Monday, November 30, 2015

California International Marathon Training

California International Marathon is this weekend and I'm looking forward to towing the start line for the second consecutive year.  There’s no doubt in my mind that my fitness is the best it's ever been. My most recent PRs at the half-marathon and 10-mile distances, as well as my workouts during this marathon training cycle, are clear indicators that I’m fit as ever and have a chance at achieving my ultimate goal of running sub-2:30 for the marathon.

Before I recap my CIM training, I want to give a little background of my past marathon training and the changes I’ve made over the last year and a half that has gotten me to my current fitness.

When I first started running marathons in 2003, I relied on running books such as Daniel’s Running Formula and Advanced Marathoning to guide me through marathon training. I would pick out workouts based on what I felt like doing on a given day. It was basically trial and error. Fifteen months after running my first marathon, I dropped my marathon time to 2:42 at the Houston Marathon.

It was after the Houston Marathon on January 2005 that I realized I could run faster and possibly even run 6-minute pace for 26.2 miles.  However, I knew I would need a coach to help and guide me through my training, so I contacted Greg McMillan (McMillan Running).  Ironically, I first met Greg while running the Houston Marathon.  I remember around mile 20 of the race, a guy (Greg) on a bike was encouraging me and a few other runners to stay relax and work together.  Apparently, Greg was on the course cheering his athlete and eventual Houston Marathon winner, Kelly Keane.  At the time, I had no idea that Greg was a recognized online coach and famous for his McMillan Running Calculator.

In just one year with McMillan Running, I improved my marathon PR by four minutes to a 2:38 at the Austin Marathon.  I won't go into too much details, but some of Greg's training that helped take my marathon running to the next level included fast-finish long runs, strength-building workouts such as marathon goal pace runs, and cruise/tempo intervals.  You can visit for more of Greg's training philosophy.

I was coached by Greg until 2007 when duty called and had to deploy for the third time in five years. After coming back from a longgg 15-month deployment in 2008, I continued to use Greg's training philosophy and a variety of running books to coach myself. I'd say I did a pretty darn good job, because I had a break-through marathon in 2008 at the Amsterdam Marathon running 2:35:37.  I not only PR’d by over 2 1/2 minutes, but also averaged well under 6:00/mile pace. As a self-coached athlete from 2009-2013 (except for winter/spring of 2011 when Andrew Lemoncello (McMillan Running) coached me for Rotterdam Marathon), I ran a total of 10 marathons, eight (8) of which were faster than 2:37 or sub-6:00 pace (my list of marathon results).

I was happy with my marathon results over those five years, especially that I had lowered my PR down to 2:33:50 and placed well in a few of the popular small-city marathons: 9th at the Munich Marathon, 11th at Big Sur Marathon and 12th at Richmond Marathon.  I even ran well at the big stage, 56th overall at the scorching 2012 Boston Marathon.  But there was one problem.  I was stuck running marathons in the 2:35-2:36 range and had not improved my marathon PR since 10/10/10 at the Munich Marathon.

After having my worst marathon experience and a poor showing (2:53) at last year's (2014) Boston Marathon I realized that I needed some change.  Additionally, at age 38, I knew my chances of improving my marathon PB and getting closer to that illustrious sub-2:30 marathon were diminishing.  So, I decided to get a coach to orchestrate my training and provide some motivation and accountability. My initial thought was to go with McMillan Running again, but as I stated earlier I wanted some change.

I had been following Scott Wietecha's training on his running blog (Running, Rants and Randomness) for some time and really liked his approach to training. Scott, an elementary PE teacher, glorified hobby-jogger for Newton Elite and a 2:17 marathoner, was kind enough to take me under his wing.  Under Scott's guidance over the last year and a half, I've improved my personal bests in the marathon (2:32:29, California Int'l Marathon), half-marathon (1:11:49, Philly Rock 'n' Roll), and 10-Mile (54:35, Army Ten-Miler).  I also ran my 2nd fastest marathon time (2:33:13) earlier this year at Boston in less-than-ideal conditions (headwinds).  I went into Boston in top shape and likely would have ran somewhere around 2:31 had conditions been better.

