marathon, racing, running, training, White Rock Marathon

Dallas Marathon training: final phase

I planned to post regularly about my enhanced training program. Once I go over the regimen, you’ll understand why — considering I also have to earn a living, pay some attention to my children and occasionally see a movie — I haven’t had much extra time for recreational bloggin’.

When I last wrote, I was only about three or four weeks into training and I was doing a lot of speed work and preparing to race a 5k. The 5k, on Labor Day, sucked. I started out fast, at about a 6:10 pace, and because it was very hot and I was over exerting, I blew up on the last mile, winding up with a time in the low 20s. It was a personal best, but only by a few seconds and far from the hoped-for finishing time of 19:30-ish. Disappointed, but I was still encouraged by the progress I had experienced in training, so I hired the coach for the remainder of marathon training season.

I’m about to nerd out for a minute here, so if you don’t care about the details of this training program, you might enjoy another of my posts more. The one about my depressing last marathon, or my death defying puke-fest 50k (not an official race name), for example.

Following the 5k, I began training by heart rate. I have a few different training zones, based on the rudimentary V02 max test we ran when I first started with him (see craigslist coach post for details): 140 bpm is my easy, recovery pace; 158 is my daily, hour-long steady runs; 166 is my marathon pace; 177 is threshold. Note: gadgets, heart rate monitoring, data taking are things I am not fond of, but I said I would try anything for a season, so I got a watch, yada, yada, and eventually figured out how to use it.

It was worth the hassle, because this is where I really began to feel some progress.

I started doing daily runs at about a 158 heart rate. At the beginning of the month that was an 8:20 minute mile. By the end it was a 7:30 (the weather began cooling from hellishly hot to warm and humid during this phase, so that has a little to do with the pace improvement too). During that phase, I ran about an hour at a 158 heart rate every day except Mondays, when I did some sort of interval training and threshold pace, and Thursdays, when I did a long, 90-minute tempo run at a 166 heart rate, which on good days was around a 7:10 pace.

At the end of this phase I raced a 10k. Here I felt like a new person. For the 1st time ever, I raced while watching my heart rate. And for the first time ever, I ran the second half of the race faster than the first. My overall pace was a 6:44 and my last mile was 6:30 — this wasn’t a personal best by a whole lot, but it was the easiest PB I have ever had. I felt so strong and in-control the entire race. I also took home 1st overall female. Those who were there at the Great Taco Run 5k, 10k and 10 mile, and who know that all of the the faster women were running the 10-mile, not the 10k that day, shut up. First place: Taco Run 10k.

Invigorated by the 10k PB, I launched into the real marathon training. During this phase I increase mileage. When Coach sent me the schedule for the week following the 10k, my head started spinning. It had more than 80 miles on it.  I’ve never been able to do more than 60 miles a week without getting hurt, so I was worried. Also I was concerned about how this schedule was going to impact my life.

I partied enough for a lifetime from the age of 16-28, so my current social life essentially is running. My daughter says I’m a geek and I’m all: aren’t geeks cool now? Look at Nate Silver: Badass Geek. By the way, if you’ve read this far, you are a nerd too. But this extreme requires me to neglect even my running friends. Unless your are on a lets run.com forum — where only p***ys run less than 100 miles a week — running 12-13 hours a week can seem pretty unbalanced. But at least this is simple. I don’t have to try to figure out what I am I doing wrong or worry over what I should do next. Just follow the schedule. I love that.

My schedule for the next several weeks would look something like this:

Monday: 15 min warm up; 6 times 6 minutes at 177 heart rate with 1 min static rest in between; 15 min cool down or 1 hour a.m. 1 hour p.m. at 140 heart rate

Tuesday: 1 hour a.m. 1 hour p.m. at 140 heart rate

Wednesday: 1 hour a.m. 1 hour p.m. at 140 heart rate

Thursday: 15 minute warm up, 60-90 minutes at 158 heart rate, 15 minute cool down

Friday: 1 hour run at 140 heart rate

Saturday: 1 hour a.m. 1 hour p.m. at 140 heart rate

Sunday: 1 hour a.m. 1 hour p.m. at 140 heart rate

And this is just a hobby.

A few things I learned while doing this: It’s more convenient than I thought it would be. I run for an hour before the rest of my household wakes up. I find another hour to run anytime between lunch and 8 p.m. Working in 1 hour in the evening is easier than sneaking away for 2 hours.

