Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Reflections on Sub-3

I've had more than a week now to reflect on running a sub 3 hour marathon. I've given thought to what went well during this training cycle. Why was I able to relatively comfortably accomplish something that had always seemed so far out of my reach? Can I repeat this? Can I share something to help someone else break this barrier?

Yes, You Can
I shared this picture on my Facebook timeline, and it got a lot of attention. I may have some blog readers who aren't also Facebook friends, so I'll share this here, too. I've told my weight loss story on this blog through multiple posts, but this collage shows it in one place.
From 240 lbs to 2:XX Marathon
There is over 6 years from the left to the right. Those middle three pictures are the same pair of jeans. I can't believe I was bulging out of those jeans!

It takes support. It takes patience. It takes discipline. It takes, well, just plain old bull-headedness. But, yes, you can. You can accomplish your goals, even if they seem out of reach right now.

Celebrate, Then Move On
I have to warn others and remind myself not to get the post race injury. Yeah, I got this weird injury right after my last marathon PR. See, last time I set a marathon PR, I tore my rotator-cuff while patting myself on the back. (That's a feeble attempt at humor. I did not really tear my rotator-cuff. I just got lazy and injured.) It took me over a year to get back into form after my last marathon PR. I'm not making that mistake again.

This time, I celebrated for a week. I ran less than 30 miles last week. I ate at least 3 cheeseburgers. I ate tons of peanut m&ms. I ate Krispy Kreme donuts. I ate so much ice cream. Dessert. Cheese Fries. Steak. I even drank coke a few times. All. Week. Long. Whatever I wanted. I enjoyed it, but I'm finished celebrating. I'm running hard and watching what I eat, and I started that on Sunday.

Avoiding Injury
I really think that the key to this success was that I stayed injury free. When you don't miss a workout due to injury or illness, you can really get a lot out of your body. That's the key to having breakthrough performances. You have to stay injury free during your training.

How did I stay injury free? I really don't know the answer to that one, but I have some ideas. I have a page about my shoes. Over the past year, I have been alternating shoes. I have 3-5 different pairs of shoes that I use during a week. Each pair has different characteristics. So, my feet and legs are not subjected to the same repetitive stresses day in and day out. Read about my road shoes on My Shoe Closet above.

Other than shoe variety and abiding by the basic hard-easy principle, I don't know any other secrets.

Speed Up
For about 3 months prior to starting this marathon training cycle, I focused on running a fast 5k. It was really fun. I love running 78 or 79 second 400s. I love running 36 second 200s. I love combo workouts. I kept my mileage high for me, between 70 and 80 miles per week. But I never ran more than 15 miles at a time, I did doubles often, and I did intervals sometimes twice per week. I felt faster than ever when I began this marathon training cycle. Sure, I lacked the confidence that I could maintain the pace for 26.2 miles, but I felt fast.

During the marathon cycle, I built up my mileage. I peaked at 90 miles for a couple of weeks. I didn't run any 400s or 200s. I worked hard on long runs and tempo runs. One thing I did this time that I have neglected in previous training cycles; I did my strides. I did strides once or twice per week. I had always omitted those in previous training cycles. But doing strides reminded me that even though I'm running high mileage and slogging out long runs and long tempo runs, I can still turn my legs over quickly. Strides will be a staple in my running from now on.

Because of that speed, my tempo runs felt really easy. I mean, really easy. I found myself dropping the pace to about 6:15 or 6:20 per mile during tempo runs just because 6:30 felt too easy. I only had one bad tempo workout. I nailed all the others and they all felt a little too easy.

Now that I'm done with the marathon, I'm going back to working on my speed. Running fast is fun. I ran some 76-79 second 400s today and it was a joy.

My diet wasn't perfect. It was far from it. I cheated a lot. And, I have an abnormally large appetite, even for a runner. However, my diet was cleaner for this training cycle than it ever has been. I've switched to a flexitarian diet that just makes me feel better. It also forces me to find foods that I wouldn't eat otherwise. It forces me to eat more vegetables and to find non-soy sources of protein. I really believe that reducing the amount of meat in my diet has made me faster, but I can't prove it.

Basically, my flexitarian diet works like this. Never eat meat more than once per day. Have at least 3 completely meatless days per week. When you eat meat, eat only lean meat. This means no sausages, bacon, and very little (only 96/4 when I eat it) ground beef. And the last rule is... Fish, if it isn't fried or covered in fatty sauce, is a vegetable. I have been surprised by how easy and palatable this change has been.

That's it. Hopefully something in this will help you or me.

No comments: