Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Marathon Training

Despite logging nearly 25,000 miles and having run over 250 career races, I continue to learn how to train properly.

This fall I plan to race Rocket City Marathon. I would like to finish in under 2:50, but a sub 3 hours finish would make 5 years (and 7 races) in a row with that time or faster. That might not be much for some people, but for me it is a line of success.

I spent serious time not only developing my 16-week training plan, but looking back at my training for previous races. One common theme that is apparent in my marathon performances and that is how quickly I have faded after the 18-20 mile mark. In 5 of the 7 races I have gone through a full 16-week training cycle focused around vo2max runs, tempo runs, long runs, races and rest. When looking back at my actuals versus my plan, I see that consistently I have logged many days where I hit my mileages (for long runs) but upon further inspection I see glaring discrepancies. Yes I am an engineer and I love numbers; statistics can be skewed to tell you what you want to hear, but raw numbers don't lie.

So many times throughout my training I will log 20 miles on a Saturday. When I look at the details, I see that (for example) I ran 5 miles warm up, a 10km race, and then 9 junk miles at a slow pace. This may add up to 20 miles, but does not take the place of a 20+ mile endurance run where certain miles at run at a certain pace (like the first 2/3 at 20% slower than marathon goal pace with the final 1/3 at 10% slower than MGP, or certain miles actually at MGP.)

What I have been missing, despite the fact that I understand the benefit of the long run, was the long run! Running 4 hours on trails, racing a 50km, not running on similar terrain and pace doesn't equate to training of specificity for the road marathon. I now see clearly that fading at the end of a marathon is a result of not having proper endurance training to simulate what my body will feel like after 20 miles of running.

What I also found was that I typically have logged plenty of vo2max workouts, which are great training workouts for races of up to a half marathon, but not necessarily great for the marathon. What resulted were many races of 5k, 10k, 15k and 1/2 marathon where I have posted some very fast times. But this does not scale up to the marathon.

I also found that when I did more tempo running (consistant running at tempo pace for 3 to 8 miles, not just 2x2 mile or 3x2 mile cruise intervals) that it had a direct relation to a fast marathon.

Obviously I race often; an average of 38 times per year in the six years since I have listed in Huntsville. This is usually heavy in the spring and fall when temperatures are tolerable. Racing is a great way for me to have another quality run and check the progress of my training. What I need to do is not combine a long run on the same day as a short distance training run; if I race a 5k on a Saturday, I still need to complete my long run on Sunday.

These numbers, facts and conclusions apply to me and may not apply to the masses; some people are better at running long distance, some better at running short distance. So take these findings with a grain of salt.

The bottom line is that I have read all of the books, talked to all of the experts and I know how to write a training plan; I just need to actually follow my plan and put myself in the best position to be successful on marathon race day.

  • Log 10-12 quality tempo runs.
  • Log 6-8 quality endurance runs of 18 miles or more.
  • Keep mileage per day in the 9-10 mile range
  • Stay healthy and rested

Race NameRace DateWeeks14-1617-1920+Quality 18+vo2 maxTempoRacesMiles / DayTune UpTimeTraining Notes
Rocket City12/14/08167578881011.881:16:38 1/2M2:54:12Half of long runs on trails
Boston4/20/091613210831011.0234:54 10k2:56:17Lots of trail running. (3) 50km races
Rocket City12/12/09163240521310.6154:40 15k2:58:10(4) 50km & (1) 50M race, all long runs on trail
California International12/5/101638331012119.541:15:32 1/2M2:43:40Focus on tempo, fast fall races
Mercedes2/12/1116533310478.622:43:40 M2:48:19Training overlap w/CIM, paced RCM, training for MM50k
NYC11/6/1116262112779.391:16:36 1/2M2:54:44Fast fall races, 5k, 15k, 1/2M
Rocket City12/7/121622027639.63

Weeks: 16 - The numer of weeks that I typically would train for a marathon
14-16: Training runs in the distance of 14-16 miles, not just a daily running volume of 14-16 miles
17-19: Training runs in the distance of 17-19 miles, not just a daily running volume of 17-19 miles
20+: Training runs in the distance of 20+ miles, not just a daily running volume of 14-16 miles
Quality 18+: Training runs of 18 miles or more (in Europe the long run is typically 30km or 18.6 miles whereas in the US it is 20 miles because they are round numbers. These are training runs modeled as noted above, not around running twice in a day, around a race event, etc
Tune Up: An example of a the fitness level that I was in before the goal marathon