How I (emphasis on I) Am Marathon Training

For anyone who missed the announcement this weekend: I’m running the City to Surf Marathon in Perth!

[In less than 6 weeks!]

First of all, Jean asked a (very reasonable) question: Why did I wait so long to blog about this?  I am a running/blogger, after all.  Shouldn’t I be telling you all about my running??  Shouldn’t you all know every tiny detail of my running life?  If I’m candid enough to share gory chafing details, shouldn’t I share my training and goals?  Definitely a fair question.  So here’s a general answer:

I waited for a lot of reasons.  First of all, I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to go ahead with the marathon at all (training, travel, visa, hotel, blah, blah, blah).  I trained for quite a few weeks before actually signing up, just to make sure my body was going to stay on-board with the plan, and nothing was going to revolt.  But once I started hitting 16-18 mile long runs, and scheduling August events around “my trip to Perth”, that excuse kinda flew out the window.  And when both GCA and my husband called me out on dragging my feet (Because I was worried about how I was going to get around Perth? Get a grip, girl.), I finally hit “Submit” on my online entry form, on or about June 7.  Secondly, I didn’t want to jinx myself – even though I’m really not a superstitious person.  Still, announcing my intention to the world seemed like I was inviting some disaster to strike.  And finally…after I went ahead and signed up, it took me a few weeks to actually write the post.  Wedding celebration, vacation, etc. etc. . .

Other things I didn't have enough time for on vacation: Relaxing outside with a book...

Other things I didn’t have enough time for on vacation: Relaxing outside with a book…

Good blogger, bad blogger?  You decide.

Regardless: Here we are.  And based on many of your Comments, you seem to be interested in my training.  [Either that or you’re just being polite.  If so, then just stop reading now and close this tab.]  So, sure, we can talk about my training.

That being said, the FOURTH reason for my delays was that I’ve been reluctant to over-share about my training.  I’m following a hybrid plan that I designed specifically for me.  This is not the plan I would design for any of you (most likely).  A plan is unique to the individual, the race, and the person’s greater training goals (1 year, 2 year, 5 year).  Without belaboring the point, my long-term goals (in no particular order) include: a sub-20 min 5K, BQing, exploring some of Asia via trail (ultra?) running, and learning how to best help my heat training/cool racing Singaporean athletes.  Obviously, I won’t be chasing all of these at the same time.  But running a consistent 40-50 mpw is a solid jumping-off point for any of them.  Therefore, my goals for this marathon training cycle are:

1. Train safely, stay healthy.
2. Build my weekly mileage (up to 40-50 mpw).
3. Test/experiment with a “Train in the heat/Race in the cool” plan and race strategy.
4. Run a smart, solid marathon.

At the start of training, I was running:

3-5 miles, 2-3 times per week and
10-12 miles, 1 time per week.

By gradually adding a few miles per week (distributed between my regular and long runs), I’m now running:
4-6 miles, 2-3 times per week
6-10 miles, 1 time per week and
15-20 miles, 1 time per week.

Initially, I logged all of these miles at an easy pace.  When my body (or life schedule) demanded, I’d take a cutback week, usually every 3 or 4 weeks.

In May, I started adding a smidgen of faster running in two forms.  First, I added tempo runs once per week, beginning with just 5 minutes at tempo pace, and building from there.  Nowadays, my weekly tempo run is 25-40 minutes (divided in various ways).  Second, every 2-3 weeks, I run a portion of my long run at Goal Marathon Pace.  I learned this technique from Jack Daniels, and I love it.  This approach allows me to practice locking into my race pace, sometimes on tired legs, but without pounding my body with it for 20 miles.  For me, these workouts are both physiologically beneficial and incredibly confidence-building.

I designed my schedule following these steps:

1. Choose goal mileage for each week.
2. Schedule long run distances – Sat/Sun.
[Initially, I was building my long run distance for two weeks, followed by a shorter “long” run.  As my long runs reached 20 miles, I began alternating longer and shorter “long” runs every weekend.]

20 miles two weeks ago in NJ, 15 miles last weekend, 22 miles this weekend!

20 miles two weeks ago in NJ, 15 miles last weekend, 22 miles this weekend!

3. Schedule tempo workouts – Wednesdays.
4. Do some simple math:
(Miles in 1) – (Miles in 2) – (Miles in 3) = Miles to be done as shorter, easy paced runs

Every Monday, I sit down, look at my schedule, and decide how and where I’ll distribute those shorter runs and my other workouts.

Throughout my training, I’ve continued to cross-train:

Cross-fit prep photo, a la Olive to Run...

Cross-fit prep photo, a la Olive to Run

BodyPump (2x/week): To build strength in my arms and core;
BodyAttack (1x/week, new-ish addition): To add some variety – and lateral motion – to my routine;
Spin classes (2x/week): For a bonus leg workout and Interval-style training, without the pavement pounding (in an imperfect way, this is taking the place of track work for me now);
Yoga (1-3x/week): To build strength and stamina, and maintain flexibility.

