It seems that somehow the Boston Marathon is only 4 weeks away! *Cue minor freak-out*
I started training for Boston the first week of the year. It’s very convenient that the race is 16 weeks into the year, as 16 weeks is a fairly standard training cycle for many marathoners. Coming off of an early December marathon, I did zero speed-work or long runs during the three or so weeks leading up to the start of this training cycle. I continued with some easy miles here and there, so I definitely kept some of my fitness, but mainly my body needed a break after the marathon. I tried my best to honor that so that when it was time to start back, I was raring to go!
Since we are trying to catch up on 10 weeks of the training cycle at this point, I am definitely going to stick to the high points. I will share my weekly mileage and the details of the workouts that I did.
You can safely assume that the remainder of the miles were run at a VERY easy, conversational pace. I will likely refer to several different types of paces throughout my training logs going forward, so I want to give a quick overview of what they mean in case you aren’t familiar with a VDOT training platform. VDOT refers to the rate at which oxygen is consumed (or more specifically the volume of oxygen consumed per minute) and it provides a way of determining your training intensity based on a recent race performance. All of your training runs and workouts are done at either repetition, interval, threshold, marathon or easy pace.
- Repetition pace is the fastest pace and is used to improve speed and economy. Repetition pace is fast, but not necessarily “hard,” because each repetition is relatively short and is followed by a longer recovery. Repetition pace should be similar to your current one mile race pace.
- Interval pace is the next fastest (but slower than repetition) and is used to stress and improve your aerobic power (VO2 max). It takes about two minutes for you to build up to functioning at VO2 max so the ideal duration of an interval is 3 to 5 minutes each. If you go past 5 minutes at this pace, there will be anaerobic involvement, which results in blood-lactate build-up.
- Threshold pace is used to improve endurance. Examples of threshold pace runs are steady, tempo runs or intermittent runs, also called cruise intervals. So this would be comfortably hard running for either a steady 3 to 4 miles or repeated runs of 5 to 15 minutes each, with 1 to 3 minutes of rest between the runs.
- Marathon pace is used to experience race pace conditions for those training for a marathon or simply as a slower alternative to threshold pace.
- Easy pace is used to promote the physiological benefits that build a solid base from which higher-intensity training can be performed. Easy pace is a crucial, but often overlooked part of training.
Most weeks I have one workout at threshold or interval pace (or some combination of the two) and one long run that is either entirely at easy pace or with some marathon pace miles thrown in. I also do Pilates every Sunday, which I have found to work well with my schedule. It’s a good post-long run stretch for sure. It also challenges some of the muscle groups as well, but I always have a couple of easy run days afterwards to recover before my next workout.
12/31/18 – 01/06/19: 67.3 miles
My first workout back was a 3 mile warm up, 2 miles @ threshold, 4 X 400 @ interval and a 3 mile cool down. My goal pace for the threshold miles was 6:00 – 6:05 and goal pace for the intervals was 5:30. After several weeks without any speed-work, these paces seemed intimidating and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Would my legs remember what to do or would I feel like baby giraffe trying to figure out how to walk? In my mind, it could’ve gone either way. I mentioned my hesitation about the paces to my coach and while he assured me that I was going to be starting off in a better position than I expected, we decided that 6:10 – 6:15 was likely a bit more manageable.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely prefer to go into workouts with goals that seem semi-attainable. If I can run faster, great, and if not, I’ve still “hit my paces.” If I go into a workout with a goals that seem like a stretch, I find that although I might’ve actually had a really good workout, I will still be slightly disappointed with it if I didn’t meet the goal pace. The mental approach can make a huge difference for sure.
I ended up doing 6:10 and 5:59 for the threshold miles and 5:40 for the 400s. I’m really glad that we built that extra little cushion in there, and I was very pleased with the results afterwards.
My long run this week started at 14 miles and it was all easy pace! Woo! I love an easy long run. I averaged 8:37 for that one, which is a solid two minutes slower than my marathon goal pace.
