Sunday, January 26, 2014

Marathon Training Review

It's now one-week post Houston and I'm still a little bit bummed with how it went down. I sort of feel like the person who going into graduation, made really good grades, had a lot of fancy Latin terms read after their name was announced and when they were just about to grab their diploma, fell flat on their face.  For a while, they feel the sting of falling rather than remembering all the things they achieved leading into it.

But whether Houston went well or poorly, I think it's important to reflect on the training to figure out what worked well, what didn't and what you needed to do but didn't.  Before the race, I 100% believed I was extremely fit.  To be honest, under ideal weather, I was giving myself a 75% chance of running sub 2:15, 50% chance of running 2:13 and probably a 33% chance to break 2:13.  If the weather would have been ideal for the 2013 Houston Marathon, I felt my 2:18 was worth 2:15 or 2:16.  And this go around, I was much, much more fit. But here's the harder workouts I had in my build-up, without including my short hill sprints.

Last workout of pre-marathon training: 21.5 miles with 18 at 5:22 pace (around 95% of MP)

Week One

  • 5 mile race at 23:41
  • 18.8 miles with 4x5k at 5:05 with 1k jog recovery at sub 6:00 pace (MP for the fast portion and 80-85% of MP for recovery jog)
  • 121 miles

Week Two

  • 15.2 miles with 10 miles over 3:00 fast/3:00 medium over hills at 4:51/5:22 average (Probably was around 10k pace and MP pace)
  • 20 miles with last six at 4:57 average (80% of MP and 100% of MP, even though it was faster than that
  • 122 miles

Week Three

  • No workouts
  • 27 miles

Week Four

  • 7.12 miles at 5:11 pace (around MP)
  • 21.1 miles with 18.1 at 5:29 pace (95% of MP)
  •  113 miles

Week Five

  • 4800m at 14:45, 3200m at 9:30, 1600m at 4:30 with 3:00 jog rest (Probably around HMP, 1k pace and 5k pace)
  •  3x4.2 miles at 5:05 pace with 1k jog recovery at sub 6:00 pace (MP)
  • 22.1 miles (80% MP)
  • 128 miles

Week Six

  • 9 mile continuous progression with 3 mile sections at 5:18, 5:03 and 4:51 pace (95%, 100%, 105% of MP)
  • 12x1:00 on/off at 4:31 for the fast part (5k pace or faster)
  • 20.4 miles with 4x5k at 5:02 average with 1k jog recovery at sub 6:00 pace and then 1k at the end in 2:50 (MP for the 5ks, 80-85% of MP for the recoveries, last 1k pretty freaking hard)
  • 123 miles

Week Seven

  • 6400m progression in 19:25 with 4x400m in 63 (a little slower than HMP/105% of MP to a little faster than that pace) with the 400s around mile pace.
  • 16 miles with last five miles at 5:02 (80% of MP, finishing at 100% of MP) 
  • 105 miles
Week Eight
  • 6 mile progression with 2 mile splits at 5:18, 5:02, and 4:45 pace (95%, 100%, 105% of MP)
  • 26.2 miles in 2:17:17
  • 89 miles

Now in Houston, I died.  With the weather being a little more warm/humid than ideal, I should have died after going out at that pace.  But it should have been dying to a 2:15, not a 2:17.  I always say that everything is under the microscope in the marathon.  It's a long, committed race.  If you're lacking somewhere, it's going to show.  It's kind of like going from a relationship to a marriage, if you will.  Things that bother you a little bit in a dating relationship can and probably will turn into a huge deal in a marriage.

After laying out my training and reflecting upon it, I feel there are several things that could have resulted in my ugly seven mile death.  Some of them I wonder about while some of them, I'm nearly certain about.  Here are my thoughts on the matter:

  • I needed more work at marathon pace.  For runners with a large base behind them, work at the specific pace you're planning on running the race is very important.  I only had a few of those workouts.
  • The sickness screwed me up more than I expected.  Yeah, I was fully recovered a few weeks later, but I missed a few important, extensive sessions because of it.  I was going to run the Rocket City Marathon at around 2:25 five weeks out. In the past, marathons at 90-95% of MP, while fueling like a real race have worked really well for me.  I also missed a couple speed workouts because of it, as well as a long marathon-pace workout.  Those sessions could have been a lot of the glue that held my marathon race together last week. And before the sickness, I was really disciplined.  I was lean and mean, doing my stretching almost everyday and was doing a pretty good job of my squats, core routine and short hill sprints. After the sickness, I became very lazy with that stuff since I missed two weeks without much of it and didn't want to add it again so close to the race.
  • I didn't have very many "normal" long runs.  Now don't get me wrong, I feel the more miles you have behind you, the more overrated the easy long run becomes.  But going into the race, I felt like I needed a few more 20-24 milers.
  • I needed long "fast" sessions instead of these cute little short tempos.  In the past, I've done stuff like six mile tempos, long fartlek workouts, even stuff like 10x1 mile on the track.  At the time, I ran these shorter so I would be fresher for my MP workouts, but looking back, I should have run a little longer.
  • In the past, I've done a lot more work at 90-95% of MP than I did this time.  Runs at that effort are great for teaching your body to burn fat more quickly.
  • Normally, I like three hard sessions nearly every week.  Nearly all of these just had two.
  • Going into this race, I felt "fast".  I even felt like I was in faster half-marathon shape than I was this past June when I ran 63:12.  That's not a terrible thing for a flat and fast marathon course if you run smart but going out over your head will really kill someone who has the speed but not the gas tank.

Maybe all of this is making me appear too analytical or makes it look like I'm searching for an excuse on why I tanked.  But as a self-coached runner, it's what I have to do.  While I realize everything I should have done, at the time, I did what I thought was best with what time I had.  Maybe if I didn't get sick, my bases would have been more covered.  Who knows really? It's frustrating to end the marathon on a poor note but I was fit and I take satisfaction out of that.

I'll have to make my spring plans but right now, they are up in the air.  I highly doubt I'll do another marathon because I may attack three of them next October, January and April/May.  So right now, I'm planning on peaking for the USA 25k Champs.  Maybe I'll have a little redemption this go-around since that race was the low-light of 2013.

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