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As I said in my first post, 2010 was a real eye opener for me in terms of training. I ran 2 marathons, 1 in May and 1 in October, and attended a 2-day coaching certification class in April. The class was amazing and I was literally hanging on every word. We spent a 1/2 day learning the physiology behind training or, essentially, why we torture ourselves with speed, tempo, long, easy runs, etc. Also included were lectures on nutrition, injury prevention/how to deal with injuries, and we spent an entire day examining and making up training schedules. I was in heaven. And, as if things weren’t great enough, the class was the Saturday and Sunday before the Boston Marathon. So naturally Matt and I stayed an extra day to watch the marathon. Now that’s a good weekend in my book!
I plan to do some posts in the future about what I learned in class but for now let’s move on to lessons learned…
My May marathon (#6 for me) was the Pocono Run for the Red Marathon. You can read my review here. I used Bart Yasso’s training plan from his book My Life on the Run (sidenote: Bart rocks and every runner should read this book). For the most part I followed his “seasoned” plan and mixed in a little of the “hard-core” plan. Looking back, I was running too fast. My goal marathon pace was 9:00 min/mile and most of my easy and long runs were done at that pace. A big no-no. I wasn’t allowing my body to recover from previous runs and get stronger. I should have slowed down and ran more hills…
I knew the race was hilly (it is the Pocono Mountains). I read race reviews and talked to people who ran it before and everyone said “some rolling hills with a few big hills at the end”. OK, so I’ll add a few hill workouts to my training and I’ll be fine. So that’s what I did. Come race day the rolling hills got the best of me. I maintained my 9:00 min/mile pace until Mile 19 when I gave up. Physically, I was exhausted. I was not used to maintaining that pace on rolling hills. Mentally, I gave up. I wanted to quit. I have never (ever) wanted to quit in any of my previous marathons. This is the kiss of death. Once you let the negative thoughts creep in and take over, you are done. I was also pissed. I trained so hard and this was it? After Mile 19, I took some walk breaks and crossed the finish line in 4:13 (I was training for a sub-4:00). Boo. Lessons learned: mimic the race course during your long runs so your body knows what to expect and step up your mental game!
After the May marathon I had 3 weeks “off” before I started training for my October marathon. I had never done back-to-back training cycles before and was nervous about getting burnt out. Marathon #7 was the Steamtown Marathon (review here). I decided to use Pete Pfitzinger’s 55/18 plan from his book Advanced Marathoning. The plan was to max out at 55 miles per week (a reasonable number since I maxed out at 50 mpw for marathon #6). That never happened. I started to notice some signs of overtraining (exhaustion, constantly running on dead legs, and irritability) and cut back on my mileage. I think I maxed out at 45 mpw. After a few weeks of reduced mileage, I felt great and even PR’d in a half marathon (1:49)! I think the back-to-back training cycles got the best of me.
I also did more tempo runs and more marathon-paced long runs in this cycle. These 2 runs gave me the confidence I needed to know that I could run a sub-4:00 marathon. This marathon was also hilly so I mimicked the course with each long run. As much as I hated all that hill work, it made me so much stronger. I did no speed work for this marathon, even though the training plan called for it.
During this time I was also coaching a group of runners to train for their first half marathon. We had group runs 2x/week. I used these group runs as my easy runs (and I really did take it easy).
The result? I crossed the finish line in 3:58 and got my sub-4:00! Lessons learned: mimic the race course with your long runs (and love hill work), listen to your body and alter your training plan as needed, tempo runs and marathon-paced long runs help your mental game, and run your easy runs easy.
If you are still reading this you are a trooper. Now go get yourself some caffeine. If you are glazed over and bored, I don’t blame you.
Next up…my training plan for the NJ Marathon (please keep the nail biting to a minimum)!