Saturday, October 24, 2020

Harrisburg Marathon Training Recap

And just like that, my marathon is two weeks away! I still have two long, hard workouts remaining, plus two shorter workouts and that will be it. My coach typically doesn't give me much of a taper which always scares me but it ends up working out. Here is a snap shot of the past few months:

Weekly Mileage by type

I've been very consistent, except for the weeks that I tapered for the half marathon and the 10K. I did not include the current week because it's not finished yet, but if everything goes as planned tomorrow, I should finish off with the exact same mileage as last week: 76.7.

In addition to all of this running, I have also been consistent with my strength training. Once a week I have a session with my strength coach, Angela, over Zoom. And then one other time per week I do a lighter routine on my own. Admittedly, I don't always do the routine on my own; I was better about it over the summer when my mileage was lower. I've also been battling Achilles tendonitis again, but just this week I noticed a big improvement, thanks to my eccentric heel drop exercises. It's great to know that this nagging injury can be improved while running 70+ miles per week. 

Typically I like to throw in one final race; a 10K or a 5K before the marathon. But all of the local races have been canceled so I don't have any options. I've also started looking at races for after the marathon because I like to be signed up for my next race when I run a marathon. But it's slim pickings and it's looking like Greg and I might have to drive an hour to run a Turkey Trot.

My half marathon was too hilly to be a good indicator of what I could do in a flat marathon, so I started to look to other workouts to start to gauge my fitness and pick a goal pace.

Key Workout 1: Tempo
On October 14, I ran the following workout: 2 times (2 miles, 2 x 1 mile) all with 3-minute recovery jogs in between. My coach wanted me to target 6:40 for all the miles. That seemed like a tall order since my 10K PR pace is right around 6:40 and I would be running 8 miles! He wanted to challenge me and instead of dismissing his advice and running by feel, I made every effort to hit the 6:40. My splits were:

2 miles in 6:47, 6:37
2 x 1 mile in 6:34, 6:32
2 miles in 6:43, 6:41
2 x 1 mile in 6:42, 6:39

I definitely had to dig deep at the end and it felt like a race for the last half mile. Those are not easy paces for me to hit, but I did average 6:39 so I was thrilled. My recoveries were slow jogs at a pace of around 10:30.

Key Workout 2: Long Run with Speed
Just three days later, on October 17, I ran a long run prescribed as: 9 miles easy, 3 miles of (1 minute hard, 1 minute easy), 3 miles tempo, 1 mile easy, 3 miles all out, 3 miles easy. 

I had done this workout before but my coach threw me a curve ball. He wanted me to run the easy miles at a sub 8:00 pace. He suggested 7:30-8:00. That's not easy for me; I would consider it medium. In the past when I have nailed this workout, I ran the first 9 miles at an average pace of 8:20. A truly easy pace. Here's how it played out. 

9 miles at 7:58 average (started out at 8:30 and then was around 7:50 for most miles)

3 miles of 1 min hard, 1 min easy: my "hard" paces ranged from 6:40-7:17

When I have done this workout in the past, I have been able to run the "hard" portions in the 6:30's to 6:50s, and pretty much steered clear of the 7's. That did not happen on this run. It was difficult to get my legs moving that quickly.

That did not bode well for the next 3 miles which my coach prescribed at 6:45. My legs were already beat down from the first 12 miles, so I ended up running each of the 3 tempo miles at 7:11 as opposed to 6:45. The good news is that 7:11 is around my marathon pace and I was able to hit it.

Then came the easy mile in 8:26, followed by the 3 "all out" miles in 7:34, 7:23, 7:21. I have to admit these paces were a disappointment. I felt energized but I simply couldn't run faster. And then I finished it off with 2.7 easy miles, because that's when I wanted to stop, just shy of the prescribed 3.

This working ended up yielding 21.7 miles at an average pace of 7:50 with about 3 total minutes of stopping to drink water from the bottle that I had stashed near my car tire. It's an impressive distance at that pace, but I wished I could have hit the paces I had hit in the past. But then I remembered that exhausting my legs early on from non-easy miles was the culprit. Just like how in my half marathon I wasted my legs on the early hills and they never could get up to full speed after that. I was annoyed that my coach made me start so fast, but I understand why he did. If I want to break through to a new level I have to get outside of my comfort zone and try something that I might not succeed at.

Key Workout 3: Marathon Pace Run
I was really looking forward to nailing this run to get the confidence I needed for the marathon and hone in on that marathon pace. The date was October 21, just a few days ago. My coach prescribed a pace of 7:15, but realistically if I want to run sub 3:10, I think I'll probably need a pace of 7:12 because I won't hit the tangents perfectly. In other words, I'll likely end up running slightly more than 26.2 miles, so I'll need to be a little quicker to reach my goal.

