Marathon Training 2.0- Quarter 1

The Spark 

From the second I crossed the finish line I knew it would not be my last. Running my first marathon was a magical experience. Yes, running a marathon is hard, and yes the last few miles definitely hurt, but my first marathon went better than I could ever have imagined. I tried to go in without a time goal. I had battled injuries and travel, and started a build up without a solid running base. The first week of training was the first week of returning to running against every piece of marathon advice out there. My IT band syndrome made my knee scream through all 6 miles of my first “long” run and I had no idea how I would last 12 weeks of training and build up the mileage when my body didn’t even want to do 6. 

BUT, I trusted the process. I listened to my body over all else. Even though I didn’t specifically cross train, I was active by taking and teaching fitness classes and having a super active job that included lifting heavy boxes in and out of a food truck. My persistence would not let me quit, and I took the risk that I could out run my pains and get back in the groove. 

Somehow it happened. Somehow I made it through every long run. I dealt with aches and pains. I learned lessons of improper fueling and dehydration. I encountered a rattlesnake, and had plenty of afternoons where my reading time unintentionally turned into nap time. Somehow I made it to the start line and then finished way faster than I imagined and finished feeling amazing. 

So from the second I crossed the finish line I knew that doing another wasn’t a question. Coming in only 7 minutes from qualifying for Boston lit a spark in me. If I was a little bit smarter about training. If I intentionally cross trained, added in hard workouts, increased my weekly mileage, and did a 16 week training cycle instead of a 12, imagine what could happen. Qualifying for Boston 2021 became the catalyst. Talking to other runners who have completed all the the World Majors (Boston, Chicago, NYC, Berlin, Tokyo & London) inspired me that I can keep going, and I should do so before I lose my running fitness. 

I took a few months off of running to let my body rest. I can absolutely be an all-or-nothing type person, so when I run regularly, I run, but otherwise it kind of falls off the wagon in replacement of other forms of movement. 

In October I decided to take a whole month off of working out completely. I wanted to see what would happen if I fully dedicated myself to rest, then worked to come back stronger than ever. Long story short, I failed. I made it 15 days with just a few yoga classes sprinkled in, but I missed the endorphins. I missed the mental clarity and the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing an intense workout. I started working out again, deciding to get back into lifting heavy at the gym, and I loved it! I felt strong and loved being in my own little world. I took more sculpt again at Corepower which was good for my teaching and fun to be in the studio more. 

Then I caught the marathon bug again. One of my students is a big runner and naturally we struck up running conversation. I told him that I wanted to run another race soon and at least PR, but wasn’t sure which one. Initially I thought of the Colfax Marathon since it’s just an hour from home and not until May which means I wouldn’t have to start training for a while and would have mostly spring training, rather than Winter. He recommended the LA marathon. He thought the course was super fun. The last few miles are downhill and I’d be running at sea level after training at altitude, which would both help a PR. I found out that the marathon was the same weekend as a natural-foods expo I wanted to attend, so I called up my mom and asked if she was interested in doing a mama-daughter trip to LA. She couldn’t have said yes faster. 

I started running a little bit, kept lifting, and tried to enjoy the last few weeks of fitness “freedom” before I entered 4 months of a pre-planned training cycle. 

The Training

For this training cycle I joined the Marathon Training Academy and used their 3:30 16-week plan, the time I need to qualify for Boston. I actually need to come in faster if I want to get accepted to run the race, but I figured I can adjust the plan a little bit and it should work well! My hopes are to cut 10 minutes off from my first marathon time to run a 3:27 and hopefully secure entry into Boston 2021.

Marathon Training Academy makes podcasts and modules to help answer any question runners have while training, but what I find most valuable is the member Facebook page where everyone asks and answers questions, posts workouts and races, and supports anyone and everyone no matter what age, time, or distance. It’s so inspiring to see other runners getting out and just doing it. Putting in all of the effort and seeing all of the highs and lows of the process. After a bad run or when your mindset is just not there, it’s so nice to know that I’m not alone in the journey.

Week one of this training cycle could not have been more different than week one of my previous training cycle. Last round, every mile felt long. My body hurt, but my mind was stronger. I tried to refrain from judging or pressuring myself to keep going if it just wasn’t going to happen. This time around I felt strong. My first long run was 10 miles instead of 6, which felt totally doable and super refreshing to finish. I hadn’t really run in Fort Collins before, so it was fun to find trails and explore the town. Instead of feeling beat down and lethargic, I felt energized and invigorated. 

With this plan I have 2 easy runs, a harder workout (tempo, hills, mile repeats, or Yassos 800s), a long run, and 2 strength training days lifting heavy. I also make sure to get in at least 2 yoga classes per week. By getting strong in multiple ways, I’m setting myself up to prevent injuries and stay healthy, which is the ultimate goal. 

Winter training has definitely been different than summer. During the summer, the earlier I could get workouts in, the better to beat the heat. I didn’t have to worry much about what I wore running because I almost always just wore shorts and a tank top. Winter wear takes a bit more planning. It makes a big difference if the weather is in the teens and 20s or in the high 30s, early 40s. It’s important to start a little chilly because body heat will warm you up within the first few miles. It’s a really strange sensation to come back from a run a realized that I sweat through my first layer or 2, but have had no idea I even broke a sweat during the workout. 

During summer training I struggled a lot with hydration. I’m stubborn and resisted taking water with me until my first 18 miler humbled me immensely (see my post from my first marathon for the full story). I also resisted taking in electrolytes not believing they were necessary for me, even though I was training in the heat, teaching up to 14 heated yoga classes per week, and working in a non-air conditioned metal food truck 30 hours a week. Finding electrolytes made a huge difference in my training, and I’m thankful I finally found a brand, Ultima, that’s made with simple ingredients and usually doesn’t cause me too much GI distress or imbalance. 

I never thought winter hydration would be an issue, but I definitely underestimated the power of the cold. I didn’t realize that I’d still sweat a decent amount during workouts. I also didn’t realize that you lose more water in colder weather because the air is drier, especially in Colorado, and your body needs to warm up the cold air you breath in before it gets to your lungs. I can’t say I’ve perfected my hydration strategy yet. I still struggle with wanting to use electrolytes and have only brought water with me on my 16 miler so far, but I’m learning with every run to listen to my body and make sure I’m taking in enough liquids.

This training cycle is also different because the first and last segments I’m in school, which adds extra time constraints. It’s been fun figuring out when I’m going to run. I’ve been able to fit runs in between classes which feels super productive, running from campus right after classes, or getting up earlier to go for a run. The latter is my favorite but is challenging in the winter since the sun doesn’t come up until much later, and the temperature doesn’t rise until late morning or mid day. 

The middle section of training will be during winter break so I’ll have more flexibility with my schedule. I’ll also be teaching more though, so it will be important to ensure I plan my energy to have strength for every aspect of my life. It also means I’ll be able to take more yoga which is vital to preventing injuries. I’ll also be in Boulder around so many other endurance athletes who inspire me to keep working hard and keep putting in the miles, so I’m excited for this mental boost as I enter the middle weeks. 

Overall, the first quarter of my training has been better than I could have asked for. I’m running slightly faster than the plan and can see my body getting stronger and gaining endurance. I’m so excited to see my growth in the next 3 months, and am so grateful to be on this journey— that my body is strong, my mind is tough, that I have the time to train, the resources I need to be successful, and most importantly, that I have the spark.

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