Thursday, April 28, 2011

This Is How It's Done

Here are some of my thoughts and opinions about running training and race day strategy.  I recognize that these are not original ideas.  With all the information out there, we all pick and choose what we think works best for us.  This is what I've adapted to over the last six years.

My first endurance event was the Salt Lake City Marathon in 2005.  My time was 3:17, missing qualifying for Boston by 2 minutes.  After getting advice from many friends who were experienced runners and training hard, I feel like I had alot of room for improvement.  My next race was 6 months later in St. George.  I finished in 2:58.

I feel like my two best individual performances were at St. George in 2009 (2:37) and last week at the Boston Marathon (2:48).  Boston was my 18th marathon.  These are the factors that, for me, made for great experiences at these races:


This is the most important element.  No matter how great a race strategy you can come up with, it has to be based on the reality of how fast you can physically go.  A good training program will help you become faster and have greater endurance.  It will also reveal to you the reality of how fast you should try to go during the race.  It will help you make a realistic goal.

For recent races, I haven't followed anyone's specific training program.  I've made up my own, following a few principles, and then adapting to my schedule (family vacation, work and church meetings, scout campouts, etc..)

Going into training, I'm usually coming off a previous race 1-2 months earlier.  The training time is usually 2-3 months and I typically start with a good base and am running 30-40 miles a week.  So I may have a 6 week build up and a 3 week taper.  Here are the elements of my training:

A.  Long Run
Once per week, 20+ miles.  I'll do six of these over the building phase.  I believe the single most important thing I can do in training is build up to do a 28-30 miles run 3 weeks before the race.  This has to be much slower than race pace with several walk breaks.  For Boston, I did a 29 miler three weeks before the race and averaged 9min/mile (this included walking and stopping breaks, I probably averaged 8-8:30min/mile when running)

B.  Speed Work
The last couple of years I've gotten away from running around the track.  For Boston I did three 10 miles runs (once a week during the last month of training) where every other mile was hard (5:45-6min/mile)and the other miles slower (7:30).  About two weeks before the race, I do a 10K "race" from Recker/Thomas to the top of Las Sendas and back (6:10min/mile).  *This route is an out-and-back route with a gradual uphill in the first half. 

C.  Tempo Runs
The mid week 8-12 miles runs get progressively closer to marathon pace through the training period.  The most important time to really lock in on this is during the first two weeks of the taper (from three weeks to one week before the race).  For Boston, every run during those two weeks was at 6:30-7min/mile pace.  Most people will be able to go faster during the race than they can seem to go during this taper period.  For example, in a training run two weeks before the race, I struggled to average 6:50 pace for a 10 miles run (not fully tapered) but then averaged 6:24 for the actual race.  In summary, don't get discouraged.  You can probably go 20-30 sec/mile faster in the race compared to these tempo runs.

D.  Total Weekly Mileage
For most of training I'll run Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat.  4 days/week.  The first 4 of six week build phase I'll do 8-12 miles Mon, Tues, Thurs and 20-24 on Sat.  During weeks 5 and 6 (peak) the schedule looks more like: Mon (10), Tues (15), Thurs (15), Sat (26-30) for a total weekly mileage of 65-70 miles.

E.  Train For The Terrain Of The Race
If it's going to be hilly, at least one run/week needs to be on hills.  For St. George, we spent alot of time in Las Sendas doing repeats up and down.  We'd drop water at the top and bottom during the summer.  For Boston training in cooler weather, long runs would start from our neighborhood up canal to Granite Reef Dam, up King Kong, through Hawes trails (great hills on trails), come out at top of Las Sendas, back to home.

F.  Rest Before The Race
If race is on Saturday, I'll run 5 miles on Monday (mile 1,3, and 5 at race pace), 3 miles on Tuesday (easy) and then rest my legs for three days (wed, thurs, fri).  I'll swim on wed and maybe thursday to get some exercise and prevent from going crazy.

G.  Weight/Diet
I believe some research I saw once that says for a marathon, every pound body weight is worth a minute.  Loose 5 pounds, go 5 min faster.  obviously there is a point where this becomes counter productive.  I know for me, my ideal race weight is 172-174.  After Ironman St. George last year I got up to 186.  So for two months before Boston this year I got really disciplined about eating healthy and slowly dropped down to 174 by race day.  

Typical breakfast:  protein shake (with rice milk, bannana, blueberries, large scoop of fage yogurt) a couple of scrambled eggs and a whole wheat bagle.  Lunch is leftovers from whatever we had the night before.  Dinner: Emily is awesome about cooking healthy foods.  I think the main way I really lean up for race day is eliminating restaurant food, sweets, carbonated beverages, late night cereal binges, and try to stop eating when I feel full.  It's also hard to stay disciplined all the way to the race, even when you are on "vacation" sometimes the day or two before the race.

H.  Shoes
Another study showed every ounce in your shoes is worth a minute in a marathon.  I'm a believer.  I've gone from 12-14 ounce shoes that I use to train and race to now using a 5.5 ounce race shoe (Nike Lunaracer) just for races (and during the last couple of weeks of training for tempo runs).

I.  Cross/Core training
I'm not great at this but I try to do a little.  For Boston, I did a 10 min workout 4-5 days/week right after running which included one set each of push ups, curls, military press, triceps press, and sit ups.  I did this for about 3-4 weeks.  I do try to do some basic stretches on my own before I run (hamstring, quad, calf) and in the evening before bed.  In a perfect world with more time, I'd swim 3-4 days/week.

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