Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marathon Week is Here!

I am pretty darn excited for the weekend. A new place to visit, a new kind of race to try out, and finally the chance to see how my body likes this 26.2 thing.... better yet, to see how my (our) moderate and low-mileage training approach has prepared me for this distance and my "loose" goals--loose because my world won't crash if I don't hit the times I'm targeting. And by "our," I'm referring to Dr. Maffetone, who's been advising my training in case you're jut chiming into the blog.

Early morning running, all mine mmmm.

Race Goals
Speaking of him, I talked to Phil the Man last week for an EP podcast released yesterday, and appropriately he wanted to talk about setting race goals and tapering MAF style, coincidentally both topics that could be tied into my current situation with the pending marathon, so at times we used me as an example. He says, in a marathon one can generally race 10-15 seconds faster per mile than their MAF pace. This puts me at sub-8 pace, about 7:50-7:55 in fact, for the marathon. Thank goodness it's a flat course ;)

I don't think that kind of pacing is crazy talk for me; however, being that this is an unknown distance/race for me still (an open marathon very different than marathon in an Ironman!) I am being cautious not cocky, and I know it will come down to not just the last 10k but probably the last 8-9 miles of the marathon where I really find out what I got and if I can hold it together.

Realistically I know I can run a 3:30-3:35, and at the end of the day I'm a competitor by nature so I'm going into this marathon to get the best our of me. But as we always say on ATC, if it were only that easy to just pick your race finishing time.... Who knows?! Oh ya and my goal time also happens to be my BQ time; Boston 2016? We'll see. Just depends where I'm at in life.

Almost Bailing on the Marathon?
Backing up a bit... I'll be honest, there was an email exchange March 30 in which Phil asked if I might want to consider bailing on this marathon and choosing another one later on, so that I could train more specifically for it. I wasn't stressed (probably the opposite--high on life, lol), but I also wasn't showing the traits of someone dedicated to marathon training.

"One thing that keeps coming to mind about your schedule is whether you want to stick with your marathon event, or move it out further in the year, which can reduce some stress. I'll support you either way," Phil said (keep in mind this was the day after my 30th birthday and also the week I got engaged, lol).

He was right to ask that, and it got me thinking for sure. I just wasn't showing that consistent of running, no actual "plan," and just running whenever was convenient. I cared (I always will) but I wasn't all in. I was quick to jump into another kind of workout or activity instead--SUP, cycling, strength training, or a weekend of backpacking, trip to SF, etc. In fact, I think what he was seeing was the manifestation of an underlying fear--i.e. me not wanting to revert back to my old habits, go overboard with training, get obsessed and undo the hard work I've done to build good health. But I had to let go of that, and trust myself and trust my body.

It didn't mean I didn't want to do the race. I told him that I'm doing this marathon no matter what and that it's just my journey, and that I understand I'm probably not going to reach my potential with my "free-spirited" approach but at the same time, my approach was allowing me to build some running endurance while maintaining my health with no setbacks--that was/is my No. 1 priority.

A couple weeks after that exchange I think I finally switched modes and I was all about the run training, and I let go of thoughts that I'd screw up. No fear. I became much more willing to let go of the random crosstraining and get down to run business.

Long Runs
For six weeks I got in weekend long runs of 2.5 to 3 hours at MAF on a route specific to the marathon course (aka flat), which means I gave up my beloved trail runs for a bit. I'd usually get in a mid-week moderately long run too of around 90 minutes give or take, or a triple run (double run one day followed by a third run early the next day). All based on MAF principles.
Finding the flat trails in OC to avoid concrete jungles.
 Loving my new run-specific CamelBak Circuit!

I saw myself maturing in the process of doing the longer runs because I learned to have the discipline to go into the key long ones rested, feeling good and ready to tick of some solid miles, something that as a triathlete I wasn't always used to doing because "I had to fit in s/b/r all the time" and I'd get to the weekend with a decent amount of accumulated fatigue. If that meant forcing it, and running or biking tired or slower than my potential on Sat/Sun, that was OK with me at the time. Don't get me wrong, that worked to some degree--it was essentially overreaching--and it got me in dang good triathlon shape. However, for my body it wasn't sustainable week after week or year after year, but that's the other story. And as you can imagine that's also not the style I was going for with the marathon training this year. I wanted to allow for long runs to be quality so I could actually feed good and have fun with them! So...

For my final six long runs I mapped out ahead of time whether my long run had to be on a Saturday or Sunday (I was putting other life obligations first, i.e. family stuff, etc, which I refuse to blow off to train instead), and then the day prior to the long run would always be off or an easy bike or yoga--even if I felt good. It was certainly a practice in holding back on certain days when I wanted to do more but was "saving" myself for the key run. I haven't always operated like that. But I was proud when I finally got into a Sunday long run feeling good and excited, "So this is what it feels like!"

Now, I'm not saying I felt like I tapered before every long run nor did I feel "race ready" every weekend (no!) but I didn't feel trashed and dragging ass like I remember from triathlon-specific days where Sundays, especially, got to be a real struggle at time--mentally just as much as physically.

