The other day I was in the bathroom shaving, talking to my wife.  Baby Landry was snug as a bug in a rug, fast asleep in her “napper”.  Kayla was asleep on the cool tile of the bathroom floor.  It was not quite 7:30 a.m. and I had already returned from my 12 mile training run.

I had decided to push the intensity and pace a bit on my 12-miler this past Sunday, making it a “Fast Finish” Long run.  Where instead of just running 12 Marathon Pace miles, I would gradually ramp up the pace and finish with four increasingly fast miles finishing around tempo pace.

These workouts are one of my favorites as it gives me something to “look forward to” during the course of my long run.  It also trains the body to run at a quick pace on tired legs. 

It’s one thing to crank out a 6:30 mile on fresh legs.  It is another to do so after having run 11 miles already.  In a way, this workout is a confidence booster for me.

Splits over a hilly run came in just as I had hoped: 

7:22, 7:25, 7:13, 7:16, 7:12, 7:29, 7:20, 7:11, 7:09, 6:51, 6:30.

Confidence boosted.

As I was talking with Dawn I started thinking about just how tough the training week had been.

46.65 running miles at 7:15 min./mile average pace.

3 one-hour strength training sessions

1 16-mile ride on the tri-bike.

Over the past 30 days we had run over 180 miles climbing 5,675 feet of hills.

I remarked to Dawn that I couldn’t wait for marathon training to begin on October 18th as I needed a break.  That’s when it hit me.  I had been training harder than the majority of weeks leading up to a marathon.

I needed to back off a bit.

This is a tough lesson for any endurance athlete as it is so easy to get caught up into the vicious cycle of doing more, running faster, more hills, more tempo work, longer workouts, less downtime – more, more, more, more – more.

Instead of leading to improvement it will usually lead to something far worse.


So, starting with Tuesday’s workout this week I put the brakes on our Tempo Run.  Instead of going all out like a crazy-man and trying to top the tempo run one week earlier where we covered 6.2 miles of hills in 41:41 (6:43 pace), I decided to find a comfortable rhythm and just “cruise”.

I covered the same exact course in 45:52 (7:24 pace), paying careful attention to the early miles and made sure I really coasted at the start to shake loose.

Wednesday meant a midweek 8+ mile run at moderate pace.  I failed a bit to really hold myself back and finished the 8.35 miles in 1:01:11 (7:19 pace).  Again, I just focused on dialing down the intensity and running smooth and relaxed.

The plan for the rest of the week is hill repeats on Thursday, a complete rest day on Friday (which coincides nicely with a Thursday night on Bourbon Street in New Orleans), 8 easy miles on Saturday and a 10 mile long run on Sunday.

Total mileage for the week will come in around 42 miles, a 10% reduction from one week ago, and a decrease in intensity of approximately 5-10% as well.

It is these weeks that are important to include in your training schedule so that your muscles have a chance to adapt and “get stronger”.  If all you are doing is constantly beating up your body with a series of hard workouts, you never allow those muscles to adapt to the new workload and grow stronger. 

They will just remain in a state of constant fatigue which will either lead to over-training and/or injury.

2010 Boston Marathon - Mile 17

So next week we will get back after it in an all-go-no-quit kind of way for back to back weeks, then a short taper week prior to the IBM Uptown Classic on October 17th.

The last two months have been all about putting ourselves in position to run a sub 40:00 minute 10K at IBM.  To stay on track, this week needed to be about backing off so that we show up on race day in the best possible position to take down that 10K time.

The last thing we want to do is to leave our race legs back on our training course three weeks early or worse, show up to the starting line injured and unprepared to give our best effort.

I’m preparing myself for a tough day on October 17th

I know there is going to come a time over the first 6 miles at IBM that I don’t think I can hold the pace.  I am going to wonder if my legs have another 6:20 mile in them.  It will be gut-check time.  Time to rely on all of the speed work and hill training we’ve done for the last two months building for that one moment.

I’m pretty sure Dom has that date circled on his calendar to take a quick peak in on me and make sure I am giving absolutely everything I have to hit that line with every bit of effort I have.

If I’m not fast enough, so be it. 

If I’m not talented enough, I’ll live with it.

I will pick myself up, dust myself off and start training the very next day to run the best marathon I have ever run on February 20, 2011.  Lady Marathon and I have a little score to settle in our best out of five rubber match we have been waging over the past three years.

But those are the only two excuses I’m willing to accept come race day. 

I foolishly brought a knife to a gun fight at Boston in April.  I vowed to never let that happen to me again.

1 minute, 47 seconds short

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.

