It’s been a long training cycle; they almost all are. As some of you may know based on my Instagram novels, I do the 18 week training cycle approach. My feeling is, the real training doesn’t start until at least 4 weeks in anyways, and sometimes longer, so it’s not a true all-out 18 weeks of killer workouts. Our bodies need time to adjust to the new demands we are putting on it. The rule of thumb regarding mileage and intensity is one or the other and not both at the same time. At the start of the cycle I start to pick up my mileage and gradually introduce the workouts.
This has been a great training cycle to learn from. Things were different for me this time. I have a young baby at home and the days of running on a whim are long gone. Everything is planned because as my son gets older, the more of a routine he is in which means I have to get creative at times. Those with kids already know this. Running is hard enough as it is; throw in the dynamic of having a far less flexible schedule and now you start to wonder how you can really train properly for a marathon. But it can be done. And I am proof of that. Well, I hope to be.
So what were my limitations this cycle?
Running after work proved to be a very difficult task to do with consistency. Unless I waited until the family went to bed. While that worked when I needed to resort to it, I hated missing out on sleep. Especially if your child isn’t sleeping through the night yet. So my best option DURING the week was running on my lunch hour. Thank god I have that luxury. The only downside? No shower. I’ve mastered the art of a shower less clean-up. No matter how good I get at it, nothing replaces a shower though.
Running during lunch was my way of consistently running Monday through Friday without fail (except for maybe one time when I had too many meetings at work and it was impossible to squeeze it in). There was also the possibility of running very early in the morning but I got up pretty early as it was, so waking up even earlier and missing out on sleep wasn’t appealing to this guy. I’m a huge advocate of sleep.
As for the weekend, I lucked out tremendously on Saturdays. My FIL (father in-law) came through HUGE for me. He, too, is an obsessive runner who understands the importance of the long run during a training cycle for the marathon. He is also a tremendous grandfather who wants to spend quality time with his grandson. I could go on about him but with the slight chance of him reading this, I can’t risk his head getting so large that he’ll be stuck in the room he is presently in, unable to traverse doorways due to said enlarged head :). On Saturdays there was an 88% chance for me to get in extended miles. There were a few occasions where he had obligations but he always gave me the heads up (weeks in advance) so I did my best to plan ahead myself and make sure the 20 milers were getting in. Thank you FIL, you’re the best.
Sunday, has always been my rest day. It is the rare day that my wife and I both have off and I just made a habit out of doing that. There were times where an opportunity presented itself and I ran (i.e. beautiful weather, mother-in-law taking wife hostage etc).
One note about those weekday work lunch runs. I am very fortunate to have an hour break for lunch and literally feet away from a bike path. If I was only given a half hour or even if the bike path wasn’t so close, I’m not sure if I could have pulled this off. I am also located 30 seconds away from a gym in a nearby complex which was a lifesaver during bad weather weeks. Basically, most of my bases are covered!
But here’s the thing; all that said – I only really have about 35-40 minutes of time to run during these breaks. Consider clean up, eating at my desk, etc. and extending that run any further is risky. A few others at my workplace take advantage of it too so I’m glad I’m not be the only one. I still try to keep it to myself. I’d rather not co-workers know about my secret life is a ninja runner.
What can I get done in that limited time? I tried a few different strategies. I tried 2 workouts a week. Those days I could get closer to 5 miles in. The other easy aerobic days, which are a must in any training plan, I was around 4-4.5. Let’s do the math, 4.5 x 5 is 22.5. Throw in the long run and hitting 40 miles is a challenge. Now, you should know that this was hard for me to accept at first because I had a streak of 26 consecutive weeks at 50+ miles last year when I had more opportunities to run.
I learned to embrace the challenge of getting miles in. I could do it, I thought! I don’t need no stinkin’ 50 mile+ streak. There were times during the week I had to double up. Or get to work early and sneak in 2 miles before work. Heck, maybe after too. I did what it took, without getting in the way of family life. And guess what? I managed to hit 50+ mile weeks 3 times this training cycle. I treated them as proper peak weeks. It’s possible, folks. But to me, 40+ became the new 50+ (reverse thought process compared to how they do it with age, right?) and I was perfectly content hitting that mark.
The one thing I noticed about doing 2 workouts a week, I felt not as fresh for my long run, which kind of sucked. Especially if I did those workouts on Tuesday and Thursday vs. Monday and Wednesday. If I did the latter, I then had Thursday and Friday to get the legs back in shape for Saturday. But starting your running week with a workout (tempo or speed) isn’t the easiest thing.
I hate the idea of not being ready for my long run. So how do I make this work, I thought?
Well, that’s the point of this blog. I have come up with some decent ideas for the next training cycle which happens to start after the upcoming Buffalo Marathon, in preparation for Wineglass Marathon this fall.
Knowing I have 5 days of limited time and 1 day of a longer stretch, how do I get my speed, tempo and long run in and make it work without killing my aerobic base? Because let’s be honest; long runs are always advised to be slow but I personally like to kick it up at some point and finish strong. Thanks to Sean Johnson who mastered the art of the strong finish on his long runs, I just had to try it. By finishing strong, in this context he was negatively splitting the last few miles at a fast clip. I think I’ll approach it slightly different.
Here’s the plan:
Instead of doing 2 workouts a week in, my goal is to do 1 workout during the week (side note: this also prevents me from getting too sweated up and stinky stinky). Uh oh, what happens to the other one?! My thought is to throw something in on the back end of the long run. Many coaches advise a fast finish so it’s not like I’m innovating something fierce here but still, this idea could really work for me. Think of it like this, I don’t have the time to fit in a longer tempo run during the week so the way to make it work is throw it in the long run! Could I double up a tempo during the week? Sure, but it’s just not the same as one longer continuous tempo run.
Monday through Friday:
- 1 workout (likely speed since I also have access to a track).
- 4 days of aerobic, “easy” running at <77% of my Ventilatory Threshold (in other words, 77% of my max HR). HR means everything to me as a runner so I use it for certain guidelines in training.
- Long run that finishes strong. Could be tempo, could be negative splits, or could be :15 faster than whatever pace I was running. Likely above that 77% would be the goal.
Now some might ask, why not do the 2 workouts a week and long run at a normal pace? Well, I’m a big believer in the 80/20 training method (see Matt Fitzgerald’s book). I believe in lots of easy miles. If I’m running hard on 3 of the 6 days, that ratio is definitely not 80/20. This newer schedule of running gets me much closer to that ratio.
That’s the plan for the Wineglass training cycle. I may adjust if I find the weekdays feel too easy but we’ll see how it goes. This training cycle has taught me a lot and I’ve gotten out of my normally structured and strict routine (kudos to my brother Glen and Sean for this). I even did 3 consecutive Saturday 20 milers. Who does that? But it didn’t hurt me and I love running long. Circumstances might have forced my hand for 2 of those weeks. Either way, I found myself not in the right groove at times because of training mistakes. That said, I survived it all and came out in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Deep down, I know I can find even better balance that works for me. Hopefully, I’ll get it right this time.
Bill Z (@pacpie)