I also stretch and roll most days.

This is the most cross-training that I’ve ever incorporated into a training cycle for a running race.  While time could eventually become a limiting factor, I LOVE the stronger body that all this cross-training has given me.  I am certain that this is one reason that I’ve felt so strong on so many of my long runs.  Even when my legs are getting tired, the rest of my body feels good.  I’m able to maintain correct form, even late in the run.  And despite training on pretty flat terrain most of the time, I ran through 20 hilly miles in NJ two weeks ago with virtually no effect on my pace.

Poorly cropped; but check out those arm/pec/neck muscles!

Check out those arm/shoulder/pec muscles! Faces cropped to protect an innocent friend. But of course that’s me. Look at the smile. And the Dairy Queen…

So, let’s revisit those goals for a moment:

1. Train safely, stay healthy.
2. Build my weekly mileage (40-50 mpw).

Hopefully this post provides some insight into how I’m working on 1 & 2.

3. Test/experiment with a “Train in the heat/Race in the cool” plan and race strategy.

This will have to wait for another post, as this one is already too long.

4. Run a smart, solid marathon.

What about this one?  Well, hopefully my training does most of the work.  But just in case I’m tempted to run faster or harder than I’ve trained for on marathon day, I have added a bit of insurance.  What kind of insurance?

How do I ensure I won't run a marathon too fast?  I make it a training run for an ultra!!

How do I ensure I won’t run a marathon too fast? I make it a training run for an ultra!!

Look out The North Face 100 (Singapore), because I’m in for 50K!

Do you like blog-post cliff-hangers, or are they annoying?

What’s your favorite Dairy Queen Blizzard flavor?
[Mine is Georgia Mud Fudge.]

 Any other questions about my training?

PS If you haven’t done it yet, scoot yourself over and ‘Like’ the Run With Holly Facebook page!

30 thoughts on “How I (emphasis on I) Am Marathon Training

  1. Allison

    I think you are training smartly, and the cross training is a great idea!
    I forgot you are a body attacker too! Love tat class.
    You will do great in Perth.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I’m a new Body Attach convert. I’ve found it to be one of the better (sweatier, more intense) aerobic workouts at the gym, for me. And it forces me to use muscles (and move in directions) that I normally don’t, while walking/running/spinning.

      Reply
  2. misszippy1

    I think everyone should follow a plan individualized to their particular needs. We are all so very different! Yours looks sound and smart and matches your goals.

    And I totally get hesitating to sign up and make public your plans. I swore my next marathon was going to be quiet and under the radar, and now here I am, blabbing it all over the place!

    Reply
  3. Kristen L @ DYL

    Like MissZippy said, you definitely need to do the training that’s right for you, not someone else. Sounds like you had a nice gradual build up and are doing well with your mileage and safe training.

    Exciting that you signed up for a 50k!!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I’m excited too! I’ll blog a bit more about it, but ultimately…my local (in Singapore) options are limited, and I can only travel to race so often. The timing was pretty good, and heck – 50K is “only” 5 miles more than a marathon! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Debbie @ DebRuns

    Love, love, love the thought process and detail you put into coming up with your hybrid training plan; and that you are sharing it with your readers. You are very smart to incorporate lifting, yoga, and cross training into your training plan. I totally believe that my years of consistent lifting kept me injury-free when doing so many marathons per year.

    You’ve got some good looking arms there! 🙂 My favorite Blizzard is mint chocolate chip!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I have no aspiration to run “so many” marathons every year, but I’m totally impressed by how much better I feel on long runs, with an overall stronger body. For me, that’s reason enough to keep it up! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Logan @ Mountains and Miles

    Ha, can’t hate you for it because I distinctly remember doing that to with my ultra. Oops. I totally feel ya! But I bet it feels great now that it’s out?!

    I love the way you structured your training plan and how it seems perfectly fit for you. I did a lot more cross training this spring with my ultra training than I have ever done before and I really REALLY think it was key to not getting any injuries. I’ve really fallen out of habit and need to get back into some of that.

    Also, in case you want a particular trail ultra in Asia to drool over, I have had my eye on this one for more than a year: http://annapurna100.com/. 2014?!?! I’ll meet ya there! ha. (no, but really!?)

    Reply
      1. Holly KN Post author

        Oh, don’t worry – I checked out the website right away – while it was still working, I guess. The only thing I failed to find was how many pennies I’d have to save up for this adventure. 🙂

        Reply
        1. Logan @ Mountains and Miles

          Not a bank breaker – and probably the ONLY ultra race in Nepal that can say that. It’s like 250 Euros, but all the money goes towards promoting distance running in Nepal and only Nepalese racers can “win” the prize money – so even if, say, an American won the race, it’s the first Nepalese that crosses the finish line that gets the glory. I think it’s really neat. It’s run by some expats who own a guest house in Pokhara.

