Sunday, October 28, 2018

Training log - Week ending 10/28/18

This week was 64 miles of running, 26 "miles" of pool-running, and 1000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I'm five weeks out from CIM and feeling positive.  I just did two workouts this week - both on the roads (Hains Point) and both run off of feel.  For each workout, I didn't see my splits until after the run.

I was pretty happy with both workouts - the Wednesday workout felt smooth and flowing, and not terribly challenging, and the Saturday MP workout was a nice confidence solidifier (because "confidence boost" is overused).  

We ran Saturday's workout in the remnants of Hurricane Willa.  For those of you keeping track, that means that this is the third "remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane" that I've done a workout in (the other two were Florence and Michael).  Better the remnants than the storm itself.

The winds weren't awful, but were enough that even effort resulted in uneven pacing, depending on the wind direction.  Comically, during the second rep, the route we were running flooded at one point - resulting in a stretch about 50-60 meters long that was ankle deep water.  There's nothing like doing a "high knees" drill in the middle of your marathon pace workout.

Running off of feel, I averaged 6:45 pace for the total 10 miles at marathon pace effort - a workout I would be happy with under any conditions, but even more so here, given the weather.  So that was nice.

One more week of training, including my last 21 miler, and then I taper.


Monday: Yoga and 8 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 8 miles very easy (8:49), upper body weights/core, and then 4 miles very easy (8:38).  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 14 miles, including a workout on the roads of 3x2miles at somewhere between 10K and 10 mile effort - split 12:50 (6:28/6:22), 12:37 (6:18/6:19) and 12:36 (6:17-6:18).  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards recovery swimming.  Sports massage in afternoon.

Thursday: 4 "miles "pool-running, then yoga, followed by another 9 "miles' pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Friday 12 miles very easy (9:01), drills/strides, and then upper body weights/core.    

Saturday: 17 miles, including a workout of 2x5 miles at MP.  Ended up splitting as: 

first 5 miles in 33:32 (6:45/6:40/6:35/6:40/6:51 - average pace of 6:43) (mostly tailwind);
second 5 miles 33:52 (6:45/6:51/6:40/6:50/6:46 - average pace of 6:47) (mostly headwind)

Averaged 6:45 pace for the full 10 miles.  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in afternoon.

Sunday:  9 miles very easy (9:01) with lots of stops and starts as I cheered at the Marine Corps Marathon.  Later did another 5 "miles" pool-running. 
Foam rolling in evening.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Training log - Week ending 10/21/18

This week was 70 miles of running, 19 "miles" of pool-running, and 3000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I guess this was technically my "peak week" of marathon training, because my next two weeks may be lighter due to doing my long runs on Saturday.

It went pretty well.  As I've noted before, I'm prioritizing a high volume of high end aerobic work, which means I'm trying to max out the distance of my quality work, while taking care not to go anaerobic or strain for any of it.  I'm also only doing as much volume as I can handle while still feeling reasonably fresh - some people can do massive volume and then crawl out of a fatigue hole during taper - I can't.

That meant five 1200s on Tuesday at a controlled pace with shorter-than-normal recoveries and a five mile tempo on Friday that felt surprisingly fluid and almost easy.

Sunday's long run was the first 21 miler of this cycle (I'm only doing two 20+ runs before CIM).  It went very well.  Not as "well" as it looks below - 6:36 is not a realistic marathon pace for me.  Unless I'm running a downhill course with a 20 MPH tailwind.   Because that was the set-up for the last 7 miles of this long run.

[Well...more like 5 miles downhill with a hard crosswind and then 2 miles almost-flat with a massive tailwind.  But either way - the run was assisted.]

The downhill running was intentional -  CIM is a net downhill course, and can take a toll on one's quads.  By finishing my 21-milers with a long downhill at marathon pace effort, I intend to prep my legs for CIM.  Of course, this doesn't give me an accurate read on my fitness, but I can get that from my other marathon pace workouts.  And ultimately, I don't do workouts to assess my fitness, but to develop my fitness for race day.

I felt very comfortable during the 21 miler, and my legs were surprisingly unsore the next day.  Both of these are good signs that with two weeks of training to go (before a tune-up half-marathon and then a 3 week taper) I'm rounding into shape nicely.    The key now is to do enough over the next weeks but not to overdo it.


Monday: Yoga and 8.5 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 13 miles, including a track workout of 5x1200 in 4:37, 4:35, 4:32, 4:31, 4:35.  Also injury prevention work and 1250 yards recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: 8 miles very easy to yoga (9:19), yoga, and then 4 miles very easy (9:13) plus drills and strides.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: Upper body weights/core and 10.5 "miles' pool-running; foam rolling at night.

