Posts Tagged ‘Big Cottonwood Training’

Week number 11 of our Big Cottonwood Marathon cycle was entered into the books with a 21-mile long run to cap off a 71-mile week – only the 6th time we’ve ever run that much in a single week and only 4 miles short of our most volume ever preparing for the marathon that wasn’t – Boston 2012.

I remember those previous 70+ mile weeks when the final miles on Sunday were a struggle.  I felt like I was pushing right up until the end and while the volume was significant – I was also running them in February and March, not July and August here in Texas.

Back in 2011 training for New York City we did train through a Texas summer but we were peaking between 62-65 miles.

Sunday’s run – and I of course try to keep any individual workout in perspective – as taken alone and out of context – no single workout really means much of anything during a training cycle.  They are akin to a spec of sand on an entire beach.  But on Sunday coach assigned my “weekend workout” at the tail end of my long run, not on Saturday as we have been accustomed to in the past.

The plan on Sunday called for 13 miles at MGP + :60 seconds – or 7:50 pace – our typical summer long run pace – and then at mile 13 shift gears and run the next 7 miles with 4:00 minute intervals at Goal Pace, alternating with 4:00 minutes at 7:35.  At the end of those 7 miles, I would run whatever distance remained at an easy pace to reach 21 miles.

I ran the hill route out of the neighborhood, then hit the Avery Ranch Golf Course for more hills and a return to the neighborhood for the first 13 miles.  I took a quick sip of EFS on the front porch of the house and changed out of my soaked through running shorts into a new pair.  My shoes were still in pretty good shape, so I decided to run the rest of the workout in the same socks and shoes.  My heavy Brooks trainers.

My 4:00 minute intervals came in at 6:51, 6:45, 6:43, 6:40, 6:39, 6:42, 6:50.  Perfect.

As I ran the last 8/10 of a mile I still felt very strong.  My form was rock-solid.  I felt like if I had to drop 5 more miles at 7:00 min./mile pace – I had that much left in me.  All at the end of a tough week of training.  Now again, not to make too much of any of this, other than the fact that the plan that Coach Carmen has put together for me this summer seems to be working.

A good mixture of easy runs, long runs and strategic rest days mixed in with long intervals, repeats on the track and 5K-10K pace workouts to spend some time at Lactate Threshold pace.   Paces that I rarely if ever ran during a marathon training cycle in the past.

The payoff when we spoke about this approach 3 months ago was to make 6:50 pace seem much easier on race day.  That if I could improve my running economy or “gas mileage”, I would have what it took to close out Cottonwood strong and run the final 10 kilometers of that race with my hair on fire if need be.

Simply put.  I feel like it is working.  Never have I felt this strong, this ready, this early in a marathon cycle.  Now it is a matter of not peaking too early, continuing to build week upon week and then when the taper arrives, sharpen my mental game so that there is not a sliver of doubt in my mind about going for it on September 14th.

From the outside looking in I received an interesting comment from a good friend.  A runner that has followed every training cycle and race that I have put together since Run for Dom in 2010.  He has seen me at my absolute best and at some of the lowest of low points over the last three+ years.  After my workout on Sunday he wrote:

“Another strong confidence booster for ya’ Joe (both today’s run and the week) … while you are always focused and motivated you seem to be even more so for this marathon – and it appears to be paying off BIG TIME. have a terrific Sunday.”

What struck me as memorable about that note is that yes, to me I feel much more focused this go round.  More detached.  More clinical in my approach.  I have been keeping emotion and desire out of it thus far – as I know on race day I will be able to summon those feelings if I need them.  All I ever have to do is to cast a passing glance at the initials D.V.D. and numbers 8-15-10 on my race flats to tap into those reserves.

But for my friend Jim to remark that even he can notice the difference this time all the way from Wells, ME – than surely there is something different going on.

That was the whole point in working with Coach this training cycle.  I feel as if I took myself about as far as I could by myself.  It was time to shake things up.  Move out of my comfort zone.  Train differently.  Commit to each workout and execute.  Emotionless.  Detached.  Focused.

Some runners believe that on race day they can surpass what they have shown while training.  That it is all supposed to magically come together when the lights  go on and the stage is lit.

For some of them it works.  But when it comes to the marathon, the truth of the matter is I have pretty much run the races I was supposed to run with a couple of bad breaks thrown in with race day weather.

