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Running

Marathon Training: Week 9

I spent the first few days of this week just tired. Not so much sore, but just sapped of energy. My first run, everything felt flat. That 20-mile run from the previous week just seemed to have sucked some of my life force away and it took a bit to replenish it. Just depleted. It was a new experience for me.

But the show must go on.

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: 6 miles recovery. I cruised around the neighborhood and picked up a road or two on CityStrides. I stopped to let some chickens cross the road. Why were they crossing, anyway?

It's a picture of some chickens crossing a road.
Look at all those chickens!

Wednesday: 6 miles easy with a few strides on the track. Things are loosening up.

Thursday: Ran an out-and-back for today’s 14-mile medium long run. There’s a spot with access to the river and a boat lunch that I don’t think I had ever been to before, so I decided to go down there and check it out. I bombed down a really steep hill and just held on for dear life. I got to the river and took a couple of photos before heading back. On the way back up that hill, I thought it would be fun to sprint a portion of it just to see how high I could get my powermeter wattage. That was only fun for a couple of seconds, and then things started feeling grim. I slowly jogged up to the top of the hill and just as I crested I ran into my daughter’s math teacher. I tried to maintain my composure but I probably looked like I had just crawled out of the river. She smiled anyhow.

View from the banks of the Kenai River.
This is where all the fish live.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 6.2 recovery/easy for the most part, but did crank out a hard half-mile Strava segment (1 second away from the crown!), and then a few strides later on.

Sunday: By Sunday, I was clearly recovered from the previous week’s long run, which was evident in today’s long run with goal marathon power. Overall, it was a 16-mile long run with 12 miles at marathon power. I managed to stay right in my self-prescribed power zone, which lined up a little bit faster than what I’m expecting for my marathon pace. If this run is an indication of what my actual marathon race day will look like, I’m really happy with my results.

Totals for the week: 48.28 miles / 7 hours, 9 minutes

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Running

Marathon Training: Week 8

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: Went out for a smooth 7 mile recovery run on the local track, with 6 100-meter strides.

Wednesday: 12 miles in the afternoon on a most beautiful day. I passed a moose that was foraging next to the road. It glanced up at me, and then continued on with its business.

Moose.

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Went out for a 10-mile run, with 6 miles at threshold power. The newly-arrived heat made that threshold segment more challenging than normal, but I stuck it out. During my run, a couple pairs of F22 Raptors flew overhead. This apparently was supposed to be a show of support for frontline pandemic workers. I couldn’t help but find the irony in showing support for the people trying to save lives by showcasing machines whose sole purpose is to rain death on humans. But, I still would love to have a chance to fly in a fighter jet.

Saturday: Real easy 5-mile recovery run.

I’m afraid of heights and I hate running on this bridge. There’s no separation between pedestrians and traffic and there’s hardly any shoulder to run on. I always like to look at my maps after I run across this bridge, because my pace and heart rate are always elevated for this portion.

Sunday: This was it. The run I’ve been looking at on my calendar ever since I started this training program. This is a distance I’ve been looking forward to hitting ever since I started running. The big 2-0. The run went very well. The weather was perfect and my fueling strategy kept me going. I ran this on a 20-ish mile loop that takes me through our neighboring city, with a few rolling hills, across a couple of bridges over the Kenai River, through some ancient floodplains with views of the ocean and volcanoes on the horizon, and back home. I felt pretty good throughout the entire run, with fatigue just starting to set-in during the last mile. I hit 20 miles and walked the last mile home as a cooldown. I ended up with some blistering, but I expected this. In the days that followed this run, there wasn’t any real soreness or anything but I sure was tired for a few days. It sapped the energy out of me.

This is what I look like when I take my hat off after running 20 miles.

With this being one of the bigger weeks in the program, I’m feeling pretty good about having completed it exactly as planned.

