JC Marathon Training Week 9: The Ups and Downs of Marathon Training

This week’s training started on a high note – and ended on one. The middle, not so much.

It was a good reminder of the ups and downs of marathon training. You keep piling on the miles and putting in the work, and some days are better than others.

But in the long run, you’re much better off for it.

With this week done, I’ve got one more peak week before I start coming down a bit. I’m looking forward to being on the other side – with better days ahead.

The Plan for Week 9

This was another peak week totaling 85 miles. I ended up juggling the easy miles around a bit, but here’s the how things ended up breaking down in the end:

  • Sunday: 20 mile long run
  • Monday: 5 easy miles in the morning, 4.5 easy miles in the evening
  • Tuesday: 6.25 easy miles in the morning, 6.25 easy miles in the evening
  • Wednesday: 11 mile I workout
  • Thursday: 7.5 easy miles in the morning, 5 easy miles in the evening
  • Friday: 11.5 mile T workout
  • Saturday: 8 easy miles

And here’s how things actually went.

Starting Strong with the Sunday Long Run

The week started off on a high note. This was the my first 20 mile run of this training cycle, and it was a success. I didn’t have a firm time goal going in, although I was hoping to finish under 2:50 and to feel strong through the end.

The first half was uneventful. I vowed to take it easy through 10 miles and not check my pace until then. I got stopped at a couple traffic lights, and the second half of this segment is uphill. So I was pleasantly surprised when I came through the ten mile split at 1:26:32.

I was feeling good as I launched into the next five. I gave a little more effort here, but I still wanted to keep the pace easy. I figured ~8:15/mi was plenty good to get me to my goal. It was around here that my legs started to feel a bit heavy, and I thought, “This isn’t quite as easy anymore.” But I still felt good, and my pace was on target.

Through the final five, I felt surprisingly strong. After ten miles of net incline, the final five miles have a slight decline. Even though my legs were tired, I was hitting 8:00 to 8:10 for every mile. I made a few conscious efforts to slow down, and that was truly an easy pace.

When I wrapped up, I was definitely tired – but I finished the final mile in 8:02. No slowing down at all. Overall time: 2:48:16 (with 1-2 minutes of traffic light stops included).

I looked back at my previous times for 20 milers on Smashrun – 2:52:42 (July 23), 2:57:54 (March 23), and 3:11:29 (August 21) – and it really help put my progress over the years in perspective.

I also carried some water and took four gels – one every four miles – on this run. Time to start practicing nutrition. I used up the last of my Salted Watermelon Gu, and now I’m back to the regular flavorless kind through my race.

I relaxed the rest of the day, and I was a little tired and cranky. But physically, I felt great.

Monday: Fatigue Catches Up

Monday, I had initially planned on an 8/5 split. However, we had to have PSEG come replace our furnace and I also needed to be out of the house early for a conference.

So I rolled out of bed at 6am, hopped right on the treadmill, and I put in 5 miles before PSEG got there. I was slow and tired, but generally I felt ok. If anything, I figured it was just the shock of waking up at 6am and getting right to it. I usually take a little time to wake up.

When I got home, my plan was to go out for an easy eight miles outside. Once I got started, though, the fatigue really caught up with me. Maybe some of it was the long drive to and from the conference, but I was slow and I wasn’t really feeling it.

I slowly jogged two laps of the reservoir and called it quits at 4.5 miles. I did some mental math, and I could easily fit in the extra 3.5 miles somewhere else.

Tuesday: Still Tired

Tuesday was another easy day on the schedule. I shifted from an eight mile single in the original plan to two 6.25 mile doubles to pad out my mileage.

In the morning, I got out and felt ok. I was kind of slow, and I threw in a few strides to loosen up, but the bulk of the run was well above 9:00/mi.

After work, I went out for my second run. I was feeling worn down again, and it took a while to warm up. Although I felt ok by the end, I was shocked to see that my pace never dipped under 9:00/mi. My overall pace was 9:24/mi, and the fastest split was 9:04 (mile 6).

I was focused on keeping things easy, so the pace isn’t a problem per se. But usually I loosen up after 3 or 4 miles and get back into the mid to high 8:00’s on an easy run.

At this point, I was worrying a bit that the mileage and the workouts were catching up to me. Maybe 85 miles, along with two solid workouts during the week was too much?

We’ll see.

Wednesday: A Sub-Par Workout

Wednesday, I had an I workout on the schedule. I continued the progression from the last two weeks, and this week I did 8 x 3 minute intervals at I pace (~5k pace). Based on past workouts, and assuming a little slowing because of the longer reps and the fatigue, I was hoping for 6:10 to 6:15.

At first, I felt pretty good. I thought maybe the worst was behind me, and I was going to have a good workout after all. Then I actually looked at my watch and I realized my warm up miles were quite slow (9:20+).

The first rep wasn’t so bad – average pace 6:11/mi. Maybe I’ll be ok.

Second rep: 6:17/mi. Still not bad, but moving in the wrong direction.

Third rep: 6:22/mi. Eugh.

When I got home and reviewed all of the splits, it wasn’t quite as bad as I had thought. But it definitely wasn’t great. I considered bailing on the workout halfway through – but I was glad I gutted it out.

