Monday, January 5, 2015

Spring 2015 Training and Racing Plans

A common mistake people make when designing a training program is focusing completely on their peak race without regards to where they currently are in their training/fitness.  If someone asks you directions to a destination, you can't just start spewing out where to go.  Before you give any help, you have to know where they are.  When you start your training, you need to focus more on where your current strengths and weaknesses are and work from there.  Then when things become more balanced and predictable, you can work your training backwards from your peak race.

My original spring plan was to run the Rotterdam Marathon in April and make a run at sub 2:13 with hopes of making the US Pan-Am team.  But I found out the Pan-Ams qualifying window closes at the end of March, so there went that plan. It would still be cool to run a fast time over there, but I didn't have a lot of training time, I would have to deal with jet-lag and spend almost two g's on expenses.

My next plan was to run the Boston Marathon.  I was going to start speed work in the middle of December and work from there. But I was dragging butt and found out my iron was low.  Boston is a very tricky course and you not only have to train for the marathon distance but place a lot of training focus on the actual course.  With faster marathons, I'd run my marathon workouts on a flat road by my house and do a lot of track workouts as well.  With Boston, you can't do that. You have to focus heavily on downhill running while also being prepared for the uphills.  I'm a rhythm guy, so it would take a lot of time to develop those qualities in my body.  I knew I couldn't jump into that stuff with low iron anyway, so there went that plan.

So what would be the best option? Grandmas Marathon at the end of June.  I've run the half there twice and ran okay the first time and awesome the other.  And the last half of the marathon is the half-marathon course, so I know it well.  It also gives me a ton of time to work on some qualities I lost and have enough time to get to the starting line very fit.  I also figure there will be a lot of fast guys trying to knock out the "A" standard there, which is an added bonus.  And almost the best reason of all is that I get nearly a month to train like a "pro" runner since school is out for the year on Memorial Day weekend. So all you runners still living at your mama's house or in some clown car apartment with a bunch of other runners and eating ramen noodles to survive, I'll be coming at you in June with my cushy teacher's salary, extra sleep and grass-fed beef.

When I'm coming off a racing season, I'm fit and have a lot of training bases covered.  The base phase I then enter is more of a time of rest and detraining rather than a fitness builder.  A few weeks into it, I'm probably in the worst shape I'll be for that entire season because I go from high volume and a lot of specificity to moderate volume with no specificity.  I lost a lot of my base this past year, so I need to return to that and by doing so, will increase my fitness throughout the period.

During my super-busy racing season this past September-November, I actually got pretty fit even though I did nothing but race and jog in between.  I think that shows that in the past, I've run too much intensity and need to lay off that a little bit more and focus more on endurance-based work.

And after every peak race, it's good to go through your log and try to figure out what worked well and what didn't.  At first, I thought my Houston build-up was perfect, minus missing several key workouts a few weeks before the race because I was half-dead in bed for a few days.  But after a year of reflection, I saw that I was too "fast" for the marathon.  I got in my normal marathon workouts but I was flying in my faster workouts.  I wouldn't run the faster stuff very often but when I did, I was running faster than before I ran 63:12 for the half.  Even in some marathon workouts, I'd catch myself running 5:00 pace instead of 5:05ish.  I thought for sure that would correlate to sub 2:13 marathon fitness.  But on the other side of the coin, I was neglecting the stuff slightly slower than marathon pace (95%ish of MP). That's the speed/effort that really teaches your body to be able to burn fat faster and slow the rate your burn carbs. Granted, I missed some big workouts at that intensity five weeks out from Houston because of being sick.  But my last long, fast run was almost two months out from Houston.  I should have done 1-2 more of those.  As an endurance-oriented guy, I respond better to that longer, steadier stuff rather than higher intensity work.  But going into Grandma's here's what my training framework is.

