Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Death of Chicago

I've always wanted to run the Chicago Marathon. Everyone tells me it's a really cool town, they are known for great pizza (my favorite food) and most importantly, it's a very competitive race on one of the fastest courses in the world. And with Chicago being three months before the Olympic Marathon Trials, I figure that 90% of the people who are still shooting for the qualifying time will be there.

The Chicago Marathon is just over five months after the Country Music Marathon. Before a marathon, I prefer at least six months before my next one. Ideally, I would have two or three weeks rest time, eight weeks of base training, ten weeks of speed training and then eight weeks of marathon-specific training. My Chicago training definitely felt more rushed because of the shorter time frame but I thought I would still be good to go.

My rest break was shorter than I would have liked and my base phase didn't go as smoothly as I anticipated but a couple of weeks into my speed phase, I felt I was right on track. I was having good workouts and getting in some strong mileage. However, my two races during the phase were much slower than I anticipated. You can blame it on the heat or on dead legs but it was definitely unmotivating, especially when you sometimes live and die by the stopwatch.

At the end of my speed phase, I was hoping to have the wheels to run around 14:30 in the 5k and sub 68:00 in the half marathon. I felt that would give me the speed I need to lay the foundation for a sub 2:19 marathon. However, in addition to the slow races, my legs constantly felt like crap. When your running slowly, battling the heat everyday and constantly feel drained, running just isn't much fun.

And when it comes down to it, running is just my hobby. I'm a new father, I have a teaching career that I really love and I'm also a cross country and track coach. And with around 90% of my athletes being first-year runners, this year will take some extra time and focus to get them to where they need to be. Trying to find small blocks of time to get in 100-120 miles a week of running without sacrificing other things and being too stressed out is near impossible.

To make a long story short, I've decided to make the Rocket City Marathon on December 10th my main training focus. It's only five weeks before the Olympic Trials, so if I ran sub 2:19 there, I'm not sure how much of my mojo I would have left just a few weeks later. But the main goal is to just get to the Trials and if I can somehow bust out a sub 65:00 half-marathon sometime in November, that'll punch my ticket and then I can skip the full marathon.

I really wanted to run Chicago and was looking forward to it but I felt like I was trying to swim in the ocean while keeping my head above the water. Running Rocket City lets me swim in the ocean, while wearing a snorkle. Cross country is over five weeks before the race, which gives me some good training time, the weather will be colder and I can also be more patient with my training. I'll have a lot less competition but I run most of my hard workouts by myself anyway, so that's not really an issue. I"ll also be able to do some more lead-up races and hopefully make some money in the process.

Now it's time to back off for a week or so and then I'll figure out my battle plan. I'll most likely do 3-4 weeks of base training to get my miles back up and let my nervous system recharge. I'll follow that with a short 4-5 week speed phase and then do a full eight week marathon-specific cycle. I feel much better about my chances now and can work on some weaknesses and make some improvements off this failed cycle. It also helps knowing that I can take a deep breath and focus on more important things in life.