This is the first marathon training cycle since I’ve been blogging where I didn’t really blog and post updates of my weekly training. It was a busy fall and blogging was at the bottom of the priority list. So this will be a once over of the training cycle with some key workouts and breakthroughs that helped me run a PR at the NYC Marathon. (I try to post all of my runs and workouts on Instagram!)
But before I get into the training cycle, I feel it warrants a brief discussion on what I was doing over the summer. The 2-3 months after Boston were not fun (as I’ve discussed before). Each time I tried to build my mileage up or increase intensity again, I would almost immediately begin to feel drained and exhausted (which would last a week or two). I remember one run in particular – I had made it maybe 2 miles before stopping because I was out of breath and just not feeling right. I walked and ran the 1 mile back to my house and questioned if I would ever have the energy to run double digits again, let alone race a marathon. Sometime around mid-July, I started to feel like myself again and the mileage started creeping up.
I raced several times over the summer – 4 mile Memorial day race, 4-mile 4th of July race, Air France 8k and 1 miler. The first three races were humbling. They were right around or slower than my pace for the NYC Half Marathon (which had 6 hilly miles in Central Park) in the spring. So even though I was starting to feel better, I felt like I had so far to go to get even close to where I was in the winter.
Towards the end of July, I was up to 13-15 miles for my long runs – about 3 months out from the marathon. This was drastically lower than it had been for the previous cycles (3 months out from Boston I was already up to 18 miles). My weekly mileage was often between mid 40s and low 50s with 1-2 rest days/week.
I started working with Mary after the Air France 8k (Aug 22). At the time, we only had 11 weeks until the NYC Marathon (but it wasn’t even a planned race at that point). My three longest runs to that point were 16, 14.5 and 14 miles and weekly mileage was 54, 53 and 43 miles. Drastically lower mileage than I was used to as we approached single-digit weeks for the marathon.
So looking at those 11 weeks of training:
– 544.6 total miles
– 49.5 miles/week (average) with 2 weeks > 60 (63.3 and 61.5)
We decided upon NYC soon after I started working with Mary. My assumption was that Mary would immediately start with long runs of 16, 18, 20 milers and so I was surprised when I saw my long run each week when I got her plan. All were at or around 15 miles. Then I had RnR Philly. Then the Bronx 10 miler (which I used as a workout).
So – I was 6 weeks out from the marathon and my longest run in over 5 months was 16 miles. I’d be lying if I told you that a part of me wasn’t worried that I wasn’t doing long enough long runs. It’s hard not to compare yourself to what you’ve done. Or to compare yourself to friends or social media acquaintances who are running the same race and logging 20+ milers every weekend.
But each time those doubts or thoughts entered my head, I promptly kicked them aside. I trusted Mary. Completely. 100%. I knew she knew what she was doing. And so I put my faith in her and her plan. I knew I’d rather show up to NYC with less mileage and rested then with a ton of 20+ milers and exhausted or overtrained.
The crazy part of this is that I ran a 5+ minute PR on what’s considered a very tough course having run only one 20+ miler. ONE. With one 17 miler and one 18 miler. That’s it. The rest were all 16 miles or less. So it’s proof that you don’t need to be killing yourself with 20+ milers week in and week out to run a PR race.
NYC was not about running a certain time. Even as I stood on the start line, I didn’t have a finish time in mind. Mary and I never even discussed it. We talked about paces. Ranges she wanted me to stay in or not get under. A range of time to hit the half in. And that was it. I purposely didn’t sit down and calculate what the finish time could be if I hit the low end or high end of the paces she gave me. Truth is, I didn’t want to know. It didn’t matter to me and I didn’t want a time in my mind to be the driver on race day. It wasn’t until after the race when I called her and we spoke when she told me what she thought I was capable of running.
I think I was so excited leading up to the race because there was no pressure – internal or external. I felt strong and in shape and ready for a PR. But mostly I just felt happy and rested and ready to run hard.
So back to training. Here’s what the long runs looked like (in chronological order):
– 15 miles @ 7:34 pace
– 15.7 miles with: 5 up, 6 x 1 mile @ 7:00 (7:00, 6:56, 6:56, 6:55, 6:51, 6:47), 3 down
– 15.1 miles with: 4 up, 3 x 2 mile @ 7:00 (6:58, 6:56, 6:54), 2 x 1 @ 6:39 (6:37, 6:24), 2 down
– Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly Half @ 6:58 pace: 1:31:25 (recap coming)
– Bronx 10 miler: 1:05:47 (Huge PR) – see below
– <Skipped long run – sick>
– 18 miles @ 8:37 (Kona – 90+ degrees, no fueling during..not on purpose)
– 22 miles @ 7:16 with 5, 3, 2 mile tempo and 10 x 1:00 on – see below
– 17 miles @ 7:14 with: 4 up, 1 x 6 mile @ 6:59, 1 x 5 mile @ 7:04 (with 2 mile in between)
Other key workouts:
– 6 x 800 (@3:01), 6 x 200 (@5:20)
– 8 x 4:00 @ 6:07
– 1 x 2 mile @ 6:39, 1 x 1 mile @ 6:07, 1 x 2 mile @ 6:39, 1 x 1 mile @ 6:07
– 5 x 1 mile @ 6:04
– 3 x 3 @ 7:00 (actual splits: 6:55, 6:50, 6:44) – see below
– 1 x 3 mile @ 7:00 (actual – 6:49), 1 x 2 mile @ 7:00 (actual: 6:28)
Looking at this cycle, there were a few workouts and races that really jump out at me. They were huge for me – physically, while also helping build my confidence that I could run these times.
