Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spring Training Cycle

This was a long training season and I'm glad it's over so I can relax for a bit.  It actually goes back a lot further than that.  After last year's USA Half-Marathon Championships, I took little-to-no time off as I had plans of running the Columbus Marathon in October.  I got hurt in September for about six weeks, then jumped right back into hard training for the Houston Marathon.  After the Houston Marathon, I was going to take a break but decided to run the Boston Marathon, so again, it was time for hard training.  I continued the hard training all the way until this year's half-marathon championships.  Looking back, I haven't had a few weeks of base training since my knee injury over 1.5 years ago. But here's a quick synopsis of my training, post Houston Marathon. 
  • After the Houston Marathon, I took off a couple of days and then did about 2.5-3 weeks of base-type training. I knew I would lose some fitness, but I wanted to give my body a break and rest, before resuming the harder stuff again.  When you;re new to running, base training is about building up your aerobic engine and you'll be able to gain new fitness.  When you're a little bit closer to your lifetime peak fitness and have a big mileage background, base training is more about recovery and rest, and doesn't need to be as long because you can handle longer periods of increased mileage and intensity.
  • February-Early March: Mileage was around 110, not counting the week I had the flu and another week with a bad virus. Focused on getting some of my speed back.  I hadn't done some short fast stuff in quite some time, so I ran hard fartleks, short-fast tempo runs/progressions, track intervals and got in some easier long runs. And by doing some of the faster stuff and not much marathon-type training, I was able to let my "marathon shape" rest and recover some as I worked on another aspect.
  • Early March-Mid April: Mileage averaged around 110 again with a couple of weeks over 115.  I was very fit at the start of what I planned to be my marathon specific phase.  I was going to spend the last six weeks before Boston working on my marathon fitness, specific to the Boston Marathon course.  The downhills are what makes the course so difficult to attain (well, that's what I hear) so the focus was on building my body for that.  Instead of using my usual 1.77 mile mostly flat road for my marathon workouts, I had hilly fartleks and medium runs planned, tempo runs with uphill and downhill finishes, fast downhill strides at the end of some of my workouts, had a couple marathon-specific sessions planned on a course with very long, slow hills and was doing heavy-weighted (at least for me) eccentric squats at Techa's Globo Gym (squat rack/bench in my garage that I bought from some some dude with a lot of assault rifles that I found on Craigslist).  I guess I got overly ambitious because my body was fried, so I cancelled Boston and went back to base type training for a couple of weeks.
  • Mid April-May: Mileage was 110-115ish.  Did a couple of weeks of speedwork again, ran the Country Music Marathon as a long, fast run, then relaxed for a bit for a few days so I could recover.
  • May-U.S. Half-Marathon Champs: Mileage around 110ish.  DNF'd the 25k Champs, and those last few weeks, I tried to focus a little more on half-marathon pace, while staying in touch with my speed.  Going into the race, I was a little bit worried that I hadn't done enough extensive stuff at HMP.

Random Thoughts about Training
  • Before the half-marathon, I knew my body was getting tired and needed a break.  I had a short break after the marathon, over trained, recovered, sort of over trained again, followed by another recovery.  I knew I was in really good shape in March/April and the last upswing was about getting back into the shape I was just recently in, rather than building new fitness.  It's much easier to go from over trained to fit when you were fit a few weeks ago.
  • I didn't have any flat out races from Houston to the half.  I anticipated having to run all-out at the Murray Half-Marathon but had plenty left in the tank. I was also wanting to run all-out at the USA 25k Champs, but I barely made it halfway.
  • I also only had a couple of workouts that I had to dig down pretty deeply and didn't really have anything insanely hard the last few weeks of training. As I learned in college, digging down too often is detrimental to training.  A lot of people are scared to run too many races, yet they kill themselves in workouts week-in and week-out. I feel that's much worse because it's like racing 1-2 times a week. Maybe I could do that if I did nothing but run, but who knows?
  • My last long run was seven weeks out (20 miles) and I had very few this season.  But normal long runs aren't much of a stimulus for me anymore and I don't need to do many to run fast for the half-marathon and under.
  • It seems like that 63:12 came out of nowhere, but too many things were aligned in my favor.  The weather was good, the course was fast, there were tons of good runners and I stuck to my race plan.  When I think about it, I feel like if I time-traveled to the Duluth race in early April, I could have run 63:30-63:45.  
  • Laying off all of the races helped me out with my peak.  My last race was on Memorial Day, which was at a tempo effort.  Last year, I ran races like five out of the last six weeks before the race. Most of those were at 10k type effort, so they weren't too hard but time would have been better spent working on my half-marathon fitness.  I also did too much speedwork before last year's track 5k in early June, so I think that's why I struggled so badly over the last few miles at this race last year.  My speed was great, but I didn't have that half-marathon/marathon gas tank that I had this year.
  • I was really lazy on my 10 second hill sprints and my core type training this season.  But something new I added was low-rep, heavy squats.  I only did them about once every 10 days and was pretty lazy about it.  I would do a set, take out the dog, do another set, get some water, etc. I wanted to ease myself into it this year and even though I was a bum about it, I moved up a good bit in weight, going from about 135 lbs. my first session to closing out near 200 lbs. near the end.  This season, I was running my 400s 1-2s faster per rep than I was in the fall, so maybe the squats helped out with that. 
  • Lastly, this was my first full year of "sky blue collar" running.  Last year, I had to do my hard workout days during my lunch break and would get in my second runs right before and/or after xc/track practice.  On track meet days, I'd have to  get my mileage in two mile blocks over 3-4 hours.  I would say that pretty much qualified for blue collar status.  Now, I can get in my workouts at home and get in a real warm-up and cool-down. 

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