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Marathon Training Diaries: Part 2

In case you missed it, first go back to read the Kickoff and Part 1 of Marathon Training Diaries.

This training recap is honestly a little difficult to write. As I reflect over the past 5-week training block, I realize that so much has changed. When week 6 began, Coronavirus was something that only other countries were concerned about.

At the end of week 10, the United States has shut down incoming travel from Europe and implemented social distancing orders across the country. Several states are starting to implement shelter-in-place orders. All of my spring races have either been canceled, turned into a virtual race, or postponed. In the matter of a few weeks, routine and life as we know it has been turned on it’s head.

Marathon Training Diaries Part 2

In the Face of Uncertainty…

As I write this, the Ogden Marathon in May has officially been postponed to September 26th, 2020. All throughout week 10, I’ve was thinking about what I would do if my primary goal race for this spring gets canceled. It seems ridiculous to keep upping my mileage and running longer long runs on the weekend if there is no marathon in sight. I could back my training down to a more manageable level, or I could repeat training weeks to extend my plan and slow down the progression.

I’m honestly not sure what my schedule will look like this summer. Who knows if this is going to last for a few weeks or several months? I’ve decided that as long as I’m healthy to get out and go for my runs, I’m going to keep training on my current plan for the Ogden Marathon. I’m running virtual races in place of the other races I had planned, although I’m honestly apprehensive about doing the full 26.2 miles virtually and without course support.

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The Bigger Picture

I still want to run my first marathon this year. Thus, I still need to get my body in shape to run a marathon. I was concerned at the beginning of this program that the later weeks might be too aggressive of a mileage increase for me. This will allow me to take a break if I need it, repeat a week if I feel I should, and give myself some grace in the training process.

I’m going to build myself up to marathon shape and if there is no race, so what?

I’ll take a few weeks easy and then probably start a new marathon plan with base training and hill training. Or maybe I’ll take 4 weeks to focus on preparing for my physical fitness test, which is a short speed distance of 1.5 miles.

One thing is clear: I’m still going to run and train, because I’m a runner. Runners run.

Related: 6 Surefire Ways to Build Your Runner Identity Right Now

Marathon Training Plan

Training plans are definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach.

When I built my training plan, I started with the template from Hal Higdon’s beginner marathon training plans. From there, I adjusted the plan to incorporate all the races on my schedule this spring. After that, I further adjusted my plan using some of the principles Greg McMillan talks about in his book, You (Only Faster). I’ve made significant changes to adjust for my body’s work/rest cycle, to ensure I have adequate recovery time between my races and the next hard work out. I changed many of my hard runs to easy days to account for this, and that’s okay because I would much rather run easy an extra day than to push my body too hard and risk injury.

This is what my training plan looks like from the start, subject to change (and it already has!) as I progress through the plan.

If you like the format of this plan and want to get the template to plug your training plans into, enter your email in the form below and I’ll send it to you!

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Marathon Training Philosophy and Injury Prevention

Thus far in my running career and in this training cycle, I’ve managed to stay injury-free. This can be credited to strength training and a very conservative approach when increasing weekly mileage. I recognize that the increase mileage that comes with training for a marathon increases, which is why I need to be extra vigilant on my injury prevention tactics.

                Related: 4 Injury Prevention Fundamentals for Runners to Live By

The primary training philosophy I follow that works best for injury prevention while increasing mileage is the 80/20 Running principle. A TON of research exists that shows you have the greatest chance of improving your running fitness while allowing your body time to recover between the more strenuous runs.

Throughout this training plan, I adhere to the 80/20 Running principle and listen to my body to stay in tune with recovery. If I feel especially gassed and need to take a hard run easy or rest an extra day, I do.

                Related: 80/20 Running: Why You Need to Slow Down

Training Recap: Part 2 (Weeks 6-10)

Let’s talk about how the last 5 weeks of training actually went…

Week 6

At the beginning of week 6, I did some 200 meter repeats on the indoor track because the outdoor track happened to be under snow and ice AGAIN.

Tuesday was rough and I ALMOST skipped my workout because I spent over an hour after I got home cleaning dog poop off the carpet. I was so pissed off after cleaning up dog poop that I knew the only way to turn my attitude around would be to get my run in. And I was right. (Side note: I’ve had my pup for over a year now and she has NEVER pooped inside the house. I think the dewormer from a few days before got to her.)

I tried some hot yoga in my local area this week as well, and while I love the warmth and the good stretching, I was a little bummed to find out that this really isn’t my “type” of yoga. And it is the only hot yoga studio in my area.

My tempo run on Thursday went well, but on Friday I was gassed and had a major headache when I got off work. Thus, I took a nap instead of getting 3 easy miles in. Smart tradeoff in my opinion! Saturday was a 14 mile long run, and I made up 2.5 miles on the treadmill before my strength workout Sunday.

Week 7

Week 7 was a slightly easier due to the 10k race at the end. The first few workouts were fairly uneventful. This week is the first week I decided to switch to only 1 speed workout per week to help my body recover better due to the stress of the higher mileage. Instead of a track workout AND a tempo run each week, I will be doing one or the other. My midweek run also tiptoed into the “longer than an hour” territory with a 7 mile run as well. I did hot yoga after my 7 mile run this week.

After taking Thursday off for recovery, Friday morning I did my metabolic test. I just wrote down the mileage ran during the test and called that good for the day, because I didn’t want to push myself too hard before the 10k on Saturday.

                Related: Metabolic Testing for Runners: Perspective on How to Train Effectively

Also, I was helping with 10k packet pickup Friday afternoon and really didn’t have time to get a run in.