Totals for the week: 54.11 miles / 8 hours, 7 minutes

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Running

Marathon Training: Week 7

As I mentioned previously, week six of marathon training essentially became a month of maintaining, trying some new things, and conducting a few time trials, while waiting to learn more about COVID-19 and how it was going to impact my community. While there is still a lot of uncertainty out there, things feel stable enough currently that I’m comfortable picking back up on my marathon training plan. Of course, I no longer have an official race to train for. But who cares? I wasn’t planning on qualifying for Boston, so who needs official? I’ll make my own marathon when the time comes.

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: 10 miles, with 5 miles threshold power in the middle. This was an out-and-back with a slight, but steady, uphill during the first half. I focused on staying within the threshold power target and didn’t pay much attention to pace. On the way back, I was running into a headwind. Thankfully, I have my Stryd powermeter to keep my effort correct. Without it, I would have tried to focus on pace and I would have cooked myself. This was a tough run to resurrect my marathon training with, but it was a good one.

Wednesday: 4.14 recovery run.

Thursday: 11 miles. Another windy day, but I actually missed these medium long runs.

Friday: Rest.

Saturday: 7 miles, with 8 strides. It was windy again, but the wind was actually warm. It was quite pleasant.

Sunday: 18-mile long run. This was a new distance PR for me. It was a gorgeous day and I felt pretty good until the last mile or so when the fatigue began to set-in.

The snow is finally gone, and it’s actually starting to feel like spring.

Totals for the week: 50.22 miles / 7 hours, 27 minutes

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Running

Thwarted By Pandemic

So, I’ve put my marathon training plans on hold. As of today, my marathon isn’t officially cancelled or postponed yet but I cannot imagine it’s going to go as planned on June 20. Assuming it is going to be, at the very least, postponed to later in the year, I was left with a few options.

I first considered just continuing with my training as planned and then deciding what to do once I reached the end of my training, probably opting to run a solo 26.2 time trial in my local area. After all, I’d still get to keep all of the fitness I earned along the way.

But, I started to hesitate with this idea as I read more and more about COVID-19, particularly how much harder it seems to hit people who have compromised immune systems. Yes, I’m young(ish), healthy, and fairly fit–my friends and family joke that I probably wouldn’t even notice if I was infected (doubtful). Yes, there’s a large body of evidence that supports the idea that people that regularly exercise have stronger immune systems. But there’s some additional research that seems to suggest there’s a point where taxing your body too much actually has the opposite effect.

Graphing this relationship between training intensity and immune system function has been interpreted as a J-Curve.

J-Curve graph showing relationship between exercise and infection risk.
Image credit: PodiumRunner.com

It’s hard to tell where my personal marathon training puts me on that curve. Maybe the level of training I was partaking in would have me right at the bottom of that curve. But maybe not. Maybe it puts me at an above-average risk for infection.

Is now the best time to ramp my training up, week after week, for a race that’s not even going to occur? As more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed across the country, and beginning to infiltrate my remote state and rural community, is it wise to push myself too far physically?

I agonized over the decision but ultimately decided I was going to play it safe(er) and scale back my running to focus more on maintenance with some basebuilding. I wanted to keep myself in a position to where I could jump back into a marathon plan, even an abbreviated one, if things turned around quickly.

What I quickly learned is that I still need a plan. After 5 weeks of having every run scheduled for me, I wasn’t accustomed to doing the thinking for myself. Fortunately, someone already did the thinking for me. Running coach Steve Palladino put together some power and duration plans specifically for the situation that the world has found itself in. He offers a number of different 10-week plans for maintaining (with a slight increase over the course of the training cycle) and building fitness when you can’t race. I gladly paid the less than $10 price to have someone tell me what to do again.

His plans are integrated with the Final Surge training platform, which plays real nice with my Stryd powermeter and my Garmin 645m watch.

So for now, this is what I’m doing. I’m taking it easier, yet still building my fitness. I’m respecting social distancing measures, I’m staying hydrated, I’m getting sleep, and I’m even doing more of the strength and mobility work I had been slacking on. This troubling time we’re in will most certainly ease up. The future might look different than what we’re used to. Running races might look totally different for awhile. But I’m staying optimistic. I’m grateful that my physical activity of choice is one that I can practice while maintaining social distance, and doesn’t rely on facilities that people no longer have access to.

