I knew that I was going to run a spring marathon. I just wasn’t sure of which one. Now that I’ve decided on, and registered for my race, Whidbey Island Marathon on April 14th, it’s time to get down to training.
Road Marathon #3, here we go. 87 days & counting.
I like a program with some structure, but I also like to play around with how I’m feeling, and do workouts that complement my body’s mood, because I feel like listening to your body is more important than doing a specific workout on a specific day.
I guess you could say that I don’t follow a day-to-day plan, but I do follow some general guidelines. You may disagree, which is totally fine, but this is my blog, and what I feel like are the keys to a successful marathon program!
The keys to (my) success :
- A solid base. For me, I haven’t stopped running for longer than a week, and I’ve maintained a solid base, even while not necessarily training for a specific race. This allows me to “skip” the base building portion of a training program. I wouldn’t recommend 14 weeks as a proper training plan for a beginner, but that’s one of the bonus’ of keeping up your running, you can jump into a shorter program.
- Long runs. Long runs are the staple of basically every training program. I normally do mine on Saturday mornings, and they are the 1 part of my training that I never skip, and have approximate distances written out for the entire time. Long runs are run at approx 30-60 seconds slower than your desired race pace. Last year, I did majority of my LSD (Long Slow Distance) kms at 6:10 – 6:20/km, with my MGP (Marathon Goal Pace) of 5:40/km. This training cycle, the goals are LSD’s at 5:55-6:00/km, with my MGP of 5:20/km. Everyone has their different opinions on how high your mileage should go, and how many times you should run above 30 km in your training. I believe the more longer runs I do, the stronger I am, both mentally and physically. I am going to hit 30kms & above 4 times during my 14 weeks. I am also going to do another super long training run of around 36-38kms, like we did last Easter. This run is still one of my all time fave runs, and really gave me confidence last spring.
- No huge mileage jumps. I start out my training at the same basic mileage per/week as previous weeks, and build up slowly. I find this not as important in my weekly overall mileage, as it is in my LSD mileage. ie. LSD’s over my first 4 weeks look like : 16km, 20km, 24km, 16km. 3 weeks of building, 1 week of recovery, with no builds more than 4 kms at a time. For less experienced runners, I’d recommend building up 2-3 kms at a time.
- 1 Goal Half Marathon. This probably isn’t in most training plans, but the Vancouver First Half is not only a favorite half marathon of mine, but it also fits in really well for spring marathon training. It’s early enough that you don’t “need” to add on extra mileage for that to count as an LSD. I find that doing 1 goal race before the mileage gets higher (high 20′s into the 30′s), is a good way to keep me focused, and get my speed training up in January. Also, it ensures I don’t skip an LSD in January because it’s my Birthday, or it’s too cold out, or I’m just plain lazy after New Years.
- Interval/Speed Work. A huge part of any plan, I really like to mix up my intervals, and do different things all the time. This is really when the listen to my body kicks in, sometimes I feel like doing 1 min sprints on the treadmill (it’s probably pissing outside), and other times I feel like doing 400M repeats on the track. The only really consistent intervals that I’m going to keep track of religiously, is actually brand new to my training! It’s Yasso800′s! Yasso’s terrified me before, but in fact, I LOVE THEM. The goal is to do every 2nd week, and keep improving. The original goal was 10 @ 3:40 by the end of the training cycle (end of March), but I knocked out 8 @ 3:37 last night at my base session, SO, I’ll be re-vamping that goal shortly.
- Hills, hills, hills. I barely did any hill training for marathon #1. I did hill training for marathon #2, and it helped hugely. Marathon #3, is a hilly course, so I’ll be having to do MUCH more hills than #1 & #2 combined. Shiiiiiiit. I like to do hill training 1/week in January & February, alternating between a “hilly tempo run”, and “hill repeats”. My area is super hilly, so it’s really hard to run in the neighbourhood without running some hills, so I usually use my neighbourhood for both of these workouts. This is one area I’m really going to miss Cath in, because running hills is SO much easier with a friend beside you. Anyone wanna fill in for her?? Also, this was the other big difference in training btween #1 & #2 – we incorporated hills into our LSD’s (Cathy made me), and really, I have to admit, although not as beautiful as running the Seawall EVERY Saturday, those LSD’s with hills, were super helpful, and I need to continue that trend.
- Tempo runs. I like to do my tempo’s at lunchtime, when I only have a short amount of time to bust out a quick run, and the area around my work is FLAT FLAT FLAT. I consider tempo runs to be both “faster than MGP” and “at MGP”. I usually go out with an approx distance I’d like to do, and then let my body decide how fast we are going to run. I find for me, this works much better than going out and saying I must do 5 km in 5:00/km pace and not being up to that, that day, but maybe I could have done 8 in 5:15/km pace. So, I don’t force pace times on myself, I let my legs decide how they are feeling, and then mid-run decide on how far exactly I’ll go.
- Rest days. I take 1 day per week as a pure rest day. Usually this day falls the day after my longer LSD’s, or a super tough track workout. I gauge my body and listen to it. If I’m hurting/struggling, I’ll take 2 rest days in a row – no biggie, better to be healthy, than running sore. I find that booking appts, or dates with friends, help make sure that I keep these days as rest days. Hint: it really sucks to work out on the same day as getting a bikini wax!
- Mix it up. I don’t do a ton of cross training, but I have good intentions. I try to do approx 2 hours of “other” every week, this can include – strength training, core work, spinning, yoga, etc. With Cath being injured but us still wanting to hang out, an hour-ish each week with her will be easy to get in some extra cross training. Basically the ONLY plus to her being injured.
- Friends/Running Group/Blog/Strangers. Find someone to talk to, or, even better, multiples to talk to. This is something I’m passionate about, and I succeed more if I’m honest about my goals, held accountable for my workouts, and if I have someone to talk through the highs and lows with. I realize that not all my real life friends enjoy running, or even understand running. I still get questions about that “10K marathon” I ran, or why I need to put aside 3+ hours every Saturday morning. I get it, it’s not everyone’s thing, and that’s OK. But, having someone to talk with, it helps, a lot. Trust me. And I have to say I’m so thankful for my friends that do let me talk their ear off about the “super awesome long run I did that went over 2 bridges & 3 cities…”
- Taper. Easy to forget the dreaded taper, but it is important. The last few weeks before a marathon, it’s time to rest your body for the race. Personally, I lower my mileage, and don’t do any crazy strength training or hill training. I add in more spinning, and keep up with my speed work. I will shorten the speed work, ie do 10 repeats instead of 20, but I will not dial down the speed.
- Massage. Oh yaaaa. I believe having an RMT on speed dial is a very smart idea. I usually get a 60 min massage after every hard race I do, and while in the real guts of marathon training (weeks 6-12), I add in 1 massage bi-weekly, and situated after my hardest sessions ie. after my first over 30km run on a Saturday, I’ll have a Monday am appt with my RMT. I consider this preventative maintenance, and it’s been huge for me.
- Fuel. Fuel your body for your runs. This means something different to each runner. For me, it means eating smart almost all the time during training. Eating smart for me, is PALEO. Especially before hard workouts and long runs. It means meal planning, snack planning, and pre/during/post run planning. My fave night before LSD meal is Salmon and Yams. My go-to morning meal before LSD’s is a smoothie – almond milk, water, and casein protein powder. Figuring out what works for you is important, and took a long time for me to perfect!
Aim for the sky. Set goals. Believe in yourself. Put in the work. Don’t cheat yourself. Push yourself past your limits. Make yourself uncomfortable. Trust in your hard work.
This is what works for me, and the staples of the next 87 days!!