If that holds true this time – I’ll take it.  The race I am supposed to run on September 14th, the one that I am prepared to run – the one that I am ready to run will allow me to reach my full potential.  In the end that is all any of us can hope to get out of the sport.  We’ve got quite a bit more pounds of sweat and effort to pour onto the road, track and trail over the next 9 weeks.  That’s fine, all part of the price of admission.

Bring it on.

After a bout with the track on Wednesday morning our training log stood at 27 miles with 6 miles between 6:25 and 6:50 pace.  Just about 25%.

Only 41 more miles to go this week.

Kind of puts it all into perspective where we are in the training cycle.

There have been times in the past when I was moving from one marathon to the next where I started the training cycle pretty close to “fit” and spent most of the 18 weeks maintaining my fitness, running my hills and simply stretching out my volume making those Sunday 20-22 mile runs the “A” workouts in preparing for race day.

There was a lot of “staying the same” in that approach instead of trying to “peak” for race day and mentally those training periods could be draining.

Training for Big Cottonwood has been very different for me this go round, with 20 weeks of preparation where we first needed to reestablish our base and consistency coming back from a winter injury.  6 weeks of base-building, then a cut-back week to recharge the batteries (last week), followed by 10 weeks of ramping things up and “next-leveling” our training before the three week taper to race day.

This week beings our “10 Weeks to 2:59” period features 68 miles of running this week including our first 20 miler of the cycle.  Volume is one thing, but mixing in enough quality work to improve our efficiency is another and that is what the focus is of our Wednesday track workouts.

This week the plan called for 3X 2-miles with 400 meter recoveries.  Goal Pace for the 2-mile intervals was:  6:50, 6:40, 6:30.

A workout that might not look too challenging on paper and in November or December, perhaps not.  But with 77 degree temperatures and 87% humidity at 6:00 a.m. degree of difficulty?  Plenty.

After a leisurely 2.4 mile warm-up my friends David and Amy broke off from the larger group to do our workout.

David called out the 400 meter splits to us, Amy kept track of our total time for the 2-mile intervals and I kept track of our laps and paced us on the inside.

6:51, 6:47, 6:40, 6:38, 6:27, 6:23 were our splits as we ticked off mile repeat after mile repeat.

As we started the last full mile of the workout I cheated a bit.  I went to a place that I usually reserve only for race day or an exceptionally challenging period of time.

I went to Dom.

With sweat squishing out of my shoes with every stride, my focus starting to shift toward aches and pains instead of my cue of making sure my kicking foot was crossing knee high with my plant foot on each pass, I was starting to hurt.  It would have been very easy to give in and ease off the pace just a bit.

In a race, that is the battle that is going on constantly.  Your head gives up well before your heart does.  The key is to not let your head win.  You have to distract it.  Confuse it.  Focus it on something other than the pain.  And if we have any chance at all at breaking 3 hours in Utah this September we are going to have to do that for at minimum the final 5 miles of the race.  Close to 35 minutes of fighting that internal battle.

I thought on Wednesday if you cannot do it for 6 and a half minutes, what chance to you have of doing it for 5X that long on race day.

So I cheated.  I imagined the conversation that I would have to have with Dom if I gave up in the last mile of the race and what kind of excuse I would come up with for why it didn’t matter.  Why it wasn’t worth holding on.  The kick in the ass I needed to stay on pace arrived immediately and at the bell lap or final 400 meters I found my stride and energy and ran smooth to the finish.  The fastest 400 of the fastest mile of the morning.

No individual workout during marathon training really amounts to anything.  That is the first lesson every marathoner really needs to learn.  You need to flush the bad ones and not celebrate the goods ones too wildly because in the end, they are all just specs of sand on a beach.

But every once in awhile a mile is more than a mile.  It presents a great opportunity to visualize a part of the upcoming race or experience just a bit the way your body is going to feel when your head starts to take charge of your heart.

That to me is what continues to draw me back to the marathon time and time again.  That test of wills.  Mind vs. heart.

Yes I may be getting older.  I might not have the experience that some runners do.  I’m certainly not the most talented nor am I the fleetest afoot.  But I do have one thing that a lot of others don’t.  And that is my buddy who I can summon to my side just about any time I need him when things are starting to look the bleakest.

Dom, thanks for being there for me.  I can always count on you when things start to go a little sideways.

I’m going to need you during that final 10 kilometers on September 14th.  Get ready to strap yourself in.  It might not be pretty, in fact, I guarantee it is going to be anything but graceful – but on that last mile if we only have 7 minutes to get there I expect you in my ear the whole way.

I miss you Dom.  Keep running things for the rest of us up there.