Marathon training: It’s almost here!

I’m at that point in my taper where I can count the number of days until my marathon on one hand, and I wanted to write one last pre-marathon post so I could record my thoughts about this training cycle without having them be influenced by the outcome of my marathon.

For those of you who are not hanging onto my every status update and blog post with bated breath, the quick recap is that I running the Clearwater Marathon this Sunday.  It will be my fourth marathon and my third attempt at breaking four hours – my next stop on the way to BQ-ville – and I’ve decided to try to do so by employing the Hansons Marathon Method, mainly because I heard so many people say the training plan worked well for them, so I figured hey, why not.  (I do this a lot. It’s almost like it’s my life motto or something.)

My PR is 4:08, and really, the only reason I didn’t break four hours that time is because the clouds parted and the sun shot rays of 80-degree sunlight straight at my sweaty head for the last six miles of my marathon and I basically melted into a puddle on the street leading into Nassau.  I think I have a good shot at doing it this time, because a) temperatures are supposed to be a hell of a lot cooler and b) I actually stepped up my training even more this time.

When I checked in at the halfway point, I expressed some reservations about the Hansons method, mainly that it had me running so much that I didn’t have the time or energy to keep up with my swimming, my cycling or my weight training.  At the time I considered this a mark against the training program, and I still don’t think it is well-suited for a multisport athlete.  That said, my attitude has evolved, particularly since I’ve seen how a steady diet of 45-50 mile weeks with regular tempo runs and speed work has transformed me as a runner.

First, I want to make the point that it’s not like I was a total slouch as a runner before.  I’m one of those runners who is usually at the front of the middle of the pack, and my PRs are respectable. I mean, I’m still slower than your average cross-country athlete, but I do okay.  But over the course of the last several months, I’ve noticed that I’ve become more efficient as a runner. Here are a few ways in which I’ve seen that:

  • I made an effort to start moving my arms parallel to each other instead of letting them cross in front of me, which in turn opened up my chest and improved my posture and made me feel more energetic almost right away.  This is now pretty much habit.
  • I’ve also found that I no longer need to take fuel for runs that are between seven and ten miles in length, because my body does just fine with whatever I’ve got on board for those distances.  (This is probably helped in large part by the fact that I have made a real effort to eat almost immediately after running so my glycogen stores are all happy and topped off and shit.)
  • I land a lot lighter on my feet, which seems to have reduced the cumulative impact inflicted on my body by thousands of footfalls over several hours per week.  I wish I could tell you what I did to make this happen but I have no clue, it just seemed to happen.
  • I focus a lot more on my run as it’s happening instead of trying to distract myself from it, which means that when I get tired and my form starts to fall apart, I notice right away and pull myself back together pretty quickly.

Every time I’ve gone for a run with Brian, he’s always like, “You’re a total beast.”  (In a good way, of course.)  And I don’t necessarily see this as something that will hurt me when it comes time to return to triathlon, because it’s not like my development as a runner will just evaporate.  At least it better not, or I’ll be pissed.

None of this is to say that my path to this point has been flawless. (I woke up like this.)  (I have been dying for a way to work that into a post.) For one, I did experience a bout of mystery knee pain that kept me from running for about a week in December.  That sucked. I also missed nearly a week of taper because I was sick with some sort of weird sinus situation that turned my nose into a geyser of snot and made my ears pop like I was on a freaking airplane for three days straight.  That also sucked.

But because I am not an omghardcore! runner and instead prefer to be an omgsmart! runner, I took time off in both instances and did what I needed to do to take care of myself.  And sure enough, the knee pain went away and I am no longer sick.  I’ve decided the knee pain was just my knee, which has already been wonky since high school, freaking out and saying, “WHAT’S GOING ON? WHY ARE WE RUNNING ALL THE TIME? GUYS, THIS IS SCARY. GUYS?”  (It’s even more accurate if you imagine my knee saying this in Jim Gaffigan’s voice.)

I know that runners have a tendency to act like we can just run through whatever shit is going on with our bodies.  I myself have done this in the past, and I have learned that it never works out that way, and in fact it usually backfires and turns what should have been a three-day break into a three-week break.  And let’s be realistic, missing one tempo run and two easy runs is not going to make or break me as a four-hour marathoner. And let’s be even MORE realistic – I’m a freaking hobby jogger.  I’d love to make my goal but if I don’t, it’s no big deal. It’s not like I’m going to starve and lose sponsorships because I was slightly more average than I had hoped I’d be, you know?

I will also cop to feeling frustrated that I’ve lost some of my upper body muscle, even though I made a point to lift at least twice a week and to increase my caloric intake to compensate for the calories burned off by my runs.  In fact, I ended up actually losing weight, which is basically unheard of during marathon training. The fact that this happened has led me to another realization, which is that while I really love and admire well-developed upper bodies and would love to have one of my own, I have come to the realization that I am not one of those people whose bodies can accommodate a lot of running AND have big, beautiful muscles.  So I am still focused on lifting, but it’s also with the understanding that I might not have gorgeous muscles to go along with the strength I build.  *sad trombone*

(Also I am aware of the fact that I am exhibiting a severe case of “grass is greener” syndrome in the previous paragraph.  I am working hard to deal with that, because body acceptance, and also because it is dumb.)

So that’s where I am.  I’m feeling optimistic, I’m trusting in my training, I’m excited to see how it all plays out.

33 responses to “Marathon training: It’s almost here!