Perhaps one of the biggest days of the cycle was the Bronx 10 miler. It was a breakthrough race. I’ve looked back on my strava splits for that race several times since then and still feel some shock when I see the paces I hit. It was one of those days where everything felt perfect and your body is up to the challenge. But the craziest part of it was that it wasn’t a “race” – I didn’t taper at all for it. I raced the Philly half the weekend before so after a short recovery period, started to build the mileage up again. I ran 8 hilly (and semi-fast) miles the day before and then did a 4-mile warmup before the race.
The workout: 2 miles “easing in” around 7:00, 2 x 2 miles @ 6:40 (with 1/2 mile recovery in between), 2 x 1 mile @6:30 for 1st, emptying tank for last one (with 1/2 mile recovery).
It was my first time doing a workout during a race and I was excited to give it a try! For most of the first two miles, I had this argument in my mind. I was running much faster than Mary prescribed. The logical part of my brain was telling me to slow the F down. I wanted to hit the paces she laid out and didn’t want to blow up. But the other part of my brain knew I felt good and wanted to go with what felt good. So that’s what I did. The first two miles ticked by: 6:48, 6:42. The 1/2 mile recovery was at a 7:00 pace and felt so easy and comfortable. Once I started the first 2 mile set, I was once again amazed at the paces I was seeing. I have never run a 2-mile tempo at these paces before. Ever. 6:28, 6:23. The 1/2 mile recovery was at a 6:45 pace. Next two mile set. Still feeling like I was flying. 6:32 (most of the mile was uphill), 6:19. At this point in the race, I was starting to really work but I was having so much fun. 1 mile repeat: 6:17. 1/2 mile recovery at 7:00 pace. Then it was time to go. 5:57. My previous 10-mile PR was set back in 2007 and was 1:11. I ran a 1:05:47 (6:34 pace).
One of the key workouts was the 3 x 3 monster. This is such a long, hard workout. 9 miles of work with some warmup and cooldown (13.2 total miles) and only 2 minutes of recovery in between each set. Goal pace was 7:00. I ran this workout on the roads by my house. No major hills but rolling in each direction (which I love for workouts). I started conservative and focused on each 3-mile segment at a time. The miles started ticking by and I felt SO good. I knew I was holding back the first set. The second set was comfortable. The third I had to work but it wasn’t all out and I was able to negative split. Splits: (6:56, 6:55, 6:53) (6:51, 6:51, 6:49) (6:45, 6:50, 6:38).
Another major workout was the 22 miler. This was one of the most fun, most challenging and most rewarding long runs I have ever done. 22 miles is a long time to be running – but this workout literally flew by b/c there were so many different blocks within it.
– 5 mile warmup: 8:02, 7:52, 7:47, 7:46, 7:35
– 5 mile tempo: 7:06, 7:01, 7:03, 7:02, 6:58 (with 1/2 mile recovery @ 7:54 pace)
– 3 mile tempo: 6:44, 6:45, 6:41 (with 1/2 mile recovery @ 7:55 pace)
– 2 mile tempo: 6:43, 6:33 (with 1/2 mile recovery @ 8:13 pace)
– 10 x 1:00 on, 1:30 off (Started at 6:20; finished at 5:45; recoveries were around 8:30 pace)
– 2 mile cooldown: 7:47, 7:19
While the tempo paces excited me, I was most surprised with the paces I hit for the intervals at the end of the run. I was doing these during the 19th and 20th mile of the run and was running much faster and stronger than I could have imagined.
Things to note:
- This training cycle was so much fun. The workouts were new and exciting and I didn’t have any pressure – to hit paces or to run faster than I did last time.
- For the first part of th cycle, Mary focused on speed and strength and we gradually transitioned to marathon specific work. It was a change to be doing 200m repeats!
- Mary forced me (in a good way!) to do all of these workouts outside – regardless of weather. I did one workout on the treadmill (b/c of weather) and after that she would gently remind me to go outside. One workout in particular (5 x mile): I remember being bummed that I had to do it outside. I wanted to hit the paces she prescribed but knew it would be impossible with the 20-25 mph winds outside. I hit the paces for a couple of them – but remember finishing the workout and being so happy with my effort. I worked HARD and didn’t quit – even if the paces weren’t as fast as I hoped they would be.
- Doubles. This was the first time I’ve ever done doubles (planned!) in a cycle. I think I did doubles 4x – first couple were shorter total mileage (10) and we then did 12 miles twice (8 in AM; 4 in PM). These were always two days out from a bit workout.
- Other than long run, I had at most one workout each week. Mary had me running most of mileage easy during the week. One day would be for a workout – and that was it. The rest was recovery or easy-paced running. And we kept those easy.
- Rest days: There were a few stretches where we would go 10-12 or so days without a rest day and then we would have a week or two with at least one rest day.
- Very short days: After big workouts, I would sometimes have 30-35 min on the schedule – that’s it. Then the next day might be 5 or 6 miles.
- Four healthy years: I realized this fall that I’ve been running at least two marathons/year for four straight years. Prior to my 2nd son being born (Sep 2012), I had run four total marathon (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011). Since the spring of 2013, I’ve finished 10 marathons (and an Ironman) with two big training cycles a year targeting goal marathons. And no major injuries. I haven’t had to take an extended period of time off since the birth of my son. I think the built-up endurance and strength needs to be mentioned here b/c I believe it helped me on race day.
All of my runs are logged in Strava in case you are interested in following along!
So there it is – the 11 weeks of running that led to my fastest and happiest marathon to-date! Please let me know if you have any specific questions about workouts, pacing, etc!