Friday, October 24, 2008

If it ain't broke. . .

When I first started training to BQ (qualify for the Boston marathon by running a 3:40), I figured a good approach would be to add more mileage to my program. It seemed like the most logical thing to do because almost all running literature says that the more mileage, the better your endurance at the marathon. As many of you know, I spent the summer following a plan that involved a lot more mileage than I was used to.

However, most of these extra miles were run at a slow pace. Speedwork was done once every 7-10 days. In the past, I used to do speedwork twice a week, and I am pretty sure that's how I was able to eventually decrease my marathon time from 4:46 to 3:51. The difference in training mileage between the 3:51 marathon and the 4:46 marathon is not that much. I think that I just got faster and faster the more speedwork I did.

I came to the realization that I need to continue to favor speedwork over mileage if I want to run a 3:40. This contradicts what most experts and most fast marathoners would advise, but every person has unique training needs based on his/her natural strengths and weaknesses. I believe that my natural strength is endurance, and my natural weakness is speed. Most people who run 5Ks and 10Ks at my pace have much slower marathon times. And most people who have similar marathon times to me run much faster 5Ks and 10Ks.

Most people say that the McMillan Running Calculator is only accurate for people who run 70+ miles a week. If you aren't running that much, then the calculator will tell you that you are capable of a much faster marathon than you can actually run. If you plug in your fastest 5K or 10K, or even half marathon, chances are that your marathon equivalent is faster than you can actually run. In my case, my 10K, half marathon, and marathon PRs are all equivalent. (All set within 4 months of each other). 49:23, 1:50:43, and 3:51:49. Actually, I should be able to run a slightly faster half marathon based on my full marathon time!

What this all means for me is that a high mileage program won't necessarily help me run a faster marathon. I definitely want to keep my weekly mileage above 45 for the bulk of my training, so I am not saying that a low mileage program is in the cards. But sacrificing speed work for the sake of increasing mileage doesn't make sense in my case. I am fairly confident that if I could run a 47:00 10K, then I could get my 3:40 BQ.

I found a program that has slightly lower mileage than my previous program, and I have merged the two together and created my own plan. I will be doing speedwork at least once a week, and my long runs will sometimes have "fast finishes" where I finish the run at tempo pace for the last 15 minutes. This new program also incorporate Marathon Pace running, whereas the former program rarely had me running at marathon pace. It was usually slower than Marathon Pace, and occassionally faster. Here is a sample workout that I completed yesterday.

1 mile warmup: 9:50 pace
2 miles at Marathon Pace*: 8:32 average
4 miles Tempo: 8:06 average
2 miles at Marathon Pace: 8:28 average
1 mile cooldown: 9:45 pace.

10 miles total, with 8 miles of speedwork that averaged 8:18.

*I realize that my marathon goal pace is 8:24 to BQ, but since I am not at that fitness level yet, I am making "marathon pace" slightly slower.

I've learned that what works for most people in marathon training won't necessarily work for me. Every runner has unique training needs due to genetics and natural strengths and weaknesses. My new plan will have higher mileage than what I've done in the past, although not as high as I was running over the summer. I also think I can remain injury free by keeping the speedwork at the appropriate paces, stretching and continuing with my core strengthening. Also by rotating two different types of shoes as well as both treadmill and asphalt. Just 12 weeks to go until Rock 'N Roll Arizona!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Race to Beat 2007 Mileage

In 2007, I ran 1,596 miles. I assumed I would easily beat that number in 2008 because there were some injuries in 2007. Little did I know that there would be even more injuries and illness in 2008! In 2007, I was very consistent. My monthly totals were always around 150, and there were only two months that went drastically below that.

I currently am at 1,190 miles for 2008. In order to beat last year's mileage, I need to run 406 miles between now and December 31. Looking at my training schedule, I have approximately:
- 120 miles remaining to run for the rest of October
- 210 for November
- 220 for December

In a perfect world, this is 1,740 miles. However, given the possibility of injury or some other stroke of bad luck interfering, I could be cutting it close. I'll be happy just to beat it by a few miles! Unlike 2007, when I was very consistent, this year, I have been all over the map with my mileage. My highest mileage month has been August with 210 miles, and my lowest was May with 39.5.

