With my peak race of the season over, I'm taking some time for recovery and relaxation (well, starting about four weeks ago). Different people practice different methods when it comes to taking time off. I saw the other day on the Hanson's Twitter that they stick somewhat to the "take one day off for every mile of the race" rule. So for a half-marathon, that would be 13 days and a little over 3.5 weeks for a marathon. Some coaches like to keep their athletes pretty busy and not far away from workouts. Rather than getting out of shape and building back up, they feel you should recover a little bit and then start stressing the body again.
In college, I would usually take about a week completely off, then run every other day for a week before gradually getting back into the mileage. It seemed like the perfect amount of time and by the end of summer, I would be somewhat fresh and in-shape enough to be ready for some hard workouts. Some of my Polish teammates would take six weeks completely off. One of them would stay in shape by running very little but playing three-on-three basketball, but full-court and playing to 100 by ones. It sounds stupid but they were always ready to roll by Nationals. Enough rambling.
Before planning my base training schedule, I had to choose my "peak" marathon. My goal is to get in shape to run under 2:15 so I can knock out the "A" standard for the Olympic Trials. My 63:12 was a huge confidence booster because I've always considered myself a better marathoner than half-marathoner. I love the stubborn patience and rhythm the marathon requires. I've always had trouble making moves in shorter races but with the longer stuff, I beat people by outlasting them. I don't really make moves or try to shake people off, I just run hard and hope they eventually fall behind. There's more rambling.
But in choosing my marathon, I was looking at two different races. The Twin Cities Marathon is on October 6th and they are hosting the U.S. Championships as well. I've heard that a lot of good guys plan on racing it, so the competition would be very good. The U.S. only prize money is very generous and with a lot of the elite marathoners running in the World Championships, Chicago and New York, a guy like me would have a shot at going home with a fatter wallet. But with the race being only 3.5 months after the Half-Marathon Championships, I wouldn't be able to take much time off and would have to jump back into hard and structured training by early July. It would also mean that I would have to do all of that hard training in the heat of summer. No thanks.
The other marathon I was looking at was the California International Marathon on December 8th. The course is point-to-point, has a net downhill and if you don't have a headwind, it can be very fast. It's advertised as one of the fastest marathon courses in the United States, but I've heard it's somewhat deceiving and has some tough little climbs. A December 8th race date means that I can take some generous time off and start my marathon-specific training in mid-October, when the weather is nice and cool. Prize money isn't too deep but I'm more worried about time for now.
After thinking about it, I felt like CIM would be the best pick. It may not be as deep as Twin Cities, but I don't mind that in the marathon. With a less deep field, you are less likely to be sucked into too fast of a pace, which hurts you in the shorter races but buries you in the marathon. And since I plan on racing Boston next year, it works out perfectly. I have a little over four months in between them, which is a little closer than I like, but manageable. And since CIM has so much downhill running, I have to train to be ready for that. And what destroys people in Boston? The downhill running. My CIM prep will help lay a strong foundation for my Boston training and should help much race much better there. Daniel Tapia had a heck of a race at Boston this year and he also won CIM a few months before that. So hopefully, I will be able to carryover that good training as well. So CIM it is and I'll have the Houston Marathon as my back-up.
But back to my planned base training. I'm didn't take a lot of time off, just took two weeks of really low volume with mainly easy jogging. My goal is to lose some fitness, recover a bit and be prepared to start hard, fast workouts in the middle of August. It's not fun trying to constantly hold your head above water all of the time. I like getting out of shape because it's motivating to see my times improve once I get back on the upswing. I'll probably jump into a few local road races, run some moderate progressions and some shorter, steady runs. I'll also work on my strength through short hill sprints and plan on hitting the weights some as well. A basic week may look something like this:
Monday: Couple easy runs
Tuesday: Couple easy runs with hill sprints
Wednesday: Easy run; 9-10 mile progression run, broken into 1/3 a little faster than easy, moderate, fastish; weights
Thursday: Couple easy runs
Friday: 8-10 mile moderate run; Easy run; weights
Saturday: Couple easy runs
Sunday: Long run; weights
I'd like to work up to around 120 miles a week by the end of the cycle and hopefully will be somewhat fit by the end of it. I expect to lose a good bit of fitness the first few weeks, before slowly clawing back. When it comes to my own individual training I don't look at this phase in the traditional sense (it's different with the runners I coach and probably for most runners in general), which is a time to increase your aerobic system and lay a strong foundation for the season. I look at it as a time to physically and more importantly, mentally recover from all of the hard work from the prior season. I'll do much faster workouts later, more mileage later and dial in mentally later. There's plenty of time until December.