Archive for February 21, 2010

8-Weeks to Boston …. Hill Work

Posted: February 21, 2010 in Training

Monday morning marks only 8 weeks to go before race day in Hopkinton, MA – April 19, 2010.  Back in December when training resumed after struggling with my shin injury it seemed like I had all the time in the world to prepare for the first of my two marathons.  Waking up this morning to a light rain here in Austin with a 17-mile training run ahead of me I realized race day was rapidly approaching.

The focus of Sunday’s run would be to continue to stretch the long run mileage to build more strength and endurance in those legs of mine, but also to focus on some serious hill work.  I’ve written in the past about the Boston course being very unforgiving.  If you want to handle Boston you have to be equally adept and running downhill without destroying your quadriceps muscles as well as being prepared to run several up-hill miles when your legs are fatigued (Miles 16-21).

I have been focusing these last few weeks on practicing “even effort” during my long runs each mile instead of focusing on “even pace”.  Nice even mile splits ticking along at virtually identical pace look great on your training log – and during my mid-week runs over relatively flat terrain that is exactly what I strive for.  But on my long runs I am trying to work on taking up-hill and down-hill sections exerting the same amount of effort and allowing the terrain to determine my splits.  If I pick up :10-:15 seconds going downhill and sacrifice :10-:15 seconds over the uphill sections of my run I know at the end of 26.2 miles I will wind up right on time without “blowing up” at mile 21’s famed Heartbreak Hill.

Sunday 17-mile long run

With a light rain falling throughout the run and 53 degree temperatures, it was almost a perfect morning to go long.  A rain like today’s is very refreshing and can help keep the body cool throughout the course of a long run.  I was smart to grab my running ball-cap on the way out the door to keep the rain (and later sweat) out of my eyes which made all the difference.  Total time 2:05:02 at 7:21 pace – which was a very strong effort – in fact faster than the pace of my Chuy’s 8-miler earlier in the week.  I still shutter a bit reliving that training run.

One year ago at the same 17-mile distance I posted a 2:06:50 at 7:28 pace on my way to posting a PR at the Pittsburgh Marathon and a Boston Qualifying time of 3:17:43.  It appears that the drop down to 4 run days per week from 5 last year but adding 3 cycling days as cross-training is delivering the desired result of added strength, power and greater endurance.  After three straight weeks of challenging Sunday long runs (14.5, 16 and 17 miles) we enter a “step-back” week.  This is the time in the training schedule where I decrease mileage for a week to let those leg muscles rebound a bit and then move forward with 19 and 20 mile long runs two and three weeks from now.  It is a critical component of the marathon training plan to get your scheduled rest.  Without taking a step back every few weeks you will only be breaking your body down without giving tired muscles a chance to adjust to the increased training intensity in order to grow stronger.

So this week will feature a couple of shorter mid-week runs and a long run of just 12 miles this coming Sunday.  So what will I do with all that extra free time?  Research. 

I feel like one of the greatest advantages a marathoner can have over a course is experience.  It is one thing to know that there is a difficult mile approaching with a large hill or at tough rolling section.  It is quite another to have seen it.  Better yet is to have raced it.  Unfortunately for me at Boston I will not have the luxury of having competed on the storied course in the past.  I will have to rely on others for their experience to be my eyes, ears and legs for me.  As I have said on many occasions in the past my mantra come race day is “No Surprises”

To help myself in this quest for course knowledge I received a package in the mail this week which could not have arrived with better timing:

Boston Marathon - Raymond Britt

The book pictured above was written by Raymond Britt.  Raymond is Managing Partner at WinSight Ventures, publisher of and one of the most experienced endurance athletes in the world.  He’s completed 29 Ironman Triathlons – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run, 48 Marathons, 8 Ultramarathons – 31 or more miles, and more than 60 other triathlons and running races.

Most importantly for me is Raymond’s experience at Boston where he has completed 13 consecutive Boston Marathons.  The book covers everything that Raymond has experienced over the years from the athlete’s village to the finish line.  The book is filled cover to cover with course photos as well as Raymond’s commentary about each mile along the course.  I can hardly wait to dive into this book to mentally download every image that I can between now and April 19th.

We plan on showing up in Hopkinton in 8-weeks not only physically prepared for the rigors of the course, but mentally ready as well – No Surprises.