Saturday, November 3, 2012

Marathoning Part One: Mileage


I ran 0 miles this week.  And that was completely ok.  I'll probably run 0 again next week too.

21 miles into Ridge to Bridge, I felt this twinge of pain in my Achilles.  I knew it wasn’t going to go away, I just hoped it wouldn’t get too much worse.  I had no one to chase down, and no one was in sight behind me.  I gave up trying to chase a sub-3 hour, and went into cruise control and still went on to beat my best by 8 ½ minutes.  It was a great day overall, but I was sore for a while from the race.  The soreness wore off, but I’m still on a high from last weekend, sort of… but getting antsy to ‘move on to the next thing’.

So I signed up for the Uwharrie 20.  I signed up last year and missed due to injury, so I don’t want to rush back from this ‘issue’.  At some point, I contemplated the 40… and I wisely backed down.  I don’t think I want that to be my first ultra.  But I’m hoping to be in Uwharrie come hell or high water… which on February 2 could very well be the case.  

At least this wasn’t the year I made it into New York… feel bad for those who signed up or were wait listed for years, trained hard, and traveled up there only to have the race cancelled... and feel a heck of a lot worse for the people in Staten Island, Breezy Point, or NJ whose houses burned down or were flooded.  A bad (or cancelled) marathon is what we call in the Tajlili house a 'first world problem'. Sorry, other marathon folks... up to a point.

You can't predict the weather when you sign up for a race...

As mentioned the last time, I was going to do a 3 part series answering the question of

“How did I run a good* marathon”

* it’s all relative

Through this cycle, I learned and put into practice 3 important things

1) Mileage in training matters
2) Nutrition in training and on race day matters
3) Knowing your limits matters

So on to mileage...

A popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.  As runners, we are heinously guilty of exhibiting signs of this.  Often we do get different results on race day – in a bad way (injury, fatigue, or just the general ‘I sucked today’ with no proper explanation).  Maybe the sucking isn't a different result, but indeed is the same thing over and over again...

It gets worse when you are chasing a certain result or time.  Prior to Ridge to Bridge, I had one ‘decent’ marathon where I felt like I trained hard, put in all the long runs I needed (3 20+ milers), and finished without completely falling apart (i.e. walking).  That run was New York in 2010.  I met my goal and made Boston qualifying barely under the old standard.  I didn't leave anything on the course that day, the course took a lot from me (notably Central Park miles 23-26).

For Ridge to Bridge, I knew I needed to take at least 5 minutes off that time to meet my new goal.  Given that I “lost 5 minutes” in the last 6 miles of that race, I knew exactly where I needed to make it up (the end).  It wasn’t that I lacked speed – it was the mileage to get through the final stretch without losing more than a few seconds a mile.  If I went about Ridge to Bridge doing exactly what I did for New York, I could maybe get another minute or two off the faster course and lighter shoes (I used to run in clunky Asics), but for the most part, I knew I HAD to do something different, lest I end up with the same or practically same result.

Ridge to Bridge was October 27, I signed up on June 1 knowing it would be a long summer with many tough runs in the NC heat.  And I knew I needed to put in more than the 40 miles per week I put in during my New York training.  My target was at least 45 over the 16 week cycle, with a peak month of 50-60 mile weeks.

It seems obvious, but the reality is that at that level, it is really hard to have the time AND motivation to train adequately, particularly on humid days that never drop below 75, or after a 10+ hour workday.

My general strategy to getting the mileage I needed was as follows:

Break down the mileage into the necessary / core workouts

For a marathon, that is one long (12+) run a week, one ‘pace’ type workout, one speed workout; everything else is gravy.

I’ve followed Hal Higdon’s general approach the past few times.  But I found I needed to make a few modifications that fit my schedule better.  I find that I need 2 days of rest a week (typically Mondays and Fridays).  Some runners need more rest and others need less.


Map out your week in advance

Ask yourself: "What days are you going to have that after work meeting?  Does a group you like to run with meet at a certain day?"

My core days during the workweek were Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday. 

Tuesday I was on my own, but was usually fresh after taking Monday off.  At my peak, I was up to 10 miles on these days.

Wednesday I met up with a group on the track at UNC.  I can’t bring myself to do these workouts on my own.  With a warmup/cooldown, I’m usually good for 8-10 miles on these days.

Thursdays were often a struggle after Wednesday.  There was another club run near Woodcroft on Thursday at 6, which was ok in September, but not so much in July.

Friday was my day to go home, grab a beer, and relax.  That was always well deserved.