My wish is for everyone to be well, remain hopeful, and try to find gratitude for the things we’re still fortunate to have.

Stay safe and healthy.

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Running

Marathon Training: Week 5

I’ve completed the fifth week of marathon training, but chances are quite high that my race will be canceled. It’s amazing how rapidly things are changing across the planet. I’m impressed with how quickly people are adapting to ever-changing situations. New business models are being developed on the fly. Friends and families are completely changing how they interact with one another. Yet for every single thing we make an adjustment for, there are a handful of others that we still have yet to figure out. The future has never been more difficult to predict.

So while it’s safe, I’ll continue to run. It’s the only real sense of normalcy anymore. I’ll probably run more inside on the treadmill, even though the weather is becoming nicer and nicer. I’m fortunate to live in a rural enough place that I can run for many miles without coming near another person. So long as the consensus is that it’s safe, I’ll continue to run.

But this pandemic has me paying attention to research I might not have been interested in before, particularly when it comes to the effects that high volume training has on the immune system. We all know that exercise is good for the immune system, but at what point is it too much? There’s some research that suggests that people have a weakened immune system after racing a marathon. If this is true, when does this come into play? Just after the race, or is this weakened immune response realized during training? Is it the peak training weeks you need to be most concerned with, or is it most of the entire cycle? Normally, I wouldn’t care; I’d be okay with trading the potential increased risk of a minor cold or flu. But is it wise to have a weakened immune system while this pandemic sweeps across the globe? Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. I’ll keep an eye on the research.

(Note: I’m starting weeks with Monday now, instead of Sunday first as the case with previous entires.)

We’re also at the time of year where two days can look entirely different, or one half of a long run can look completely different than the other.

Snowy road
Slushy road

Monday: 9 miles, with 5 miles at lactate threshold pace. It was a great day outside and I felt good on this run. The footing wasn’t great, with some puddles and ice, but I’ve run through worse.

Tuesday: 5.5 miles recovery.

Wednesday: Ran 11.2 miles for my medium long run, at a little faster than GA pace.

Thursday: Rest day.

Friday: 5.5 miles recovery on the treadmill.

Snowscape

Saturday: This was supposed to be my long run day, but I had a terrible headache and was completely exhausted. I spent most of the day sleeping. Probably a flu bug.

Sunday: Felt better enough today that I decided I’d give the long run a chance. I gave myself permission to cut it early if I needed to, but I felt good so I completed the 16 miles with 10 at marathon pace as planned. It was really hard to maintain pace during this run, however, owing to the road conditions. A large portion of the run was alternating icy patches or puddles of slush that were 2 or more inches deep.

Totals for the week: 47.26 miles / 6 hours 56 minutes

Totals for the training cycle: 209+ miles / 31 hours 18 minutes

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Running

Marathon Training: Week 4

Amidst shutdowns of many public and private facilities around the globe owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel fortunate that my hobby of choice involves being outside and away from other people. The sun is out later and it’s getting a little warmer. I had a really solid week of training.

Sunday: Rest/travel.

Monday: I ran 8 miles at general aerobic pace, with 10 160-meter strides on the treadmill. I had to do this in the evening, after a 4 hour drive and with little sleep, but I got it done.

Tuesday: Just over 6 miles outside. Supposed to be recovery but I ran a bit faster.

Wednesday: I ran 11 miles on the treadmill after dinner. Nothing reminds you you’re training for a marathon like these longer runs in the middle of the week.

Thursday: Rest day.

Friday: I enjoyed a nice 4.5 mile recovery run outside. Again, ran a little faster than what my recovery pace probably should be, but I’m trying to be careful and mindful of fatigue.

Saturday: I set a new distance PR with this week’s long run, cranking out just over 17 miles. It was a beautiful day for a long run. I fueled with a salted caramel GU an hour or so in, and then ate a chocolate-dipped stroopwaffel another 45 minutes or so later. I learned that I can’t really swallow and breathe at the same time. I was really starting to feel some fatigue during the last mile, but that’s always the case when I push beyond known territory. It’s cool to be within single digits of marathon distance.

