Monday, September 28, 2015

Erie Marathon Cycle Wrap-Up

I mentioned before I wanted to do a little wrap up from this training cycle and Erie itself. You can learn a lot from races (good and bad) and even though this race went 99.9% the way I wanted it to, there are lessons that can be pulled from it. What works, what doesn't and what I'd like to see going forward.

Nerdy Numbers for the cycle

I averaged 49 miles/week for the 16 weeks leading up to the race, with a high of 64.

10-15 mile runs [including tempo runs]: 20 total for ~12 mile average

16-19 mile runs: 4 total for ~17 mile average

20+ mile runs: 3 [20 easy, 22 + 23 long progressions/workouts]

I'm happy with the mileage, I've slowly increased the average MPW with each training cycle and I do think it makes a difference. I've never been a high mileage person but this good middle ground has worked really well for me. I really enjoy the extra double digit runs in the week (in addition to weekend long), hence the higher number of 10-15 mile runs.

I averaged about 75 minutes a week of supplemental training (swim/bike/weights/yoga), which I am happy with. While I'd like to see it be a little higher, I think it was the right amount given I was running more consistent miles than before. Last thing I wanted to do was crank up the miles AND everything else. I like to have a good balance of both, but looking back I think there were some times I could have upped my non-running time a bit.

Some Training Notes
My nutrition was much better this time around.  While I didn't lose weight (maybe 1-2 pounds since spring) I did feel/see some shifts in my body. I'd say I leaned out a bit, but nothing drastic. I still indulge in my treats, I still enjoy my craft beers but in general my diet as a whole was better. I nailed down which foods I can eat for lunch at work and still have a great tempo in the evening (Chicken pad thai, or fried rice are pretty much my go to for workout day lunches). I was better this cycle about getting fuel in me shortly after workouts, and having an extra boost of protein before bed in a smoothie.

I wasn't afraid of using the treadmill when need be. This is the case in the winter, but usually in the summer it isn't needed as much. I didn't care though, on those 90+ degree days I wanted to get my workout in but have water right with me and protection from the sun. Both of the marathons I am running this fall are pancake flat (Erie and Chicago) so some extra time with endless flat was actually helpful for me and my mental training. I still had plenty of time on the roads, and some in less than stellar weather so I wasn't concerned about spending some time indoors.

Probably the most confidence boosting run was my second to last tempo of the cycle. It was done outside and I felt like a metronome on the flat portions of the route mid tempo. I was running very consistently and was focusing on my form and the mile I was in rather than freaking out about miles to go. The run started off as a struggle but mentally I was able to pull myself out of the 1 mile tantrum and got to work. 14 miles at 6:50 average, with the 12 tempo miles at 6:58, 6:47, 6:44, 6:43, 6:45, 6:43, 6:43, 6:43, 6:43, 6:38, 6:39, 6:34.

I'd say my final 23 miler was the second most confidence inducing run. This one, was done on a treadmill to have my water and everything around me, as well as to diligently practice my fueling. I felt great the whole time, could carry on conversation if need be, and finished with my fastest long run(20+) ever by over 10 seconds a mile in a non-race setting. 23 miles at a 7:13 average, with the last 10 at 6:46 average {which, happens to be the pace at least 73% of my race day miles were at...}.

I saw this after the marathon, but I really like the way McMillan words that.
I think I was really able to accomplish that this training cycle, and it played a big role in race day "comfort" at marathon pace. Those last few tempo runs and long runs really made me feel ready to tackle sub-3 pace without killing myself.

Race Fueling
After Boston I finally felt like I had a better grip on my fueling. When/what to eat before but more specifically how often during the actual race. I admittedly under fueled for many of my earlier marathons, I'm talking EXTREME under fueling (I drank water for my first marathon, that was my fuel). That's a story for another day though.

Leading up to the race I did what I have done for the last few marathons. 3 days of carb depletion (feeling bat shit crazy), followed by 2 days of all the food and carbs you can imagine (feeling like you're in heaven).

Race morning fueling: cold coffee (it um, gets THINGS going), and half of a bagel about 2.5-3 hours before the race. 60-90 minutes before the race I drink 3/4 bottle of Gen UCAN (Tropical Orange). Finally, about a half hour before the start I have a Honey Stinger Waffle and 1 package of Honey Stinger Energy Chews. It sounds like a lot, but I've worked out the spacing well and noticed I have much more energy in the late stages of the race.