Overall, I averaged 6:21/mi for the workout portions. That’s significantly slower than my target pace, and only 5 seconds or faster than what I should be able to run for a threshold workout.

The worst two reps were 6:26-6:27/mi, and the rest were right around 6:21/mi.

There was no clear external reason – like wind or weather – so the only real explanation was that I was still beat up and fatigued from the weekend and the continued high mileage. We’ll see how the rest of the week goes.

Thursday: An Easy Day Feels Better

I woke up Thursday, and I felt surprisingly good. It was as if I didn’t even have a workout the day before.

I went out for eight easy miles around the reservoir. This time, my first two miles were in the 9:00’s and after that my pace naturally dropped to 8:20 to 8:30/mi. I felt great and I threw in some easy strides to loosen up before Friday’s workout.

Overall pace was 8:39/mi. A solid easy run.

After work, I did an easy five miles on the treadmill. Again, everything felt pretty good.

Maybe things are looking up after all.

Friday: A Successfully Windy Workout

An easy day is one thing, but the real test was Friday’s workout.

The workout was the same as the previous week: 2 x 5 minutes at threshold with 1 minute rests, followed by 3 x 10 minutes at threshold with 2 minute rests. Target pace was 6:25-6:30/mi.

As I warmed up, I noticed there was a fairly strong wind whipping across the reservoir again. This seemed to do me in last week, so I was cognizant of this throughout the workout. I didn’t want to push too hard into the wind and wipe myself out on my early reps.

I mentally prepared myself to accept some slower times. But I was also lucky in that I had a tailwind for the first half of my longer reps, and I was running in the headwind for the last half mile or so.

I started the first rep, and I looked down at my watch halfway through and was shocked to see the pace was 6:10 or so. Yikes! Probably as a result of the tailwind, I was going way too fast. I reigned it in a little bit, and I finished that first rep at 6:22/mi. The next one, going into a headwind, I ran 6:29/mi.

Over the next three reps, the same pattern emerged. I ran a little faster on the first mile (6:23, 6:25, 6:29) while I was benefiting from the tailwind, and then I slowed down a bit (6:30/mi, 6:38/mi, 6:31/mi) for the last part of each rep when I ran into the headwind.

Other than the one rep where the pace dropped to 6:38/mi at the end, though, it was a solid workout. My average pace was 6:28/mi. Perhaps I could have run a more even effort and gone a titch faster (6:25/mi would have been nice) without the wind, but I’m really happy with these results.

Wrapping Up With an Easy Saturday

That just left an easy eight miles on Saturday morning.

It rained all afternoon and evening, but I was able to get out in the morning before it started. Thankfully. I was surprised at how chilly it was, though.

Every time I think springtime is here, it feels a little bit more like winter.

The run itself went great. I didn’t feel tired at all – as if I didn’t even run a workout yesterday.

The local trail running group happened to be running a race today (the Squatchapple Trail Race), with different distances up to 50 miles. Part of the course cut across the Reservoir loop, and I happened to fall in with a couple guys for that short segment.

It was nice chit chatting with someone – I rarely have anyone to actually run with. Hope they all made out ok. They were probably still on the course when the rain started, and it’s been coming down steadily.

Good luck Constantine – and the other guy who’s name I didn’t catch.

Reflections and Looking Ahead

This week started out great. I was super pleased with how my 20 miler went, and I ended that run very hopeful about my upcoming marathon.

Then, the fatigue set in. Between two rough days of slow slogs and a botched workout on Wednesday, I was beginning to doubt things. Maybe I was overshooting, and I needed to dial back my expectations.

But then Thursday and Friday came – especially Friday’s workout – and I realized it was just the dark thoughts of fatigue. Once you come out of it, it’s all ok. As usual, taking a step back to reflect really helps put things in perspective and highlight just how well things are going – and how good they look for the Jersey City Marathon in April.

I’ve got one more peak week next week – with 85 miles and two tough workouts. The next week, I’ll put in 20 miles on Sunday, but then I’ll taper off a little bit before the Spring Distance Classic 15k. From there, it’s just 3 weeks to the marathon.

I’ll probably hem and haw over the pace for the 15k race over the next two weeks, but I’m thinking a goal of 1 hour makes sense. That’s a 6:26/mi pace, and that’s felt pretty do-able during my threshold workouts. It even felt fine during the Super Saturday 10 Miler – up until I hit the hills at the end.

I’ll probably start around 6:30-6:35/mi and work my way down after I warm up. Frankly, I’d be happy with a 1:01 finish (6:33/mi), and I’d rather come in a few seconds slow than push too hard.

Regardless, if I can finish in 60 to 61 minutes, that’ll be a huge confidence boost as I target 3:00 to 3:05 in the marathon.

2 thoughts on “JC Marathon Training Week 9: The Ups and Downs of Marathon Training”

  1. Hi Brian,
    I have been dabbling a bit in sports analytics (I am an AI professor). I wrote a series of three papers looking at competitive equity between high school running programs of different sizes. The first two papers are linked below. I have enjoyed reading your running analysis. Send me an email if you are interested in talking more about running analysis.
    – Matt Kretchmar

    first paper
    second paper


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