Totals for the week: 46.8 miles / 7 hours

Totals for the training cycle: 162+ miles / 24 hours 21 minutes

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Running

Marathon Training: Week 3

Week 3 of Pfitz 18/55 is a wrap. I’m pretty happy with how this week turned out, given that I had multiple travel days to schedule around.

Sunday: 11 miles of general aerobic running on the treadmill. I wore the Nike React Infinity Runs because I wanted to see how they’d do for a longer run. I felt some tightness in my shin for the first mile or so, but that went away and everything felt good for that rest of the run. Really happy that these shoes seem to be pretty versatile.

Monday: Rest day. Was planning on moving a recovery run from later in the week to today, but took the rest instead so I could prepare for my New York trip the next day.

Tuesday: Ran my 8-mile workout on the treadmill. It consisted of 2 miles easy, followed by 4 miles at lactate threshold, ending with another two easy. This was a repeat of the workout from week 1. I averaged about 7 seconds per mile faster on the threshold segment this run compared to the first one. After this, I finished packing, drove three hours, and then spent the next day flying across the country.

Wednesday: My daughter and I arrived in NYC this afternoon. I’d call this a rest day, but we did so much walking over the course of this trip it’s hard to call any of this week rest.

Thursday: I ran in Central Park and it was amazing. I knew Central Park had a reputation as a haven for runners, but I didn’t understand how perfect it was. I had planned to do an abbreviated loop of the park, but missed the cut-off and ended up running the full 6-mile loop. It has been a long time since I ran anything with elevation worth mentioning and Central Park has a respectable amount of hills. I gained more elevation on this run than I had in the past few months combined!

Friday: This was going to be a displaced recovery run but I skipped it. I’m on vacation and I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of walking, so I wasn’t worried about dropping it.

Strava map of my Central Park long run

Saturday: I’m so happy that I got to run this week’s long run in Central Park. I did three laps, but took abbreviated routes for laps 2 and 3. Lap one was the full loop, including my now beloved Harlem Hill. Lap 2 took the 102nd Street Transverse. And on lap 3 I hopped up on the dirt running track around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. During my second lap as I approached the transverse, I could hear feet pounding behind me. I looked over as a man in an FDNY singlet passed me by. Then another. Then someone wearing an NYPD singlet. As I got to the transverse, people were lined up cheering (including many uniformed emergency response personnel). Apparently, I was smack in the middle of a 5-mile race between the rival FDNY and NYPD running clubs. On the final lap, I snapped a quick photo from the running track around the reservoir. I ended with just under 16 miles.

I took in the amazing experience as best as I could. I never once thought about putting my headphones in, nor was I ever distracted by my thoughts. I was just fully immersed and enchanted with my surroundings. Runners in Manhattan have quite the place to run and I’m very jealous.

Totals for the week: 40.92 miles / 6 hours and 4 minutes.

Totals for the training cycle: 115+ miles / 17 hours 21 minutes.

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Running

Marathon Training: Week 2

The second week of marathon training is over and everything is going just great. Shifting runs ahead again this week has continued to work well. I haven’t decided when I’ll shift the plan back again so that my long run day is back on Saturdays. It’s convenient to be able to do my long runs on Fridays and the next run on Sunday. At some point though, I’ll want my long run day to coincide with the day I’ll be running my marathon.

Sunday: Set out just before noon for a little more than 9 miles, including 10 strides. Pfitz prescribes strides as 100 meters, but for the sake of simplicity I did them at .10 miles (160 meters). At mile 5, I alternated between .10-mile strides and .10-mile easy. I repeated this until I hit mile 7 and then went back to my general aerobic (GA) pace for the rest of the run. I ended up running the GA miles a bit faster than I should have (this happens when I wear the Nike Turbo 2s–it’s hard to run slow in them), but I didn’t feel like I was really pushing it. It was a brisk sunny day out on a road with gorgeous snowy mountain views.

Monday: Rest day.

