“You know, if this is what winter is going to be like, high-30’s and not much snow, I think I will be able to handle it.”
-Me, in late December. An idiot.
Jan 14-Jan 20
Week 1 of training unloaded the first winter storm of the year on me. I love training for spring marathons in part because there is an unpredictability to when and exactly how you can train. You set up your week and then a winter storm hits and all your plans are upended. One learns to be adaptable.
The good for this week was I got in two of me three key workouts, my final speed development run and a four-mile tempo run. I also began my strength program, which is my big advancement for this training cycle, progressing from body weight strength training to lifting weights. I was sore as hell after two sessions and the going was slow as I experiment with new exercises. Still, attempting something new to try to push the envelope in training is exciting. I find I am excited on days where I’m scheduled to head to the gym.
The interruption came over the weekend as Winter Storm Harper hit. The snow drifts were up to my knees in some areas. Shoveling out took several hours. I skipped my long run that day.
Weekly total: 29 miles, Yearly total: 101 miles
Jan 21 – Jan 27
A fun week as interval training began. As the intervals begin to get longer I will come to like them less and less. I am not a speedy runner at short distances. I hated the mile in high school because it was not so much a paced distance run as it was a four-lap sprint. With age and experience my opinion of the distance has not changed. But intervals that go really short distances, anything 800m or less, I thoroughly enjoy. This week’s interval workout called for 12 x 400m and I was delighted to see that I hit my planned speed with ease. This will not be the case as the miles pile on later, but that is concern for a later date. My mileage was slightly down this week. After experiencing a bout of stomach flu on Friday night, which kept me from sleeping, I opted to sleep in on Saturday and rest rather than stress my body and possibly prolong the sickness.
Weekly total: 35 miles, Yearly total: 136 miles
Jan 28 – Feb 3
An attack of a polar vortex meant that I spent the week rearranging my schedule to make sure I could run my hard workouts outside. Strong winds during my interval workout meant that I ended up changing my route to avoid running as many intervals as I could directly into the wind. I spent much of the middle part of the week chained to the treadmill, watching Netflix and trying hard not to look at the miles elapsed counter, which I swear rolls backward when I’m not looking. The weekend finally warmed up and I ran my first real tempo run of the cycle and found that I surpassed my planned pace by an average of 10 seconds per mile, and ran one middle mile a full 25 seconds faster than planned. I was happy with the result but 1) I keep reminding myself that as the mileage piles on this isn’t going to be so easy and 2) hitting a planned split is important to develop pace and effort awareness and to prevent injury. Too many miles at too fast a pace can be a recipe for disaster.
Weekly mileage: 42 miles, Yearly mileage: 178 miles
Feb 4 – Feb 10
This week was full of good news on the road and came with a warning in the gym. I continued to run well during my faster runs, hitting my planned interval paces and running ahead, once again, of my planned tempo pace. I continued to be encouraged by my runs and where I can see them possibly going if I can keep these performances up. On the other hand, my strength workouts brought a warning as I pushed a little too hard and ended up with a slight core strain. As I have begun to strength train, I have remained cognizant of the fact that I am new to consistently lifting weights. I have paid attention to form and made sure that I focus on quality over compromised form to lift heavier. That said, I have tried to experiment and get my body as close to pushing against the line of what I am capable of doing, hoping to elicit the most gains possible. I pushed over that line this week, losing proper form which led to the core strain. It served as a reminder: on the road I am hitting paces that a few years ago I could not have dreamed of, but it did take years to build the ability to hit those paces. The same is going to be true in the weight room. I have no doubt I can push my body to lift more and get quite strong in the coming years, but in the meantime I will be wise to play it a little safer and sacrifice some weight for better and safe form. I am still going to be pushing my body regardless. There is no point going too hard and risking injury.
Weekly mileage: 45 miles, Yearly mileage: 223 miles
Feb 11 – Feb 17
Four or five weeks into marathon training two things happen: I start to experience left sided calf and medial knee discomfort and I hit a wall. My entire body aches, joints feel creaky, and a deep feeling of fatigue settles into my bones. This was how my week started. It was so bad I began to worry that I was pushing too hard, that the Hansons advanced plan was in fact too advanced for me. I found myself opening my Hansons book, examining the beginner plan I know I can handle and figuring out where I could pick it up and how significantly my mileage would drop. My interval and tempo runs felt like I was moving through quicksand. Paces that felt easy just a week ago I now had to reach for. I gained some confidence looking back at last year’s training log where I discovered similar feelings at exactly the same point in training. This, it seems, is just how my body reacts to the early grind. I made sure to continue with my runs and gym sessions. Since my core injury I added in some basic work to strengthen my core and adductor muscles. By my Friday easy run, I began to feel freer. The achy feeling went away and running did not quite feel like a chore. I finished the week with a 12-mile hill run that I crushed. I have scheduled several of these hills runs into my marathon cycles over the last year and they usually serve as confidence boosters, with the second half of the run forcing me to run uphill on tired legs. The week served as an important reminder and lesson about the truth of marathon training. It really does challenge your body in ways that take it right to the line of what is possible. That leads to fatigue and doubt about your ability to keep training, to push through the hard work. Keep moving forward. Walls are meant to be pushed through.
Weekly mileage: 47 miles, Yearly mileage: 270 miles
Feb 18 – Feb 24
A week that felt back on track after the fatigue from early last week. My intervals have finally gotten longer and to the point where it is a challenge to hold a 5k pace for them the entire time. I had to dig deep to hit my pace for the entire 1200m my interval workout called for. My tempo run got back to feeling free and easy. I really do feel like I have a whole new gear I can call on this year. One of my training goals is to log significant time running at a tempo pace that is between 6:45-6:50. To break 3 hours in a marathon requires running at or under 6:52 per mile. If I can keep running at a pace faster than that planned time, I can spend significant time in May running at a 6:52-7:00/mile pace and have it feel easier than what I did in training before I ramp up the intensity during that last 6-10 miles. So far that plan is going well and when I hit those faster paces, it does not feel that I require any extraordinary effort to get to them. The only hiccup in my training came on Sunday. Incredibly high winds (the local airport measured gusts at 67 mph) kept me inside. I planned on running on the treadmill but power outages derailed that plan. Still, I got in all my hard workouts.
Weekly mileage: 41 miles, Yearly mileage: 311 miles