Monday, May 12, 2014

Marathon training for slowpokes: Week 11 check-in

Gold Coast training log week 10 (May 5 to 11) 

Monday: 9km easy
Tuesday: Woke up absurdly late, so I did my intervals at the gym: 800 warmup, 3x1200 at 5min/km with 400m recovery, 400 cooldown - 5.6km.
Wednesday: A true rest day!
Thursday: 9km marathon pace + yoga. Boy did I need the yoga after this.
Friday: 12.25km 'easy' (starting to feel like a slog; I walked a couple of those kms and picked up the pace only after halfway, when I ran into my colleague who lives nearby - she was running too and dragged me through 2km and then I finished the rest on my own!)
Saturday: 13.5km 'easy' (definitely feeling like I was slogging through these runs)
Sunday: 17km to and around Sentosa - quite possibly the happiest, best 17km I've run in a while, which was a great relief after a whole week of feeling sluggish.

Total: 66.35km + yoga

So, it's now week 11 of 18. Two months to go. I've basically pulled together sage advice from several books (Jack Daniels plan A and Hansons Marathon Method somewhere between the beginner and advanced plan - yes, the former bases training pace on current fitness and the latter bases training pace on your time goal but I think my time goal matches my current fitness quite nicely), several wise people (Kirkie and Holly), the internet, and my gut instincts, to cobble together a marathon training plan that I think of as the Commonsense Marathon Training Plan.

Some lessons from 10 weeks of training:
- I feel like this is the first time I'm training systematically and with specific goals focused on the training process. Goals like: run >60km a week consistently. Or: Do a strength class and a yoga class each week.
- I've started doing a proper warmup that isn't just slow-jogging the first km or two. It includes leg swings, knee hugs and toe touches because that's all I can remember at 6am most days.
- There is no such thing as 100% compliance with a training plan - so the best plan is the one that maximises compliance! For me, a key part of marathon training - in fact the biggest part of marathon training - is being consistent. I found last time round that the Hansons plan was incredibly easy to comply with because I didn't need to think about how far and fast I would have to run each day ('what do you mean, fartlek? I don't like to hurt that much, why would I do it for 2 whole minutes') or do algebra in my head ('Let X be the total mileage for the week. Okay, now run 0.25X.') All I had to do was remember a number and a pace. Believe me, at 6am that's all you want to think about. That's why I still use Hansons as my base.
- It is more reassuring for me, mentally, to have run 60km or so a week consistently going into the marathon, than have done one or two killer long runs. I mean, BOTH would probably be ideal, but there is some notion that slowpokes like me who take nearly three hours to do all of 26km should not be a) doing a 20-miler because it burns us out too much to handle the week ahead [or b) running marathons, but that's my choice thanks].

So, um, this is sort of unorthodox, but this week we will be upping sticks and going to Italy for two weeks' vacation in the middle of my 18-week marathon training cycle. We'll be in gym-less hostels, B&Bs, and staying with family (my Italian cousins...doncha know? Chinese grandmothers and Italian grandmothers are fundamentally the same thing. No not really. Husband's Italian relatives.)
I wouldn't advise this in the least.
I still plan to try and get in my two quality workouts (as per Mr Jack Daniels) each of those weeks (ha ha let's see how that goes). I'll be walking and hiking enough that the mileage can go hang.

in which Mr Daniels tells me what to do


  1. I so agree that consistency is more important than 100% compliance. I have yet to go through a single marathon (and now, ultramarathon) training cycle where I didn't have some kind of interruption, whether from injury or illness, and I've found that I'm better off just waiting for the issue to be resolved than trying to train through it in hopes of attaining 100% adherence.

    Have fun in Italy, by the way! If you're going to have an interruption in your training, that's the way to do it. :)

    1. Thanks! On training interruptions: that's exactly the point that the great Salty Running (omg they're now one of my favourite running sites) makes here: - "Taking a day off here or there should not be avoided if it’s necessary to recover and avoid a big injury or overtraining". Life happens, so it's vital to be flexible in your training. Which is easier said than done if you're a stubborn perfectionist like me...

  2. 100% compliance is overrated. Have a great time in Italy!

  3. I think you have some really smart points in your plan. Consistency DEFINITELY beats a couple of solid long runs (though, of course you're right that both certainly can't hurt), getting in you strength / stretching is important, & certainly the best training plan is the one you are most likely to follow.

    Re: long runs & how long they should be, I've read several things that say they are best measured by time rather than mileage for exactly the reason you state. It's no problem for an elite runner to do several 22-23 milers since it only takes them like 2-2.5 hours, but for most of us, doing long runs that take as long as or close to as long as our actual marathon times are probably counterproductive.

    Have SOOO much fun in Italy!! FYI, I did not run at all despite my best intentions, and I am not even sorry about it. :)

    1. Thanks! Haha I probably won't regret it if I don't run at all. But then I probably won't regret knocking out some hard sprints a couple times each week, either. And I hear running can be a nice way to see the Tuscan countryside... :)

      Re time or distance for the long run, I stumbled upon this very question discussed in a UK forum:
      Personally, I've found that on race day I'm usually able to pull 20 miles out of the bag much faster than I can in training, because race day has the double benefit of adrenaline AND fresh legs, vs dead legs at peak training week. Mentally, I know that I HAVE done the full marathon distance before (on less-coordinated training...which was unwise) and I know that I'm capable of doing it again. So I don't need reassurance on that front, whereas a first-time marathoner might need the reassurance that they will be able to get round.
      On the other hand, I wouldn't mind doing at least one 18-to-20-miler (which will take me a good 3.5 hours) to work out the logistics of an optimal fuelling and hydration plan, even if I have to do the last hour or so at a walk/run! Jen had some very thoughtful reflections in her post ( after Big Sur about process-oriented goals, and I'd like to start working out a race strategy to stick to.

  4. I agree that psychologically I need to have done 20 miles, its all about confidence, but that consistency you're talking about, the total miles in your legs is what builds the strength you need. Interested to hear more about the Jack Daniels idea. I'll look it up! Have a great time in Italy.