The Saturday 10k was TOUGH.

It had been several training cycles since I ran a 10k, so I was slightly hoping for a PR, but I knew the course would be really hilly and not exactly convenient for a personal record. So, I planned to run according to the heart rate zones I got from my VO2 Max test the day before.

10k pace is basically pushing it as much as your body can sustain, so I planned to keep my heart rate right around my anaerobic threshold (which is 182). If it got higher than that due to the hills, I would allow myself to ease up and get my heart rate back down, even if it killed my pace. But the rest of the time, I was pushing it back up.

Paying attention to heart rate let me know when I was pushing too hard or not enough. As it turns out, that was the PERFECT strategy for me! I took 54 seconds off my previous 10k personal record and on an extremely hilly course, too!

I also got to take over the Ogden Marathon IG Page for the weekend!

Oh, and my hairband snapped halfway through, so I had to wrap my warm headband several times around my ponytail in hopes it would stay put. That was fun…

Week 8

The hilly 10k toasted my legs more than I thought it did, and I didn’t realize it until I tried to do my track workout on Monday. After 2 repeats where I wasn’t hitting the paces I wanted and my legs felt like lead, I decided to be flexible with my plan and listen to my body.

I turned Monday’s workout into 3 easy miles and hit the track and weights on Tuesday instead. By then, my legs were feeling much better and I had a great workout. Oh, and I got new Brooks Ravenna shoes at the 10k packet pickup, so I took them to the track for their first run!

Lesson Learned: Don’t be afraid to scrap your workout and take an extra easy day, then try the hard workout again the next day.

From there, I did a 7 mile easy run and hot yoga on Wednesday. Rest Thursday, 4 miles easy on Friday, and a 15-mile long run Saturday.

Week 9

My track workout on Monday went really well and left me thinking that I might just be able to blow through my PT Test goal time for the 1.5 mile run in May.

The rest of my miles this week were easy, which was probably a good thing. In my Friday easy run and my Saturday long run, I had a hard time keeping my heart rate in the easy zone, despite the fact that I had already slowed to snail pace. My 17-mile long run on Saturday started off really well despite the ridiculously powerful wind, but on the second half my heart rate stayed high even though my pace was slower.

I hit 36 miles total this week, so I think my body is pushing it and I’m toeing into the zone of “over-training” for my body. Heart rate is often one of the first indicators. Sunday was a rest day and week 10 is lower in mileage, which helped my body recover after 2 weeks of high mileage.

Week 10

Week 10 was a complete emotional whirlwind. It was also a planned recovery week, but I did a bit more “recovery” than scheduled.

With Coronavirus taking over the world, I was repeatedly called in to work to help make preparations for everyone in my organization to work from home. Plus, on Wednesday, Utah experienced a 5.7 magnitude earthquake around 7am plus several aftershocks for hours afterward. My house is about 40 miles from the epicenter, and I watched my house flex and wobble as it took the earthquake like a champ with no damage. It was emotionally draining, and I skipped my shorter runs. Thus, I only ran 3 times this week: Speed workout Monday, 8 mile run Wednesday, and 10 Miler Virtual race Saturday.

Very grateful my house was built to withstand earthquakes!

I rarely find a lack of motivation to do my runs, because training and running has just become part of my routine. Motivation isn’t a factor, I just go. But with my schedule being completely turned on its head this week and emotions going haywire, I just didn’t have the energy to run on every scheduled day. This was further justified by the fact that I was pretty sure my body needed the rest due to being on the edge of overtraining in previous weeks. Week 10 was focused on rest and fully recovering, then I did the Virtual 10 Miler.

Winter Race Circuit 10 Miler (Virtual)

The Winter Race Circuit 10 Miler is the first virtual race I have ever run. It was supposed to be a local race, but with Coronavius precautions, this is the first race of mine that was moved to a virtual race. I used my Garmin Courses to find a starting line 10 miles away from my house on my normal long run route, that way I could just run 1 direction with a definite finish line. My amazing husband (kudos to him for supporting all my crazy requests!) drove me out to my starting point and dropped me off. I spent a few minutes warming my legs up, stretching, and doing my pre-race routine. Then, I was off.

Since this is a virtual race, I was self-supported. I wore my URPower Running Belt with 2 scoops of Nuun Endurance in my water bottles and a Honey Stinger Gel in the pouch.

The first few miles, I had a really hard time finding my steady pace. After mile 2, I settled in between 8:50-9:05 per mile, with the average mile pace around 8:56. Perfect, I was shooting for even 9 minute miles the whole race to finish in 1:30:00 or less.

At mile 5, I took my gel. Every mile or so I took a few sips from my Nuun Endurance. Mile 6 was a little slower due to slowing my pace slightly to take the gel, and then I had to work back into my “cruising” pace. Mentally, it was race day. I kept my mind focused on treating this like a race, not just settling into a comfortable pace.

In miles 8-10, that was easier said than done. I really had to focus in the last couple miles on keeping a high cadence. When I neared the area where my virtual finish line was supposed to be, I peeked at my watch to discover my finish line was about a quarter mile farther than I thought. I gave it everything I had for that last little bit and ended up finishing in 1:29:05, which was almost a full minute faster than expected!

Of course, my route was pretty flat and not the hilly course of the classic Winter Race Circuit 10 Miler. But this was still a great effort and I was happy to finish a not-so-great week with a solid virtual race!

It looks like the rest of the Winter Race Circuit will be done virtually to comply with social distancing orders. I still plan to do every race virtually and treat them like a real race.

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How are you handling race cancellations and uncertainty in upcoming races?

RunningMyBestLife

Run Happy,

Alexis

About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>