Marathon Training Week 15: Questions Answered

Weekly Summary: 3/30/15 to 4/5/15

As noted in last week’s summary, I entered sharpening phase with what seemed like more questions than answers. Sitting with unresolved issues is not a strong suit, so I took some action and emailed someone with my burning questions — a total stranger.

Normally, I would have contacted my FMC, but she’s got a three-month old at home. Even though I don’t have any kids, I’ve watched many friends have them, so I didn’t feel comfortable emailing her with my “Yeah, about my MP miles…” questions. I’m not a totally self-centered idiot. But, entering this phase of marathon training, I was worried that some of the bright ideas I had floating around in my head, which were seemingly “yeah, go for it” mindsets, might be overly-aggressive and ultimately stupid because I’m coming off injury and am in the masters category, if you know what I mean. So I felt strongly that before proceeding I should run things by someone.

Well, that someone turned out to be a runner whose blog I’ve read for at least a couple years. The title of his blog is what instantly appealed to me: 50 After 40. As someone running in their 40s, I find it helpful to read the experiences of others in my situation, meaning, people in my age group who are competitive but also have to deal with the nuances of being a middle-aged runner. Jim has been a real inspiration, and his blog is a wealth of information. Not everything applies to me, and he is clearly a much faster runner than I am, but his detailed training tips and candid accounts of his running triumphs and miscues, have been invaluable to me. In general, I find that I am more open to listening to someone who I can somewhat identify with, so I hit Jim up with my questions.

His response was prompt and thorough. Runner bloggers are awesome! The two main questions I had were regarding tempo run pace and quantity of MP miles. The conclusions reached below came about with some help from Jim, as well as listening to that quiet, sane voice inside me that doesn’t want to see me get injured again.

One question I had was in figuring out the speed of my tempo runs. I had basically copied my former schedule; however, now that I had added some MP miles into my long run for this training cycle, those MP miles were being run at almost my former tempo pace. For example, I did some tempo runs last cycle at a goal pace of 9:30, but last weekend I ran 11 MP miles during my long run at 9:26 pace. It seemed like I should drop my tempo pace, and so now my schedule has changed from doing my tempo runs at 9:20-9:30 pace to 9:12-9:22. Here’s me loosening up my quad before my first tempo run of this cycle. I had forgotten how miserable tempo runs are – it felt like someone sat on my chest for 50 minutes. Ugh.

real tempo

Most importantly, I was concerned about how many MP miles I should build up to. If I had continued adding one MP mile per week to my long run, then I would have peaked at a 16-mile long run done entirely at my marathon pace two weeks before my marathon. That seemed ambitious, and I have decided to be conservative and just keep my maximum MP miles at 13 for this cycle. Since it’s the first time I’m adding MP miles, better to be cautious and hope that my legs will benefit more from backing off than ramping up.

Some other items I’ve decided on:

  • Perpetuem Tablets vs. Clif Shots. Brought both along for my long run and saw no difference between the two this time. At least for this cycle, I’ll stick with the gels during my race.
  • Hill Repeats vs. Rolling Hills. I’ve decided to go with a combo of the two. I’ve found a long gentle hill on my rolling hill course that I can run up and down a few times. Previously, I was considering a steeper hill for interval work, but after reading an article on the dangers of overtraining on downhills (i.e., beating up my legs), I’ve chosen to again be conservative.
  • Pilates. Once a week. My lower back is starting to ache as I add mileage and intensity, and I know that I need to strengthen my core to withstand all this. I went back this past Sunday, and it was hard but good.
So deceptive with its carriage and rollers, like I’ll just be kicking it on this reformer. Nope.
So deceptive with its carriage and rollers, like I’ll just be kicking it on this reformer. Nope.

I think the main takeaway from this is Chill The Fuck Out. The usual pattern is that my head and heart want to do more, my body usually cooperates for a little bit, and then Boom, I’m injured. I’ve already made major changes to this training schedule by adding MP miles and a long run greater than 20 miles. That seems like plenty for now, and I can revisit the other stuff in the next training cycle.

Other than that, it was a strong week. As noted above, I got in a season-high 11 miles run at MP pace. Even more encouraging is that the first five of those miles were done while talking. The goal was to run eleven miles at 9:55, and my paces were 9:39; 8:56; 9:14; 9:13; 9:48; 9:23; 9:26; 9:37; 9:35; 9:21; 9:37. Hey now. I also picked up my cross-training, which is pretty awesome considering the high mileage too.

So, a solid first week of sharpening phase. My body is achy and sore but uninjured. Next up is the Hollywood Half this Saturday.

Hope everyone has a great running week!

Total weekly mileage: 45
Long run: 20 miles; 11 miles at MP
Abs (3x); Upper Body (2x); Leg Strengthening (19 exercises-15 ea.-3 sets); Pilates


2 thoughts on “Marathon Training Week 15: Questions Answered

  1. I totally relate to you when it comes to always wanting to do more. But most of the time less IS more! I’ve found that quality over quantity provides me with the best results, and train at a lower miles per week average than many marathon/ultra runners at or around my level. The main thing I believe is listening to your body, pushing if it tells you to push a little more, or take it easy if it tells you to take it easier. Your friend gave you a lot of good advice, awesome stuff! Hope training continues to go well. 🙂

    1. Thanks Pat! “Luckily” injury is a great teacher, and it seems like staying healthy is the main thing. I see the hard miles you put in so it’s nice to know you have to back off a little too. (Though those are crazy miles to me! Haha) Hope your taper goes well!

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