  1. Keep up the great work! As long as you’re improving, that’s what counts. And trust me, NO workout routine/plan is perfect — so you’re on the right track. Keep it up.

    • Thanks! If you find it will you let me know what you’ve figured out? So far I’ve found that I can do my normal upper body stuff but that I have to modify lower body workouts quite a bit. That means I don’t do squats and deadlifts with loaded up barbells anymore and I tend to do more unilateral workouts with smaller weights and kettlebells, like single-legged deadlifts and lunges. My big issue, though, is figuring out my timing, like what day I can lift without interfering with a big run.

      Oy, such a conundrum…

  2. I’m sending you good vibes for Sunday! It sounds like you put in the work and feel good about your training, and that goes a long way for race day success. Good luck!

    • Thanks! Yes, I feel like having confidence in my ability is maybe the most important part of the equation, so I’m excited to see if it holds true for me!

  3. Good luck!!!! Sub 4 is in the bag!

    Trying to think back to the breakthrough moment in my running…Like you, I had a 4:09 PR and was just hoping for sub 4. What changed for me are many things you are noting–arm swing, better stride, better rest. But real improvement came when I started running once a week with people who were way faster than me and consciously working on weight loss. 10 pounds makes a difference!!

    Weights and running mix, but you’ll never be jacked! My husband jokes that everyone at ironman looks like they are starving rather than in shape. Our muscles are strong, but not big!!

    • LOL @ the IM competitors remark.

      I’ve heard so many people say the same thing about running with a faster group. I really want to do it, but I work in a job/industry where my schedule changes a lot so it’s hard for me to train with a group of people. It’s definitely on my to-do list.

      I also found that losing a bit of weight helped with my running. About two years ago I made a concerted effort to lose about 15 pounds, and it was about that time that my running times started dropping dramatically. I think I’m at a good racing weight now so weight loss isn’t something I focus on, but I will say that I definitely think it helped me a whole lot.

  4. Good luck! I gave my two cents’ worth on Hansons here while you were trying to decide which plan to pick, and I agree that Hansons is not made for multisport athletes – it’s best for dedicated runners. It taught me what consistency, week after week, can do (at least five days of running a week is now my ‘happy place’ baseline and keeps me sane even when I’m not training for a marathon – the distances I run each day are shorter, of course). It got me used to running longer on weekdays. And most of all it helped me realise that to achieve a big hairy audacious goal, you can only give all your energy and focus to one thing at one time. You can’t marathon train on Hansons and train for a triathlon at the same time. So, likewise with lifting and running. Don’t sweat it; after the marathon you can focus more on lifting, and what your body is capable of will follow.

    • So true to all of your comment, especially this:

      “it helped me realise that to achieve a big hairy audacious goal, you can only give all your energy and focus to one thing at one time.”

      I have come to really appreciate the feeling of single-minded focus that comes with shooting for an audacious goal, but it took me a few years to get to the point where I understood the importance of focusing on one goal at a time instead of just spraying my efforts haphazardly like a defective sprinkler.

  5. Best of luck! Sounds like the makings for a great PR. I am going to look into your training schedule. I have done 9 marathons all with some version of Higdon.

    • Thanks! I hope so!

      My first two serious attempts at training for a marathon used Higdon. I liked it a lot. I just wanted to try something different and maybe a bit more challenging, although now I’m thinking that I might go back to Higdon next time around so I can have a plan that has built in cross-training.

    • Thanks! And I like your perspective. The training process really has been a wonderful experience for me, so even if I don’t hit my goal I will still be pleased with how things turned out. A tiny bit disappointed, sure, but still mostly pleased. 🙂

  6. This is great to read,Caitlin. I’m doing the London marathon on this program, and am 6 weeks in now. I was the same as you, and thought that all the running was to much and meant compromising all the swimming and cycling and lifting that I enjoy so much. I have had to give it a back seat, but am still managing to lift twice a week, and cycle enough.
    I am glad it’s been so good for you: I hope I ended up with a similar experience in April! Good luck on Sunday xx

  7. Slow clap on your ‘Flawless’ reference. I can’t BELIEVE I wrote a post on beds and didn’t use it! You are the master.

    Good luck on Sunday!

    • Ha! Thank you! You will have another opportunity, I’m sure.

      That song came on my iPod while I was warming up for my marathon yesterday and it got me so pumped up. I was dancing around with my hands around my face, singing “I woke up like this.” I ❤ it so much.

  8. Good luck!

    I am using the Hanson method to train for my first half. Some days I just can’t believe that I have to run *again* but now distances that seemed so far are becoming “Oh, that’s it?” I wouldn’t have believed it a few weeks ago either.

    • I know, it’s amazing right? I had those moments too where I was like “didn’t I just finish running?” but when I realized that it was paying off in my running performance, it definitely made me more amenable to getting those runs in.

  9. Good luck on Sunday — you’re going to crush it with all of that training and your great attitude at your side! I can’t wait to read all about your training for Boston!

    I’ll be thinking about you, both this weekend, and when I attempt the Miami in a few weeks, especially in the moments when I need to take a deep breath and remember to be an omgsmart! runner and to stay optimistic even though my training didn’t turn out exactly as planned (I’m just coming back after taking 2 full weeks off because my gallbladder decided to pitch a giant hissy that required it being yanked out of my body. Its timing could not have been worse.). Your wise words will do me good.

  10. Good luck! You’ve put in the hard work, now you get to watch it pay off 🙂 Keeping my fingers crossed for good weather!

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