01/07/19 – 01/13/19: 69.2 miles
My first workout this week was a 3 mile warm up, 6 X 20 seconds @ repetition, 4 miles @ threshold, 6 X 20 seconds @ repetition and a 2 mile cool down (so basically this was just a warm up, some strides, a “tempo” run, some strides and a cool down). Repetition pace is a bit tricky for me, as I find that my legs literally just won’t turnover quickly enough to hit the pace that I am supposed to there. I don’t really worry about that though, since those fast twitch muscle fibers aren’t super crucial for marathoning. My goal pace for the threshold miles was 6:01 and I ended up with very consistent and very respectable splits of 6:03, 6:04, 6:04, 6:05. I’ll take it!
My long run this week was a 4 mile warm up, 8 miles @ marathon pace and a 4 mile cool down. Oof! Jumping right on into that marathon pace work, eh? The goal here was to start at 6:25 and work my way down to 6:15 – 6:20 if I felt good. One thing that I am doing differently this time around is running all of my marathon pace miles in my beloved Nike Vaporflys. I didn’t do any workouts in them last training cycle, as I wanted to save the “magic” for race day. I also hate to think about how much they cost per mile (I am big on per unit pricing and I convert this to price per mile with running shoes). I ended up averaging 6:21 per mile for the marathon pace miles! I was ECSTATIC with that! I was working to hit the pace, but I don’t think I was working too hard. It was also a fairly windy, so that made it a bit more challenging as well.
After this long run, I looked back at the details from my last marathon training cycle and I averaged 6:48 for the first workout with 8 miles @ marathon pace. I love being able to see those tangible improvements!
01/14/19 – 01/20/19: 70.8 miles
My first workout this week was a 2 mile warm up, 1.5 miles @ threshold, 10 X 1 minute @ interval, 1.5 miles @ threshold and a 2 mile cool down. The threshold miles were definitely manageable, but dang, those minutes @ interval pace were HARD! Splits for the 3 threshold miles were 6:03, 6:02, 5:54 and I averaged 5:30 for the interval repeats. It’s crazy how one minute can feel SO LONG when you are running hard and SO SHORT during the recoveries! And yes, I realized that one minute is the same amount of time either way, but it feels totally different!
My long run this week was a 16 mile easy pace run. I averaged 8:39 for this run, so a solid 2 minutes slower than my marathon goal pace. I’m all about those easy long runs. Feels like a breath of fresh air as compared to the ones with marathon specific work in them.
01/21/19 – 01/27/19: 56.5 miles
My first workout this week was a 2 mile warm up, 10 X 1k @ threshold and a 2 mile cool down. So yeah, 10 X 1k is seemingly a lot! You are essentially running at 10k at your 10k race pace for this workout. Granted, you have some recovery time … I had a one minute walking recovery in between each set … but still, this is a BIG workout. My coach refers to these as BIG DAWG workouts actually, which I think is great. I am mentioning that here because I actually had an actual dog “join” me at the track during my 5th repeat. Apparently the dog’s owner wasn’t expecting anyone to be on the track, so she let him off his leash and he made a beeline straight for me. Oh! She’s running! I’m gonna go growl at her just to be sure, but she’s probably cool and I want to run with her! Needless to say, it broke my concentration a bit and I had to actually stop during the repeat so that the owner could get the dog under control. I texted my coach after the workout to let him know that an actual big dog showed up for my “big dawg” session. Anyway … I ended up averaging 3:37 for the 10 X 1ks. My goal pace was 3:40, so I was just under that. Again, I looked back and during my last training cycle I had a workout with 8 X 1k and I averaged 3:49 for those. More tangible improvement! I LOVE it.
I ended up getting sick at the end of the week, which was a major bummer at the time, but … it happens. I made it 3 miles into a 16 mile long run and had to call it a day. My body was telling me that it didn’t want to run and as much as I didn’t like what it was telling me, I knew I had to listen. Unfortunately it turned into a full on sickness with fever, chills, headache, sore throat, earache, etc. (basically everything hurt).
01/28/19 – 02/03/19: 36.2 miles
I took several days off this week and once I was feeling better, I eased back in with some short, easy runs. It’s crazy how you can feel really fit one day and the next day walking to the kitchen makes you feel like you just ran a freaking marathon.
