Sunday, December 1, 2019

CIM: Training Cycle in Review

I'm wrapping up my training cycle for the California International Marathon (CIM) and I feel great. I'm noticing a huge difference between how I feel mentally between this cycle and my Shamrock cycle in the spring, when I DNF'ed.

Last spring, I was feeling really stressed. I was in the process of interviewing for new jobs and exploring multiple opportunities. I also felt like I had over-scheduled myself in general and I was feeling really overwhelmed trying to fit everything in.

This cycle, I am perhaps the calmest I have ever been. I don't have anxiety about my race, my
schedule, my job, or anything else in my life. And that has made all the difference. For the past several years I have realized how much stress and anxiety were holding me back, but now that my job is less political, I feel particularly chill.

Ironically, I have more responsibility and more work travel than ever before. I'm the Chief Marketing Officer of a tech company, which means I'm not only responsible for marketing, but helping to steer the direction of the business. In November, I traveled to Indianapolis and Providence for work, participating in all-day meetings, gave a presentation to a room full of people, but never once felt overwhelmed. Why? It's because I don't have to deal with politics at work. I don't think that anyone is out to get me, I'm not being micro-managed, and my colleagues aren't creating stressful situations for me. Most of the stress over the past 5+ years of my life has been work stress relating to people, not the work itself. I'm fortunate to I have a job where I'm empowered, trusted, and invested in the future of the company.

The commute is shorter with less traffic (25 minutes in the morning, 35 minutes in the evening) and I work from home about once a week. I don't think I realized how much my previous commute and the work environment was taking a toll on my overall stress levels. I have especially noticed this in my ability to recover from workouts and races. After the Columbus half, I ran a 73-mile week. After the Indianapolis half, I ran a 77-mile week. Both races were PRs and I felt good for the weeks following them.

I'm starting my training recap blog with this because I think the lack of stress has been the single most important factor in my fitness gains:

  • I am sleeping better
  • I am recovering better/faster
  • I haven't gotten sick
  • I have more time (with the shorter commute)
Do not underestimate how much stress can take out of you, and how much a reduced amount of stress can help with your running!

Now, onto the training recap. Below you will see a weekly graph of my training, which tells the story at a high level.

Since recovering from my bike accident on August 5, I have run every day, which makes this a 119-day run streak so far, with a total of 1,033 miles. I have four weeks above 70 miles, with the lower mileage weeks including mini-tapers for half marathons.

I didn't really notice any fitness gains until around mid-October, once the weather started to cool down. But then I had a few breakthrough workouts and races that told me I was really fit. I've chosen 5 key workouts to highlight that give me confidence for CIM. It should be noted that I was REALLY lucky with the weather this cycle. Almost all of these workouts had amazing weather: all below 50 degrees with little wind or rain.

October 24: Tempo/Hills
This workout was a 4-mile tempo, 4 x 30 second hill sprints, 3 mile tempo:
  • Warm up for 2.8 miles
  • 4 miles: 6:54, 6:50, 6:46, 6:46
  • 3-minute recovery jog (10:28 pace)
  • Hill sprints in 7:03, 7:15, 7:28, 7:16
  • 3-minute recovery jog (10:14 pace)
  • 3 miles in 6:44, 6:41, 6:39
  • Cool down for 1.5 miles
My goal had been to start the tempo miles at 6:55 and progress down to 6:40 by the end, and I did that! 

November 2: Fast Finish 20-miler
I did this run on the W&OD trail to ensure I incorporated hills. I ran the first 14 miles at an average pace of 8:09, and then finished off with 6 miles at marathon pace: 7:15, 7:12, 7:09, 7:04, 7:10, 7:09. The marathon pace miles averaged 7:10, which was awesome because my goal was 7:15.

This run was the first indication I had that a sub-3:10 could be possible. Prior to this run, I was thinking getting 3:10:xx would be the absolute fastest I could shoot for, but this run got me thinking I shouldn't limit myself, as a 7:10 marathon pace would land me a time of 3:08.

