Monday, November 20, 2023

Lessons Learned in Training

Even though I have now run 33 marathons, I learn something new each cycle. Sometimes I learn something I already knew, but yet forgot along the way. And often my training confirms what I already suspected, but wasn't 100% sure about. 

Disclaimer: these lessons are unique to me and might not be applicable to the running population in general.

There's nothing magic about a 20-miler
I only ran one 20-miler this cycle and nothing longer. During winter training it makes sense for me to run multiple 20's and even bump it up to 22. But when I am struggling in the heat, I need to run the shortest possible long run required to check the box.

Finishing my only 20-miler
I ran two 19-milers and one 20 miler. In the grand scheme of things, 19 is just as good as 20. One of those 19-milers was meant to be 22, but I was struggling with dehydration so I stopped early.

High mileage trumps a lot of long runs
You're probably noticing a theme here: I am not a fan of the long run. For this cycle, I kept all my long runs at 2:00 or less until 10 weeks out. (This ended up being 12 weeks because I ran Richmond instead of MCM, but the principle still holds). Instead, my focus was gradually building up the mileage so I would be able to run multiple weeks at 60+ MPW. I see some people running 20-milers when they are 12 weeks out and that might work for them, but I could not sustain that. 

Summer running doesn't have to be the death of me
Because I am so heat sensitive, I usually shy away from doing any kind of speed work in the heat. But now I know how to strike the right balance. I tracked my water intake every day and made sure to get at least 60 ounces daily. After every run, my sports bra and shorts would be dripping wet with sweat so I made sure to rehydrate ASAP. 

All of my workouts were effort based, which meant "marathon pace" was "marathon effort" which equated to 7:45-7:50. I really had to trust that my body was getting the benefit each workout even though my paces were nothing like they were when I was training for Houston. 

I can take two weeks off and not lose fitness
I learned this from my SI Joint debacle prior to Boston 2022. Once I've built up my marathon fitness, taking 1-2 weeks off before the race doesn't cause it go away. What this tells me is that I should be doing more of a taper. I previously believed that I didn't need much of a taper to run well, but now that I know that I won't lose fitness, I am more inclined to go all-in on that taper. Once I returned to running after my time off from my hip, all of my runs felt so much more energized and peppy. I think I needed that extended recovery period.

As I train for Boston 2024, I am going to create a similar plan for myself-- but with more hills. Hills are definitely a weakness of mine so I will likely start my training cycle with 4 weeks of hill work before diving into other types of workouts. Overall, this was a successful training cycle and I am excited to push myself a little bit harder in the next one. But not with more long runs or longer long runs! Likely with slightly more volume. 

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