Marathon Training Week 14: Base Building Ends

Weekly Summary 3/23/15-3/29/15

This post could have been titled “Arrggh.” This training week just seemed Frustrating and base building phase ended with perhaps more questions than answers. Arrggh.

So there were a couple fails this week. For starters, this was supposed to be a cutback week. After three weeks of increasing my weekly mileage – 40, 42, 45 – it was supposed to be a week where I let my muscles build back up and chilled out a little bit. It was yes and no in the wrong places. Tuesday I got to leave work early, and I was able to do a seven-mile evening trail run at dusk. It was beautiful and awesome…until I realized I was running late for something and had to floor it on the way back. I charged down a big downhill and, coupled with having just done 22 miles two days before, well, my legs were toast for the rest of the week. Fail.

sm mountains. jpg

However, I did manage to rest in another way. Yup, major cross-training hiatus. Hardly did any core, upper body or leg work. I wish I could blame it on my rigorous work schedule, demanding social life, or a house full of kids, but nah. Got none of those. Just felt scattered, wiped out, and unfocused for the bulk of the week. So 0-2 here.

One bright spot. I ate ridiculously healthy this week. Even more surprising, it was super easy. I committed to my friend that I was going to not eat sugar or white flour until the marathon (except for my pre-long run meal when I have a wrap). Up until now, I have lost zero pounds. I basically keep losing and gaining the same two pounds. The prevailing opinion is that during hard training is not the time to cut weight. Like you should have done that in the earlier stages of the training cycle or in the off-season because you don’t want to sacrifice performance. Since I am running well and uninjured, I don’t want to mess with cutting calories and risk that status, so I figured that if I can’t lose weight without cutting calories, then I’ll just make sure that whatever goes in my mouth is healthy and helps my running. That way, even if I’m eating more than I have to (I did), it’s still fuel.

So it would seem that my nutrition is settled, right? Nope, nope, nope.

I noticed that I had a giant jar of Perpetuem Solids next to my Clif shots in my cupboard. I had bailed on the solids a few cycles ago because they were difficult to chew and took up too much time during the race but, wanting to save a little money, I figured I would use it on my training runs until I finished them. Well, damn, I’m wondering if they’re not a better fueling option for me. The main difference between the solids and the gels is that the solids have some protein (3g per serving). It’s not an issue for shorter distances (2-3 hours or less), but for longer distances, I’ve read that your body can go into lean muscle catabolism which increases fatigue. So maybe it was all in my head, but I started my long run on heavy legs. I had already given myself permission to opt out on the 10 miles at MP (9:55) since this was supposed to be a cutback week. I figured I’d give it a good college try and then bail if it felt like it wasn’t happening. Well, my first three MP miles were at 9:47, 9:47, 9:42. I took the solids, and I then went 9:31, 9:13, 10 (user error on the Garmin), 9:01, 9:01, 9:01, and 9:25. Where the hell did those 9:01 miles come from?! I ran like the white man was chasing me down. (He kind of was – a new guy joined our group. He didn’t catch me. Up top, y’all!) Anyway, not sure if it was the solids, or the fact that a new person joined our running group and I hate being slower than guys (see tagline of blog), or _____________, but now I’m wondering if the solids aren’t a better choice for the marathon. Only problem is they are still a pain in the butt to get down. Chew chew chew, drink, chew, chew, chew, drink. And that’s only to get down like half a tablet – there are three in a serving. Maybe I’ll try a combo of gel and solids. So, as of now, race fueling is TBD.


But my nutrition isn’t the only thing that’s in flux. I was under the assumption that by the end of the base building phase, I would be dialed in on a course of action. I have one race and five weeks of the sharpening phase before tapering. It seems like I would have things figured out by now, but nope. Perhaps this is part of the frustration.

Some ideas rattling around in my brain:

  • How many MP miles should I go up to? If I keep increasing a mile per week, I’ll hit a long run of 16 miles done entirely at MP. Is that wise two weeks before the marathon?
  • Adding hill repeats versus the rolling hills I’ve been doing to improve on the downhill portion of the race. Will this blow out my legs during an already increased intensity phase or make me stronger?
  • I thought my MP miles would get slower as I tacked more on, but they’re not. Should I make my tempo pace faster since I’m doing my MP miles faster than expected during my long runs?

With these questions, I’m also wondering if Mountains 2 Beach is even my “A” race anymore. I feel like I’m still experimenting and changing things up with only eight weeks to go, and maybe it’s the race after M2B when I’ll be at peak conditioning. Arggh.

Overall, I’d give this base building phase a “B” — as in Better Get It Together, Lady. Just kidding. While there’s plenty of room for improvement, I don’t want to end this summary on a crazy note (I sound a bit mad in this post, don’t’ I?). Here are the main Yay points:

  • The most positive thing, and the fact I have obviously overlooked while obsessing over the minutiae, is the reality that I have not injured myself. I have not missed one damn mile due to any real or imagined pain. This is no small feat when you’re 47-years old.
  • I did a 22-mile run! Hello, that was just last week, and I already forgot that I successfully completed my longest training run ever.
  • I’m up to doing ten miles at MP in my long run. I’ve never done my long runs at MP before, and I was scared of them, but each week has progressed fairly naturally and easily.
  • Ran a course PR at Surf City Half Marathon.

Let’s look at some hard numbers, shall we? On January 18, my training log read “Run 16 fucking miles.” Two and a half months ago, I was struggling to do a long run over 15 miles and hadn’t added a mile at MP yet. My pace for that run was 11:46. A little over five weeks later, I had added some MP miles, tacked on some mileage, and ran 18 miles at a 10:58 pace. Hey, that’s some improvement. Fast forward another five weeks, and I ran those same 18 miles at 10:13 pace. Even my unrelenting critic can see that that’s some factual improvement.

So it’s buh-bye, base building and whatcha-got-for-me-sharpening phase.

Hope everyone has a great running week!

Total weekly mileage: 39
Long run: 18 miles; 10 miles at MP
Cross-training: Abs (3x); Upper Body (1x); Leg Strengthening (9 exercises-15 ea.-3 sets)

4 thoughts on “Marathon Training Week 14: Base Building Ends

  1. I’m enjoying your posts. Trying to figure out what my MP should be (for the race and for my pace training runs). How does your half compare to your MP? Did you run shorter MP runs early on? I’m mid week 2 of 18 week training, and running 3-5 mile MP runs seems silly when a) I don’t know what my pace will be on the runs over 13 miles and b) if it’s slower thn my half pace, why would I be running 5 miles at it? (So I’ve been running shorter ‘pace runs’ at my half race pace– mostly just to focus on something different than the rest of the runs.
    look forward to your posts as you approach the big race!

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading. I chose my MP based solely on my goal time for my marathon — 4:20. That seems to be a reasonable goal since I’ve been in the 4:40-4:30 range for my last three marathons. My half marathon times indicate a much faster marathon time, but there’s no way I could do the 4:11 marathon time the race converter indicates I could do. I used this If you have a recent half marathon time (or any race time), I’d put it into the converter (and then add 15 min.), or if you have a reasonable goal in mind, I’d figure out the pace from there. This is my first time doing MP miles in my long run, so I’ve been adding them slowly — 1 MP in my long run/week. It adds up quickly. My legs crapped out (injury and fatigue) my last two marathons, and I think it’s because even though my cardio was there, my legs didn’t know how to handle the MP I was asking it to run. I have high hopes that adding these MP miles in my training will get me that shiny new PR. Good luck with your training!

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