November 13: 10K wave tempo
This workout was 10 kilometers on the track, with each kilometer alternating 10K pace (6:34/mile, 4:04/km) and then 20 seconds slower (7:05/mile, 4:24/km). The track was the perfect place for this because a kilometer is 2 and a half laps! I had done this workout as an 8K in the past and really liked it, but this was my first crack at doing it as a 10K. 

Splits were: 4:08/4:31, 4:04/4:26, 4:05/4:25, 4:04/4:27, 4:04/4:20

The result was a 10K in 42:37, which is faster than the 10K race I ran in early October! Amazing how much faster I am when it's cold (22 degrees) and there are no hills. The ability to crank out my 4th fastest 10K ever in a training run and not even feel like I worked that hard was huge! Also, this was the Wednesday after Indianapolis, so it hadn't even been a full week since that half marathon.

November 16: 22 miles, mixed pace
Three days after the track 10K, I ran a 22-miler. I did have some wind to contend with on this run, but it didn't slow me down too much! This was one continuous run broken down as follows:
  • 9 miles easy, average 8:21 pace
  • 3 miles of 1:00 hard, 1:00 easy, around 6:45/9:15
  • 3 miles tempo: 7:14, 7:03, 7:00
  • 1 mile easy at 8:54
  • 3 miles hard in 7:08, 7:03, 6:56
  • 3 miles easy at 8:20, 8:20, 8:15
I felt strong and energized, and the hardest part was the three "easy" miles at the end because my legs were toast. Overall, I averaged a pace of 7:55 for 22 miles, which was my fastest 22-miler ever! I had done this workout in the past, but I had never run it so fast.

November 21: 90 minutes at marathon pace
This run was prescribed at 90 minutes marathon pace, plus warm up and cool down. Here's how it went, keeping in mind the perfect weather!
  • 2.8 miles warm up
  • 12.5 miles at 7:12 avg.
  • 1.5 miles cool down
Splits for the marathon pace miles were 7:30, 7:14, 7:18, 7:16, 7:13, 7:13, 7:12, 7:10, 7:10, 7:09, 7:04, 7:00, 6:51 (for 0.5 mile). This workout again made me feel that sub-3:10 is possible if I have a
good day! During this run I tested the Nike Vaporfly Next% in a half size larger than I wore in my half marathons. Thankfully, I had no issue with my big toe getting bruised, so I will wear them for the marathon.

Final Thoughts
Keeping these workouts in mind, the fact that they were all within a month of each other, and that I had 3 races thrown in (all PRs) makes me super confident. So much depends on the weather, and the current forecast, which will likely change, is 41 at the start, 49 at the finish, no wind, 100% humidity. I have heard Sacramento is foggy/humid in the mornings. I don't think that will be a factor, but it's something to keep in mind. My ideal weather would not get above 45 degrees, but I'd give this forecast an 8/10.

I'm signing books at a breakfast put on by Destination CIM on Saturday morning from 7-9am. It's a $20 breakfast and you can get tickets here. Thanks to Destination CIM, Greg and I have a hotel just a few blocks from the finish line, plus a VIP tent at the start line.

Now it's time to avoid all germs and stay chill!


  1. Great work! I love the strength endurance workout of hills and tempo combo.

  2. Definitely a strong training cycle for you - your workouts show it (and don't you love it when you can compare to previous years or cycles and the same workout is much faster!?). I agree that outside stress is a bigger factor than we sometimes realize. Last year my last day of work at my old job was Thursday, traveled on Friday, Rocket City Marathon was Saturday, first day of new job was Monday. And I had a TERRIBLE race. I credit my gradual improvement over the spring mostly to correcting really bad anemia, but you remind me to also consider the lower-stress job I have now! All those outside factors really do affect physical performance and recovery, you're right!

  3. The recap of training this cycle is impressive and looms well for you both physically and mentally. It's shaping up you will run that 3:10...maybe break beyond it. Keep that confident psyche you got and nurture it all the way to and thru race day! Ride Zebra!