Monday, August 18, 2014

How's That Marathon Training Going Ian?

Last year I signed up for and started to train for the Iceland Marathon. Sadly a combination of things lead to an injury that lead to me dropping down to the Half Marathon. I had a great time racing regardless, but was left with some unfinished business.

Bring on 2014 and the Maritime Race Weekend Marathon. A local event that is now on its third year, this race has gotten some good reviews so it seemed like a good choice at redemption.

Last time I attempted to training for distance, while competing at shorter distance events. This lead to my hip giving up and a summer of rehab. This year I hit the prehab early, and saved the heavy endurance work for after the Spring racing season.

So how are things going? Well I guess I can say. As usual I have kept up with my heart rate based zone training, aiming to do a significant portion of my "runs" in Zone 2. Wait, why did I put "runs" in quotes? Well I have a reason for that.

Over the past couple of years I have noticed one big thing. When I start to get to really high weekly run numbers, I start to get injured. Ah, so it is easy, just keep the numbers low then. Well sure, you can say that, but I am training for a marathon now and not a shorter speed event. So I do actually need to keep the numbers moderately high to let my body build up the tolerance it will need to race at that distance.

How do I accomplish this? Well, in comes cycling. I have been using the bike as the basis for a huge part of my Zone 2 work. With the bike I can get my heart rate high, but keep the fatigue and damage to my muscles low. So I get a workout and recovery all at the same time.  This has allowed me to focus my run sessions on some key items over these 8 weeks, so lets look at those.

Key workout 1, the Long Run. Can't lose this fella. This run of course helps build the physical and mental stamina needed to actually finish the darn race. There are a variety of thoughts on how to do these runs, but in my case I run based on time and heart rate. I started with a 1 hour and 45 minute run and just completed a 3 hour run (well 2:53) this past weekend and made it to 38 kilometers. Now this is quite far of a long run for most people training for the marathon, but I was looking at time on feet, and I made it through, uninjured and "happy." I also knew that I had planned for enough time to recover before the marathon itself with 3 weeks.

Key workout 2, The Tempo Run. Also called a threshold run, for me this is a low Zone 4 effort which puts me slightly above the pace I want to run the marathon at. Zone 4 effort is about the maximum you can hold for 1 hour. Each week my tempo effort increases by 1 kilometer and now I am at 10 km. This workout will push my endurance and speed. It should also help the marathon pace feel not so horrible. I do this run on the road, meaning it includes hills as well.

Key workout 3, Interval and Strength. I combine a session of speed and strength once a week. In this workout I run intervals and between sets I do a variety of strength focused exercises. These will help my core muscle groups stay strong and help prevent injuries as I work to run further and faster. In my case what I am looking for in these workouts is to build good running form, so I make sure to do my intervals at a maximum "run" and not a "sprint". Sure there are many other benefits as well, like anerobic endurance, but those are less useful in a marathon.  

Key Workout 4, The Talk. What now? Yeah, I like to get one run in a week between 7.5 and 10 km where I work through the race mentally. This is a Zone 2 run, and while it adds a little mileage to my week (which is good) it is specifically designed to let me do mental checklists and let my mind wander a bit.

So the rest of my week is cycling, some swimming and a few sessions of prehab. So far I have survived my longest run ever (and the longest run in my training) injury free. I have survived humidity, heat, dehydration, and waking up early. Now I get to see the fruits of my hard work come together as I begin what is actually a moderately long taper, but one with purpose. As my overall distance drops on my long run, I will now increase speed and intensity with a final half marathon length run the week before at marathon pace.

Will this all workout? We'll see.