Marathon Season 2018

Another first week of June, another first week of marathon training.

For the sixth consecutive year, I’m embarking on the 18-week roller coaster that is marathon training. For the first time in those six years, however, this wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion. As you may recall, I’ve been on a marathon training journey that has left me increasingly jaded with the entire process: a feeling that reached a head during the last six weeks of training last year and culminated with me crossing the start line of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon 90 percent sure it’d be the last time I’d do that for quite some time, possibly ever.

Because nothing can ever go according to plan, the following five hours and four minutes went so well that they completely negated the previous six weeks of suffering, and I crossed the finish line knowing I would most certainly be back in 2018. Naturally.

When I wrote my novella on my many Feelings regarding training and the Chicago Marathon in general last fall, I mentioned that I was hesitant to register for the 2018 Chicago Marathon because I didn’t want to run the 2018 Chicago Marathon in that moment, but I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t want to run the 2018 Chicago Marathon once 2018 actually rolled around. If I had written this post two weeks ago, I would still be fairly lukewarm to the idea of running the 2018 Chicago Marathon. It took me ages to convince myself to sign up for CARA training, even though I had already signed up for the race, and when I know I grimaced when I submitted my payment (and not just because training isn’t free). I wasn’t excited about any of this.

But, as I mentioned a mere two paragraphs ago, nothing can ever go according to plan, and I have found myself in a position that almost certainly means my marathoning days are numbered. You’ll have to forgive my vagueblogging, but rest assured that my marathoning days aren’t numbered for a bad or scary or dangerous reason–just for an “other goals” reason. Anyway, it occurred to me while running last Thursday that I could only have one or two marathons left in this current large-scale cycle (that cycle being training prep February-May, marathon training June-October, marathon/free time recovery November-January, repeat). Right now, I think there’s a chance I’ll run more marathons in the distant future, but since I know 10 years ago I didn’t dream of every running a 5K, let alone multiple marathons, I don’t want to count on marathoning again in 10 years.

As a result of that, I suddenly feel a lot more pressure to accomplish my long term marathon goals, and fast. I have wanted to run a 4:45 marathon since my first training cycle. I’ve come close–4:52–but actually running a 4:45 is the biggest piece of unfinished business I have not only with the Chicago Marathon, but with marathoning in general. (I suppose you could say qualifying for Boston is another piece of unfinished business I have with marathoning, but let’s be real: I would need to take just under an hour and a half off my PR to squeak into Boston. I’ve never even run a 10K at that pace, never mind an additional 20 miles beyond that. There’s nothing wrong with setting big, scary, insane goals, and who knows? Maybe if I worked obscenely hard, I could take that much time off my marathon PR in a 18 weeks. I’m willing to work hard, but not as hard as a goal like that would require.) I feel like it’s now or never, so…I guess that means it’s now.

Fortunately, I already hoped to train harder this cycle than I have in the past. I’m following(ish) Hal Higdon’s M3 program again, since I really liked the higher mileage/lower frequency balance of the program last year. I think getting used to spending so much time on my feet made a huge difference in helping me have a good race last year, so I’m all about doing that again. Bring on the weekday 10 milers!

Because I continue to think I know what I’m doing in the marathon training department, I’ve added some additional speedwork/”real” training (by “real” I mean “something harder than an easy run”) into the M3 program beyond the tempo and pace runs it calls for (especially since my marathon “pace” usually turns out to be slower than any of my training runs, anyway). I plan to incorporate 800s and hills into my training this year, which will be the first time I’ve ever done either of those. I also plan to make my cross training days substantially more cardio-focused than they have been in the past. I still plan to cross train with yoga occasionally, but I’m reducing my frequency from once a week to once every other week. On non-yoga weeks, I plan to bike. I also plan to bike and either do a circuit workout or strength train every Sunday.

Speaking of strength training–and this is where I expect to have the most trouble sticking to my grandiose plans for this summer’s training–I want to strength train three times per week for the entire season beyond the Sunday strength training I have scheduled. I didn’t put this on my actual training plan, so technically it’s optional, but I don’t want to treat it as being too optional. I think additional strength training–nothing insane, just 20 minutes or so–could hopefully help me build fitness and make it more likely that I’ll have the race I hope to have in October. My real hope is to do this before work, which I know is where things are most likely to fall apart. My work day already starts stupid early. Am I really going to be able to convince myself to go to the gym for thrice-weekly two-a-days for three weeks? I doubt it, but I’m at least going to try.

So that’s the plan for this year. More hard training. More (any) strength training. More cardio. And, hopefully, a better chance at 4:45. Here’s hoping!

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7 thoughts on “Marathon Season 2018

  1. You can do it! For the strength training, do you think it would help if someone wrote you workouts to do and you had to respond and tell them how they went? Maybe that would give you more motivation to stick with them versus using an app or a website. And, yes, Iā€™m volunteering. You can pay me baked goods or brunch šŸ™‚

  2. Well, now I can’t stop wondering what is this vague thing that makes you think you’ll never be able to marathon again after this year?

    One thing that helped me improve my marathon time, back in the day, was adding fast finishes at goal pace to my long runs, and to run more miles overall. Since I only run 4-5 days a week in training, I got into the habit of stacking my runs (back to back to back days) to simulate the effect of cumulative fatigue from higher mileage. Someone once told me that good marathoning isn’t about who is the fastest, it’s about who slows down the least. Translated for those of us mere mortals who aren’t actually racing out there, it means that endurance work will yield better results in this specific distance than speed. Track intervals are nice to build speed and fitness in the beginning of training, but make sure you prioritize race-specific work in your later peak weeks of training.

    Anyway, good luck. I think you can do it! You’ve shown this past year that you have what it takes to run a good marathon – now it’s all about taking the lessons from that race to this year, and dialing into that goal pace!

    • Thank you! I think fast finishing my runs the past winter was a huge part of why I ended up having so much (unexpected) success at my half marathon in April. It forced me to learn how to pace myself, and got me used to hurting at the end (in a good way, of course.) I’m a little unsure how fast finishing long runs (even just a few of them) during marathon training will go, since I train with a group, but hopefully I’ll be able to do it at least a couple times, depending on how the group dynamic plays out.

  3. I can definitely attest to the benefits of strength training – even though mine has dropped off dramatically in the last few due to increased cardio/endurance training. I think it definitely established a great base for my other workouts and helped strengthen my muscles to stay injury free (knocks on wood). I think you already knew all that anyways šŸ˜‰ Maybe an accountability buddy like Erin mentioned would be helpful. Even someone you could just text each day you did your 20 minutes of strength training!
    Another thing that I believe has really helped me this year is making the hard days harder and the easy days easier. In previous years I think I just did a lot of moderate training and that isn’t as helpful for improving. I’ve mostly been using HR data. Especially for running, it has forced me to slow down on easy days and days were I am just tired I am forced to run slower to keep my HR down. Just my 2 cents šŸ™‚

    • I would imagine I fall mostly into the moderate training category most of the time, too. Most of my runs, I just go out and do it without really thinking much about effort or trying to be intentional about how much effort I put in. Thanks for the insight!

  4. Pingback: Chicago Marathon Training Week 3 | accidental intentions

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