in a span of ten weeks. Unfortunately, I ran with friends in all of them and although I enjoyed the company, the chatter and the gossip, the paces I was running with were way too slow for my purposes. I think the fastest pace I averaged for a long run last year was 7:30 min/mi and that was only when I worked as a pacer for the Long Training Run in early August! I also didn't incorporate any faster type running into any of my long runs last year and I think I paid dearly for those mistakes during the Fifth Avenue mile in the NYCM.
Fast forward to this spring. So far, I've already done 2 X 18 milers and 3 x 20+ milers with two more to go in the next two weeks. I've also been doing many more of these on my own so my pacing have been much more consistent then they were last year. On every alternating long run, I've also been trying to run a segment of the later miles at a quicker pace, in hopes that the faster finish will teach my body to become more comfortable with the faster paces in the last few miles of the marathon. For the most part, I think the endurance training is going well, although I do wish that my body would get with the program a little sooner than four miles into a long run.

Stamina - I'm counting tempo runs and hill workouts as stamina training because they involve the ability to sustain a lactate threshold type effort for a longer period of time than traditional speed intervals. In fact, I suspect that most of the time during the marathon will involve this type of running. Now, whereas I'm doing quite well in speedwork/endurance training, I am not finding similar success in my stamina workouts. I'm not sure exactly why. Maybe it's because I'm running them in the hills of Central Park and not on flat land where they are meant to be done. Maybe it's because my body has a hard time adjusting to the intermediate effort required by these workouts. Or maybe I just have to be patient and not start them at too fast a pace. Whatever it is, I find that I have a tough time finding and holding the appropriate effort. I tend to either start too fast in the first mile or two and slow down too much in the later miles or I start slow, stay slow, and have to run interval pace to make my time in the last mile or two. Although most of the time I do end up accomplishing my goal, I feel extremely exhausted after finishing one of these workouts and my heart rate is through the roof! I have a couple more tempo workouts scheduled up in the next several weeks, and I am determined to find the correct pace early in the first mile and just maintain the effort for the duration of the run. Avoiding wild pace fluctuations will be key for me as I want to learn to maintain a fast but consistent effort in the middle miles of the actual marathon.

Overall then, I think my marathon training is going as well as can be reasonably expected. Although I still have some small kinks in the system to work through, I'm fairly certain that I will be prepared to run a good marathon in five weeks. The next few weeks will be quite hectic for me as I am approaching my high mileage weeks in training while also participating in three consecutive races in three consecutive weeks. It's been so long since I've raced that I'm getting it all out of the system in one shot. Haha! I'll be running in a half marathon, a 10 miler and a 5K all in the month of April and expecting to do fairly well in all of them. It should make for a fun, speedy and exciting month of April. I, for one, can hardly wait. Bring. It. On.
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