By the end of the week, I was feeling much better and my coach wanted me to at least attempt my workout, which was supposed to have 2 X 5 miles at marathon pace. I definitely wasn’t quite ready for that. I did at least make it through one 5 mile segment, but my average pace was about 30 seconds slower than goal pace and I decided to just call it a day and not tax myself too much. I made this semi-dramatic note in my training app for my coach, “Aside from being sick earlier in the week, I was also on my feet a majority of the day Friday and Saturday at the state indoor track meet, didn’t eat or drink as much as I should have and didn’t get home the night before this run until almost midnight. I didn’t exactly set myself up for success here, although some of the factors were out of my control. I’m worried that having Boston as my goal race is not the best idea. I just usually can’t keep up with work and super intense training this time of year (this has been true the last 10 years of my life … not new this year), not to mention that I am working another part-time job this year as well with coaching. I’m obviously still doing Boston, but would feel much better if we could explore the idea of another marathon to target. Maybe Grandma’s?”
I mentioned in my last post that some weeks I feel like I’m drowning. This was definitely one of those weeks. Thankfully, I was able to eliminate one of the stressors that I mentioned in the paragraph above, as I decided not to coach outdoor track this season. I so WANT to be able to do all the things, but I really just can’t commit to much else outside of work this time of year. I will likely have to stick to helping out with just cross country going forward, as the summer and fall are WAY more doable from my regular work perspective. I should also note that my coach wisely responded that I shouldn’t “let one week of sickness be the end all be all of the season.” So true!
02/04/19 – 02/10/19: 77.2 miles
We pushed my first workout this week back a day to give me a bit more time to recover (and get myself together mentally). My workout was a 2 mile warm up, 3 X 15 minutes @ threshold and a 2 mile cool down. 45 minutes of threshold pace running is A LOT! Again, oof! My goal pace here was 5:54 and I didn’t quite get there, but I was actually totally okay with that. My splits were all fairly consistent. I didn’t have any miles under 6:00, but the miles I did all stayed within a 6 second range (6:05, 6:08, 6:07, 6:09, 6:04, 6:03). It was warm and humid the day I did this one too (68° w/ a dew point of 65°), so I likely needed to make a bit of a pace adjustment anyway. Just so happens that my body took care of that for me! Sweet.
My long run this week was a 17 mile easy run. This one was even better because I got to run with 4 of my best girlfriends AND we did brunch afterwards. If you’re gonna do a long run, this is the way to go for sure!
02/11/19 – 02/17/19: 68.6 miles
My first workout this week was a 3 mile warm up, 6 X 800 @ interval and a 2 mile cool down. Guys, I don’t know what it is, but I have a “thing” with 800s. They are the most intimidating workout that ever shows up on my training plan. Perhaps it is because I ran the 800 in high school and my body remembers how badly it hurts? I have no idea. I basically enjoy all other track workouts. 400s? Great! 1ks? Great! 800s? A big NOPE. My coach’s note about this workout in my training app was literally, “these will be HARD as hell.” LOLZ. Okay den.
My goal time for the 800s was 2:42 (5:26 pace) and I was definitely intimidated by that. I ended up averaging 2:49. I hate to admit this, but at the time I was a bit disappointed, simply because I didn’t meet the “goal.” If the goal pace had been 2:50, I likely would’ve been over the moon with how this one went. I always give it my best effort and I should always be happy with that, period. Oddly enough, this was likely the fastest 800 workout that I’ve ever done! Even though I didn’t hit the prescribed paces, I still ran 3 miles at 5:38 pace which isn’t too shabby. I think 5:38 would be closer to my current 5k pace than the original 5:26 goal pace for sure. Moral of the story, try not to let the training plan paces dictate how you feel about your run!
