Run, Fat Boy, Run!

An Update to Great Running Experiment 2011

As you may remember, I have been fighting through a marathon training plan for some time now.    This is the second summer where I have tried to build up to the point were a marathon is an achievable target.     In times past, I had moved up to the 12-15 mile mark, and the just as I was about to move further up, injury would strike.   In the end,  it became a matter of overtraining and my body would shut down.  In an instant my marathon plans went on the back burner. 

This year, I decided to do things differently.   

As I was planning my program, I recalled my first foray into running where I used the famous Couch to 5K program.    The program had two distinct phases.   The first was simply to get you up off the couch and moving.    Eventually, if you followed the plan, you could move for 30 minutes or so.    It was running, albeit slow running. 

After you completed the plan, it was suggested that you start over and focus on speed.    Considering that this was the plan that got me running in the first place, I started to think maybe I should build my marathon program in a similar way;  first build duration, then speed. 

So beginning in February, I started phase one:  the ramp up of mileage.    

I dropped my speed by almost 40% (7.5mph to 5.2-5.5mph), and learned that running slow is almost as physically and mentally challenging as running long.    Throughout the early weeks of this program, I reminded myself continually that calories are the measure of how much energy it takes to move an item from x to y.     Calorie burn would still be there, even if it took me considerably longer to bridge that gap. 

I also had to overcome the desire to sprint, which wasn’t easy.   It was hard to one day run 3 milers at 25-26-27 minutes, to running 11-12 minute miles.    There was a pride factor that needed to be overcome. 

At the same time that I dropped my speed, I decided to run 2/3’s of my runs indoors on the much softer (and forgiving treadmill).    Running 30-50 miles a week, meant a great pounding on the knees.    I started to think that I could minimize the pounding by taking in inside.   I never imagined the sheer mental will that would be required to run for hours on end on the treadmill.   My mind and the incredible boredom of these runs became my biggest hurdle to overcome.    I named my treadmills (the one at work is Marjorie, and the home treadmill is Caroline), held conversations with them, pleaded with them, cursed them, and on one occasion smacked one  (My apologies for that Marjorie). 

On this past Tuesday, I reached my twenty mile target.   20 Miles!    That is the magic number in most marathon training plans.   It is the point where most experts believe completing signifies that you can finish a marathon.    It is said that on race day, adrenaline is good for three miles, and the last 3.2 can come from sheer will,…so 20 is a good long run target.   Beyond 20 miles you also increase your risk of injury exponentially.      Do I think I can finish a marathon today?    Absolutely…but…I don’t want to take 6 hours to do it.    Based upon my time for 20, I would complete a marathon at roughly 5:45…   Much slower than I have in mind (My target is a sub 5 hour – ideally 4:30 (Oprah and Lance Armstrong’s time)) 

So today, I back the program up 12 weeks, and start focusing on speed.  This program will move more and more of the runs outside, until hopefully all runs are outside.  It will involve more tempo runs and hill work.     It will involve fartleking frequently (I just enjoy using the term “fartlek” in a sentence…it makes me giggle like a school boy!). 

Additionally, I need to continue to work on three areas that continue to challenge me: 

During the run hydration and refueling:   Although hydration doesn’t seem to be a big issue…those nasty, nasty, nasty GU packets have me gagging with each attempt to force one down.   I am now experimenting with Haribo Gummis, bananas, etc  in hopes of finding that elusive carb boosting alternative to those toothpasty nightmares. 

Nutrition:    A four hour run can burn 4300-4700 calories.    On average, I consume 2500 per day.   It doesn’t take a math genius to realize that this is not a successful strategy.    I need to figure out how to increase my calories to astronomical levels, without hurting quality of calories, or becoming a sumo wrestler.   I also need to continue fine tuning my supplement regime.   I am also considering the benefits of vegetarian diets, but certainly need to research more ( I would miss my meatballs and a  good Kosher Hot Dog) 

Active Recovery:    I am spending an enormous amount of time in the gym or on the road.   Because of an already busy schedule (two  “Full time” jobs, school, and a family) my work outs are getting harder and harder to accommodate without one of the above paying for it.     Yet, I need to figure out how I can more effectively manage my cross training and active recovery on non running days.  This is such a vital part of the success of the program, if I cut corners, I will pay the price.    Sadly, I have yet to spreadsheet myself out of this quandary. 

So today, I start phase two, with a whole new set of goals.     I ask for your continued prayers and wishes of good luck.   I will certainly keep you in the loop. 

Oh…   And I think that I have decided on the eventual target of this foolishness…  The ING Hartford Marathon on Saturday, October 15th.   I am considering entering as a charity runner as well,…but we will see…

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