What I Did & Didn't Do 
I built up my mileage, and the longest I ran was 18 miles two weeks before the marathon. Those 18 miles were mostly at MAF and also included some walking in the beginning and end, per Phil's request. That was a good weekend overall and the day after the 18-miler I ran another 4 in the morning (felt great!) then hiked. All in all it was at least 30 miles on the feet in 48 hours. Building endurance baby...

Hiking trails in the mountains the day after running long.
What? Smell your armpit? No thanks. #truelove

That said, I never ran 20-milers this time, and I never went over 3 hours in one run. I never had a 50+ mile running week (but I did get to 45ish mpw). I don't think I had any weekly training volume of more than 13 hours, and most weeks were 8-10 hours of training (crosstraining included, even yoga, in that). I rarely ran more than two consecutive days. Originally I thought I'd never run more than two days in a row, but as things evolved there were times I broke that rule because I felt fine or it was planned like the triple run.

I ran most my miles in this training cycle at or near MAF, i.e. 150 HR. I can slip into 150 with ease and that HR feels normal and natural and where my body likes to hang out.

What about anaerobic work or intensity? There were times when I certainly went 10-15 beats over MAF (i.e. HR 160s) whether a fartlek or a trail run/hill climbing or running with a fast friend while also talking (Michelle Barton!), or when I was finishing a long run and just went more by RPE and pace letting go of HR a bit because I felt like it built good mental toughness for the later stages of a marathon. I don't recall ever running with HR over 170 though outside of Ragnar.

My training did not include any specific/planned high-intensity workouts, and the kind of intensity I did just happened in the moment when it felt good and OK to do, not forced. Except for Ragnar, which was certainly the highest intensity I've reached this year. That was forced hard running (the good definition of forced), and definitely a smart move to just go for it--use those "C' races to practice speed and intensity!

Worth mentioning: Depending on my cycle (that female cycle) I also would see higher HRs in running the week or so before Day 1. In fact, I got a whole post I need to write on menstruation and the female athlete, haha....

Now I'm tapering, which, oh ya, I HATE! I hate the taper. Always have. It doesn't help that I'm about to start my period, and my mood and appetite are certainly affected by hormones right now. Grrrrr ;) Did you know you burn more calories the week before you start? Despite lower training volume and being in chill mode, my appetite is as if I'm running 15 miles a day. This happens every month to me, but this week I'm just making sure to keep it in check as to not add to my race weight lol. (For the record, folks, I weight about 133-134lbs so I'm not as skinny as I've raced at in the past, and I'm happy with my body.)

I'm going to follow Phil's advice and not run the two days before the race, which sounds weird, in fact. Had he not suggested that in the podcast I'm sure I'd do some short runs the couple days before. But I'll give this a try and see. Can't hurt, right? I've always been a conservative taper'er as it is...

Sunday Race Day
UCAN mocha, to die for!
Coffee and pack of vanilla protein UCAN.
We're staying in a VRBO rental and I'll be bringing food to cook for pre-race dinner, and, no, I will not be going to the organized pasta dinner--ha! Morning of the race I'll have my UCAN porridge, PerfectAmino and Vespa, plus coffee with coconut milk.

During the race it'll be water, UCAN, and probably Bonk Breaker Chews or a chia gel when I'm digging deep. Speaking to that, when you are fat-adapted like I am you can handle the carbs/sugar a bit better and those macronutrients can aid in performance in the moment without setting you back in metabolic efficiency/fat-adaptation. That said, have I been training with the sugary stuff? No. Heck no. But I've had enough experience with it that my body knows what to do with it.

In fact, I had a long conversation with Peter Defty about tall this fat-adapted stuff last week... and he also said Vespa works great to prevent and/or cure hangovers, fyi! Haha! So maybe I'll be having Vespa post-race that evening too ;)


Finally how about my version of food porn: A nourishing bowl of farm-fresh eggs and kale sautéed in butter, avocado, homemade bone broth. I've gone back to mostly LCHF and it's going REALLY well, better than ever! I'm excited to share more on this especially for the female athletes out there.


  1. I was running MAF about 8:10-8:15 and pulled off a 7:30 pace in a marathon, under Lucho's coaching... So the 10-15s rule may not apply. Of course, I did fall apart the last few miles and dropped from something approaching a 3:10 to 3:17. So it wasn't all pretty.

  2. Interesting comment by Dr Phil on MAF pace vs Marathon pace being only +10-15s/mile.
    I have to say (and I would not be surprised if many others also found) that to be pretty conservative; my pace at true MAF is almost 60s/mile slower than my marathon race pace. Even if give myself the +5bpm adjustment the gap is still maybe 45s/mile.. (true MAF HR = 143, Marathon pace HR = ~172.. that's a lot of bpm's).

  3. Congratulations on a great race. I look forward to the post race blog. And great podcast with Dr. Phil on EP. I would be really interested in knowing your training/running plan for the last 8 weeks. I want to see how you got in the miles and at what HR.
    I have run 120+ of marathons and many 90+ of them BQs but I want to try and do the next ones by MAF and not pace. I am only a 3 day a week runner with days of biking and swimming.
    You had great results and your blog and podcasts have been so interesting. Thanks