Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Running, it’s a new world when training for the marathon

Eight plus years ago I decided to take up running full time again. I was fed up with cycling in general, (Sorry but yes, everyone dopes in cycling including Cat 3’s). So beyond the occasional ride I was no longer interested in racing. Lily and I were trying to have a baby. The whole “bike riding kills your boner” ad campaign was in full swing in the media, so I was taking a lot of heat for the lack of results. In my own defense, I just thought we needed to do as much practicing as we could. I wanted to get it right when we really wanted to be pregnant.

I always ran a little here and there, but not with any frequency. For almost two years I got fat and out of shape, (making babies is stressful). So when Lily became prego I was out of shape and looking for a running goal. Having lived most of my life in Sacramento I knew all about the Western States 100. Sacramento has a large and diverse running community. I signed up for the American River 50 mile as my first step back to a running career. I figured the bigger the better. The rest is history; I’ve had ups and downs.

With my return to running I changed the way I had run in the past due to a few factors: a.) I was older, b.) I was SLOW and fat and c.) training to run REALLY far was different than anything I had done before. I followed what ultra veterans told me and followed suit. Ultra running in general is pretty basic. Lots of aerobic running and lots of long runs in beautiful places, not a lot of quality running. Mile repeats and threshold running were not needed, 4-5hr runs on a regular basis were.

In recent years I’ve noticed that I was in a rut. Training was fun, but the results were not what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong trail running still beats any other type of running for scenery and location. But lots of runs at about the same pace always worrying about being aerobic and if you ate enough can really start to blow. When I was a tri geek and raced shorter distances and a few marathons we ran all sorts of paces and distances, why not in ultras?

I began to notice that a lot of other runners faster than I were not training the same way. Sure with ultras you got slow down and go long. But these guys would still do some paced runs.

So I began to change up my training and realized I had been (still am) a lazy fool when it came to training. So early in the year I began to change things up. This got me thinking about the road marathon again, that holy grail of pain and discomfort.

With the California International Marathon (CIM) running right by my home the choice for me was easy.

Training Changes

My plan was to begin a structured marathon training plan after SNER. I cobbled together a plan from various marathon greats, mostly Pete Pfitzinger. I’m now a couple of weeks into the plan and I’m enjoying the change of pace, literally. If you haven’t run a tempo or threshold run in a while, do it. Talk about clearing out the cobwebs and learning some things about your running.

Things I’ve learned:

As most runners know, drills and working on running form can help you become more efficient. Not just road running but on the trail. But when was the last time you heard a trail/ultra runner talk about running drills? By bring these aspects into my training I’ve already noticed that I ache less, regardless of running surface, I have quieter feet and feel way more relaxed running at different paces.

Running different paces is helping me immensely. Every workout has a point. When it’s a recovery run I keep it slow. Time to run fast, then I go fast. I’m finding better fitness, but I’m also becoming better in tune to my body. I’m also becoming more efficient using fuel. One gel for 20 milers, with no fade is nice. I look forward seeing if I can carry this over to my ultra training.

Gear, sometimes it’s needed, but I think we ultra people go too far some times. Sure you need bottles and packs sometimes on the really long stuff. But a recent trail 20 miler was two gels and a watch, I felt naked. I’m also coming to the conclusion that my iPod is sabotaging my training.

Will this change in training make me a better ultra runner, who knows? But it has improved my running which has made me really motivated to improve myself and race better. A good place to be prior to 2011.

I ran across this ongoing series of articles from Eric Grossman at Running Times. They are a great read, check them out:

Grossman Motivation Series #1


Oh yeah and I bit the bullet and I'm now on Facebook.  So I have to take back everything bad I ever said about FB or I'd be a bigger hypocrite than I already am.



  1. I can't help it, like you said, trail running is great for the scenery and the fun but I still have a place in my heart for CIM and for training for it propertly with speed, tempo and long runs.

    Yes, the pavement will hurt from time to time but it was all I knew for so long.

    I long for the day when I can train for CIM properly again and not worry about being home in time for bath night or making dinner etc.

    Nice post AB!

  2. Thanks Pam, here's how I am finding time now, 5am running. Ugh, but it does work, that and the lunch time treadmill when I'm really in a pinch.


  3. Yeah, I've been contemplating the 5 am runs myself. When we move that'll be my only option. Hard to do when your kid doesn't fall asleep until 10pm/11pm every single night though! Ugh. When we move I'll have the elliptical and treadmill option too. I need it!