Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obsessed with training

I don't know if this is healthy or not - but, I've been obsessed lately with looking at my training schedule for the marathon. I've been trying to predict how certain training is going to make me feel based off past experiences. There is enough new training that I've never done before that it makes me a little nervous - but, I think I need to make these changes in my training to improve my time.

And yes, this means I have all of my daily runs planned out until Boston - I know it's a little sick.

What kind of changes?

1) More runs over 20 miles. Leading up to NYC in 2007 I had one run >= 20 miles. Now to be fair - I had 14 runs between 16-19 miles, but I don't think that was enough. For Boston I'm going to be running 9 runs 20-24 miles plus 12 runs between 16-19 miles.

2) More mid-week runs of 12-15 miles. I had about 4 of these in training for NYC. These are easy runs that aren't the long run of the week. I'll be doing 25 of these during training for Boston - so, some weeks I'll have 2 of these. What this means is that I'll have a lot days where I'll be beat up from hard/long running and trying to get out the door for 85+ min.

3) More marathon or faster training within runs >=16 miles. I did 3-4 of these in prep for NYC - I am planning on running 7 of these this winter/spring.

4) Less racing early on in training. During all of my training for NYC I never went more than 4 weeks without racing. For Boston I'm going to go about 13 weeks before the first time I toe the line in any race. What I'm worried about is boredom more than anything. The point is to put down a strong base of training without stressing my body too much early on, so that I can be stronger for the last few months before the marathon. I guess that's part of the reason for this blog - so that I have a reason to stay psychologically focused during this period.

5) Related to #4 is the transition time between my current training (my last race of the "season" is on 10/11) and Boston marathon training (the first relatively challenging week is the second week of December). It's a real trick to find out the best way to give one's body rest without losing too much fitness. I also tend to gain weight when I'm running low mileage - which can make coming back to training a rather miserable experience. So, I need to concentrate on nutrition and cross training while april will feel like a long ways away.

6) February 17-April 4: This might be the hardest 7 weeks of training that I've ever attempted. I'll be running an average of ~89 miles per week, with 5 runs over 20 miles, a half marathon, 9 threshold/marathon pace runs and no days off. This is why those 8 weeks between 10/11-12/7 are so important. I need to be both rested and have a decent base - so that I can handle the training and not get injured.

Monday, September 29, 2008



I kind of felt sorry for Geb at the Olympics last month. One of the greatest runners of all time was limited to basic pacing duties for his countrymen in the 10k. But, at the end of the race he had a big smile on his face even though he didn't medal. Maybe he knew something the rest of us didn't.

Gebrselassie is one of those mythic men of running - at the age of 35 he runs the first marathon under 2 hours and 4 minutes. His first world record was the 5,000 meters in 12:56 and change in 1994. Think of that - he's been setting world records for 14 years! That's incredible.

Also incredible is his range - the difference between 5k and 42k is quite a bit - and yet he's been the best in the world at both distances and everything between. The man has had a movie made about him (Endurance, 1999) which was actually pretty good.

He has two Olympic gold medals and 8 world championships for indoor and outdoor track. Pretty much an overall stud. In terms of range and length of career, he is probably the greatest distance runner of all time.

To put his marathon pace in perspective - there are only 15 Americans who have ever run faster than 1 hour 2 minutes for the HALF marathon. That's sick.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Marathon Quote #1

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming."
- Frank Shorter

I completely agree. In 3 out of 4 marathons I've experienced complete physical breakdowns. I'll tell you a little more about those good times later.

Why am I doing this again?


There aren't many sporting events that I can think of that are based on a story from a ancient Greco war and named after a battle. Pheidippides was, of course, a messenger for the Athenian army. The story goes that after the Athenians were victorious over the Persians at the battle of Marathon, Pheidippides ran the 26 miles back to Athens to announce the victory. He made it back, stated "we have won", and died on the spot.

Not exactly a story that one would think would lead thousands of people every year around the world to try and equal his feat. I did a little reading on the internets - and the factual history around his run is a little shaky. But, more historically firm is the fact that he ran to Sparta to request help in battling the Persians before the battle of Marathon. To reach the Spartans and get back to the battle he ran 150 miles in two days BEFORE the famous 26 miles. No wonder he died - he didn't taper properly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The training plan

I'm going to use a combination of training plans from Pete Pfitzinger (Advanced Marathoning) and Jack Daniels (Daniels' Running Formula). They both have plans that have 4 phases. The Pfitzinger plan is a little simpler - but, I like some of the workouts in the Daniels book a little bit better.

I'm planning on writing extensively on what these books say about distance running training. I'll probably bring in some theory from a few other books I have laying around too.

The plan will run for 24 weeks. I'll get into the details in a later post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


For any athletic event that's seven months out it's best to have multiple goals. There are so many unknowns that it would be crazy to say "If I don't run Time A, I won't be happy."

I have four levels of goals:

Goal A:

Run sub 2:30. My PR is 2:36 - so, this might seem a little beyond what I'm capable of doing. However, I've run 10k and half marathon times that point to a capability of sub 2:30. Still, you might say, "Boston is a hard course. Maybe you should save that goal for a flat course." That's true - but, people have run decent times at Boston, I live in a relatively hilly city (Baltimore) for training, and I have a good training group. Basically, you never know when you'll have a chance to run a good time. Yes, I will need to follow my training to a "T", no injuries allowed, no bad weather on race day etc - but, I know I can do it at some point - why not now?. At least I think I can. Probability it will happen? 5-10% Everything would have to go right - and I would have to run a sub 1:10 half in my tune up race to even attempt it. That being said - most of my training will assume that this is my goal pace.

Goal B:

PR. This is quite a bit easier - but, it's still difficult. I ran a 2:37 last year in NYC and I'm not getting younger (although many runners PR in the marathon into their mid-30's). I'd say there's about a 50-60% chance that I'll get goal B.

Goal C:

Finish without completely blowing up. Although I could get goal B or even A while also blowing up (my definition of blowing up is running at least 2 miles at 30 seconds slower than goal pace) - it's not likely. The marathon is so cruel because it can make you go from feeling the most fit in your life to crippled in a few hours. Leg muscles cramp up, range of motion disappears, basically your body can fall apart until you only march on because you're not sure how else you can get to the finish line. I've run 4 marathons - I've felt like this in 3 of them. So, I give myself a 25% chance of not blowing up.

Goal D:

Finish. Even when I've felt awful I've been able to finish. I've never dropped out of a marathon - and I've never injured myself so badly that I couldn't get to the starting line (knock on wood). I would say that there is at least a 95% chance that I'll be on the start line next April and finish.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why do I want to write a blog on running the Boston Marathon?

1) It will help me focus on my training and give me a reason to keep running long miles through the cold winter.

2) I'm in the health field - and I want to develop some running related material for a possible future web based running community.

3) I've been running competitively for 19 years and I still can't quite answer the question I had the first time I toed the line when I was in 7th grade, "Why am I doing this?" Maybe this blog will help me answer that question.