Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Two Cents on Marathon Training

This morning I woke up just as sore, if not more sore, than last night. Those dang squats! I had slept in my tri shorts since that's the closest thing I have to compression for my quads, and I decided to wear them under my pants for my run too. I don't know how much this helped, or if it even helped at all.

I told myself that I would at least do a mile then see how I felt. Starting out was pretty hard, I'm sure I looked like a rusty robot trying to run. But after the first mile I was all warmed up and felt pretty good! I continued on up into the avenues. I love this route for my long runs because it's basically flat for the first mile, then a gradual uphill for the next mile, then up, up, up until it's time to turn around. Then I get to run nice and fast (well, relatively fast) back down. I love that part! Here are my numbers:
  1. 12:05
  2. 11:18
  3. 11:54
  4. 12:00
  5. 9:45
  6. 9:30
  7. 9:36
  8. 10:40
You can totally tell where the uphill/downhill is and where it flattens out again.

Total Distance: 8.08 miles
Total Time: 1:27
Average Pace: 10:52 min/mile

It wasn't a great pace, but I was just happy to get it done, and to feel good the whole time! It was a really nice run, and I remember now why 8 miles used to be my favorite distance to run. I'm also really excited for spring now that it might really be here!

As soon as I stopped running, I was in pain again (stupid squats!), and I'm back to being the robot again. It's so weird how that works!

You might think it's crazy to run up a hill for my long runs, but I just want to stress how important it is. I may not be the best person to give marathon training tips since I've only done two, but I wanted to tell you about the two main things I did differently in my training, and what I thought made my second one so much better.

1. Hills

Training for my first marathon was pretty scary. I was so worried about being able to do my long runs at all that I mapped out the flattest possible routes and pretty much avoided hills like the plague. I had heard that the St. George Marathon was all downhill anyway, so why would I need to train on hills? Well, there are hills in the St. George Marathon, so don't believe it if anyone tells you otherwise! When I got to the big hill at around mile 8, I couldn't handle it. From there on out my knee started hurting and I was finished. (There's a long ways to go after mile 8!).

When I was training for Coeur d'Alene, I knew there was a big hill that I would have to go up twice. I remembered how hard the hill was for me at St. George so this time I planned routes with lots of hills to run on, especially for my long runs. I knew I needed to learn how to throw a hill into the middle of my long run, get over it, recover and keep running. I may not have run a fast marathon at Coeur d'Alene, but that hill didn't kill me either!

2. Cross Training

Again, when I was training for my first marathon, I was so scared. Running is my weakness, and I knew I had to change my focus to running to be able to pull it off. I did this a little too much. I all but quit swimming and biking all together. I figured I needed all my strength to get my runs in and that the other stuff didn't matter. Even though my training plan had cross training days on it, I still didn't take this seriously. A couple months before my marathon, I had a hip injury which made me miss several of my long runs (but I still didn't throw in any cross training!), and I was constantly battling with a sore knee which I felt for most of the marathon. This was not a good experience at all. I think (and this is just a guess, there's no way to know for sure) that if I had been cross training more, I would have been less likely to get injured in both my hip and my knees.

Obviously, training for Coeur d'Alene was all cross training. I did equal amounts of swimming, biking, and running. Well, that actually can't be true, considering the 6-7 hour bike rides I'd do, but I was working on all three sports. I think I actually did less running than with my marathon training plan. This scared me, and I was nervous about falling apart on the run the whole time, but you know what? It didn't happen. I had an awesome experience on my run. Even after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, I was able to run the marathon with a smile on my face. I didn't have any knee pain or anything like I'd experienced at St. George. Now, you tell me, is that just a coincidence?

So, to sum it up, running hills is really important and cross training is super important! And don't just casually cross train, really work those swims or bike rides or... what else do you do to cross train? I think just getting my body used to working out for extended periods of time (read: 7 hour bike rides), made it so the marathon wasn't such a shock to my system. I also think it strengthened muscles that would have stayed weak if I'd just done running.

So, there you go. That's my two cents on marathon training.

1 comment:

  1. 100% with you on hills. Downhill marathons and flat marathons still have hills. Hills make you stronger as a runner, even more than weights. I like to say, "train hard, race easy!" I run on hills every day and I think they've had a big role in my improvement. As for my cross-training, I don't swim or bike, but I do upper-body weights at home — moderately light stuff and high reps. Over the course of a marathon, my arms and shoulders will get tired if they're not strong enough — part of the joy of pumping for 40,000 strides. So I like to make sure that I have some strength and muscular endurance. When I slack for extended periods of time, I'll wear down more during the course of a marathon or long run. When I don't, I'm fine.

    So yeah, for your two cents, I'd agree!