Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Marathon Plan

Mile 2 - Practicing our Synchronized Running Form

Over the last ten years I have competed in fifty triathlons and a variety of 5k, 10K and half-marathons, but never a marathon. This year I decided to give it a shot and signed up for the  PNC Milwaukee Running Festival, which was held Sunday, November 1, 2015. 

My coach, Heather Collins  set up my training program and ran some training runs with me.

The Challenge:

·         Design a program that would have me marathon-ready in November, while continuing to train for the USAT Nationals Olympic distance triathlon in early August.


·         From years of triathlon training I have developed a good cardio-base so I didn’t need to build a lot of cardio endurance, but the minor hamstring and calf strains I had experienced over the last few years could become more serious problems at the longer distance.

The Program:

The program Heather set up was designed to help me:

1.      Improve running biomechanics  (proper foot placement, stride, cadence)

2.      Increase strength and firing of the muscles used for long-distance running

3.      Improve flexibility

4.      Address hotspots before they become problems


·         Precision Multisport Facility

I had two one hour sessions a week (usually Tuesday and Thursday mornings) at Precision Multisport under Heather’s guidance.

·         Chiropractic care, massage and stretching

Instead of seeking help after an injury we implemented a plan of preventive maintenance with routine visits to The Wellness Revolution for chiropractic care and massage therapy. Dr. Tony Breitbach and his colleague Dr. Nick Scanio  took care of the chiropractic care while Laura Price and Sheila Tan provided massage torture every two to three weeks. Both women told me the massages would be less painful if I stretched more.  And for the first time in my life, I did become serious about stretching and foam rolling. It helped but the massages were still torture.

·         Weight & Nutrition

When I trained and completed the Ironman at Coeur d’Alene in 2012 I weighed about 188.  Over the next two years I brought my weight down to 178 and for the marathon my plan was to run at 173.  I developed a weight loss plan that works every time.  You can eat anything you want, including beer and pizza and wine and cheese, but you have to eat less of everything. Also it helps to record everything you eat (at least for a few weeks). I used MyFitnessPal to log my meals – as it has the calorie and nutrition information for most all foods I wanted to eat.  The benefit of logging your meals and snacks is that it educates you.  Do I want this 100 calorie Double-stuffed Oreo or would I prefer to use those calories for something more nutritious – like a beer?   

My basic diet was a 300 - 400 calorie breakfast (cereal, banana, orange juice) a 400 - 500 calorie lunch (half sandwich, apple and yogurt), an 800 calorie wine and cheese course, and an 800 - 900 calorie dinner.   I averaged about 2500 calories a day and on race day I weighed 173. 

·         Run Workouts 

Heather set up three runs a week:  a speed workout at the track on Sunday afternoon, a tempo workout along the lakefront on Wednesday mornings, and a long run along Lake Michigan on Friday afternoon.

Here is a recap of the running workouts:

Training period:  June 1 to October 30

#of Workouts:  49    (16 speed, 17, tempo, 16 long)

Total Miles Run:  337  

Longest run:  20

·         Psychological Preparation

Almost nothing in life goes according to plan. The plan is a critical roadmap for getting you to your destination but you have to be prepared for the unexpected. On June 25th I managed to fall off my bike and crack the 5th rib in my back.  While it was a painful, annoying injury, I healed quickly. I couldn’t run for about ten days, but we substituted computraining and I was able to resume regular training runs by mid-July.

Then one week before the race I managed to twinge my pack unloading the washing machine. I got immediate chiropractic and massage help from The Wellness Revolution and by race day I was feeling great.

There are a lot more opportunities for things to go wrong during a triathlon. And over the years I have made all the classic mistakes (making a wrong turn on the run, swimming off course, mechanical problems with the bike).

Those screw-ups helped prepare me for problems that can arise before and during a competition.   

The Race

We had perfect weather for the race: sunny and 50 degrees. The course was hillier than I had expected, but not severe hills. Just a lot of rolling ups and downs.

 Heather’s race strategy was for me to start the race at a 9 minute pace (or slower) and gradually increase to 8:45.  Try to hold that pace through mile 20. If I felt strong, I could increase the pace to 8:35 or faster.

She knew that the most common mistake newbie marathoners make is to go out too fast. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement at the start. I did go out faster than 9 minutes but not so fast that I burned out.

I ran the first 13.1 miles at a pace of 8:54, slowed slightly over the next six miles, but finished the last six miles at 8:54. My time for the race was 3 hours 55 minutes and 7 seconds. I had hoped to be under 3:55, but this was close enough. I felt strong throughout the race.

I think the marathon more than any race I’ve run, is all about the training. I came into that race rested and well-prepared. Issues that I’ve had in the past on longer distances, like foot pain or hamstring tightness didn’t develop. Since I’m not getting any younger, I have to attribute that to good coaching. And maybe my wine and cheese focused diet. 

My time qualified me to race in the Boston Marathon in 2017.  I am considering it.
Mile 14 - The bridges are starting to annoy me

Mile 22 - Thinking about that chocolate milk


At the Finish Line - I just passed the guy behind me because I thought he might be in my age group. But he was wasn't.