JC Marathon Training Weeks 1-3: Getting Back in the Groove

I recently decided to publish a weekly log of my training for the Jersey City Marathon.

This weekend, I got started and wrote up a reflection of week 4. You can read that here.

Today, I’m rewinding the clock a bit and summing up the first three weeks of marathon training. From there, we’ll be all caught up and I’ll publish a weekly recap on Saturday or Sunday.

For context, here’s the plan I’ve developed – a kind of hybrid plan based off Jack Daniels.

Week 1 – 01/07 to 01/13

I ended last year with a 5k in early December, and then I took it easy for a few weeks. Before starting this training block, I spent two weeks at 70 miles per week of straight easy running.

Although I had planned on running 16-18 miles every week for my long run, I got started off on the wrong foot. It snowed on Saturday, and I had to move my first long run indoors to the treadmill. I was feeling a little drained, so I ended up cutting things short at about 14 miles.

From there, though, things got back on track. Monday was an uneventful recovery day – 6 miles.

Tuesday, I went out for my first big T workout. After about a four mile warm-up, I ran 8 x 5 minutes at threshold pace with one minute recovery in between. Although I programmed a broad range (6:15/mi to 6:45/mi) into my watch, I ran these by feel to see where I was at. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I averaged 6:33/mi. I felt pretty good throughout, and the splits were pretty consistent. Total mileage: 11.5 miles.

Wednesday was an uneventful easy day. I ran an easy 6.5 miles out and back in the morning. After the cold weather earlier in the week, it was a balmy 48 degrees. It’s been a weird winter in New Jersey. After work, I jogged another 4 miles on the treadmill.

Thursday was another easy day. The effects of Tuesday’s workout were catching up to me, and my morning run was a little slow – 8:58/mi for 6 miles around the Reservoir. I ended with 10x strides, and they were slow, too. I wondered if this was going to impact my workout on Friday. Thursday night, I finish up with another 4 easy miles on the treadmill.

Friday, I went out to the track for an R workout – 6 sets of 200m, 200m, 400m, with equal length recoveries in between reps. Again, I took these mostly by feel – although I was doing ~85s per 400m in the fall when I was training for the 5k. Despite being tired on Thursday, I felt great. After a couple faster than intended reps, I found my groove. I averaged 41-42s per 200m and 86s per 400m.

Saturday, I wrapped up the week with an uneventful 8 easy miles.

Total mileage: 70 miles. Two solid workouts. Feeling good.

The only problem this week was the Sunday long run, but sometimes you have to bow to the inevitability of the weather.

Week 2 – 1/14 to 1/20

This week, I started things off right with a solid Sunday long run.

I went out for 18 miles, and I nailed it. I slept in a little because we were out late at a party the night before, and I hit the road around 10. The weather was nice at the time – and it got progressively colder, cloudier, and eventually snowier. By the time I hit the turn around in the park, I was getting pelted with some light, wet snow. But the only way to get home was to keep running.

I finished in 2:32:21 – averaging 8:28/mi (despite a stop at a traffic light and a pit stop in a porta-potty). I wasn’t trying to push the pace too hard, but I still ended up averaging around 8:00/mi for the second half.

Monday was an uneventful easy day – 6 miles. Felt good, usual pace.

Tuesday, winter threw a wrench in my plan. I was supposed to hit the track for another workout, but it snowed. Pretty hard, too. I had a remote day from work, and my wife had a snow day at the school she works at. So I rolled with the punches, re-organized my schedule, and did two easy treadmill runs – 4.5 miles in the morning and 6 miles in the evening. I also went out and shoveled the snow sometime in the late afternoon.

Wednesday, I planned to go out for a workout. I didn’t think the conditions would be good for a fast R workout, but I was hopeful I could get in a slower T workout. I got to the Reservoir, and that wasn’t going to happen. They’re usually really good about clearing the path there, but it was still covered with a thin layer of crunchy ice. Maybe it was just too cold to clear it fully – it was 18F when I went out.

So I bailed on the workout and I just did an easy 10 miles to get in some mileage. With the ice and the snow, it was sloooow. I averaged around 9:30/mi, and it didn’t feel like I was going that slow. Snow just saps the energy out of you.

Thursday was an easy day. I ran 7 outside in the morning. It was still a little snowy and icy around the Reservoir, but things were looking better. Maybe Friday I could get in a workout. After work, I did 4.5 miles on the treadmill.