  1. Jodi Higgins says:

    You will be outstanding Joe! You are running smart and you are so wise! I was already concerned about my hill repeats today because we are supposed to hit 90 degrees by the time I can get out there. I will be taking your advice and running smart this afternoon. I will do what I can do in a manner that won’t case me injury or dehydration…off to drink a lot in this sauna of a kitchen!!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! Thanks for the vote of confidence. More worried about this race than any marathon I’ve ever run, even the first one amazingly. Hope we have what it takes to post that time – we shall see!

      Good for you planning ahead and mentally getting ready to “back off a bit” if you need to this afternoon – a lot of times we have to get our minds right before we can make our bodies obey ….. great job on your part.

      Have a great day and good luck this afternoon!

  2. Wise to know when to back off, Joe. I am dealing with an injury from attempting to create my own speedwork workout, on asphalt. Three 30-second workouts derailed my autumn running plan. BUT I am discovering some cross training options that I would not have tried otherwise and they are going to make me a better runner when I can return to the sport. As Chris from runrunlive told me, “look at it as a time of gathering strength.” Great advice. Best of luck to you meeting your goal!

    • joerunfordom says:


      So sorry to hear about your injury and set-back. So very frustrating. I was telling a friend the other day that everytime I have been on the shelf from an injury, I have come back a smarter, stronger and in fact better runner.

      Love what Chris does – sounds like great support and advice. Best to you on the road back!

  3. onelittlejill says:

    Oh Joe, that photo breaks my heart! You totally have this in you…and I truly believe you are going to get it at this race- you are going to do it! Positive thinking 🙂 Your ability to self-reflect and your awareness about your sport is going to be crucial as this cycle continues! Happy running Joe and kisses to your baby girl!

  4. joerunfordom says:

    Thanks Jill for the message! Funny about that shot after Boston, as candids always have such a powerful story to tell – all I see when I look a that is motivation. Was the end of such a tough day fulled of all kinds of emotions and in the end disappointment.

    I think when we push for stretch goals in our sport we open ourselves up for great highs, and sometimes some significant lows as we invest so much of our heart, body and soul into those efforts.

    Thanks for all the great love and support Jill! You are the best, J

  5. Joe, you are providing two good lessons in one post here. First, I think you are spot on about backing off for now – there’s a reason the period you go through before formal marathon training starts is called “base-building”. I know you have a 10K goal to hit, but I suspect that it is really your marathon goals in the long run that are more motivating to you. Thus, need to keep the eye on the “A” race.

    Second, I know exactly what you mean about leaving it all out there on the race course, knowing that it is going to hurt, and having the doubts about whether you can do it. In two days I go for 3 hours at Akron. Neutral observers say I’m ready, but I know it is still a stretch, especially on a tough course. I’m going to have to stare down some nasty hills around 17 miles in, and again at nearly 23 miles in, and do my best to maintain a 6:50-7:00 pace on them when my body tells me it just won’t do so. And like you, if I fall short, I’ll at least relish a major PR and regroup to make another go at it in Boston. I’d rather know I just wasn’t ready enough for it yet then sit and wonder if I could have done more on the day of the event. Thanks for the reminder. Love your content of late.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Greg – Thanks so much for the visit and the message. Let me wish you well this weekend Greg, I know you have been really training like a champ for the race this weekend and I think you are going to make that time and then some.

      There are going to be moments where you start thinking you can’t keep pushing, but I have faith that you will be able to lean on all that great work you’ve been doing and your heart, mind and legs will be there for you.

      Best to you Greg and Thanks again! Joe

  6. tbrush3 says:

    Always a tough balance. Like us all you are performing best when you come as close to that line without crossing over it. I understand as it is the thing I struggle most with. Running fast and trying to stay healthy. Good luck in your training Joe.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Trey – Absolutely my man. I feel like I’m getting “better” at knowing when to back off a bit. The reality is that the closer you can get to that “red line” the more you get from your training – but pressing too far over the edge is when all those problems start.

      Can’t wait to hear more about the Blue Ridge Relay – sounds like an amazing experience. Best to you Trey! Keep after it. J

  7. I’m no expert Joe, but your version of backing off is still pretty darn impressive in my book. I’m 30 days out from my half right now and I’m feeling pretty confident, thanks to all the coaching from you. I “backed” off a bit this week because my joints have been feeling the effects of the concrete jungle…shortened my tempo run and did a hardcore circuit training last night instead of my hills. I trust your judgment in your training and I have a strong feeling that you’re going to dig deep on 10/17 and kick your goal in the booty!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi AJ! You have really been putting in some quality workouts – I have a feeling you are really going to rock that half next month. That is going to be a big weekend of racing for both of us for sure!

      Thanks so much for the vote of confidence – I think what you did to adjust your training this week was a great idea as you’ve been pushing hard. Sometimes that little bit of backing off can really let you jump forward the following week much further than had you just stayed the course.

      Great job all the way around AJ! Give my best to R this weekend.

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