Marathon Training

If you know me, you know the story and if you don't, I'll give you the quick run down. Pun intended. I've spent the last few years training for Ironman Triathlons. I racked up 6 including 1 very special and forever memorable Ironman Hawaii World Championship. I've also experienced my fair share of saddle sores, sharp tan lines, wetsuit chafe and absent toenails. There's beauty(?) in the details. 

Before that I dabbled in ultra running that took me through places like the Grand Canyon and across the Gobi desert. And before that I tried my hand at being a baby elite triathlete in olympic and long course races. 

If we want to go waaaay back, I spent a chunk of time competing at a fairly high level in Irish dance, but thats irrelevant, unless we look at my affinity for sports that put my toenails at risk.

Anyways, this fall a new idea crept in to my mind and my Training Peaks account. I wanted to be a RUNNER. Getting some new PRs in running races looked exciting, especially in the marathon. Without biking 180km beforehand surely I could go a little faster. Maybe I could even break 3 hours.

Goal SET.

I had only really known triathlon for the last few years and really didn't know how to train specifically for running.

Do I keep the same weekly training hours and just run? NO.
Do I do lots of speed work? a little speedwork? Do I increase my mileage right away? Maybe.
Do I wear a unitard? NO.

You get it. I didn't know, so I joined Mile2Marathon and started working with coach Dylan. He warned me that although the training would take up less time in my schedule, it would be a lot more intense than I was used to. He also warned me that marathons are really hard; 38km onward is awful for everyone no matter what and there's no way around it.

Coaching
I could train myself but there's just so much benefit in having someone else in your training with you to help plan, prioritize, problem solve and listen. It also takes the load of your friends and family who are listening to you because they love you but don't really care if you run in the morning or the evening or if you can't decide between 1 gel, maybe 2 gels to bring on your run. Having a coach = no fretting. I don't wonder (as much) if I should do more or less or faster or slower. I don't really compare and get concerned with what strava says. I just follow the plan. MY plan. I also work full-time and during this training block was doing a Graduate course too, and I really needed someone to help me plan my life.

November was my official start with the goal of breaking 3 hours at the Eugene marathon at the end of April. Here are the general details:

Training
I ran 5-6 days somewhere between 70-115km a week.

  • 1 track session

  • 1 longer tempo

  • 1 long run

  • 2-3 free form runs ranging from 40mins-1:20mins

  • I went to the gym once-ish a week

  • I went to yoga once-ish a week

  • I went swimming on a rare occasion to make sure I remembered how

  • I went to which ever health practitioner I thought could help me in the moment (chiro, physio, reflexology, manicurist(!), massage, acupuncture etc.)

Shoes
I wore an arsenal of shoes, mainly Saucony Freedoms. But as my distance crept up, my feet, calves and arches started to protest the 4mm drop, so I had to diversify and added the Adidas Boston and Saucony Ride. I did a couple runs in a pair of Nike Reacts mainly to look cool but they don't really work for my feet. Switching shoes became super important. Your shoes need a break (so the foam can recover between runs just like I needed to) and your body needs variety.

Lessons
It wouldn't be me, If I didn't share my list of lessons and observations

  1. There's just running. It sounds obvious but I really wasn't used to just running. Triathlon gave the flexibility of switching up disciplines depending on things like the time of year, the weather or how your body feels. For running, if it's early season, you run and if it's raining, you run and if you're sore from running, you run. There's always the option to cross-train but the day in day out is running.

  2. There's seemingly more time. While overall I've been training significantly less, going from 14-24 hours a week to about 7-10, it doesn't actually feel like less. A long run only takes 3 hours, but the recovery and my unwillingness to move after lasts for hours.

  3. My legs. Oh my gosh, my legs. Running more delivered a plethora of new leg sensations, expanding calve muscles, ITB stiffness and middle of the night cramps.

  4. My feet. My poor feet. I'd never really thought about them or what shoes I wore, but more running meant I had to, especially when my arches would swell from time to time (a sign that my feet were working way to harder than needed and I should’ve looked in to it way sooner than I did). Sometimes they just felt sooo tired and unwilling to bare the weight of my not so heavy body. I went to reflexology. I rolled around on a ball. I got insoles, I abandoned cute work shoes, I expanded my running shoe collection, I used topical advil. I did all the thing.

  5. Number 2. This might be TMI but it's real. The amount of emergency pit stops in whatever public washrooms or bush I could find has grown exponentially since focusing on running. Is it the bouncing? Is it the lactic acid? Is kale to blame? Please advise.

  6. Food matters. Like I said, my stomach has been a bit... delicate. More with running than any other activity, what I ate before really mattered both for comfort (digesting ok) and energy. Most morning runs were successfully fuelled with steal cut oat, with hemp seeds, nut butter and a splash of maple syrup. Most evening runs were unfortunately fuelled but whatever random treat seemed appealing while at the office. I can tell you now the list of things that don't work: taco salad, meatloaf, super nibs or afternoons fuelled by coffee only.

  7. Community. There are SO many runners. Gone are solo rides to Squamish. The run community is huge and awesome in Vancouver and there was never a shortage of someone wanting to hop on the track, meet at the trails or plug away at a long run and, man it's been so overwhelming fun to be a part of. At first I felt like I had the exercise social skills of someone switching from home school to an actual school but I think I'm figuring it out.

More on races and the actual marathon lead up and what's next soon.