I am back again! See – I told you I’d come back to the blog. 🙂
After the amazing success of Hyannis, I wanted to take a moment to look back at my progression and what I did differently with this marathon training cycle that allowed me to take a full 21 freaking minutes off my previous time.
**Disclaimer – this is not a post that’s intended to show how you too can take 20 minutes off your marathon time and qualify for Boston in one easy, breezy training cycle. Frankly, this post is so long because there is SO much that went into this PR and I don’t want to gloss over all the details.**
So, let’s go back to the Baystate Marathon for a sec. I ran this race in October of 2016. I was still uncoached at the time and the goal going in was pretty much to just have a better experience than I’d had at the Delaware Marathon which I had run that spring (finished, but had heat stroke and had to be transported by ambulance to the ER).
Rewinding even further- my initial goal training for Delaware was to try to qualify for Boston. After a few runs shooting for that 8 minute pace, I realized that might not be the best idea… So I backed off and focused on sub-4.
I decided to run Baystate pretty late in the game and didn’t officially start training until AUGUST (this seems insane to me now.) I also traveled for work a decent amount that month so I really didn’t do much training until the second to last week in August. I did have a base still built up from Delaware but even so… this is not ideal training.
Week of Aug 22nd – 41.5 miles
Week of Aug 29 – 26 miles
Week of Sept 5 – 50 miles (1 20 mile long run)
Week of Sept 12 – 43 miles (1 20 mile long run)
Week of Sept 19 – 9 miles (Traveling for work, but still – YIKES!)
Week of Sept 26 – 35 miles
Week of Oct 3 – 14 miles
Race Week – 8 miles + 26.2!
Looking back at this makes me cringe. My mileage was ALL OVER the place! Where was the steady build? How did I not get injured? I do remember the 20-milers in this training cycle taking a lot out of me. Like – spend the whole rest of the day on the couch doing nothing type tired.
I was trying to incorporate some marathon paced miles during my runs, but looking at my training notes, it looks like my long runs usually only had 5-8 miles at goal pace. For a harder mid-week effort, I was taking classes at Mystryde (a local treadmill studio). While those classes were good and a nice way to push myself, they were a little limited by time constraints (hour long class usually) and not very specific to my goals. I was also consistently taking 2 if not more rest days per week.
Shortly after Baystate, I decided to hire a coach. It was something I thought about for a long time and I finally decided that I loved running enough and wanted to invest in improving myself. I still wanted to qualify for Boston and I had a hunch that I was gonna need a little help. Somehow I came across Mary through the interwebs and I’m so glad I did.
After chatting with her about my goals, we agreed that I would skip a spring marathon and use the spring to target a PR in the half marathon. The thought being that if I could build some speed in the half, my goal marathon pace would start to feel a lot more comfortable.
**I think this decision was HUGE. If I had tried to jump into another marathon in the spring of 2017, I would not have taken 21 minutes off my previous PR. It can suck to wait when you’ve got a goal you want to accomplish so badly but patience in running is critical.**
So I ran a couple half marathons in the spring. I didn’t really have great races, but the training was there. I was 100% getting faster. I was running more miles more consistently and beginning to dream about my fall marathon.
We all know what happened with Philly. IT DIDN’T HAPPEN. It sucked. I love the half, but I was pretty annoyed to be running ANOTHER HALF MARATHON. But again, this was a situation where patience paid off. My hamstring strain would not have allowed me to put together the proper training to go after my goal, so once again… I pushed back my goal race to February.
So now that you have the facts, here is what the build for Hyannis actually looked like –
October – very light on miles, nursing my hamstring (and my pride). 71.7 miles for the whole month.
November – again, very light on miles. While I felt great running the half at Philly, I felt like I restrained my hamstring during a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. 100.9 miles for the month.
December – Things finally started to pick up. 128 miles for the month.
Week of Dec 11 – 30.3 miles
Week of Dec 18 – 25 miles
Week of Dec 25 – 39.3 miles
January – Finally, a solid month. I think I finally stopped being afraid that I was going to tear my hamstring during my speed workouts. 181 miles for the month.
Week of Jan 1 – 36.7 miles
Week of Jan 8 – 41.9 miles
Week of Jan 15 – 45 miles
Week of Jan 22 – 46 miles
Week of Jan 29 – 49 miles (1 20 mile long run)
Week of Feb 5 – 52 miles (1 20 mile long run)
Week of Feb 12 – 30.8 miles
Week of Feb 19 – 14.4 miles + 26.2 mile race!
So as you can see, this was a much more consistent and logical build. Again, this build only contained 2 20 milers. But I was running so many more miles during the week that I felt so much stronger on these runs. I was also training with WAY more miles at marathon pace. For example, my last long run was a 3 mile warm-up, 5 miles @ 8:15/8:20, 5 miles of 1 min on/1 min off (the min on was probably around 7:40 and the off was 8:50-9:00 pace), 5 miles @ 7:45/7:50, 2 mile cool-down. So roughly, 15 miles of work right around that goal 8:00 pace.
For the first time in a marathon cycle, I actually really enjoyed running these 18-20 milers. I know that sounds crazy. But all the intervals truly helped break up the time and as I started to have success hitting these paces, I really began to believe I could run a 3:32 marathon. It was exciting!
In terms of rest days, early in the training cycle I was taking 2 rest days per week but as the mileage progressed, this dropped to one rest day per week. And I was fine!! I used to think I ALWAYS needed a rest day after a hard effort. Working with a coach has allowed me to see that easy miles can also work for recovery.
2017 was a long year. But I knew it would eventually pay dividends in my race times and it finally did. Hyannis was an incredible experience (rain and all) and I would not change anything about it. I can’t wait to see what I can do in Chicago come October!