Friday 12 miles, including an 8k tempo in 32:18 (6:38/6:29/6:27/6:25/6:20).    Also injury prevention work and 1250 yards of recovery swimming.

Saturday: 12 miles very easy (8:55) plus drills/strides, followed by upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  21 miles progressive, split as first 7 at 8:39, next 7 at 7:32, last 7 at 6:36.
  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in evening.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Training log - Week ending 10/14/18

This week was 53 miles of running, 35 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

I had a scare at the beginning of the week with a tight calf.  My left calf cramped up fairly badly immediately after the Army 10 Miler on Sunday.  It loosened up a few minutes later and was fine for a cooldown jog later that morning.  However, when I woke on Monday morning (scheduled as a pool-running day), it was tight and sore.

My calf was even worse on Tuesday morning, which I hoped was actually a good sign - an indication that this wasn't an injury but only lingering tenderness from the cramp.  DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) usually peaks 48 hours post-cause, while injuries tend to stay constant and then fade (if you don't re-aggravate them).  Still, I spent Tuesday in the pool to be safe.  An extra day in the pool wouldn't damage my training cycle, and I didn't want to risk a compensatory injury by running with an altered gait due to my tight calf.

I also attacked the calf aggressively with a massage on Tuesday afternoon and combining compression socks and a heating pad (on "low") when I slept to maximize blood flow to the area on Tuesday - Thursday nights (note - you do NOT want to use heat during the initial inflammatory stage of an injury  - wait at least 36-48 hours).

Either all this worked or I got lucky, but either way the calf was much improved Wednesday morning, and by Saturday I had completely forgotten about it (until I started writing this entry).  Woo.

My calf cleared up at the same time fall finally arrived, and we were gifted with fantastic running weather for the weekend - low 50s overcast, light breeze.  Sunday's workout was 2x5 miles at marathon pace effort as part of a 17 mile run.  As I have been all this cycle, I ignored my watch and just held what felt like an honest marathon effort - something that felt like I could realistically sustain it for that distance.  I was thrilled to see that marathon effort pace was 6:45 today.  

I've got the fitness to hit my goal in December if I get the right weather - the important thing now is to stay healthy and not get greedy with the training.  There's a temptation when training is going well to try to do even more - that almost always results in either overtraining, peaking too early, or injury.  Best to stick with what's working.


Monday: 9 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 12 "miles" pool-running and upper body weights/core; massage in the afternoon.

Wednesday: 5 miles very easy to yoga (9:35), yoga, and then 7 miles very easy (8:37).  3 "miles" pool-running mid-day.  Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: Upper body weights/core and 11 "miles' pool-running; massage at night.

Friday 12 miles, including 2x3200 in 12:51 (6:29/6:22) and 12:42 (6:24/6:18).    Also injury prevention work and 1500 yards of recovery swimming.

Saturday: 12 miles very easy (8:51) plus drills/strides, followed by upper body weights/core.  Foam rolling in the afternoon.

Sunday:  17 miles, including a workout of 2x5 miles at MP.  Ended up splitting as: 

first 5 miles in 33:46 (6:50/6:53/6:37/6:43/6:43 - average pace of 6:46);
second 5 miles 33:37 (6:41/6:45/6:41/6:44/6:46 - average pace of 6:44)

Averaged 6:45 pace for the full 10 miles.  Also injury prevention work and 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in evening.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Back to back marathons

Boston to Grandma's was the second time I've tried two marathons in approximately 2 months; Chicago to CIM was the first. 

I learned from that first attempt, and changed up some things for the second try.  And now, for future reference for myself and anyone else that may be interested, here's what I've learned.

But first, it's worth noting that we're all experiments of one, both in running generally, and in multiple marathoning.  Additionally, I recover relatively slowly compared to others.  Thus, my lessons learned apply to me, but may or may not apply to others.  When I write "you" here, it's really directed primarily at myself.  With that disclaimer in place, hopefully this is still of use to others.

When I refer to "back-to-back" marathons I mean two marathons, both raced all out, within approximately 7-10 weeks.   A very specific pattern that differs both from fully raced marathons that are either closer or further apart, and from targeting a second race after dropping out of or jogging in the first.

Two all-out marathons within a short period of time is very simple to structure (though not easy to pull off).  You just rest and hope to recycle your fitness from the first race. On the other end of the spectrum, two marathons with 3 months or more is doable if not ideal.  You have enough time to rest and get a solid training cycle in.   And if you dropped out of the first marathon (assuming you dropped out at mile 20 or before), you don't have to worry about recovery from a full marathon, so it's just a matter of extending your training cycle.

