It's now time to get serious. With eight weeks to go, it's time to transition to my marathon-specific cycle. The key during this phase is to get as efficient as possible at marathon pace, as well as teach my body to burn fats quicker and be able to respond in a low-glycogen state. The more efficient you are at burning fats, the longer you delay the dreaded wall. To run an event well, you have to replicate the stress your body goes through in the event during your training. For the marathon, that means that both my long runs and my weekend marathon paced workouts will be on an empty stomach, without taking anything in during the run, in order to get in a low carbohydrate state.
With my last cycle, I ran a variety of paces and intensities. Some days, I would run insanely fast and other days would be longer, steadier workouts The goal was to be more of a "complete" distance runner and be fit from the 5k through the half-marathon. One of the main goals of the marathon-specific cycle, is to extend the distance you are able to run at marathon pace. For example, for my first hard workout, I may run 6x3k, then move on to 4x5k, then something like 3x7k. Other than a sporadic race, I won't run anything much faster than marathon pace at all. I have already built up my motor in the last phase, so I need to now make it as efficient as possible.
I'm a little nervous going into this cycle because I don't feel very fit. I haven't had any great races or workouts, and have barely had any long runs. My plan was to get in around 2:22 marathon shape when I started this cycle, so I could slowly make my assault at 2:19. In order to get in 2:22 shape, I knew I would need to have a very good speed cycle, and that just didn't happen. My earlier plan was to run Chicago and after about 5-6 weeks of my speed cycle, I knew I wouldn't have a chance at sub 2:19, so I bagged my training, took a few easier weeks and started a shortened speed cycle. That went ok for a couple weeks, before I got sick and lost 1-1.5 weeks of solid training. You hear everyone say that two wrongs don't make a right but I'm hoping my two shortened cycles will somehow get me where I need to be on December 10th.
Based on my life schedule and what I need to work on, my training will be a hybrid of how I trained for the past two marathons (Country Music was more speed-focused, while Rocket City was a pure marathon focus.) Because I don't have the time to get in my longer, marathon paced workouts until cross country season is over, I'll work a little more on my half-marathon speed with things such as progression runs, tempos, etc. Once cross country is over, I'll have five weeks to train exactly how I need to, which should give me a good fitness boost. During that time, I'm hoping to get in at least a couple of weeks in the 120-125 mile range.
After the Country Music Marathon, I thought I would have a 60-70% chance of getting in 2:19 shape (getting in shape and then executing it on marathon day is an entirely different thing) but right now, I think the odds are just under 50%. But to be honest, I'm not huge on goals. All you can do is train to your maximum ability and see where that takes you. Hopefully my training will look something like this:
Monday: Two recovery runs
Tuesday: Recovery run; Easy run with 10x10-12s all-out hill sprints
Wednesday: Easy recovery run; Marathon-specific workout
Thursday: Two easy recovery runs
Friday: Medium run or medium progression run; Recovery run
Saturday: Easy run; Recovery run
Sunday: Marathon-specific workout or long run
It's pretty simple training but with running, there are no complicated formulas or secret workouts. The only "secret" is getting out on the roads and wearing out your running shoes as much as you can.