Let’s pretend for a moment that you signed up for a winter marathon. Let’s assume you signed up in September when it was a balmy 45 degrees and not a snowflake in sight. And just hypothetically speaking, let’s imagine that you told everyone you weren’t going to let a little winter weather stop you. Oh yes, you were going to layer up and get your trail shoes spiked and run every last mile outside, treadmill be damned. And let’s just say that you’re now eating
crow snow. And running 20 milers on the treadmill. I mean, just hypothetically….
So yes, training in Alaska for a winter marathon in California is less than optimal. (Except for the part about going to California in January. That part totally works.) I’m getting it done, thanks in large part to Salty’s treadmill tips, but I’m running into the conundrum of what to do for the prescribed “tune-up races” in my training plan. Who’d have guessed that tune-up races are hard to come by during the winter in Alaska?
With no tune-up races in sight, what does one do instead? Good question! In fact, I’m interested in your input: how would you replace the tune-up races in your training plan?
I am following a Pfitzinger training plan, from his book Advanced Marathoning (great book and well respected training plans!). The plan calls for three tune-up races ranging from 8K to 15K. (For a Salty primer on tune-up races, go here.) Pfitz himself outlines the purpose of tune-ups in his book:
The tune-up race is simply a race of lesser importance that you use to help prepare for your goal race. Tune-up races serve three purposes, they: 1) make you experience the nervous preparation for racing which helps reduce your anxiety before your goal race; 2) toughen you mentally and physically by taking you to your limit; and 3) provide feedback on your current fitness level.
This all sounds well and good. But what do you do when there are no races of any distance available within a 1,000 mile radius? What do you do when an all-out outdoor run would all but guarantee a face-plant induced injury? Rather than beat myself repeatedly with the SpiBelt as punishment for the brilliant idea of training through an Alaskan winter for something other than a dog-sled race, I resolved to make the most of this wintery hurdle. As such, I asked Coach Google about replacement options for those trusty tune-up races, and here’s what she had to offer.
- Time trial on an indoor track. In this scenario, pick a distance and race against the clock. Treat the run like a race, going through the normal pre-race routine–warm up, strides, cool down, the whole deal.
- Hard solo tempo effort on the treadmill. Like the track option above, choose a distance and cycle through your pre-race routine. The difference is that you’ll need to set a goal pace upfront rather than running by feel. Anything 10k or shorter should be done faster than your normal tempo pace. Using a training pace and race predictor calculator like this one can help you determine an appropriate time goal for the distance.
- Recruit a faster friend to “race” with you. This option only works if you have access to relatively clear roads or an indoor track, and of course, an awesome running pal that you can trust to truly push you. (Where’s Salty when I need her?!)
I have my first “tune-up” scheduled for this week, but haven’t decided yet how to tackle it. I’m still holding out hope that my fairy runmother will whisk me away in her time-traveling (heated) carriage to line up for a 10k in Seattle this Saturday. A girl can dream….at least right up until the point when it’s time to hit “start” on the treadmill.
Got any advice for me? Have you ever faced the winter tune-up race dilemma? What has worked for you? Help!