With the my last short race out of the way, it's time to transition over to more marathon-specific training. For a training cycle that peaks with a marathon, I like to spend the last 6-8 weeks zoning-in on marathon pace. I occasionally throw in some stuff faster than half-marathon pace, but most of my focus is spent on extending the distance I can run at my planned marathon pace. A lot of people use this "reverse taper" method but I base a lot of it off Renato Canova's principles along with my own strengths and weaknesses.
After I axed CIM, I debated just scratching a winter marathon all-together and focusing on trying to break 63 at the US Half-Marathon Championships in Houston and then get ready for Boston. But I was content with my 63:12 this past June and have yet to have a chance to run a fast marathon when I'm in shape. And with old age kicking in and the fact you only have a shot at 1-2 good marathons a year, the clock is ticking.
With Houston also hosting the half-marathon championships, as well as offering very appealing time bonuses, I wasn't expecting the marathon field in Houston to be very deep. I'm sure they will have their usual handful of world class Ethiopians but wasn't expecting too many guys around the "A" standard. I usually race well in fields where I have a lot of people constantly around me but I also train pretty much completely alone, so I've gotten used to pushing solo. And I would much rather race a marathon without much company, opposed to a half. If you go out too hard in the half, you can regroup a bit and save your race some but running a few seconds a mile too fast in the marathon can kill you.
But I recently had some good news when I found out that Luke Humphrey from the Hansons (the racing team, not the 90s band) was heading down and shooting to run under 2:14. I also heard from somewhere that Patrick Rizzo is racing it, who is also a very tough dude. So with those two guys and hopefully a couple others at that level in the marathon field, I will have some people to follow/pull-along. I don't know those guys at all but maybe we can form a group for at least 10-15 miles.
When training for the marathon, it's important to not only train for the 26.2 mile distance but the conditions of the course. You don't want to totally focus on running your race pace, but to replicate what your body goes through on the day of the race. When I was training for CIM, I was going to do my marathon stuff on a course that simulates the rolling nature of the course. Instead of doing my speedwork on the track, I was going to do a lot of fartleks over hills. I needed to have my body (and mind) used to running over some gentle hills after it's been through a lot of muscle damage. You have to prepare your body for the specific demands of race day and if you don't respect the nature of the course, you're not going to be adequately prepared.
So what problems does Houston pose? None, really. It's a flat and fast, time trial course. So that means I don't have to stress about hills, I just need to be a rhythmic marathoning machine, which greatly caters to my style and strengths. Well, I have heard from a few people that Houston has a lot of concrete, but I do a lot of running on sidewalks, and most of my mileage on the roads, except for track workouts. And there's no dirt or trails near my house and I hate running on the grass. So hard surfaces don't bug me at all.
So after a lot of rambling, what's training going to be like and what's my goal? I will probably do a lot of my Canova-style long repeats (stuff like 4x5k with 1k steady jog rest, 3x4.2 mile with 1k steady rest, etc.) Last year, I did stuff like 10 miles at marathon pace, 10 miles at 1/2 mile at 10s per mile slower than MP and 10s per mile faster than MP. This time around, I will increase it to 12 miles. While my all-time record for miles in a week is 125, this December, I plan to have a week or two at 130 or maybe even a little higher, depending on how I respond. And right now, I'm debating between running a marathon five weeks out from Houston in the 2:22-2:25 range or throwing in a Canova Specific Block. Other than that, I'll stay in touch with half-marathon pace from time-to-time, occasionally sprinkle in some shorter, faster repeats and get in some moderate paced running.
Time wise, if the weather is good, 2:15:00 is my minimum goal. Yeah, my pr is 2:18:52 from Houston last year, which would be quite a jump. But I spent about six weeks with a bum achilles last fall, lost some training time with a sickness in late December and during the race, the it was 40 degrees with a lot of rain and strong wind. Based off the former race results of others, I felt like my time there was at least worth a 2:15ish under ideal conditions. And since then, I've improved my half-marathon time by almost 90 seconds, am running more volume and intensity and am running my workouts at much faster paces than at this point last year. And this time around, I'm doing squats and a little core work, which I didn't do last year.
But on race day, I'll have to adjust my pace based on the conditions. If it it's under 50 degrees and calm, I plan on going out between 66:30-67:00 for the first half. Sometimes I am a little bit too conservative with my racing, so this time around, I'm going to run with a little more confidence. That being said, I greatly respect and healthily fear the distance, so I'm not going to take off like a Kamikaze mania. I'm just going to toe the line confident from my training and not be intimidated by guys with better marathon resumes than me, especially because I consider the marathon my best distance.
With under seven weeks to go, training couldn't be going any better and I'm excited to see how it all unfolds. Hopefully mother nature will be a little bit nicer this time.