Scott Wietecha - three-peat Country Music Marathon Champion
Now, with CIM just a week away and having completed my hardest marathon training cycle ever, I'm ready to freshen up the legs and go to war for that sub-2:30.  My only hope is that the weather is good and that I run 2 minutes and 30 seconds faster than I did last year.

Here's a summary of my quality sessions/workouts during the last 12 weeks.  I labeled Q1, Q2, etc. as the number of quality sessions for that specific week.

Week 12: Q1 - 10 miles of alternating 1/2 miles at 5:55 and 5:35; averaged 5:53/5:33 for the recover/fast portions.  Q2 - 15 miles medium long run on rolling route with 4x1/2 mile at marathon effort.  (77 miles)

Week 11: Q1 - 6x1 mile working from 10K pace to slightly faster (5:15, 5:13, 5:12, 5:10, 5:10, 5:09) with 400m rec jog. Q2: 20 miles long run with last 5 miles at MP; ran the last 5M in 28:16 (5:39 pace) 6:27 overall avg pace for the 20 miles (102 miles)

Week 10: Q1 - 12x2:00 at HM pace to slightly faster with 2:00 moderate over rolling hills.  Q2 - 12 miles progression from easy to moderate effort over rolling hills.  Q3 - 19.5 miles long run with 3x4 miles at MP with 3:00 recovery jogs. Ran 22:49, 22:40, and 22:16. (99 miles)

Week 9: Q1 - 12x600m at 5K pace to slightly faster with 1:30 rest.  Q2 - 20 miles progression long run working from moderate pace down to MP; 6:03 avg pace.  (100 miles)

Week 8: Q1 - 10 miles tempo working from slightly slower than MP to slightly faster than MP; 57:03, 5:43 pace). Q2 - Philly Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, 1:11:49.  (82 miles)

Week 7: Q1 - 20x 400m at 75-77s with 1:00 rec jog.  Q2 - 4 miles tempo at HM pace plus 6x1/4 mile uphill and 2x1/4 downhill with jog up/down for recovery.  Q3 - 22 miles normal long run with the first half on rolling hills.  (103 miles)

Week 6: Q1 - 6x1 mile starting 5:30 pace and working down to 5:15 with 400m rec jog. Splits were 5:29, 5:25, 5:22, 5:19, 5:14, and 5:12.  Q2 - 20 miles long run with last 6 miles at sub-5:45 pace. 33:57 (5:40 avg) for last 6 miles.  (89 miles)

Week 5: Q1 - 6x1K at 3:10 (3:10, 3:09, 3:08, 3:09, 3:08, 3:09) with 400m rec jog.  Q2 - 9 miles with 4 miles fartlek of .15 miles fast / .35 miles easy.  Q3 - Army Ten-Miler, 54:35.  (77 miles)

Week 4: Q1 - 11 miles with fartlek of 1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2-1 with equal recovery; fast portion at 5:20 pace and moderate recovery at 6:20; averaged 5:16 for fast section and 6:12 for recovery.  Q2 - 12 miles progressing from easy to moderate pace. Q3 - 15 miles with 4x2 miles starting at 5:30 and working down to 5:20 pace (10:56, 10:47, 10:43, 10:39) with 400m rec jog.  (93 miles)

Week 3: Q1 - 2x3 miles tempo (16:41, 16:16) plus 2x800m at sub-2:30 (2:27, 2:27).  Q2 - 9 miles with 4x1/4 mile uphill and 4x1/4 mile downhill with jog down/up recovery.  Q3 - 20 miles long run with middle 14 miles progressing from 6:20 to 6:00 pace; 6:07 overall avg pace.  (100 miles)

Week 2: Q1 - 12 miles with 10x3:00/1:30 fartlek.  Q2 - 8x400m at sub-70s with 400m rec jog.  Q3 - 20 miles normal long run.  (101 miles)

Week 1: Q1 - New Haven 20K Race, 1:10:15.  Q2 - 16x400m at sub-80s with 100m rec jog; averaged 75-76s for the first 8 reps and 73-74s for the last 8.  Q3 - 20 miles long run with the last 5 miles moderate working down to 6:00 pace.  (93 miles)

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