          Reply
          1. Holly KN Post author

            Fascinating! And I love that they assure me that I WON’T have to worry about altitude sickness, because the race isn’t *that* high!

            Although…were I hypothetically to go with you, there might still be some illness involved, no? Isn’t that sort-of how you roll? 😉

  6. Meagan

    For your 25-40 min tempo runs, what do you mean by divided in various ways? Do you mean you do tempo segments within the run, kind of like fartlek style? I am impressed with all of the cross training you are doing in addition to your running. Will the 50K be your first ultra?

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Ah! Good question. I break them down into 5 or 10 minute chunks, and sometimes run several repetitions of shorter intervals, versus one continuous longer tempo run. For example, I might work up to a 20 minute tempo run like this:

      Week 1: 3 x 5 min
      Week 2: 2 x 10 min
      Week 3: 1 x 20 min
      Week 4: 5 x 5 min
      ~2 min EZ between intervals

      I run the shorter intervals slightly faster than the longer ones; so there’s some physiological benefit – but the advantage (for me) is mostly psychological. 2 x 10 min seems much easier than 1 x 20. So I test out 2 x 10, then convince myself that completing the whole distance at a slightly slower tempo is totally manageable. I always start and end my tempo runs with 10-15 minutes of easy running.

      Although in the context of a marathon, 50K seems like a totally manageable distance. Hopefully! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Jean

    Totally acceptable reasons! I say “good blogger.” Also, you need a visa just to visit Australia for a few days? Eh? Weird.

    I know you said this plan is specifically tailored to YOU, but I think it seems like pretty sound advice for anyone training for a marathon! Although all that crosstraining talk is making my embarrassingly-underused muscles ache.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Americans do. But we can apply online, and the visa is good for a year (or up to 3 months in the country or something), I think. So, it’s pretty fuss-free.

      Reply
  8. Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mamae

    Thanks for sharing your training plan with us! I’m right with ya and understand the hesitation to share your training plan with the world. I was a little freaked out just to announce that I signed up for Richmond this fall! So funny – we have a lot of the same running goals! Sub-20 minute 5K, BQ, and ultra trail running. I love to trail run and a trail marathon is next on my list after Richmond. So awesome you signed up for a 50K!!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Looks like this is going to be a great blogger-friendship, then! Thanks for stopping by; I’m looking forward to sharing in your journey, too. Looks like you’re already getting started tackling your list, with that BQ! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Brennan

    Dairy Queen!!! It’s a form of cross-training, right?!?!

    I, too, have taken up a lot of tips from JD. I designed my own plan by morphing a standard Runner’s World beginner plan into something that JD wouldn’t be totally ashamed off. Basically, setting goal paces for “quality” workouts (<–JD lingo). And a sh*t ton of cross training (that's why I got my bike).

    I like the insurance idea. You are so smaaaht. I don't want insurance, though. I'm going balls to the wall at MCM.

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      I switch spoon-hand halfway through, to keep the number of reps per side approximately even. 🙂

      The insurance is a good idea for me, for this training cycle. I’m not training to run a BTTW marathon, and doing so will kinda screw over my 50K attempt. So the insurance works for me this time. If you’re training all out for MCM, then by all means, DO IT. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Stephanie@nowiun.com

    It looks like you have put a tremendous amount of thought and care into your training program. Staying healthy seems to lie at the forefront of your goals which is right where it should be. Awesome! I’m glad I clicked over from Meagan’s blog 🙂 I’m excited to follow your training (and anything else you end up blogging about!).
    My favorite blizzard usually involves PB items with chocolate ice cream or cookie dough. BTW… what’s going on with the people at DQ tipping the Blizzard upside down before they give it to you? I KNOW it’s thick and creamy-delish! I don’t need them to test fate with my blizzard!

    Reply
    1. Holly KN Post author

      Well, as an obsessive runner-type, who also does this whole training-plan-design thing for (part of) a living, I have no excuse to put together a crappy plan… 😉

      Ooooh….Peanut butter cup is a second-favorite of mine. Cookie dough isn’t far behind! [Tangentially, I made safe, “raw” cookie dough balls for the first time about a month ago. Rich, but very good – and salmonella free. Why did it take me so long?]

      Having seen the “upside-down-test” done inconsistently at Dairy Queens around the country (world, really) – your question intrigued me. I grew up at a DQ that never did the upside down test, they just handed you the danged treat, so it was in your hand (and on your tongue) approximately 0.353221 seconds faster. But some shops make a big ‘ole show out of flipping it over. So finally, prompted by your comment, I did some research. Here is an answer, straight from Dairy Queen: http://blog.dairyqueen.com/blizzard/upsidedownrightthick/

      Also: Dairy Queen has a BLOG?!! Gosh, I’m getting smarter by the second today.

      So glad you stopped by! THANKS!! 🙂

      Reply
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