I am not a person who takes an entire gel at once. I'd rather run with one in my hand and take a swig of it every other mile or so with water, and this works for me. Yes it gets a tad annoying having it in my hand, but the small goals (fueling so frequently) helps make the whole race less daunting. I take in the same amount as many other runners do (3-4 gels) but just smaller doses at a time. I also prefer caffeinated gels, because DUH.

Race Pacing
Erie was going to be a two firsts for me. It was going to be my first pancake flat course, and my first true attempt at a sub-3 hour marathon. I knew going into it that I needed to use the course to my advantage and also not necessarily pace my normal ways. I did a lot of work over the summer holding on to pace, on flat terrain, and grinding the same gear over and over. I admit, the flat course actually scared me more than a hilly course does. My quads like changes, my mind like changes- Erie doesn't give you changes.

I took the first 3 miles easy (my goal was still sub-7 pace for these miles 6:58,55,52). Then I used the hairpin turnaround as a spot to shift down into race pace. I had my watch set so I could only see overall time, and overall average pace. No distance, no lap pace, nothing that could distract me from doing what I needed to do. I was in a race against the clock, not a race against whatever pace my garmin thought I was doing at the moment.

You guys I blew up hard, I ran a 3 SECOND positive split from first half to second. Wait, just kidding- who the hell am I running 1:29:05/1:29:08 half marathons back to back? Remember when I was dying just to break 90 minutes once...let alone twice back to back?! Sorry, had to relish in the progress I've made over the past few years. It's really okay to pat yourself on the back sometimes, if it's not I'm gonna do it anyways.

I have always loved negative splitting, but I do realize that some courses (such as this one) are really made to help you be a human metronome. There are no elevation changes, okay maybe one little bridge but that thing is basically a barbie car sized speed bump compared to Newton. So finding a gear and sticking with it is easier. Except for when you need to speed up to get away from A)the guy who questions your ability as a female shooting for sub-3 or B) The guy wearing his iPhone on his arm and random data being spoken by Siri out loud every few minutes.

I did pretty well, I sped up a bit in the few spots where there were extra spectators(miles 13/14 were my fastest-going through the half/finish area both were 6:3X), and slowed down a bit when I knew I'd see B for a pass off of the excessive crap I had on me (gloves, arm warmers, spibelt, etc.). I also slowed a bit at the end as 23/24 were both 6:5X, but I was really happy that every single mile was sub-7 (that was kind of side goal of mine).

Training changes I would like to make:
Overall I am happy with the cycle, I do think that I was a little short on marathon specific work (maybe 1-2 extra weeks would have been helpful) but that is something I can look at going forward. As someone who used to really hate tempos, I now see the value they really have in marathon training. Regarding mileage, I would like to see another increase in my average miles per week but still nothing drastic. Perhaps throw in a double once a week for some extra recovery miles (not fluff, but actual recovery running to flush the legs). I would also like to see a few more morning runs each week, I do most of my training in the evening even though I race in mornings- I should be practicing what I preach about race specific training.

Racing changes I would like to make: 
Execution wise, this was by far the best I have done with regards to fueling and pacing but I don't want to use that as an excuse to get lazy. I want to work a bit more on getting down to race pace quicker (I guess this is more pertaining to half marathon and shorter), the 3 mile "warm-up" was helpful for me but that's also an extra ~30 seconds I can shave off. Get comfortable being uncomfortable right?

Nutritional changes I would like to make: 
This is something I want to play around with a bit and still working through in my head. Ideally I would like to see my mid-week lunches be better, which will go back to being better with meal planning and prep. This also comes down to self control and not running out to the store on my lunch or for a snack due to raging hunger. Cleaning up the snacks and being prepared for the hunger at work would really help me go a long way in tuning my diet.

Other Erie Marathon Posts
Training: The Build
Training: The Peak
The Race!


  1. It sounds like you learned a lot about this training cycle....possibly more than others? You had a great marathon and there is so much to take away from it. I used to love tempos but I haven't done one in a long time. I can't wait to see how you train for the next full marathon (or really whatever you chose).

  2. This is really motivating to do some tempo runs. I am nowhere near your pace, but I think doing more race specific workouts could really help me. Thanks for going into detail about everything that worked for this race, I'm glad it was such a success for you!

  3. I'm such a data nerd, I love this break-down of your training cycle and race strategy :) Nutrition is one area I am really trying to work's a lot harder (for me) than it feels like it should be!


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