Due to injury and work overload, I had to cancel my plans to run the Erie marathon in the fall. Instead, I ran a couple of half marathons and some 5ks. I PRed in both distances and I won my first race (sure, it was only 70 people running it and everybody was hangover from new year’s celebrations, but I am still counting it and crossing it off my bucket list).
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.
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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!!
That is exactly what I need to qualify to the Boston Marathon. Last year, I ran my first marathon in Pittsburgh in 3:31:43. This was nowhere neat my Boston Marathon Qualifying Standard of 3:05:00. This year, I plan to run my second marathon. It is exactly the same race, but this time I will try to shave 30 minutes off my time to quality to Boston. Here is my 5-step plan to accomplish this task, let’s hope it is enough!!
1. Faster cadence and better form
Last year, I was following a very long (30-week) training plan, but I injured my right hamstring 16 weeks before the race. It took me 6 weeks to come back to a regular training schedule, and another 4 weeks for the pain to subside entirely.
My physical therapist told me that what felt like a hamstring injury was actually a lower back issue caused by a weak core and bad running posture. He also told me that my cadence was too slow and my muscles were too tight, and gave me some pointers to improve my form.
I started doing more core strengthening exercises, stretching better, foam rolling, doing running drills, and taking rest days seriously, and I have focused on keeping proper form and fast cadence during my runs. Increasing my cadence hasn’t been easy. I have gone up from 155 steps per minute to 175, and I am consciously trying to push my normal-pace-cadence all the way up to 180.
I am happy to report that I have been injury free since then. I hope my improved form and cadence helps me continue to be injury free for a long time, and to be more efficient on race day!
2. Smarter race
Last year, I was hoping to finish under 3:30:00. I probably could have, but I made a total noob mistake. Since I was feeling great at the beginning of the race, I stuck around the 3:15 pacer for around 15 miles. At some point, I realized I couldn’t keep up any more, and then I hit the wall. The last 10 miles were absolute hell. I just wanted to stop and wait for someone to pick me up. I did my fastest mile in 7 minutes, and mile 25 took me more than 10. Starting out too fast was a terrible mistake.
Last fall I was training for my first Boston qualifying attempt, but then work got in the way. From mid October to mid December, I was barely sleeping, had no time to cook or train properly, and some weeks I didn’t even run at all! So, I backed out from the Philly marathon and only did the half instead.
Now, things are back to normal and I feel ready to go. Something tells this next cycle will be full of excitement and good news.
The day by day workout breakdown was as follows:
Monday — Morning: 1 mile swim including 10 x 25m @ 19 sec. Afternoon: Les Mills Grit™ 30:00 min HIIT class
Tuesday — Morning: 6.29 miles run @ 7:59 min/mile on fresh slippery snow. Afternoon: upper body lifting workout
Wednesday — Easy swim for a semi-rest day
Thursday — Morning: 4.92 miles run @ 6:47 min miles average (random pickups since the track was closed). Afternoon: full body lifting workout
Friday — Fitology Studio 3 class combo (30 min indoor cycling + 30 min lifting + 30 min core)
Last May in Pittsburgh, I ran my first marathon in 3:31:43 (nowhere near my BQ target). I was just happy to finish, specially since I was still recovering from a hamstring injury and was able to train a lot less that I would have liked. Now I am much better with my form and cadence, I’ve managed to stay injury free since, and I want another shot at it. I’m still not sure whether I’ll get my BQ on this one (or wait until September), but I can definitely get closer.