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Friday, February 25, 2011

On the Road Again

Season 2: Seattle

Today began my next round of training on my 50 marathon quest. This time, I'm headed to the Pacific Northwest for the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon.

Though this is actually my third marathon, I'm considering it Season 2, since the first marathon was done without training, and the training is what takes most of the time. I consider the Columbus Marathon to have been a pilot episode of sorts. It's off in it's own little corner of my mind, but the meat of this challenge began at the end of last year, and it continues today.

For this marathon, I'm using a new training program that I found online from Hal Higdon. I went through a few different websites before I decided on this one. The first thing that drove me to this particular plan was the fact that it is set up to go for 18 weeks, a full 6 weeks longer than my last plan. This spreads out my mileage increase over more time and gives me the opportunity for recovery weeks where my long run is actually shorter than the previous week.

It also means that I'll run two training runs of 20 miles instead of just one. I feel like that will help bolster my confidence in the distance by leaps and bounds.

Another nice thing about this system (link at the bottom of this page) is that there are several different levels at which you can train. I looked at the Advanced Levels, but then I asked myself exactly what it was that I was trying to accomplish right now. If I absolutely felt that I needed to qualify for Boston in June, then maybe I'd push myself harder, but I'm not at that point yet. I've got three more races to run this year, so my priority is to train smart and avoid injury. And it'd be nice to be able to walk around Seattle after the race.

So I'm starting this round at Intermediate I, and we'll see how it goes. If I feel particularly strong, I'll bump myself to Advanced for MCM. If not, no worries. There's an Intermediate II.

The big thing for me this time around is that I'm going to force myself to have more control over my pace. I'm going to shoot for a 7:30 pace for the marathon (3:16:30 total time), so I have to train at or around that time. This program has certain workouts that are designed to be done at race pace, to force the body to get used to running it. When you're in the midst of thousands of other runners, you need to know what your pace feels like.

Whereas I have always had the theory of "run as hard as you can," I will now do my best to maintain a steady pace for the benefit of race day. This will cut back on muscle strains and injury, and it will better prepare me, mentally, for the race. I got to put this to the test right away.

Since the marathon is 17 weeks from tomorrow, I joined the training program a few days late, and today's run was a 5 miler at pace. It was my first time on the road since Sunday, and I felt surprisingly good. It takes a few days to figure out what exactly the marathon has done to your body, and I know that I've got some strain on my left side, but I stretched out long and hard before I got out the door, and I was happy with the way everything felt.

I took careful note of my mile markers before I left the house, as I wanted to make sure to keep myself on my pace for the entire run. Since I actually got up on time, it was quite cool when I headed out the door. I'll enjoy that now, while it lasts. I'm sure I'll be pining for 50s when summer gets here. With my muscles nice and warm, I headed down the hill.

My first mile was only 2 seconds off my desired pace, which made me very happy. However, I had to acknowledge the fact that it was mostly downhill, and so I made a conscious choice to be just a bit stronger on the second mile. Apparently this was not necessary, because my second mile was 30 seconds too fast. I readjusted and did the math to figure out where I wanted to be for my turn-around. Since the point is that I run a certain mile pace, I didn't want to go too slow so that it "averaged out," so I just resolved to stay 30 seconds ahead of the pace, and I was right on at the halfway mark.

The check at the 3 mile point showed that I'd gained another 15 seconds, but I was more concerned about mile 4, which would be my mental challenge. Not only is it late in the run, but it leads into a ginormous hill, so I had to make sure I didn't lose any steam going into that. As I began my last mile, I was 52 seconds ahead of the pace I had designated for myself, with a big hill staring me down.

Somehow, though, I didn't slow down at all. I certainly didn't speed up, but kept my hips underneath me and I pushed myself right up the slope, doing all I could to maintain. As I crossed my finish line, I checked the watch. My last mile, uphill, had been 7:18.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the run, but I know that I've got to learn what my pace feels like to ensure that I don't overdo it again next time. I want to make incrimental improvement. I don't have to do it all at once, and if I'm going to stay healthy enough to see this thing through, running smart will be far more important than running fast.

But it'd be nice if I was fast, too.

Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide

Today's Run:
48 Degrees / Clear
5.05 Miles
36 Minutes, 26 Seconds

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