This is it!! Just one week before the big day! Instead of describing my super boring taper-week workouts, I decided to write about my plan for race day. One of my 5 planned steps to try to improve my marathon time drastically was to run a smarter race. Last year I decided to improvise, I started too fast, and I ended up hitting the wall before mile 16. This tim I know the course, I have my experience, and I have a plan.
First, I divided the course into 8 sections: the pack, the bridges, south side, the awful climb, rolling hills, the grind, back down, and the last stretch. From my experience doing the full marathon last year and the half marathon two years ago, I sort of know what to expect from each section. So, I have several plans with target paces for each section. I made several plans so that I can make adjustments on race day. The most ambitious plan has me crossing the finish line in 3:01:33 and qualifying to Boston, the most conservative one in 3:33:27, two minutes slower than last year (I hope it doesn’t come down to that).
Before describing the plan, I’m happy to report that my new hat arrived in the mail today. Now, my marathon outfit is complete, and I am very happy with it. I am concerned it is a bit too matchy-matchy, but my wife likes how it looks and that is good enough for me. What I really love about it is how light it is (except for my Fenix 3). I was more worried about overheating than about muscle fatigue. So, I decided to ditch the compression gear. Instead, I went with super-light breathable fabrics, short socks and short shorts, and a white tank and hat to protect me from the sunlight as much as possible.
I usually train with Newton Gravity shoes or Newton Distance IIIS. For race day, I like to run with Newton Distance III (without the S) which are much lighter than the gravities, and a bit lighter than the IIIS. My hat had to be from Ciele, I just love how well they fit, and how they manage to stay dry much better than other brands. For the socks I knew I wanted Nike elites. I love these socks but I usually find it hard to justify spending $18 on a pair of socks, a marathon seems like a good excuse. For the shorts and singlet I went with Nike, just because they are the only brand I could find that sold 2″ shorts that were not black or grey.
The focus this week was more on strength and speed and less on distance. I ran my first race of the season: a 10 miler with a tough climb right at the beginning to prepare me for the tough climb up Mt Washington at the middle of the Pittsburgh Marathon (only one month left to go!). I’ll post the race recap later this week, for now let me just say that I managed to win my division and bring a trophy home 🙂
Monday — Mile-long swimming workout with tons of 100s
My mileage was very low this week considering that it is week 12, just 23 miles. This is partly because I did a 10 mile race instead of a longer run, partly because I wanted to rest my legs before the race so I could perform well, and partly because I am doing a lot of cross training. I hope this works out, because I have my first triathlon scheduled for June, which means that I have to start spending more time cycling and swimming 🙂
The bike ride on Thursday was particularly special. My wife had foot surgery last November, and this is the first time she is able to ride since then!! It was a bit unfortunate that it was a ridiculously windy day, which made the ride really hard, but I think she still enjoyed it. I will let her tell you the details.
As the training intensifies, my legs are starting to feel fatigued. So, I’ve been reading a lot about heavy legs and I decided that my legs needed some rest, and some long easy-pace runs. That was my focus for this week. I cancelled one of my scheduled runs, and I slowed down my pace. Also, I did my first brick workout of the season looking forward to my first (!) sprint triathlon in June.
With my first ride of the season, a very intense long run, and two HIIT workouts, last weekend was a killer. And I could feel my legs (rightfully) complaining. So, I decided to do a little flushing, with long low-intensity intervals to freshen up my muscles. First thing I did is schedule a rest day for Tuesday, and cancel an easy run I had scheduled for Friday. Also, I replaced a scheduled tempo run with an easy pace five miler. Finally, I slowed down my pace for my long run on Sunday to 7:49 mins per mile instead of my 6:50-7:05 pace from previous weeks. I hope this flushing pays off. Next week I plan to bring the focus back to speed.
A so-called “brick” consists of a full bike workout followed immediately by a full run workout; in other words, it’s a session in which each part could stand alone as a complete workout
I’ve only attempted to do two brick workouts before this season, and I haven’t been very successful. The first time, my legs felt completely exhausted after I started running and had to walk half the way (some people say that this feeling is the reason why they are called “brick workouts”). The second time it didn’t really count because I did a stationary bike workout instead of an actual ride. So, I guess this week I did my first successful brick workout ever!
I chose to do an approximate sprint-distance brick with a 12.6 mile ride followed by a 3.0 mile run. I managed to keep my transition in under 4 minutes. Which is not bad considering I had to walk up to my apartment to change my shoes, leave my bike, get out of my thermal clothes (winter wind on the bike is no joke), and kiss my wife. In fact, I did much better than I expected. It looks like I will definitely be able to finish my first triathlon (scheduled for June) in under 1:30, and maybe even under 1:15.
Menu of the week
Mexican-style steaks and lentils
Baked pork chops with mashed sweet potatoes and arugula salad
After Pittsburgh, I’ll have 1 week rest and then 6 weeks to train for my first (!) triathlon. So, I decided to incorporate some swimming and cycling to my training starting now. I’ve been swimming for a while, but this week I did my first ride of the year, and it went great (which is good so I don’t have to feel bad about slacking a bit on my running).
I planed my bike ride for Wednesday afternoon, but the weather was awful and I didn’t have time to do it before dusk. So, I rescheduled it to Friday and joined my wife at the gym instead. However, I was feeling tired and not very motivated Friday and I decided to ditch it all together. Fortunately, the weather on Saturday was absolutely perfect and I couldn’t resist going out for a nice hour-long ride.
It is week 5 already, which means I need to start increasing my mileage (of course this had to coincide with the coldest week of the season thus far).
This week, I did a tough workout to improve the endurance of my leg muscles: three 10 milers on three consecutive days at an increasing pace. With most the running packed at the end of the week, I had a lot of room for cross-training earlier on. So, I did three consecutive days of strength training focusing on different muscle groups.
Monday — Morning: swim workout. Afternoon: Les Mills Grit™ 30:00 min HIIT class
It is a pretty simple workout. First, run 10 miles. Then, run another 10 miles at a slightly faster pace the next day. Finally, run another 10 miles at an even faster pace on the third day. I attempted this workout for the first time last fall and it was a killer. The first two days went great, but my legs were exhausted on the third day and I had to slow down considerably.
This time I took it a bit more seriously. My target paces for each run were 7:40 min/mile, 7:20 min/mile and 7:00 min/mile, respectively.
On the first day I went a little faster than planned, I ended up doing 7:31 min/mile. Moreover, the course was hillier than I anticipated and I could feel some muscle fatigue already. On the second day I was just on target doing 7:20 min/mile, despite crazy winds and really low temperatures. At night, my calves were sore. I started to worry a bit, but there was not much to do at this point other than foam-rolling and getting a good night sleep. I’m happy to report my legs were strong enough to achieve a sub-7 pace on the third day!!! I’m feeling good about Pittsburgh!
Menu of the week
I’ve been doing most of the cooking for the last few months, since my wife’s surgery. Now, she is recovered enough to be able to cook, which means that there is more dish variety. This week, she prepared two meals and I prepared another two. We had:
Turkey ground meat and zucchini lasagna
Chicken with mushrooms and boiled cauliflower
Beef stew with carrots and potatoes
Pan fried salmon, quinoa with vegetables, and roasted beets
Both the zucchini lasagna and the salmon were really awesome!!