Sure, the long runs are the most important, but I did find that getting 20-30 during this 3 day cycle was the big difference versus what I did for New York.  There are only so many miles you can realistically get in over a weekend.

Become a morning person

Because the only way you are getting anything above 12 miles in the NC heat is to be out there as little as possible after the sun comes up.  These were generally my Saturdays.  During the week, when daylight started early, I was sometimes out before work – but this was pretty rare.

OR suck it up and deal with the treadmill

With enough iPod playlists, I actually didn’t find this too bad for a Sunday ‘pace’ run.  But I was only good for this one workout a week.  My longest treadmill run before this summer was probably 6.  Somehow I got in a few 8-10 milers on days I just didn’t want to get up at 6, or if it was pouring rain.  Maybe that’s ‘weak’, but in reality, I would rather get a quality workout in than try to slog through 100 degree heat or brave a torrential downpour with hail and lightning.  Sure, this can happen race day, but thankfully it didn't this time.

Summary

In shorter races, talent will give you a major edge.  In a marathon, it is truly a combination of both having the time and willingness to put yourself through some really nasty stuff – and then talent will have tremendous say in what your end result is.  If I ever want to do better, I know I’ll need to run ever more miles, which might be tough to come by as high as I was this time.


Appendix:

Training Details by Marathon Completed to Date (i.e. numbers from a spreadsheet ad nauseum)

Shamrock (2000)
My first marathon (at 19), I never ran more than 16 miles before the race.  I figured if ‘old men’ could finish the race, so could I.  I didn’t know any better.

That day was my worst and most painful racing experience. 

You can do this type of stuff when you are young and recover.  Much like many things I did when I was 19 or 20, I can say “I’ll never try that again”.

Chicago (2002)
I trained chaotically and that’s kind of how the race went.  Some weeks were 50+, others were 20, and I think I had a long run of 20 somewhere in there, but my notes weren’t so good back then.  I ran well through 18 and on pace for 3:05-3:06, and then bonked hard (finished in 3:17).  In retrospect, not at all shocking.

Richmond (2009)

Training cycle length / mileage:  12 weeks, 387 miles (average 32 over 10 weeks) off of no base

Not counting the race itself…
Number of runs over 10 miles in preceding 6 months:  13
Number of runs over 10 / 12 / 16 / 20 miles over ‘training cycle’:  12 / 10 / 5 / 2
Highest weekly mileage:  40
Number of 40+ weeks:  1
Pre-Marathon race indicator:  1:31 half marathon 7 weeks prior

I was coming off an injury, so I didn’t get the mileage I wanted going in.  I suffered hard after about 18 miles, and ran a 3:25.  I had hoped for better, but in retrospect, just over 30 miles a week is enough to get you in good shape for a half, but not a full.

New York (2010)

Training cycle length / mileage:  18 weeks, 689 miles (average 39 over 16 weeks) off of base of around 20-25 per week

Number of runs over 10 miles in preceding 6 months:  19
Number of runs over 10 / 12 / 16 / 20 miles over ‘training cycle’:  18 / 13 / 6 / 3
Highest weekly mileage:  52
Highest monthly mileage:  September (194)
Number of 40+ weeks:  7
Number of 50+ weeks:  3

Pre-Marathon race indicator:  18:16 5K two weeks prior

This was my best training cycle to date, and that was enough to prevent a total collapse, but not quite enough to keep me steady.  I went out a little faster than my ability, and none of my long runs in training were particularly quick.

Ridge to Bridge (2012)

Training cycle length / mileage:  18 weeks, 769 miles (average 44 over 16 weeks) off of base of 30-35 per week

Number of runs over 10 miles in preceding 6 months:  31
Number of runs over 10 / 12 / 16 / 20 miles over ‘training cycle’:  24 / 13 / 6 / 3
Highest weekly mileage:  60
Highest monthly mileage:  September (225)
Number of 40+ weeks:  11
Number of 50+ weeks:  4

Pre-Marathon race indicator:  18:16 5K two weeks prior, same as before NYC.

The overall MPW was only 5 more than NYC, but the high end was a fair amount higher, and the addition of some long week day runs really seemed to help.  My 60 mile week went something like Rest-10-10-7-Rest-23-10.

I also felt much stronger on my 20+ mile runs during this cycle than New York.  Maybe that just develops over time, but the fact that I closed all of them out at a faster pace than I started was encouraging.

Next up, nutrition**... 

(** hint, it's all about beets and almonds)

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