I was unpleasantly surprised to see that it was 63 degrees with 100% humidity when I woke up. The forecast from the night before had said 57, which is a big difference. I figured that at 57 and high humidity, that would just barely allow me to maybe hit my goal pace. But now that we were 6 degrees warmer, I felt like I would need to adjust to 7:30-7:35. 

adidas Adios Pro
I wore a brand new pair of the just-released adidas Adios Pro. This is the Adidas competitor to the Nike Vaporfly Next%. As I have said in previous blog posts, I never ran a race in the Nike Vaporflys that made me think "oh wow, that's a fast shoe." My times and paces were always in line with what I trained for. When I ran the One City Half Marathon in March in non-Vaporflys, my time was within one minute of the PR I had set 4 months prior. And of course, I got injured from running CIM in the Vaporflys. So enter the adidas Adios Pro. A shoe that fit me much better and that felt faster than the Vaprofly.

This would be my only run in the adidas before race day. As I said, it was 63 degrees and muggy. My target was 7:30-7:35. The prescribed workout was 90 minutes at marathon pace plus warm up and cool down. 

This was one of those workouts where I could not believe what was happening. The paces on my Garmin did not line up with what I felt like I was doing in a good way. I never tried to speed up during this run but each mile was faster than the one before it! Here are my mile splits:

7:37 - Okay, that's a good starting pace
7:33 - Great! You're at your goal pace, just stay there
7:28 - A little faster than I want, but just hold it here and don't go faster
7:23 - How is this possible? Must be a downhill mile.
7:20 - This actually feels sustainable. I'll be able to hold onto this pace.
7:17 - All right, this is as fast as I am going to go. I don't want to bonk in this humidity.
7:13 - How the heck?
7:08 - This actually doesn't feel that hard!
7:03 - What am I doing? I'm now WAY faster than goal pace.
7:01 - Welp, that was it, the next two miles will probably be the bonk.
6:56 - No. Friggin. Way.
6:51 - What just happened?
(Last 0.4 mile) - 6:57 pace - I guess I'm almost done!

This averaged out to a pace of 7:13 over 12.45 miles, no stopping. Including warm up (2.65 miles) and cool down (1 mile) I ran a total of 16.1 miles. All before work on a muggy Wednesday. I kept thinking that it must be the shoes. They were amazing. But somehow I managed to stay strong in conditions that would normally be very challenging for me.

Looking Ahead
I still have a 22-miler ahead of me tomorrow, but thankfully without any speed. I will try to speed up at the end, but my coach hasn't prescribed anything specific so it will be based on feel. I do think that if I'm having a good day I can run a 7:12 marathon pace. But I am going to start out in the 7:20s and just let my body speed up as it naturally does.

Between now and November 8 my goals are:

  • Do not get COVID.
  • Do not get any kind of sickness.
  • Do not get injured.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Continue the Achilles exercises.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
If I can do all those things, I will be good to go because physically I am well trained for this race.


  1. Oooh it sounds like everything is going really well. Good luck!

  2. A) the mileage and intensity in your workouts always wows me! B) I really admire your mindset in reflecting on the second workout in this post- about needing to be pushed outside your comfort zone to continue improving. I’ll have to keep that in mind next time I see an adjustment to a workout I’ve been familiar with- previously my first thought has been “yikes! Why is it harder now!?”

  3. I like all the details in this post! It's fun to read about specific training paces and see what your workouts are like. Yes, not getting Covid before your marathon is an excellent goal! Wishing you good luck for your upcoming taper, and can't wait to hear about the race!

  4. Very impressive Zebra, that's some really intense training regimen. That marathon pace run where you progressively far faster 2nd half and late stage really is a good sign says your ready. Seems like a good plan to start your marathon on the slower side and "by feel" segue into the faster goal race pace. Good luck come marathon - run like a Zebra!

  5. You had some very challenging workouts this cycle (seriously - I could never complete them!). And you crushed them! Also nice to see you found a carbon-plate shoe you like. A lot of the Powermilers like Adidas (I can't wear them, they do weird stuff to my arch) but no one has tried these yet. Can't wait to see how you race in them!

  6. haha loved seeing each mile be faster than the previous mile. for you on a humid day too, quite a good workout you had there!!! Whenever I burn out my three pairs of Vaporfly's (I have the original which has 67 miles on them, The Flynit I'm not sure how many miles I have on them, and the Next% which I haven't yet worn) I may have to check out other carbon plate shoes. I haven't been following it all lately bc I'd probably lean towards the Saucony version of such!!