Tuesday: It was really cold and the wind was howling, so I kept this run indoors. I ran 10.5 miles on the treadmill after work. I stayed properly within the GA range for this run, staying right at the top of my Stryd zone one power range.

Wednesday: Rest.

Thursday: Easy 5.5 mile treadmill recovery run. I watched Jeopardy. I don’t normally watch Jeopardy, but one of my online running friends was a contestant that evening and I wasn’t going to miss that. She even got to answer a clue with “What is the Boston Marathon?” I also ran in a pair of new shoes for the first time. I bought a pair of Nike React Infinity Run Flyknits (Nike has long names for their shoes). These shoes were developed to reduce injuries, but they also look like they’ll be a great durable trainer for easy and recovery runs. I’m anxious to put some miles on them.

Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit
Nike React Infinity Run Flyknit

Friday: Another long run on the treadmill. This was the first long run with marathon pace work in it for this training cycle. I’ve done these types of runs in the past, so I knew what I was in for. I ran 5 miles at my long run pace, increasing my speed over the duration. Then I ran the next 8 miles at my current marathon pace. I followed that up with another mile or so back at long run pace for a total of just over 14 miles. I felt pretty good over the entirety of the run. These types of workouts are already within my current level of fitness, so it was just a matter of putting in the time. I listened to podcasts and an audiobook. For fueling, I had Gatorade, a GU, and some caffeinated Jelly Belly Sports Beans. I did feel some GI issues towards the end of the run, which could have been anything. The only thing new was the jelly beans, so I’ll probably do something different for my next run.

Saturday: So many rest days (for now). While I didn’t run today, I was definitely in the correct mindset. I watched the US Olympic marathon trials and cheered for three of my friends running it.

Next week will be tricky with some traveling that I’m doing, but I think I’ve plotted out a schedule that will be manageable. Even if everything goes wrong and I have to skip some runs, I’ll still be comfortable with where I’m at.

Totals for the week: 39.4 miles / 5 hours and 58 minutes.

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Running

Marathon Training: Week 1

The first week of marathon training is in the books. I did shift some things around to better accommodate my schedule and an upcoming short trip. I ran all of the prescribed runs, but removed a rest day so I could start week 2 a day early. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be doing my long runs on Friday. After my trip, I’ll shift the schedule again and put them back on Saturdays where I plan to keep them for the rest of the training block.

I feel great. I had a little bit of soreness in my calves from Wednesday’s 10-mile run. I was wearing the Nike Terra Kiger 5 which has a lower heel drop and has a harder feel than the shoes I had been running in. Add to that running on some unevenly-plowed snow and you get a bit more of a workout. It’s strange taking more rest days than I normally do, but they might turn out to be better appreciated as the plan ramps up.

Sunday: The official start day of the plan is a rest day. Everyone can complete day 1!

Monday: Uncle Pete apparently likes to start his plans off with a shot across the bow. He demanded an 8 mile run, with 4 miles at lactate threshold pace (for my current fitness, that’s about a 7:45 min./mile pace) in the middle. I have done similar workouts in the past, but never as early as I was attempting this one. And I also haven’t done a lactate threshold (LT) segment that long on the treadmill (where the perceived effort always feels so much greater to me). But, everything went perfect. I was on the treadmill at 5:05am, became fully awake during the first 1.5 miles, cranked out the 4 LT miles, and then finished off the last 2.5 with just enough time to get ready for work. Knowing I can crank out a workout like this before work will help me remove some excuses for myself down the road.

Tuesday: Rest day.

Wednesday: I ducked out of work early to get this MLR (medium long run) done during daylight. It might have been a bit breezy, but boy was it beautiful. We had just received a bunch of snow the night before, so everything was so fresh and bright. It’s tough to beat the beauty of a sunny winter day. I ran 10 miles on a plowed snowy road, with gorgeous views of mountains and frozen marsh.

Winter view of mountains and frozen tundra.

Thursday: The plan called for a rest day, but I used this day to shift everything up a day. So I ran 4 recovery-pace miles on the treadmill before work. This was a run that I wanted to add a little extra mileage to, but had to cut it at 4 due to time constraints.

