Thursday, November 14, 2013

Marathon Training Reboot

I have started training for my first marathon...for the fourth time. I have, again, started early. I am hoping that this time I can stay healthy and actually participate in the race. I booked a hotel during the summer, but waited until just recently to actually register for the race. I was putting off paying for the race until I had a better idea of how my training would go. "The race" is the Little Rock marathon on March 2, 2014.

I chose Little Rock for several reasons, mainly the timing and thus the expected temperature/s for training and on race day.  I would much prefer to do my long runs in the cool or cold weather, as opposed to the heat of the summer.  Also, there is usually a significant group of Heartland Road Runners who go every year and report having a great time.  This year will be no exception as I have heard.  I am generally not motivated by "bling," but Little Rock has, by far, the largest finisher medal--it is as big as your head!  So...maybe the "bling" will be pretty cool to show off.  I must admit, I like the idea of a super hero theme too.

I am training differently this time. In the past I have used programs written by other coaches that I have found online or in books I have read, making appropriate modifications.  They were good programs and I have been pleased with my progress and success with them.  But now, it is time to individualize my training program and start applying all the knowledge I have gained.  So, I am starting from scratch.  As with many of my endeavors, experimentation is involved, but that is how we learn, right?  So!  The program:

My focus right now is on the long run.  So far, I have completed several runs around the two-hour mark and will gradually increase my time.  I chose to define my runs by length of time running in this program instead of by mileage.  This is new for me.  The idea is to emphasize the systems I will be training and the metabolic improvements I am striving for--burning fat more efficiently, creating more mitochondria, capillarization, etc.  That is, focus on me, my body, as opposed to the road, the distance, etc.  I will still monitor mileage too, of course, it just is not the emphasis.

In the past, I have focused on average pace on my long runs.  This time, I am completing most of my long runs at an easy pace, going by feel.  Again, this for the reasons listed above.  However, I am finishing my long runs at my goal marathon pace.  So far, I have been running thirty to forty-five minutes at that pace; I intend to increase that time as I progress through the program.  The goal of this part of the workout is to teach my body how to run at that goal pace when I am fatigued.  I want to train my fuel systems appropriately and also develop muscle memory for this speed.

Another new training concept I am applying is to increase my overall mileage, running "junk miles."  In the past, I focused on quality runs not quantity.  Now, running performance improves with total mileage, but injury risk also increases.  The injury risk was part of the reason I kept my mileage relatively low.  However, that did not serve me as well as I had hoped, hence starting marathon training for the fourth time without ever completing a marathon.  So, this time around, I hope to achieve the overall performance improvement and just make myself a more durable runner.

An added benefit I hope to achieve with increasing my mileage is to return to an effective racing weight.  While I am currently at a healthy weight--finally! after struggling for nearly a year after my foot injury--I am not at a good weight with respect to performance.  Looking at my body weight at times when I have performed best, I was five to ten pounds lighter.  I am in the process of evaluating and reformulating my overall nutrition and incorporating cross training, mostly cycling, as additional means to achieve this goal.

Finally, I am doing regular strength training.  I am doing two different types of workouts with two separate goals.  First, for injury prevention and general performance improvements, I do some running-specific strengthening.  This focuses primarily on the hips and core, but includes a lot of leg movements.  Second, to improve overall strength and muscular fitness and to improve recovery times, I am doing some total body strengthening and conditioning.  These workouts incorporate a lot of total body movements and short rest periods.  Of course, the strength training should help to improve my body composition over time too.

That is it!  As I said, I am always experimenting and I make frequent modifications, but this is my plan for now.  Wish me luck!