April 10, 2012

Hopkinton to Boston (Training Analysis and Goals for the Marathon)

The last workout (2 x 2.5 miles, an easy one!) is in the books, so its time to write the pre-marathon blog...

When I decided in January to run a spring marathon, I figured if I wasn't going to be in the Olympic Trials, I might as well run the biggest and best race out there - Boston. I'm really glad I made that choice and I'm looking forward to getting out there this weekend.

This training cycle has gone extremely well, and I'm excited to see what I can do on April 16th. My goals are simple - finish the race feeling like I gave it my best shot and leave everything I have out there. If I can't walk the next day - good!

I'm trying not to look at the weather at this point. If we get a day similar to last year (ie. SW wind, and I realize 2011 was a once in a lifetime type of day, so I'm not counting on it!), then that will change my race strategy a tiny bit, but not by much. I learned the hard way last November that no matter how prepared you are, the marathon can still absolutely humble you and break you into pieces. So I'm going to be a bit more conservative this time around. In an ideal world - I'll hit the halfway point somewhere between 1:09:00 to 1:09:30. That should give me an excellent chance of going under 2:20, a time I would not be disappointed with. I'm going to try and resist the temptation to get sucked out too fast in the opening miles, which is easier said than done due to the downhill on that part of the course. I want to live in the 5:15-5:20 / mile range, regardless of competition dynamics and what is happening around me.

Its been an interesting winter. After skiing close to 300 days in the past 3 seasons, I skied twice this year, and haven't been in the mountains since mid-January. It was a record year for lack of snowfall, so I put all my eggs in the marathon basket and got to work.

Compared to the fall marathon buildup, I ran more miles, more workouts, and faster workouts. It was all a natural progression, and nothing was ever forced. I feel like I did a good job of listening to my body and making sure I was properly recovering between faster sessions. I didn't race very much, and only really had one very competitive race (Mountain to Fountain 15K) - but that one told me everything I needed to know.

Here's what the calendar of workouts ended up looking like when all was said and done (click to enlarge)...

I should note that the calendar did not necessarily look like that at the beginning... it was constantly evolving and changing. I think its very important to be flexible in your training. The sum is much, much greater than any of the individual parts. Or however that saying goes. In any case, I had a heck of a winter, and really enjoyed the training and preparing for this race. No matter how it turns out - I took my body to a new level, and learned some things about myself in the process.

Some quick notes on the workouts... tempo runs were all done at marathon pace or slightly faster (5:10-5:20 pace)... track work and shorter intervals were never all-out type sessions. I tried to make everything build on top of everything else. 

If you are interested in the specifics of the day to day workouts, they are all here: January - February - March - April

I averaged about 135 miles/week during the 12 weeks before I began to taper. This was up about 10-15% from my first two marathon buildups. The overall percentage of "fast" (marathon-pace or faster) miles went up quite a bit compared to last year. In the last 10 weeks, I've done about 35% more "fast" miles than I did in the 10 weeks leading up the Philadelphia. Most of that increase was in the 4-10 weeks out period, where I really got into a good groove, felt like I was recovering well, and was able to do lots of quality running (including the double-dippers).

I like having lots of data and keeping track of things - its fun to look back and analyze. I'm not a slave to it, I just enjoy the record-keeping. I realize there's no "prediction" that really holds true in the marathon (like how it works at shorter distances). Although it will be interesting to see if there is any correlation between how many pushups I do and marathon time... I have those stats, trust me! :-)

In terms of tapering - I did things slightly differently this time. I kept the volume up a little higher than in the past (103 miles in the week ending 8 days before the race), and dialed back the intensity of the last couple workouts a little bit. The idea was to keep my body in the normal "routine" while still conserving energy and saving my best running for race day. I've shortened the duration of my afternoon runs, but I'll keep running doubles right up until the weekend.

So that's that. These comparisons don't mean anything until I cross the finish line on Monday, but I like doing the blogging now (its actually a good distraction from thinking about the race, if that makes any sense, which is probably doesn't)... after the race I tend to not want to look at the training data for a while and give myself a mental break from it all.

Andrea and I leave on Saturday for Boston. Later this week I'll post information on how you can track me in real time, as well as where you can watch a live webcast of the race.


  1. I guess you saw the silver lining in the lack of snow! I'm hoping next ski season is better.....

    Great post on your training, and I'm sure these stats give you a confidence boost heading into the race. Best of luck in Boston, I can't wait to hear how you do!

  2. Your training has truly been spot on. It could not have been better and I love how you track everything and know exactly what you have done. Something I never even though about before joining FRB last June.

    Awesome analysis Jake and I know you don't need it but best of luck. And remember to have fun! :)

  3. Jake I've really enjoyed following your training for Boston. I feel like you've done everything you can so I'm hoping you can run to your full potential and take advantage of the great work you've put in. We will be rooting for you from AZ! Have the race of your life!


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