Ever since I started running marathons in 2006 I have been a follower of and believer in the 18-week marathon training plan.
My first training plans were taken from Hal Higdon’s philosophies and outlines on how to prepare for a marathon. Then as I learned more about what worked for me as I gained more experience, became a more well-rounded runner and could handle much more intensity and volume, I developed my own training programs.
Each one seems to have evolved from lessons learned preparing for previous races. Now staring marathon number 9 in the face, I often wonder if I have it all figured out yet. The truth is that until I cross that finish line in Houston with the clock reading under 3 hours – I am going to have doubts.
But this much I do know, when I have shown up to a race 100% healthy and prepared and received good or neutral weather we have run a PR.
When we have been nicked up like we were in 2010 running back to back marathons for Dom just 13 days apart coming off of an injury or when the weather turned against us like this year in Boston with an 87 degree day, we have not.
No disgrace in that. No regrets. No feelings of remorse or of missed opportunities. In fact it took me less than a week to “get over” Boston. That was the race that I realized that it didn’t matter that I had run 9 different long runs over 20 miles. Had run doubles on Tuesdays, hill repeats on Thursdays religiously, set consecutive PR’s in the Half-Marathon 3 weeks apart leading up to Boston. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, there is not a damn thing you can do about it.
We are “in cycle” as I would typically say. Now there is the little matter of our half-ironman in just 11 days to complicate things, but from a fitness level standpoint we are at a place that we have never been before. We already have a 20-miler in the books, and a darn fine one at that 10 days ago, we have been averaging between 50 and 60 miles a week running, while cycling more than 100 and swimming more than 5 week in and week out for two solid months.
When we flip the switch from “Triathlon” to “Marathon”, we are going to be starting hopefully from a level that we had seldom reached before week 10 or 12 of marathon training. In my view, it is not that I have only 14 weeks to prepare for Houston after our recovery week from the half-ironman in Kerrville. But that we actually have 10 weeks +/- more than we usually do to sharpen the sword and get ready to run the race of our life in Houston.
We will get in 6 different runs between 20 and 23 miles on the way to Houston, a few more in the 18-19 mile range. We will get a chance to race a little bit on Thanksgiving at the annual 5-mile race and in December at the Lights of Love 5K benefiting the Austin Ronald McDonald House just to remind us what it feels like to run fast.
The only thing we will be missing during this cycle is our “tune-up” half-marathon that I have become a big fan of one month before Marathon Sunday. I just can’t make that work this year. But confidence from our 1:23:46 half in Virginia Beach last spring is still very much on my mind. I will know as I am hitting my splits on our tempo days if I still have the same raw speed that we did going into Virginia Beach.
My guess is that we will be as fast or possibly faster at that point, but have a much broader base of aerobic capacity and endurance coming off of our triathlon training. Perhaps this is the race where it all comes together for me. Where my aspirations are met by my preparations and I am able to accomplish the only running goal I have ever set that I have not been able to meet.
Or perhaps we will not be healthy. We will be ill. We won’t get that “good/neutral weather” that is just as big of a variable as anything I can do to prepare during training – if not more so.
Houston is a business trip. Dawn and Landry will not be making the drive down to the race. It will be me, my flats with Dom’s initials on them, a few close runner friends who are also going to be toeing the line with big dreams and aspirations for the day. Some of us will hit our goals, some of us sadly will most likely not.
But in 17 weeks we are going to find out one way or another. I’m not one to make bold predictions, but if we come through the chute healthy in Kerrville next weekend.
I wouldn’t bet against me.