When I first started using the "Advanced Marathoning" plan, I kept most of my runs slow-- averaging 9:30. I did this so I could avoid injuries and safely ramp up the mileage. Now that I have such a strong endurance base going into this RNR Arizona training, I am going to increase the speed on most of my runs, although not by too much (I still want to avoid injuries and stay in the most effective heart rate zone). According to the McMillan calculator, my PRs for the shorter distances match up almost perfectly to the longer distances. So, I think I have this endurance thing nailed, and will strive to get my speed up.

I am finally feeling 100% recovered from being sick, and it's been so extremely nice running in this gorgeous fall weather.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Moving Ahead

I am registered for the Rock 'N Roll Marathon in Arizona in January. I've had my sights on this race for awhile because it's supposed to be a relatively flat course with good weather, and part of the Rock 'N Roll series. I also have a lot of friends and co-workers who live in Phoenix. Even though I was completely traumatized by the Rock 'N Roll VA Beach half marathon (organized by the same company), I still think that the Elite Racing series is fun and well-organized. I registered for this race about a month ago, and it was supposed to be my "back-up plan" if I didn't qualify for Boston at Hartford, or my "fun run" if I did.

Since I am not running Hartford, RNR Arizona will be my first BQ attempt. I will resume training this week, and try to regain the fitness I lost during the time I was sick. I feel completely recovered, aside from some lingering chest tightness, which the doctor said could last up to 12 weeks. I'll use the same program, but switch it up a bit to fit in some races. I haven't set a PR since March (unless you count the 20K), so I am really itching to race some shorter distances this fall. I wasn't able to do this in the Spring because of my knee injury. And over the summer, all of the races were extremely hot, resulting in slow times. I've been working my butt off all summer. Now it's time for some PRs!!!!!

Shoes, Shoes, More Shoes!
I purchased my first pair of Mizunos-- the Elixirs. I had been using the Brooks Axiom for lightweight trainers and racing shorter distances, but they aren't as light as the Mizuno's and they are a bit too wide for me. The Mizunos fit my feet perfectly and they feel like they have more arch support. I suspect that I won't be able to run more than 6-8 miles in them without getting foot pain, knee issues, etc-- because they aren't as stable as I really need. However, they are extremely light and will hopefully help me in the 5Ks and 10Ks.

Retail Therapy?
Speaking of shopping, I came to the realization today that I don't like it! When I was a teenager and a college student, and even in my early 20's, I loved shopping for clothes. I could spend hours at the mall trying things on. Now, I find that I have very little patience. I hate the crowds, I hate having to try things on, and I am overwhelmed by the vast quantity of stores at the mall. (Everyone knows that Tysons Corner is HUGE). I also tend to get a bit of buyer's guilt when I spend money on myself for things that aren't absolutely necessary. I try to be frugal, but I also want clothing that is flattering and that I will enjoy wearing.

Body Woes
My dilemma is this. Since last fall/winter, my thighs have expanded. I hope it's muscle because of the running, but I don't know for sure. All I know is that my thighs are bigger and most of my pants are now tight and don't look good. Oddly, my waistline has not expanded. All of my pants still fit in the waist but they are just so tight in the legs-- which also makes shopping hard. If I get a size 2, I am swimming in the waist, but the legs fit well. If I get a size 0, the waist fits nicely, but the legs are too tight. I'm happy with the way my body looks, so this frustration has more to do with getting pants to fit than the fact that my legs are bigger. Over the summer, I got away with wearing skirts and dresses almost every day. But I can't do that as much as it gets colder.

Enough rambling for one evening. I'm just so happy and thankful to be well again, that I'm not even "mourning" Hartford anymore. I'm moving ahead.