One of the many great things about starting a new year :: The beginning of a new training season!
Since I first began running in October 2008, I’ve look forward to starting a new training class as much as a nerdy kid looks forward to the first day of school. 🙂
In some ways, this year was no different. When the alarm went off at 4:45 a.m., I wondered what the heck I was thinking. For the first 4 miles of my 12-mile run in the freezing cold (literally, it was 27 degrees!), I continued wondering what the heck I was thinking. By the time we were done, I was exhilarated and looking forward to spending the next 16 weeks with my good friends – some new and some old.
In other ways, this year was drastically different. Brad woke up with me, and we both put on umpteen layers as we braced for the cold start of marathon training. I am not coaching, as I’ve done for the past three training seasons. And, instead of my usual marathon training schedule, I am part of an advanced marathon training class for runners who have completed a race within a specific time and want to improve their performance.
My decision to take an advanced class instead of coaching a regular class was not easy. I love being coach. I love helping people achieve their goals, challenging them to try something new, and encouraging them not to give up. I totally geek out studying nutrition and training theories, and coaching is the perfect way to put this knowledge to good use. But, coaching also requires a lot of responsibility. Keeping up with 15+ runners, each with different goals and needs; sending out weekly lesson plans; following-up with absent runners; and answering a steady stream of training questions can be very difficult when you also are training for goals of your own and have a full-time, day job.
This past season, in particular, I found myself sacrificing much more of my personal running goals and development than I had in prior coaching seasons. Even though I ran a personal best marathon by 8 minutes, I feel like I’m approaching a plateau. Every coach needs a coach of her own to improve. I also recognize that gaining more experience and trying new training will make me a better coach in the long run. (Pun not intended.)
So, I decided it was time to shake things up . . . Advanced Marathon Training, here I come! Little did I know how BIG a shake-up this would be.
- The training is effort-based — not pace-focused. This means that we will run a “threshold race” in a few weeks to set our max heart rate and training zones. After that, our schedule will be filled with notations like Zone 1 or Zone 3-4, instead of Easy or Marathon Pace (MP).
- The training requires more mileage than I’ve ever run on a weekly basis. In the past, I’ve peaked at 50 miles for one week about a month before my goal race. This year, we’ll be at 50 miles by week 5, and our average weekly mileage will be 60-65 for most of the 16-week training plan.
- All of our runs take place on different routes. No more meeting at the store that is a mere 3 minutes from home. Instead, I’ll be driving to another neighborhood about 10-15 minutes away. We have 26 designed routes, which means, at best, we’ll run each of them only twice.
- All of our weekday runs are on rolling hills. No more training schedule with a 5-week block of rolling hills, a few hill repeats, and otherwise flat running. Instead, every single one of our routes begins and ends in a neighborhood that we used to designate only for hill workouts.
(New Mantra :: “It’s just a hill. Get over it.”)
- Most of our runs will include some miles run at marathon or tempo pace. No more weeks and weeks of only easy runs. The only way to improve your turn over and develop your fast-twitch muscles is to practice doing it, so that is what we will do.
- Our weekday runs are not supported with water set out on course, so everyone is responsible for bringing their own water bottle. This didn’t seem like a huge change (I usually carry water anyway), but I realized that this morning that it also means no more stopping every 2 miles for a water break.
All good things that I understand should lead to impressive development, but very major changes nonetheless. And, we all know how much I love change. 😉
I don’t have a major time goal for either of my Spring marathons. Boston is a challenging course to PR, and I plan to run it alongside my hubby, Brad (I wouldn’t have it any other way for his first, and probably only, marathon!). Big Sur is crazy hard; in fact, most people don’t wear a watch, take a camera, and just enjoy the course.
When people realize all this, they often ask me why I’m putting myself through such intense training without an intense race goal. The reasons are simple.
- I am still growing as a runner, and I needed to break out of a rut while I still can. (No; I’m not saying that I’m “old,” I started running rather late in life and I’m certainly not getting any younger.)
- I’m excited about learning a new way to train. The idea of HR zones and more tempo work is similar to how I’ve trained in cycling, but I’ve never applied it to running.
- I can’t wait to see how my body responds to this type of training. If it’s anything like cycling, I’m in for greatness!
- I find it liberating that my training won’t be simmering under the pressure of a PR-goal race. The self-imposed pressure of ‘needing’ to qualify for Boston last Fall nearly did me in!
I hope you’ll join me as I use this space to share my journey with you.
Wish me luck!