Monday, June 17, 2013

Laying the Foundation: How To Prepare For Marathon Training

Anyone considering a Fall marathon has probably started at least thinking about their training if not just beginning following a plan.  While I don't actually mean "formal" marathon training, since most races are still close to 20 weeks out, now is the time to start laying the foundation for the marathon-specific work you'll be piling on top as you get closer to your goal race.  Every season around this time, I like take a glance back at my training over the last few months and identify some priorities or short term goals to get me through this initial period.  Marathon training can be a long cycle and without short term goals, its easy to get wrapped up in the long term stuff, but over time, this frequently becomes a mental drag as the season wears on.  So what I like to do is set up some short term goals to get me through this initial period, establish some consistency and good behaviors, and then pile on the marathon work.  Hitting those short term goals means I'm ready to enter the actual marathon training cycle.  Depending on your race, this could be a month or longer period dedicated to establishing a baseline level of fitness and a workable routine.  So let me explain a bit more about what this means:

I ask myself a few key questions at the outset:  
What has my training been like? 
What areas can I improve on? 
How do I get there?

The answers to these questions will lead you to establish these short term goals, IF you take a honest assessment of where you are today.  Because remember, you can't just pull race goals out of a hat.  They should be somewhat realistic and achievable, based on your CURRENT fitness.  Pie in the sky goals are great for long term planning, but short term goals are what will get you out there day after day.

So once you've responded to those questions, you have to find a plan that gets you from Point A (today) to Point B (ready for marathon-specific training).  Finding a training plan that looks good on paper is nice, but making sure it fits into both your current fitness level and your schedule is another thing.
 
Here is a quick glance back to summarize my responses to these questions:

Taking a look back at my training from April through early June, I've let a few things slide to give myself (intentionally) less focus.  My volume, intensity, and strength work is all down from where it was before Shamrock.  I did this to give my body and mind a break.  While I still trained hard for Brooklyn, I let a lot of the things I had been doing slide, because you can't be on your "A" game all year long or else you'll burn out eventually.  So while I included intensity and strength work, it was less consistent.  So now that I am looking toward NYC, I have set up some short term goals to establish a pattern leading into the marathon-specific training I'll start up in about a month.  These goals are centered around what I need to improve on, starting from where I am now, and creating goals that will get me to where I want to be in about 4 weeks.

Short term goals:
1) Slowly increase weekly volume to a sustainable (for me) level in the low to mid 50s
2) Run consistently 6-7 days/week to get into the routine to support higher volume
3) Add one double run per week on the same day as speedwork
4) Gradually begin incorporating more dedicated strength routines following hard workouts (2x/week)
5) On easy days following each run, incorporate 5-10 minutes of mobility to aid bloodflow/recovery

So there you have it - a handful of small goals to keep me motivated.  Each one is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound; otherwise known as SMART.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Beating the Odds - Setting Up My Fall Racing Season

As summer quickly approaches, I've been consumed with thoughts about how I want to plan my training and the races I'd like to target.  With so many big fall marathons, it makes to difficult to plan too early, since the registration process is typically the most difficult part of getting into those races.  While I love smaller races and the fun of just being able to show up and do my thing, I have a growing bucket list of races that I consider "must run" - among them: Boston, NYC, Chicago, MCM, Big Sur, and San Diego.

The New York City Marathon to me, is the quintessential example of a bucket list race.  The hype, mass amounts of people, big city running, endless crowds, and overall history of the race makes it among the most special in my eyes.  And while it can be frustrating to apply to the lottery for the race and repeatedly get shut out, I think the slim chance of making it is worth entering it each year.  This year was my 3rd try at the lottery.  When I first started putting my name in the hat, I figured if I didn't get in after 3 tries, I'd have a guaranteed entry on the 4th try as part of the NYRR's policy for the race.  Well in 2011, along with a handful of other changes, that policy was removed.  I was resigned to just keep entering in the hopes that one year I'd get in.  With last year's eventual cancellation due to Hurricane Sandy and the resulting slots going to those who wished to use their 2012 spot to race in 2013 (estimated at 19,000 runners), I knew my chances were slim.  I even registered for the Brooklyn Half, because I figured this year wasn't going to happen. But I still entered anyways, because I have just as good a chance as anyone.

So on May 29, when they were doing the actual lottery drawing, I was glued to the website.  Unlike previous years where it seemed like you found out pretty quickly, this one seemed to linger.  The drawing was to begin at noon.  So I hit refresh on my account every 15-30 minutes to see if the status would change.  I saw a lot of activity on social media with people wondering the same thing - was I selected?  Some were watching their bank accounts, others like me, watching their NYRR profile.  Well finally about 9 pm, I hit refresh and wouldn't ya know it, I GOT IN!


When I saw the results, I was nearly speechless. I didn't think it was official.  I needed more confirmation.  Then I got an email from NYRR notifying me that I had been accepted.  That was just what I needed.  If two things are saying I got it, then its gotta be true!

Runners World posted an article about the lottery for those interested in it.  They broke it down pretty cleanly, which makes it easy to digest.  About 4,500 slots were awarded through the lottery out of 33,000 entrants, which makes about a 13% chance of getting in. 

There will be 48,000 runners this year, which kind of scares the crap out of me, but also makes it exciting.  This is what I signed up for, so I know what I am getting into.  While it may not lead to the fastest time, I am going for the experience if nothing else.

So with my "A" race locked in, I am starting to look at some shorter races to build into my plans.   

Any locals have a favorite tune up race in the September/early Oct time frame that you consider a must run?  Anyone else racing NYC?
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