You’d be amazed how many times during the week I talk training plans: how to stay injury free, train through injury, and peak for race day. The whole conversation revolves around a few main points that are overlooked in nearly every training plan. These concepts are widely used by the great running coaches are touted in countless books by the legends. The concepts and ideas, paired with my individual research, have served me well. I’ve PR’d in my last four marathons (all under 3). Three of the four courses are by no means fast (Pittsburgh, NYC, and Boston). Instead of writing about my training, why not open the book altogether and give you a glimpse into my 2014 Boston Marathon Training Log?
For some, the rules I discuss below will leave you overflowing with self-doubt during your training, particularly for those who seemingly do the opposite. As you’ll see below, most of my time was spent running much slower than race pace (nearly 30-40 seconds slower than marathon pace). Track workouts didn’t evolve until I was deep into training. You’ll also see how I approach strength training and injury, which happened twice while training for Boston.
The majority of plan is based on heart rate. Heart rate is a great gauge for training, but not so much or racing. Think of heart rate as a governor, keeping your pace in check based on the demands of temperature, elevation, and fatigue. My heart rate is broken into five zones, 1 being easy recovery and five being “I hate myself this hurts.” I was tested by Doug Bush of Endurance Factor using a sub-threshold test. If you’re not local to Buffalo, NY ask around. You’ll want to get this done.
Without further ado, here are my lessons (with training log support) for marathoners.
Lesson 1: Slow Down
Training Log: 27 of 30 Runs were in Zone 2 at the Beginning of Training
Speed kills (your legs). Zone two heart rate is your golden zone. You’ll spend the majority of your time in Zone two, particularly early in training. I’m fairly certain that most coaches will agree that runners tend to run too hard too often. Most runners train a bit harder–at or around zone three. Think of zone three as the ‘just hard enough to feel like you’re working, but not hard enough to be uncomfortable.’ Zone three invites breakdown early and often docks training time later as you struggle with injury. Take a peek at my training log. You’ll notice roughly 95+ percent of runs for the first nine weeks (18-9) were in zone two or below. Nearly all those runs were 30+ seconds slower than marathon pace.
Lesson 2: Long Run Pacing
Training Log: Every 18 Mile Training Run was in Zone 2 Heart Rate and up to 40 Seconds Slower than Goal Marathon Pace
Does anyone really care how fast your performing on your training runs? I can’t tell you how many athletes walk through my doors and reveal that their long runs are performed at marathon pace. Are you crazy? Race pace will inevitably cause breakdown–even at marathon pace. Running your long runs at a pace at or faster than marathon pace is a sure fire way to become my patient. Don’t give me your excuses about “building confidence,” either. You don’t have to “see if you can do it.” The long run is an endurance builder and your primary focus is to avoid breakdown. If you’re outside zone two heart rate you’re running too hard. This is especially true early on. Take a peek at my training log. You’ll notice that all of my long runs were in zone two with the exception of one 18 miler that was performed in god awful conditions. Slow Down! Please?
Lesson 3: Speed Work
Training Log: Only Two Speed Workouts Performed in First 10 Weeks (To Get Ready for C-Race)
There’s not entirely too much research on the concept of speed development, peaking, and maintaining maximum fitness, but it should make sense that you can only stay maximally fit for so long before you either become injured or overtrain. We like to think there’s a shelf life on speed and since you’re likely not running for a paycheck, you’ll want that maximum peak performance for race day. You can’t expect to visit the track once a week throughout training. There’s a time and a place for the track. Take a peek at my training log. You’ll notice that I don’t start any ‘faster’ running until week eight. Weeks eight through four build on long tempo intervals of roughly two miles and are faster than race pace. Normally, the four week mark begins adding speed to all the long “slower” workouts performed in zone two. Frequent bouts at the track are deemed difficult, but not damaging. This training plan offered a long B Race at Around the Bay, which served as Boston walk through. Normally, you would see 1-2 track workouts a week focusing on intervals at 800m or less.
Lesson 4: Upkeep Training
“I don’t have time to strength train.” What you’re really telling me is that you don’t think it’s valuable. You need to find time. You’ll find more value in losing 10 minutes of three runs and adding a 30 minute strength workout than doing the opposite. You’ll notice a few things here.
I didn’t do a RunSmart Strength Workout every week. Life does get in the way, but doing no work in this realm is out right crazy. You’re sending an invitation to an injury.
When I was injured I spent an excessive amount of time fighting my way back with strength workouts. An injury signals breakdown. Your body is hurt. Instead of sulking, take the time to rebuild and fix deficits.
Yes, I too get injured.
Be smart with your training. The four lessons above outline common cause for for not only injury, but blowing up on race day. The fact is–most of them are factors within your control. And listen, stuff happens. Running is a tough gig and can take its toll. Listen to your body and rest when it begs you to. In running, there are no medals for those who ran fastest in training. Leave your “should have” and “could have’s” at the door.