This weekend I'm heading down to Arizona for the Phoenix Half Marathon. I'm looking forward to what I consider my first "real" race of 2014, even though I've toed the line 4 times already, this is the first major test of my fitness. Since taking a break after CIM, I've slowly but surely been getting in shape. Over the past couple weeks, my workouts have been progressing nicely in a systematic manner. That is a crucial aspect of my "plan" this year - logical, systematic progression. The individual workouts and low key races and all building blocks towards my bigger goals.
I'm going to recap my training since Christmas in two five week blocks...
Block 1 - Transitioning back into workouts...
Starting around Christmas (while I was in Arizona) I got started with some token workouts. During the next 5 weeks, there workouts were almost entirely aerobic in nature. I found that my aerobic threshold pace was actually slower than it was in October/November (not surprising coming off a marathon peak). The idea was simply to get myself used to doing workouts again without beating myself up or pushing too hard, too soon. Towards the end of this period I ran the USA 1/2 Champs in Houston (1:07:26) and the SLC Winter Series 5K (15:33). Not impressive times, but a decent start to the year considering I wasn't even running that fast in any of my workouts.
During this time period, Andrea and I also started to make a (very good) habit of meeting at the gym almost every night after work. We have been following the recommendations for general strength and balance in Jay Dicharry's book Anatomy for Runners. It's a very fundamental approach that incorporates single leg balance, foot stability, bridges, clam shells, leg lifts, squats, lunges, foam rolling, AIS, etc. The importance of this cannot be overstated - I'm healthier than I've been since I started training seriously in 2011. We are big fans of Jay's book and would highly recommend it... in fact, Andrea is traveling to Bend, OR this week for a one-on-one evaluation with Jay.
Block 2 - Real training begins...
After CIM I started to think about whether I had the training knowledge to get to the next level, or whether I'd risk sitting on a 1:06/2:20 plateau if I continued to simply go at it on my own. Ultimately, I want to qualify for the Olympic Trials this year, and that isn't going to happen by accident. After a hundred emails back and forth with a friend of mine who has a fantastic understanding of modern marathon training and had followed my own workouts/races for several years, a great training plan for the spring season started to develop. We plugged in my target races, evaluated my strengths, weaknesses, and created an outline that was very specific to me. We're only a month into the program, and have already made a few tweaks here and there, but for the most part I've been able to do everything "planned" and I feel that my fitness is definitely on the upswing.
Here's what I've done in the next five (4.5 as I write this) weeks...
Week of Jan 17: 6 mile wave tempo (4 min AT, 2 min LT); 3 mile AT + 10x30s hills (1500/3K effort on all hill sessions, 3.5% gradient); 20 mile long run (easy pace).
Week of Feb 3: 2 x 20 minute LT efforts (click the link for the details about this series of LT workouts); 4 mile AT/LT + 10x45s hills; SLC Winter Series 10K.
Week of Feb 10: 4 x 10 minute LT efforts; 5 mile AT/LT + 10x60s hills; 18 mile long run w/ 5K AT finish.
Week of Feb 24: 4 x 1 mile (5K effort)... The rest of the week will just be easy running and some strides, and then I'll race on Saturday.
On the Thursday workouts where I did the tempo + hills, the hill repeats were the primary emphasis of the session. The AT tempo preceding the hill reps was originally put in there to get warmed up (reduce injury risk) on cold morning. However, we realized a little more quality could be added to the workout by utilizing the pre-hills tempo, so it was extended out and I started running the last mile at LT pace.
I'm not too concerned about the specifics on the long runs for the time being... the main goal is to get 17-20 miles on a hilly or rolling route w/ some AT/quality component at the end, depending on how I'm feeling. If it just ends up being an easy paced long run, that's OK too. When I transition back to marathon mode, these runs will obviously become a lot more important and the cornerstone of the training program.
Average mileage has been 95 miles/week for the past 9 weeks (range of 86-109). I feel very healthy - I've struck a good balance in terms of the mileage / workout volume, time spent stretching / foam rolling, getting enough sleep, etc. I think I could take it up 15-20 mpw right now w/ no problem, but I don't see the point at the moment. Instead, on higher volume weeks, I'm sometimes taking Sunday off to go skiing (or making Sunday a very light day of running and then going skiing). Instead of running that extra 3 miles per day, I'm spending the time doing some ancillary work (balance/GSM).
After the Phoenix 1/2, I actually have about two more weeks of workouts left in this block (the timing didn't quite line up right to get everything in before the race). Then starting in mid-March, I'll incorporate some different types of workouts (multi-pace track work and LT "shuffle" sessions) as I move towards the USA 10 Mile Championships and ultimately, the Indianapolis 500 Half-Marathon. It looks like I'll have an opportunity to run in a track meet at the end of March, so I should be able to lower my (admittedly very weak) 5K PR during this phase of training.