[to that point - I really believe that if a time goal is of the utmost importance to you, be it a Boston qualifier or a Olympic Trials qualifier, it's far better to drop out of your first marathon at some point before mile 20 if it's obvious at that point that you will miss your goal.  Dropping out of a marathon is obviously very tough mentally,  but will set up you up much better for a second try in the next few months.]

Two months between two all-out marathons is tricky.  It's enough time to lose fitness, and not enough time to fully recover.  You have to balance rebuilding fitness for the second race with recovering from the first, and you don't have enough time to do either well, let alone both simultaneously.

So, it's tricky.  Here are my tricks.

Decision time.

There is a right time to decide you want to race a second marathon.  And that time is at least 10 days after finishing the first race.  If you start the first race counting on having a second chance to run your fastest in a few weeks, it will be very hard to commit totally to marathon #1 and leave it all out there.  As for immediately after the marathon... emotions are high, and can interfere with one's judgment.  It also takes a good week or two to assess how you are recovering from the first race.

This time, though I started thinking about doing another marathon a few days after Boston, I didn't commit to Grandma's until 3 weeks post-Boston, after I had completed a workout of 2x4 miles at marathon pace.  Though that workout didn't go great - I was still very tired from Boston, it went well enough to confirm that I was recovering reasonably quickly and that running Grandma's well (for a distinct definition of "well" - more on that below) was possible.

I do think that there's nothing wrong with entering a first marathon with the hopes of running a second marathon later for fun without a time goal - choosing something like Boston or New York or Big Sur, where the second race is about the experience and not for time.  But that's not the scenario I'm discussing here.

Management of expectations before the race is key.

The first time I tried back-to-back marathons, I had hopes that I would be able to improve on my fitness from the first marathon, and run even faster in the second.  CIM proved me wrong.  On a perfect weather day and a very fast course, I finished 2 minutes slower than my Chicago time, despite running a smart, well-paced race.  I didn't have the same fitness I had at Chicago, and I also hadn't recovered from Chicago.

Thus, when I doubled back to Grandma's, I also dialed back my hopes.  I believe I was in 3 hour shape at the end of my Boston cycle (assuming a very fast course and perfect weather - neither of which applied to Boston) and trained accordingly. For Grandmas, I pulled back to train as if I was in 3:05 shape -basically a 5 minute penalty for the second marathon.

More important than the time, though, was having non-time goals.  It's a sports-psychology truism that most of us don't perform that well if we're exclusively focused on a specific end goal, like a time or placing.  Process-oriented is better than goal-oriented, blah blah blah.

That rule applies double when doubling back.  Stated another way: revenge races don't work.  If you are going to tack a second marathon onto your training cycle, you need to have additional reasons to run the second race besides wanting to improve on your first time.   Something so that the race will still have been worth it if you don't run faster the second time around.  Because it's highly unlikely that you'll run faster the second time, and chasing an unrealistic goal will lead to poor training decisions at a point where you have absolutely no margin for error.

Put another way: if your only purpose for doubling back to a second marathon is to beat your time from the first, don't waste your time and your body.  Rest and recover, so you can take your best shot a few months later.

Don't Rush the Recovery.

One of the biggest mistakes that I've seen is that people rush back into training for #2.    It's an awful idea.  Yes, I know that you have another marathon coming up in less than 10 weeks, and it's hard not to panic when you're not running at all in the first week after the first marathon.  But recovering from the first marathon must be your top priority if you want to run marathon two well.  Or heck, run it at all - it seems like the majority of those I know who try to double back never make it to marathon #2, felled by the fatal error of jumping right back into marathon training after the first race.

You are not going to improve your fitness between the two marathons, so don't bother.  Make sure you recover as well and as quickly as you can from the first, with your second priority being maintaining your fitness.

This is another reason to slow down your target marathon pace for the second race when you ease back into training (after recovery).  I did this for Grandma's, slowing my goal pace from 6:50 to 7:00.  Doing this worked well because 1) it was a better match for my current post-Boston fitness (one should always train to current fitness, not what you had 6 weeks ago) and 2) slowing stuff down helped me recover from Boston even as I tried to get ready for Grandma's.

Manage your expectations during the race.

The first time I tried doubling back, I assumed my body would feel the same way during the second race.  I learned differently.    The truth is that it takes longer to truly recover from a marathon than it does to feel like you're recovered.  There are reserves that you don't realize you're lacking until you reach for them - and they're not there.

This is easiest to explain with an analogy.  In the first hours and days after a marathon, most of us are pretty sore and tired.  Then we start feeling better.  And then you go for a run, and realize that you're not recovered yet.

