Today marks the start of my training for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon. I am really, really excited. Like, I haven't been this excited to start a training cycle since probably the one before my first marathon excited.
For Sleeping Bear, I used a Hal Higdon plan and focused solely on getting the miles in. I did one "tempo" run a week (in quotes because I didn't know to warm-up or how to shoot for a given pace). I went out way too fast at the actual race, but I showed up to the start line uninjured, energetic, and well-trained.
I got away from this the last few training cycles because I had to get faster faster faster now now now. As much as I try not to admit it, I definitely have some hang-ups about being a "slower" runner, and I let myself lose sight of good training practices to try to improve my times. A couple of injuries and illnesses later, I think I've hopefully learned my lesson. (And if not, I think there's no helping me at this point.)
So, this training cycle, I am going back to basics and using a Hal Higdon plan. I went back to the data from my first cycle (that was a scary blast from the past, let me tell you...), and when I first started my easy pace was around 12 min/mile and, by the end, it had dropped to about 11 min/mile. My easy pace now seems to be about 10:45 - 11 min/mile, and I'm curious to see how much I can improve by the end of this cycle!
That being said - I am modifying the plan a bit based on what I've learned during my less than stellar training cycles. I really liked incorporating strength training and swimming when I did RLRF. I also found hill workouts to be fun and not as body/soul/mind-destroying as track workouts when I added some Blue Ridge-specific prep to my training this spring. I also am aiming for a time goal, so I will be following Higdon's speed recommendations, rather than just adhering to the distance prescribed.
A typical week will look like this:
M - easy run AM/NROLFW workout PM
T - swim AM/easy run PM
W - hill workout AM/NROLFW workout PM
R - swim AM
F - tempo run AM (@ MP)
Sa - long run AM (@ MP+90)
Su - rest
Yes, there are a lot of AMs there for someone who tries to run in the evening, but I know workouts in the morning are inevitable when doing two-a-days, and they're something I genuinely want to do. I paid attention the last few weeks and realized my biggest barrier to getting up on time is that I get sucked into social media in bed. (Yes, that's very shameful to admit!) But to combat this I downloaded one of those blocking apps - so that I don't have anything fun to look at when my alarm goes off instead of getting it into gear. (I did leave Instagram unblocked, so that I can get my small fix and not feel like everything I love is being ripped away at once.)
Every third week will be a cutback week, which I think will be my key to successfully completing this training cycle. On these weeks, I will switch the hill workout and tempo run with easy runs, and the long run will be cut back from the previous week by 3-4 miles. I was a little nervous about building my own plan until I made these modifications. I know myself, and I will be much more willing and able to hit the workouts when I know these regular rest periods are coming my way.
I'm also ready to get the little (and not so little) things in line this cycle! I normally fail pretty hard when it comes to nutrition, but Michael and I loaded up on healthy stuff at the grocery store this week and have committed to having quality dinners. I also picked up some iron supplements to combat the anemia I struggle with, and I've started a hip flexor stretching routine every night, since I think most of my injuries stem from them being incredibly tight! I also plan to foam roll religiously every night to combat any other imbalances.
Michael cooks dinner for us because he is awesome, so I know my giant lazy butt won't lead me back to eating junk for dinner after a day at work. I realized I usually watch one episode of some fun TV show a night, so I plan to do my stretching and rolling during that time, so it doesn't feel like a horrible "extra" burden.
I think that covers just about everything (and has probably bored you to tears by now), except for what my actual goal is. It's pretty scary, but I am going for a 4:20. (Ok, a 4:19:59, but who's counting?) This translates to a 9:55 min/mile pace.
Based on recent times from shorter races, this should be a reasonable goal for me. It's pretty scary to see a goal marathon pace that starts with a single digit, but I need to stop letting my mental game hold me back. Hal Higdon worked for me before, and I know it will again.
I just need to trust my training.