Friday: I ran 13.1 miles on the treadmill for this long run. Pfitz wanted 12, I planned on 14, but we compromised on the half marathon distance because I had guests showing up soon. I also ran into an issue with the tension on the treadmill belt towards the beginning of the run, so I lost some time having to get out some tools and making the necessary adjustments.

Saturday: Technically a rest day, but I’m going to call this cross-training, since I did spend some time shoveling a bunch of snow off my porch.

I’m really happy with how this first week went, as far as getting in the miles I wanted on the days I had planned. Going forward, I want to take better advantage of my time in the evenings and on rest days to do some of the supportive exercises I should be doing to keep injuries away and to strengthen my running.

Totals for the week: 35.1 miles / 5 hours and 21 minutes.

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Running

Ryan Runs A Marathon: The Plan

I spent a fair deal of time deciding on what flavor of training plan I wanted to use for my first marathon. I considered everything from using custom plans that friends had success with, to plans from popular marathon training books, to writing my own. I needed a plan that was going to give me the results I was looking for, but also allowed some flexibility to account for life circumstances. I also wanted a plan that would give me strong confidence of a successful race day. I know there are a hundred things outside of my control that can go wrong on race day, but I wanted to make sure that if everything went mostly right, I was properly prepared for the day.

I ultimately decided on Pete Pfitzinger’s 18/55 plan, with some slight adjustments. The 18/55 plan comes from Pete Pfitzinger’s book, Advanced Marathoning. As designed, it’s an 18-week plan with peak running volume of 55 miles per week. Like many popular training plans, the mileage and intensity goes through periods of ramping up and cutting back throughout the cycle–allowing you to build endurance and speed, but also giving just enough time to recover to let those adaptations set in. Week one starts with just 33 miles, but ramps up quickly from there.

Each week of the plan is broken up into the following types of runs: recovery, general aerobic, medium long runs, long runs, marathon pace runs, tune-up races, and workouts (lactate threshold sessions and intervals). It might sound complicated if you’re not familiar with all of these types of runs, but once you plot it out on a calendar it’s pretty intuitive.¬†Advanced Marathoning¬†goes over each of these types of runs, explaining how you should approach them as well as their purpose.

I had already been running between 40 and 50 miles per week before I’d start the plan. I knew that some of the higher volume weeks would be a challenge, but some of the earlier weeks were a little too light compared to what I was already doing. I knew I could handle some additional volume, but could also admit to myself that I wasn’t ready to jump up to the 18/70 (18 weeks, peak weeks of 70 miles) plan. The 18/55 plan starts with a long run of only 12 miles, but I had already been consistently running a 13-16 mile long run every week. I decided, with some consultation from my online running club friends, that it would be better to add miles to the 18/55 plan rather than have to cut miles from the 18/70 plan.

I decided on adding about 10% additional mileage to some of the runs, while leaving other runs as-written. I’d add this extra mileage to the general aerobic, medium long run (MLR), long runs (LR) and recovery runs. I’d leave the speed workouts alone. For the long runs with marathon pace segments at the end, I’d pad the easy miles portion of the run while leaving the marathon-paced segments as-written. So if the plan called for 16 miles with 12 at marathon pace (4 easy and ending with 12 at goal marathon pace), I’d run about 5.5 miles before starting the marathon pace work. The thought is that this would add a small amount of additional volume, while staying mostly true to the plan.

Another reason I wanted to go a little above what the plan called for was for my own confidence. As written, the longest run in the plan is 20 miles. That leaves 6.2 miles of unknown territory come race day. Increasing my long runs to the 22-23 mile range should give me a little more confidence and familiarity with those longer distances.

So now I have a plan. It’s written down, it’s on the calendar, and I’ve figured out how to add it to my daily life. Honestly, I’m looking forward to structured training. Up until now, I’ve kind of plotted my runs with a rough outline each week. I’m excited about not having to think too much about what I’m going to do each day.

I just need to get up and do the thing.