Say somewhere during the heaviest part of the training cycle, you missed runs for marathon training. Maybe things got busy, maybe you got sick, maybe there was an injury threat…no matter what the cause, is there a way to recover from missing workouts?
I think so. I hope so, or I have totally screwed up my Boston-qualifying marathon goal.
When I decided on a race and created my training plan, just like any of us would, I anticipated a perfect training cycle: no injuries or unexpected travel. I generally expect to exceed my planned mileage since I view a training plan as the minimum miles required, but in mid-cycle I had a big setback that left me barely training at all. Been there? Maybe you’re there right now?
Don’t worry, there’s hope for us yet!
Obviously I didn’t expect smooth sailing to get in the miles, intervals, tempo runs, and hills I thought I needed to qualify for Boston at Windermere, but it was an idealized plan. The reality has varied from that…a lot, in fact. You can see that from my training log’s Plan vs Actual Chart.
As you can see, there’s a dip in my training plan at Weeks 10 and 11, showing a mid-training plan break and the resultant “crud” that sidelined me for almost two weeks. That means that I hardly ran at all and then spent another 2-3 weeks regaining the fitness I lost. What the chart doesn’t show is that, although the mileage was there in the weeks following the unplanned break, the intensity was not. I simply wasn’t ready or fit enough to run fast. Enter panic mode.
With a 4-week downer I was worried this would be a huge disappointment. Finally during my slow 20 miler on Week 13, I felt like I wanted to run and run fast again. I realized that I’d need to make some changes to the remaining weeks of my plan: I needed to run outside, shorten my taper, and increase the intensity of my remaining runs.
So I did something crazy.
I registered for two marathons and a half marathon before the goal race.
But why, Cilantro!? That’s insane! How can racing before the goal race help me run faster?
- First, if you’re a treadmill runner like I am, races will force you to run outside. Those race fees are great motivators when the comfort of your waiting treadmill tells you to go back to sleep for a few hours.
- Second, races give you great external motivation to run. There is no training run, outdoors or in, that feels as great as running a marathon!
- Third, that nothing-like-it-race-feeling helps you run those training runs at a higher intensity than you normally would. I actually PR’ed at my half-marathon!
- Bonus, you get a tune-up race to help you practice for the big day!
So the downlow is that I ran one marathon 5 weeks out from my goal race, one half-marathon 4 weeks out from my goal race, and one marathon two weeks out from my goal race. I’ve incorporated a ton of recovery, but I’m not going to lie to you – I am tired!
If you’re a little closer to your goal race than I was, you could try the full marathon two weeks out and the half (faster) three or four weeks out and that’s it. Do what seems right.
Get crazy! But not too crazy.
If you try this strategy, be very careful, and I can only recommend it the way I did it – with weekly sports massage, lots of stretching and at-home recovery and careful attention to diet. Put a huge emphasis on recovery.
I’ve never needed a taper so much in my life.
I did my last Yasso 800’s last Thursday, and averaged 3:31 (minutes & seconds), which is reputed to correlate to a 3:31 marathon time (hours & minutes). So…maybe I can do this!
I’m having a lot of doubts though. I’m not convinced that I’ll be able to run that and qualify for Boston. I think I’m ready to PR, but not to qualify…I’m concerned the month+ break from training hurt me enough that I won’t be able to run a BQ this time. I still want to, of course, but I think it’s time to be realistic.
Nonetheless I’m not going to sabotage. I’ll stick to my taper and pre-race nutrition this week. A PR will be just as good, and probably more realistic than cutting 12 minutes off of my 3:47 marathon PR. Although…maybe I can do this?
And maybe a little self-doubt is normal and even healthy. Either way, I won’t know for sure until Sunday!
Have you ever recovered from a mid-training-plan slump? Would you use a marathon to train for a marathon like I did? Think I’m ready for a BQ?