75 days is all that separates us from the starting line – and hopefully the finisher’s chute – at Big Cottonwood on September 14th.

Sunday’s 20-mile long run marked our second consecutive 68.30 mile week which included a tough track workout on Wednesday and some up-tempo work on Saturday.  We are in an enviable position at this stage of the game with not a single hint of soreness or a physical ailment that we are monitoring, although they can come up at the most inopportune times during Marathon Training.

This week is a cut-back week or what I like to call a “maintenance week”, where we will be dialing back the training volume to about 70% of our previous load to accomplish two primary tasks:

1.     Give the muscles a chance to absorb the increased training and adapt to the new, higher level of workload.

2.     Decrease the risk of injury.

There are a lot of different strategies that runners employ preparing for a marathon.  But a universal truth for all athletes are the fact that to reap the maximum benefits from tough training, you have to give your body a chance to recover and adapt, that is how muscles grow and develop.  You cannot simply continuously tear them down without giving them an opportunity to build back up.

Nature’s rule, not mine.

But there is another reason that those step-back weeks are so important and that is the mental break that they provide.

Training for a marathon throughout the summer in Texas is no easy task.  There are not a lot of “perfect” days out there right now to be found where running is an absolute joy.  It is hot in the morning before daybreak and humidity is high.  The only cooling effect to be found right now comes in the form of wind, which is not altogether helpful to runners either.  It dehydrates you a bit faster and of course provides added resistance if you are running into a headwind – which is the only type of wind that feels “cooling” when you are out there.

After back to back 6-day run weeks with 20-mile long runs to cap them off, I was ready for a day off from running today – and did not feel one bit guilty about taking it.  It is a day to sleep in a bit later (6:40 a.m.!) and take good care of myself.  Eat right, not have to rush around in the morning and let the training marinade for 24 hours before an easy 8 mile run on Tuesday and a workout with the training team on Wednesday.

For the month of July and August we will be moving from the track to Zilker Park downtown on Wednesdays for our intervals and speed work.  I will only return to the track when Coach requires me to have a specific and measured test during a key workout.  Then we will get back to the track after Labor Day as a group – or in my case after I recover from Big Cottonwood.

After our maintenance week we will jump right back in and have a few 70-73 mile weeks ahead with our long runs creeping up to 21 and 22 miles before the taper.  Our mid-week long run that has been sitting around 10-11 miles will gradually climb up to 13-14 to top off our endurance work.

We are now 9 weeks into our 20-week training plan, which contains 18 weeks of “training” and 2-weeks of a taper.  So in a sense we are now 50% of the way through our preparation, where the final two weeks of our taper – which is critical to marathon success – shifts from a physical test (training) to a mental one (rest/nutrition) where your mind starts to really play tricks on you and being strong mentally becomes the primary focus.

I feel like we could go out this weekend and run a solid marathon.  Something in the 3:10 range.  Sometimes it is hard to get your head around the fact that 9 more weeks of training, 575 miles including 6 more runs of more than 20 miles will move that needle only :20 seconds per mile faster on race day.

But breaking 3:10 on September 14th while a great accomplishment is not what we are working for.  If that was the level of excellence we were in search of, we could just rest on our November 6, 2011 race in NYC and enjoy our 3:08:09.  Those 8 minutes and 10 seconds are what we are working for right now.  Anything less just isn’t going to cut it from an expectations standpoint.

Racing is a funny deal.  We may do everything right between now and then and still miss our target.  It happens.  In the marathon it happens far more often than at shorter distances as weather, nutrition, fitness and pacing errors are all magnified over 26 miles, 385 yards.

That is also why when it all comes together, the final 1.2 miles of that race are some of the greatest in all of road racing.  11 weeks from now we are going to find out a few new things about ourselves like only the marathon can teach us.  But right now, I can honestly say, things to this point really could not be going too much better.  I’m still waiting for that flat workout where the body and the mind do battle.  One wanting to go faster, the other not being with the program.

It happens to everyone at some point, and it serves as a great reminder that none of this is easy.

If it were, everyone would do it.

Run on people.Big Cottonwood Course

  1. runner1313 says:

    Sounds like training is going very well. Enjoy the break today!!

  2. candace knox says:

    I’m currently training for my second marathon in Dallas (to raise money for a children’s hospital). I’m sure you get this a lot, but I just wanted to say your story (and Dom’s) are truly an inspiration.

    Thank you!!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Candace. Thank you so much for the visit and the kind words. If you would like to connect on some strategies for your effort, please email me at joe-runfordom@austin.rr.com I would love to help any way I can. And thank you again on Dom. He was an amazing friend. I still think about him on every single run.

  3. Solid training. I’m a little jealous that I’m not there yet!

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