Later, after you've been doing easy runs and everything feels fine, you hop into your first workout back.  And everything feels fine, and then all the sudden it doesn't.  And you realize that you're not recovered yet.

Running a second marathon follows a similar pattern.  Everything feels fine until it starts getting hard, at which point you realize that your energy pantry hasn't been fully restocked.  It's a strange feeling - akin to low tire pressure - that I've only felt twice - when I doubled back to CIM in 2016 and to Grandma's in 2018.   And no, it's not bonking, or cramping, or blowing up due to pacing errors - I've done all of those and know how they feel - this is different.

Conservative and steady pacing is key in the marathon, but even more when doubling back.  Because you really don't have the reserves that you normally do.

Timing between marathons.

Every week between the two races matters.  There are some people who race very well at shorter distances 3-4 weeks after their goal marathon.  If that's you, then this probably doesn't apply to you.  But....for the rest of us, you need to have enough time to recover from the first marathon and also to restore your fitness.

That generally means at least 8-9 weeks between races, with more time being better.  If you have less time then that, than I think it's better to run the second race 2-4 weeks after the first, and just rest between the two.

5-7 weeks is the worst choice in terms of spacing marathons - it's just enough to lose fitness between the two, but not enough time to either recover from the first or train for the second.

How I trained between Boston and Grandma's.

In case it's helpful, here's a quick summary of what my training looked for the 9 weeks between the two.  For comparison, my normal marathon training volume is about 60-65 miles on land and another 15-20 "miles" pool-running.

Week 1: Boston Marathon on Monday - just pool-running and a bit of swimming and junk food the rest of the week.  Only priority is recovery.  Thinking about doing Grandma's Marathon, but not committing.

Week 2: 44 miles running, all easy, with the longest run being 11.5 miles.  Also a tiny bit of pool-running and swimming.  Chat with coach - he is on board with Grandma's Marathon if I feel like I'm recovering well.

Week 3: 56 miles running and 16 "miles" pool-running.  Did some short hill strides on Tuesday, a controlled 3200,1600 at tempo pace on Friday, and then 2x4 miles at marathon pace on Sunday as part of a 14 mile long run.  Goal marathon pace is 7:00, not the 6:50 it was for Boston.  After the 2x4 goes decently, decide that I am running Grandma's Marathon.

Week 4: 66 miles running, 18 "miles" pool-running.  Track intervals on Tuesday, 4 mile tempo on Friday, and 18 mile long run with last 6 miles at goal marathon pace.

Week 5: 64 miles running, 18 "miles" pool-running.  Track intervals on Tuesday, broken tempo of 3200, 1600 on Friday, and then a 16 mile long run on Sunday including 2x5 miles at goal marathon pace.

Week 6: 65 miles running, 19 "miles" pool-running.  Track intervals on Tuesday, 5K tempo (was supposed to be 8K but I bailed) on Friday, and 21 mile long run on Sunday with last 7 miles at goal marathon pace.  Start tapering.  Again.

Week 7: 46 miles running, 17 "miles" pool-running.  Track intervals on Tuesday, 5K race on Saturday, 14 mile long run on Sunday.

Week 8: 50 miles running, 12 "miles" pool-running.  Track intervals on Tuesday, 5K tempo on Friday, 10 mile long run on Sunday.

Week 9: Race week.  16 miles running and 6 "miles" pool-running pre-race; Grandma's Marathon on Saturday.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Training Log - Week ending 10/8/2018

This week was 46 miles of running, 16 "miles" of pool-running, and 2000 yards of swimming -- training log is here.

Not much to report here - Army 10 miler was the focus of the week.  Now I just need to recover from that before launching back into marathon training.


Monday: Yoga and 8 "miles" of pool-running.  Foam rolling at night.

Tuesday: 11 miles, including 6x800 (3:05, 3:00, 2:58, 2:59, 2:57, 2:55).  Also injury prevention work and 1000 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling at night.

Wednesday: DIY yoga and 7 miles very easy (9:07) plus drills/strides.   At lunch time snuck out for another 3 miles very easy (8:57) Foam rolling at night.

Thursday: light upper body weights/core and 8 "miles" pool-running.  Foam-rolling at night.

Friday 6 miles, mostly easy (8:57) but with a mile uptempo at 6:28.  Also drills, strides, and 500 yards of recovery swimming.  Foam rolling in evening.

Saturday: 3 miles very easy (9:00).  DIY yoga and foam rolling in the evening.

Sunday:  3 mile warm-up, and then a 10 mile race in 66:02 (6:36 pace).  3 mile cooldown and later 500 yards recovery swimming and some foam rolling.