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!