Saturday, July 9, 2011

Let The Training Begin!

My training for the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon on Oct. 2 has officially started. I've been asked many times, why Milwaukee? I don't have any friends or family there, but it worked out for me schedule-wise and hopefully being so far north the weather will be cool. Read all the details here: Why Milwaukee?

There are quite a few changes I am making for this training cycle as opposed to my previous ones. Here are the highlights:

Capital Area Runners
Earlier this year, I met a group of women who train with Capital Area Runners (CAR). My friend Cristina joined them after getting injured last fall and spoke very highly of the coach, George Buckheit, and the group. A bunch of the CAR runners were part of a pool running meetup group that I belonged to, so I met quite a few of them that way.

I had known of the group since 2009, when I  was looking for a coach. I didn't join back then because they meet in Arlington for their runs and with a job in Chantilly, I couldn't make it fit into my schedule. Also, their red racing attire is hard to miss at races-- a group of really fast runners often leading the pack. George had been sending me the newsletter since 2009, and in early June, the newsletter indicated that you could get a "basic" membership which covered the production of the newsletter and the weekend long runs. I decided to go ahead an join officially, since I was friends with so many of the runners already and had heard such great things about George.

Hill workout at Iwo Jima with fellow CAR members
A few weeks ago, I took a random Tuesday off work and decided to drive down to Iwo Jima for the hill workout at 6:15am, just to try it out. And I loved it! I loved the team atmosphere and how we all worked together to power up that hill over and over again. Afterwards, I realized that it was worth it to me to go for the "marathon plan" membership, which would allow me regular access to the weekday workouts. It will make me about an hour late for work (as long as traffic isn't horrible), but my job is pretty flexible. I don't plan to go to all of them, just once every two weeks or so. And on the other days, I can do the same workouts that the group is doing on my local track. I think being part of a team and running with a group of strong runners will motivate me to push myself. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to tackle these hills on my own.

Of course I'm definitely still committed to my role as a Pacers Ambassador and will wear my Pacers gear for most races. Being a Pacers Ambassador is my way of giving back to the running community, while CAR is helping me become faster and stronger.

Fewer Weeks, Fewer Miles, More Cross Training
My best marathon ever, back in March of 2008 was run on just 7 weeks of training. I think that the longer cycles, especially in the summer wear me out too much so I cut back to a 13-week program for Milwaukee. As for weekly mileage, it used to be standard for me to peak at around 60, and average in the upper 40's or lower 50's. But this time, I'm going to peak at around 55 and average in the mid 40's. Instead of running 6 days a week I will run 5.

I plan to supplement this with a pool running-swimming combo twice a week. I typically do pool running for 20-40 minutes, and then follow it up with a swim of 20-40 minutes. The total time in the pool is typically 60-80 minutes. I'd like to give myself one full rest day, so one of my pool days will be on the same day as one of my run days. So that's 4 days of running, 1 day of running + pool, 1 day of pool only, and 1 rest day.

I finished this week with 37 miles, and in previous training cycles I'd be up to 45 by this point. But I feel much stronger and I think I'm getting more of a benefit.

Core Strengthening
Coach George emphasized the importance of core work. Of course I've always known this, but since I'm really trying to improve my whole approach, I decided it was time to take core work seriously. My mother, who is 60, can hold the plank for well over a minute. For me, it was a challenge to make it to just 30 seconds. So I have been doing planks and other core exercises 6 days a week for the past two weeks, and I plan to continue to do so. I'm already up to 3 sets of 40 seconds on the plank! I have a BOSU ball which has literally been collecting dust, which I do a few things with as well.

Long Runs as Progression Runs
I used to do all my long runs in heart rate zone 2 (easy), with the exception of two of them, when I would throw some marathon pace miles in. Sort of like the Pfitzinger approach. But George really advocates breaking all the long runs up into thirds. The first third very easy, the second third, moderately easy, and the last third marathon pace to tempo pace. This isn't as challenging as it sounds if you start out slow enough. I'm actually logging sub-8:00 miles in my long runs which has never happened before. Today's long run ended with 5 miles that were: 8:29, 8:19, 8:11, 7:55, 7:57. And this was in 77 degrees and very humid weather. I did a 14-miler last week when it was much less humid and the last 5 miles were 8:30, 7:57, 7:55, 7:54, 7:42. These runs have been extremely confidence-boosting, which is part of the purpose for running them that way. I'm feeling a little bit nervous that my marathon is on Oct. 2 and my longest run has only been 14 miles, but I've done two of them and both were hard efforts.

No more racing for me until Labor Day weekend, when I may tackle the RnR VA Beach half marathon, depending on the weather. George asked me today what my goal for the marathon was, and I don't think I'll really be able to determine that until closer to the race. Right now I think that a 3:35 is realistic, and so does George, but I might adjust that faster or slower based on how training goes. And I didn't pick 3:35 because of Boston-- that's just the time that my training paces, heart rates and races suggest. I'm picking a goal based on what I think I can do, not based on the golden BQ standard that shaped my mindset for way too long and broke me down more times than I care to admit.

Anyway, I've been feeling strong and healthy lately and I hope it continues!


  1. Training is hard but i know you will benefit this so go for it. Remember, practice makes perfect.

  2. I'm so glad you're in with the program. I think you're really going to shine!

  3. hooray for CAR! so glad to see you!

  4. ooh, congrats on officially becoming a member of CAR!!

  5. yay! I'm excited! Already can't wait to read the race report! ;)