My long run this week was a bit of a doozy with a 3 mile warm up, 2 X 4 miles @ marathon w/ 1 mile recovery, 3 miles @ marathon and a 2 mile cool down. So, three things about this run: I sought out some hills for this one (because … Boston), somehow I managed to wait until it was 75° w/ a dew point of 69° to get out there and I ran the entire run by myself (which is a big deal for me!). My marathon pace miles were not where they were supposed to be (i.e., I averaged 6:50 when my goal was closer to 6:20), but any which way about it, this was a HUGE mental victory for me. I went into the run in a state of mental and emotional exhaustion. Y’all. Life is hard sometimes. It seemed as if everything that could possibly happen to thwart this run happened and yet, I still got out there and gave it my all, even when I didn’t feel as if I had anything to give. I’m pretty sure I will remember this run for a long time.
It took me a few days to see the positive takeaways though. Immediately after the run I texted my coach and asked him to lower my VDOT score (which would make all of my training paces easier). Of course he said no, reminding me that climbing 700 feet and running with a dew point of 69° was enough to warrant a 30 second per mile pace adjustment. He also said not to use my marathon pace mile splits from this one workout as the face value of my current fitness. Very wise.
So yet again, this was one of those weeks where I felt like I was drowning and that racing Boston was NOT a good idea. Keep reading though (if anyone is still reading this … bless you!), because that turns around next week!
02/18/19 – 02/24/19: 69.1 miles
My first workout this week was a 2 mile warm up, 10 X 4:00 @ threshold and a 2 mile cool down. You thought 35 minutes at threshold two weeks ago was a lot? Me too! Want to add 5 more minutes? Why not! I ended up doing this workout on the treadmill (first treadmill workout in MONTHS). My goal pace was 5:54. I did the first 8 repeats at 10 mph and then 10.2 and 10.4 for the last two. I felt really strong and in control the entire time. I took the treadmill down to a slow jog for the 1:00 recoveries. I forgot how nice it can be to do a workout on the treadmill. Granted, the dang thing shut down on me after an hour (with like 1:00 to go in my ninth rep), so that wasn’t cool, but otherwise it was fabulous.
I had another big long run with quality work this week. The long run was a 4 mile warm up, 2 X 4 miles @ marathon w/ 1 mile recovery and a 4 mile cool down. Last week was a struggle to average 6:50 for the marathon pace miles and this week I averaged 6:17 (!!!) for the marathon paces miles (my goal both weeks was 6:20 to 6:25). This week I went into the run with confidence. Did my fitness change overnight? Of course not! The 10 X 4:00 workout was exactly what I needed to get back to a place of knowing that I am capable of running the paces that my coach is giving me (as opposed to begging him to please lower my VDOT score the week before). It was 70+° w/ a dew point close to 70° both weeks, so the weather wasn’t a huge factor either way as far as the week to week comparison goes. I ran a very flat route this week, so that definitely worked in my favor! I started running and I just felt peaceful and free. Free of all of the mental and emotional baggage that I had been holding on to. Running has a way of doing that doesn’t it?
02/25/19 – 03/03/19: 76.4 miles
My first workout this week was a 2 mile warm up, 2 X 15 minutes @ threshold, 5 X 2 minutes @ interval and a 2 mile cool down. Since the treadmill treated me so well the week before, I went back to the gym for some more treadmill action this week. I did the 2 X 15 at 10.2 – 10.4 mph (6:07, 6:04, 5:54), (5:57, 5:51, 6:02) and the 5 X 2 at 11 mph (5:34, 5:21, 5:20, 5:34, 5:39). I was very pleased with how this one went down! I was definitely working HARD at the end and those last few 2 minute intervals were brutal.
I had an EASY 16 mile easy long run this week! Woo! After two weeks of really challenging runs, I was more than happy to run easy and just get the miles in. One of my friends that is also training for Boston had 20 miles on her schedule and so she ran a few miles earlier and then I joined her for 16 miles. We saw WAY more cows than people on this run (like hundreds of cows and zero people). Gotta love that sweet home Alabama!
03/04/19 – 03/10/19: 53.0 miles
My first and only workout this week was a 4 mile warm up, 10 X 1 minute @ threshold and a 3 mile cool down. After all the crazy 35-40 minutes of threshold running, this one felt like a breeze (as it should have). I ran just under 6:00 pace for these and really didn’t try to do anything crazy, as I had a RACE to run this weekend!
Saturday I ran my first race since my marathon in December! This might be overly ambitious, but I hope to have a race recap up soon!