  • Higher mileage: I haven't had consistent volume in a long time, so I need to reestablish that with some higher mileage.  Numbers are just numbers and I really don't know how high I'll go until I see how I respond, but I'd like to have a couple weeks in the 130 range, or maybe a little higher.
  • Faster Easier Runs: I hate putting this because the number one mistake I see people make is running too hard on their non-workout days.  I see it the most in beginning runners who run faster than their marathon pace almost every day of the week, which is a huge no-no. Normally, I run about 6:40ish on my easy days and as slow as 8:00 pace on my 2nd runs.  The only "normal" run during the week where I run faster is my long run, which is usually at 80-85% of marathon pace.  But since I've missed so much "real" training time, I'm going to speed up some of my daily runs to my long run pace, which is around 6:15-6:30 or so right now and progresses down to 6:00ish when I'm fit.  I'm hoping it will reestablish my lost fitness better and I will most likely go back to my easier jogging in February. 
  • Moderate Workouts: Work up to 10-12 mile progression runs where I go from an easy effort to current estimated marathon pace and continuous runs where I run around 90-95% of current estimated marathon pace.
  • Faster Running: My legs have forgot what it feels like to run 10k pace and faster.  I haven't really run that fast since last March and haven't put several weeks of that stuff together since October of 2013 or so.  I need to get in touch with those speeds again without doing a "real" workout.  So stuff like 400s at 5k pace with a liberal recovery jog, 200s at mile pace, etc. Normally I don't mess with those speeds in my base phase but again, I'm at a much different spot than I normally am during this training cycle. 
  • Hill Sprints: I need to get back to my 10x10s all-out hill sprints with 2:00 jog recovery.  I haven't done those consistently in a long, long time.  I will continue these until Grandma's.
  • Long Runs: Get in 2-3, 20 mile runs
  • Strength Work: My best racing season ever was the spring of 2013, which is the only time I've done consistent strength work.  Granted I was just doing deep squats, but I felt they helped my speed and power quite a bit.  I would usually do 3-4 sets of 4-6 reps with heavy weight. At first, I struggled with 135 lbs. but after a few months, I was pushing right at 200. Like the hill sprints, I will do these until Grandma's.  I recently also started doing Jay Johnson's Lunge Matrix before my runs and have sprinkled in some of Vern Gambetta's leg circuit as well.
February and March
  • Moderate/Higher Mileage: Hang around the 115-120 range since I'm making up for the lack of volume with intensity
  • Races: Jump into some shorter races with a half-marathon or two.  I need to get used to continuously hammering again
  • Fartleks/Track work: More structured speed workouts from 3k-10k pace to develop some specific fitness in that event.  But this go around, I will not redline these or puke on the side of the track…run fast but within myself.  My body doesn't respond well to a lot of intensity and I only need to get a feel for those speeds to run well at the longer stuff
  • Long, fast runs: Work up to 16 miles at 90-95% marathon pace
  • Long Runs: Get in at least 20 miles every weekend, if I'm not doing a longer race, with some quality in some of them. 
  • Tempos: Shorter tempo runs and mix-in tempo paces with faster work
  • Continue what I did the past couple of months, but transition to more of a marathon focus as the month goes on by cutting out the really fast paces, increasing the length of my tempos and lightly increasing the mileage.
  • Also continue to race some and hopefully chase some new PR's.
  • High Mileage: Sneak up to 140ish if things go well
  • Long, fast runs: Increase those up to 20 miles
  • Long Runs: Get in a couple 22-24 mile runs. When I get fit, "normal" 20 milers stop being a good stimulus for me.  So I will boost those up a little bit longer and also continue to mix in some faster running into my long runs 2-3 times a month. 
  • Races: Half-Marathon, and maybe a couple of shorter races to stay in touch with my speed. I will also actually race BolderBoulder this year instead of jogging like a school-girl. 
  • Marathon-specific focus: Since specificity is the key for the marathon, I will do my most of my main workouts around 95-105% of marathon pace, with a greater emphasis right at marathon pace.
So there's the basic plan that I feel will work for where I currently am and where I want to be in June. Granted there's a lot of basic fundamentals in there but I tweaked it according to what I feel will work best for me and I'm really excited about another go at a fast marathon.  I'm getting old and I don't want to retire with my 2:17 PR.


  1. I was considering Grandmas as my next marathon. Is it a fast course? I want to try for a BQ but with my ability a few mins can be the difference between success and a near miss.

  2. Anytime you run a race in late June, it can be hot. The course itself is fast and I believe a slight elevation drop. I absolutely hate uphills and the only one I noticed was a short one towards the end of the race, which really wasn't that bad.

    This year, the weather was in the mid 40s at the start and worked up to the 50s. In 2013, I believe it was upper 40s and overcast and in 2012, it was about 50 degrees and humid at the start. In 2011, they had a massive tailwind, which on a point-to-point course, can't get any better.

    I also like the date because for us Tennesseans, it hasn't started to get really hot yet and you get plenty of daylight, so it's easier to get in the training. I had a buddy knock out a huge PR and BQ there this past year.

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