Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fake-Marathon Training

A few nights ago I was hanging out with some runner friends & talk turned to our one friend who had just BQ'd at the Chicago Marathon for the first time. In spite of the fact that the race hadn't gone exactly the way she'd wanted and she'd almost given up at one point, she kind of felt like she could maybe kinda-sorta finally retire from running super-hard, all-out "goal" marathons & just jog them for fun every now and then. Because really, truly running 26.2 (26.5? 26.7???) miles as hard as you can is just so, *so* incredibly difficult and painful and who needs to put herself through that on the regs.

This was a good thing for me to be reminded of, having not finished a marathon in well over a year. Much like natural childbirth (or so I'm told), your mind and body just won't let you imagine for a second that you will EVER voluntarily do this again while the memories are still fresh. But then time passes, you get some distance from the misery, the gory, excruciating details start to fade from your brain, and a year or so later you find yourself going, "Well, yeah, I mean it was hard and stuff, but I dunno, I could handle another one, I think?" It was a good reminder not to ever get too cavalier about running a marathon all-out and reminded me of how after my first one I didn't run for a month and couldn't even confront the question of running a second one for seven months after that.

My plans could definitely change over the next few months, but right now (assuming I get my right hip under control) I'm kind of thinking that Santa Rosa next August might be the next time I put a marathon squarely in the crosshairs & really aim to blow the doors off. However, between now and then I am signed up for another one, which I do want to complete if possible, so the next few months kind of seem like the perfect time to engage in a little fake-marathon training.

By fake-marathon training, I mean I am planning to more or less follow a schedule for 16 weeks and (ideally) run a marathon at the end, but without all the pressure & nail-biting & THERE IS NO TRY & all that business. The next time I shoot for a hard race and a PR, I want to train in a certain way, and at this point I know I'm not ready, physically or mentally, to do that (at least not without the wheels coming off).

So fake marathon training is really about a) continuing to get into better shape aerobically, b) getting physically & mentally tougher in marathon-specific ways, & c) breaking some bad habits--both mental & physical--& replacing them with good ones.

More specifically....

  • Blend the low heart rate/base training stuff into the fake-training schedule. Yes, I want to do goal pace miles & add a little speed work in a few weeks, but mainly I want to keep the emphasis on getting my aerobic system back where it should be, which will take time.
  • Plan to run four days per week rather than five or six (the idea being fewer, slightly longer runs interspersed with more rest days). I'm hoping that doing that while still building mileage will be a good way to safely get my body back in shape for five-to-six day weeks later on.
  • Long runs early & often. Hopefully this will help me break the bad habit of doing the bare minimum (ie, the 14-16-18-20-Taper! plan) that I've fallen into over and over. I want to get over my long run phobia & (eventually) become one of those people who happily & safely runs 17-20 miles most weekends.
  • Goal marathon pace miles. I've mentioned this before too, that something I felt was missing from my Santa Rosa training was the occasional 6-8-10 mile chunk of miles at marathon goal race, just for the purpose of getting the feeling of that pace into my body & being able to dial it in.
  • Lower peak mileage. Currently I'm running in the mid-30s, mileage-wise, and I don't plan on breaking 50 before NVM. The idea is to just try to be consistent and keep up the aerobic emphasis. I want to keep building the mileage, but SUPER gradually so that both my brain and body have plenty of time to adjust.
  • No time goals. Right now I'm thinking that my only real goal at NVM will be to run evenly & by feel at maybe ~80% & just see what happens time-wise. Definitely do not want to push hard or try to reach a specific time goal.
  • Modifying as needed, with no pressure. Yes, I have a schedule, but not having a time goal will hopefully make me feel like I can tweak things here & there depending on how things are going without mentally being like "OHGODOHGODOHGOD WHAT IF I TOTALLY JUST SCREWED IT ALL UP?!?!?!?"

So yeah. Mainly I kind of want to think of it as "Base Training Plus." Lots of mileage, but also lots of rest days, lots of getting my zen on, and a lot less intensity & pressure than actual marathon training.

I am sure the details about my fake training schedule for my fake race are not really that interesting to anyone but me, but typing it all out where I can see it in one list (as opposed to scrolling through an Excel sheet) helps me parse things a little. I promise I won't judge you for not perusing it in minute detail.

    WEEK 1 (Nov 10-16): 36 miles (19 easy, 4 GMP, 13 long)

    WEEK 2 (Nov 17-23): 35 miles (16 easy, 5 GMP, 14 long)

    WEEK 3 (Nov 24-30): ??? We'll be in Spokane for Thanksgiving that week, so a lot will depend on the weather & time. Ideally I would like to get in ~35 miles & a 15 mile long run, but I have never once accomplished such a feat in the past (though twice I've had injuries as an excuse) so we'll see.