I am not hurt and most of the miles are enjoyable. The majority of my runs are done at an extremely pleasurable pace. I have taken time to explore my neighborhood and observe my surroundings, gotten to know the regulars at the Richland College track (a guy who runs in jeans, a wise old Morgan Freeman-esque walker, a trio of Asian women who insist on walking side-by-side-by-side and not letting me pass); I’ve run the dirt roads of Todos Santos, Mexico where I went on a long-weekend vacation, the streets near my kid’s volleyball practice or near my office — I just keep my running gear with me and find a way to work it in. And, because I am breaking the runs into short periods, I haven’t experienced any of the pain that in the past has accompanied high mileage. (I also see a sports chiropractor about once a month for treatment to problem areas such as my knee and foot).

I did feel generally sore a lot at first, though. Some mornings as I embarked on my run, my legs felt as if they were at mile 20 of a marathon. I guess that is the point in some respects.

Some of my tempo runs have been very encouraging. One morning for example, when it was especially chilly, I found my 158 heart rate producing 7-minute miles and under. It is pretty cool, with heart rate training, that I can quantify improvements. It makes each run kind-a like a little game.

So far, this sh*t is working! The high mileage phase resulted, last weekend, in a personal best by more than five minutes in the half marathon. Yes, I ran a 1:29:32 at the hilly-ish Dallas Running Club Half Marathon, good for 2nd in my age group and a top-ten female finish in a big race. Again, the best part about the whole thing was that until the very last mile, I didn’t feel fatigued at all. The photos of me at mile 10 (thanks Jose Vega) are amazing — I have a freaking huge  smile on my face. Certainly not the face of the familiar me who isn’t racing if I’m not miserable halfway through. I just settled in behind (most of the way) the 1:30 pace group led by Nick Polito and Ethan Neyman (also pictured below) and had fun.

Now I am on to the last stretch of training before the White Rock Marathon — Dallas Marathon, I know.

I am still doing the 2-time a day easy runs with 2 two-hour-ish high-intensity runs a week. A month out from the marathon, my longest run has been 15 miles, which is a little nerve wracking, considering the rest of my marathoning friends have done multiple 18-20 milers, but I said I’d trust this trainer and I have seen good results so far, so I am going to see this through. I am maxing out at over 90 miles a week, so the endurance should be there when I need it.

Other things to consider with the high mileage. Nutrition: I have started protein supplements and I simply have to remember to eat. I have lost about 5 pounds while almost-literally eating nonstop throughout the day. Hell, yes. It is like a dream come true. Sadly when I am running 40-60 miles a week, this is not the case. I still have to watch my calorie intake lest I gain weight. But with 80-90 miles a week, I can eat anything and everything I want. This makes this final phase of marathon training my unequivocal favorite.

Hydration: I have to constantly force down liquids. I don’t go anywhere — in the car, to work, to bed — without a bottle beside me, and not like in the old lush-y days. I usually have powerade zero, crystal light or some other no-calorie flavored water junk, because I usually dislike drinking water. I tend to get very bad headaches and they can be triggered by a hard run, among other things. Sometimes I can’t stop them, but I think proper hydration helps fend them off a bit.

Sleep: Possibly the biggest challenge. One huge help is that my daughter doesn’t have to be at school until 8:45 a.m., so my runs generally can start at either 5:30 or 6:30 a.m. as opposed to 4 a.m. as they had to when the kids had morning practices at 7:30.  So that means I must make a valiant attempt to go to sleep by 11, which is tough for a night writer, Colbert-show watcher, obsessive novel-reader like me. Every Saturday, God willing, I take a nap. Precious nap. (Except today, when I am instead writing. I was too stressed to relax because i promised myself I was going to document this and the season is briskly passing and I haven’t really been doing that) I know, based on readings, I should be getting 8 hours a night, at least, but I figure 6-7 with the occasional nappy time is going to have to suffice until I become ridiculously wealthy and quit my job at the Advocate (which, hell, I probably wouldn’t do even if I were wealthy. It’s not as if I went into community journalism because of the high salary).

OK, now I can go nap. Night night.

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5 thoughts on “Dallas Marathon training: final phase

  1. I love that your new training is going so well and that you’re enjoying your races more. I may need to up my mileage to the 80-90 range just so I can eat and not gain weight. Running 50+ miles makes me eat like a pig, but I do gain weight. Argh. I’ve never trained based on heart rate, so it’s interesting to read how great it’s been for you. You’re still my hero, Christina!

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