    WEEK 4 (Dec 1-7): 36 miles (15 easy, 6 GMP, 15 long)

    WEEK 5 (Dec 8-14): 38 miles (14 easy, 7 GMP, 17 long)

Technically I was supposed to start speed work in week 6, but given that it falls right before the holidays and my ass will be lucky just to get easy running of some kind in during that time, I have a feeling it may be more realistic just to start in January.

    WEEK 6 (Dec 15-21): 42 miles (including 8 GMP & *hopefully* 19 long...Again, we shall see.)

    WEEK 7 (Dec 22-28): ??? This is the week I will be home in Texas with family, so although I'd like to get 40 miles in including a long run, most likely I'll just have to play it by ear & do whatever I can. (Also, trying to figure out where in my mom's neighborhood I could possibly run 20 miles without having to stop every 20 yards at a traffic light, & short of making laps around the block, I'm kind of drawing a blank.)

The last 9 weeks have speed/tempo workouts built in, but I'll probably have to wait until I get there to see how things are feeing & how excited I'm feeling about it. Like I said, I want to make sure I give the aerobic stuff plenty of time to lock in, and if I feel like I'm still not there once I hit January, I may back off on the faster stuff in order to get in more long, easy runs.

Obviously the exact numbers here are kind of arbitrary, but they at least give a sense of what I hope to be more or less doing by Jan/Feb. Unless I feel like doing something else.

    WEEK 8 (Dec 29-Jan 4): 46 miles (8 easy, 9 speed/tempo, 8 GMP, 21 long)

    WEEK 9 (Jan 5-11): 47 miles (10 easy, 6 speed/tempo, 9 GMP, 22 long)

    WEEK 10 (Jan 12-18): 45 miles (10 easy, 8 speed/tempo, 10 GMP, 17 long)

    WEEK 11 (Jan 19-25): 47 miles (19 easy, 6 speed/tempo, 22 long)

    WEEK 12 (Jan 26-Feb 1): ??? This is the weekend I'll be in Mexico with friends, so again, it will probably just depend on time / facilities. Theoretically this is supposed to be the peak weak, but since only weirdo freaks run peak weeks on vacation, it may have to wait until Week 13.

    WEEK 13 (Feb 2-8): 43 miles (12 easy, 4 speed/tempo, 8 GMP, 19 long)

    WEEK 14 (Feb 9-15): 36 miles (6 easy, 7 speed/tempo, 7 GMP, 16 long)

    WEEK 15 (Feb 16-22): 29 miles (7 easy, 5 speed/tempo, 5 GMP, 12 long)

    WEEK 16 (Feb 23-Mar 1): 42 miles (8 easy, 4 speed/tempo, 2 GMP, 28 warm-up/NVM)

My fondest hope is that I'll do all this aerobic base training (plus a little something to nudge the VO2 & LT along a tiny bit), run NVM at ~80% effort, end up with a certain time, & be able to say, "Check, that's how far base training has gotten me in ~5.5 months." Hopefully that will at least give me SOME sense of whether I've got enough of a base to jump into a non-fake training cycle & reasonably bust my ass for a 3:30 sometime in 2015 or still need to pump up dat base for another six months or so.


  1. What you've got seems like a sensible plan, and 3:30 sounds like it could reasonably be accomplished sometime next year. Good luck! (How do you feel about cross-training? I know you already do plenty of karate and weight training though, so that probably counts, and probably don't want to add an extra variable to the mix, but some folks have had pretty good results on FIRST-style plans with three days of very intense runs and another 2-3 days of cardio x-training like biking or swimming.)

    Just don't fake a marathon time like this woman seems to have done: ;)

    1. Ahhhhhhhhahahahaha!! Geez, if you're going to cheat, at least look these things up in advance!

      The main issue with doing cross-training like biking and swimming is that I am scared of bikes & so would have to do it on a spin bike, which just sucks the soul out of me, and swimming is logistically difficult & really time-consuming. So I think unless I'm having issues with my body breaking down (which I'm hoping building up super gradually will help me avoid) I'd rather just do more easy miles on my feet.

  2. Well, it's hardly "fake" marathon training when you're actually running a real marathon at the end of it, even it's not your A-race. ;) Let's call it low-key training? Or maybe Dress Rehearsal marathon training? Either way, it all sounds very sensible to me. (not that you needed my approval...haha)

  3. How is that fake? Pretty sure that you've got more mileage there than when I train for a marathon - but then again I'm an old lady.

  4. I like this concept a lot. From what I've read about you and your training, this seems like the circumstances you thrive on... It's like being productive, but without the added pressure of having to have some sort of masterpiece final product when all is said and done. It sounds almost enjoyable instead of arduous. I am looking forward to reading about it.
    Also, your posts about heart rate training have seriously changed the way I run as of late. I just wanted you to know because I have been a bad commenter. I've been playing with that lately, and although I'm not as skilled in the biohacking department as you are, I love data, and I am enjoying the effects of training in specific HR zones, namely in terms of recovery and actually having productive scheduled "hard days" instead of half assing speed work on a stressed out CNS. Thank you so much! Have a great weekend!