Friday, I went out to have a second go at my T workout for the week – 8 x 5 minutes at threshold again. There was still a little ice on the shady side of the Reservoir, but the sunny side was clear. So after a 4 mile warmup, I just went back and forth on the sunny side. That side is just long enough to complete a 5 minute rep. Things went pretty good, although it was a bit windy. By the end, I was definitely tired – I’ll chalk that up to running into a headwind half the time – but I still managed to average 6:33/mi. Nice.

Later on Friday, we left for a weekend in Washington, DC. It snowed again Friday, and by the time we got down to DC there was a light cover of snow everywhere. When I went out for my run Saturday morning, I tried to run along the Rock Creek Trail. I started around Dupont Circle and headed north towards the Zoo. It wasn’t cleared at all, but the snow was light and crunchy enough that I was able to run ok. Again, it was slow, and the snow drained the energy out of me. It was also cold – 23F – but I finished my 7 miles.

That brought my weekly total up to 75 miles – right on track. Although I had to skip the R workout for this week, I had a great T workout and an excellent long run. A solid week of training.

Week 3 – 1/21 to 1/27

At the start of the week, we were still out of town. It’s always tough trying to get in a long run on vacation, but I was determined to get in my 16 miles and stay on track.

I woke up early and snuck out around 7:15 before my wife woke up. It was still cold – 23F – but the sun was coming up and shining. It was also windy, which I realized later on. My plan was to leave the hotel by Dupont Circle, run down to Hains Point and loop East Potomac Park twice, and finish up by going past the National Mall and taking Pennsylvania Ave back up from Capitol Hill to the hotel.

There was some ice and snow around, but the roads were cleared much better than the trail had been the day before. I was a little over 4 miles in when I got down to Hains Point and turned around. That’s when the wind hit me. There was a heavy headwind going back up the east side of the park. I survived, looped around, and went through the headwind again. This part was cold, but I wasn’t the only one out there. Waved at a couple groups that were jogging in the opposite direction.

The run was going well until I got back to the National Mall. At this point, I had some digestive issues, and I needed a bathroom. But none were to be found. I ended up taking a few walking breaks to settle my stomach, and I struggled through the last few miles. I had been making great time, but I ended up averaging 9:02/mi for a little over 16 miles.

Ah well. You can’t win ’em all.

Back home on Monday, I ran an easy 8 miles around the Reservoir. Uneventful. A little tired, but the pace wasn’t too bad. I had a meeting in the evening, or else I would have doubled up on some easy mileage.

Tuesday, I hit the treadmill again. 4.5 miles easy in the morning and 7 miles easy in the evening. I had to report downtown for jury duty that morning, and that threw a wrinkle in my schedule. But I didn’t end up getting seated on a jury, so I could resume regular training the next day.

Wednesday, I went out for an R workout. I didn’t have time to drive down to the track, so I converted the reps to time instead of distance and ran around the Reservoir. The same workout as before, but this time it was 6 sets of 40s, 40s, 80s (approximately 200m, 200m, 400m). I was a titch slow, especially on the longer reps, but averaged 5:45/mi pace. Not bad.

Thursday, I ran an easy 10.5 miles in the morning. Out and back to Verona Park. After work, I added 5 easy miles on the treadmill. That’s a lot of miles for an easy day, but I was making up for some scheduling issues earlier in the week.

Friday, I went out for my T workout. This time I switched up the reps from 8 x 5 minutes to 2 x 5 minutes followed by 3 x 10 minutes (with 2 minute recoveries). I like the shorter cruise intervals to ease back into training, but the longer cruise intervals are better long term for marathon training. They keep you honest, too, because it’s hard to push the pace for 10 straight minutes. I did pretty well, although I flagged a bit towards the end of the longer reps, and I averaged 6:35/mi. Slightly slower than the previous two weeks, but I’m ok with that given the different structure.

That brings me to Saturday. Wrapped up the week with an easy 6 miles. And just like that, I hit my weekly goal of 78 miles. My workouts were solid, albeit a tiny bit on the slow side. The long run wasn’t perfect. But all in all, it was a decent week of training. As the mileage goes up, things get tougher.

When I get through to the other side, it will all be worth it.

The Big Picture

That’s three weeks down. Three solid weeks.

I got my mileage back up – starting from 70 and hitting 78 miles. I’m starting higher and averaging more miles than last year, and it’s going well.

I hit my paces pretty well in these early workouts. Over the next two months, I think that T pace is going to get more comfortable and come down a bit. If it does, I might take a crack at breaking 3 hours at Jersey City.

I already reflected on week 4 – which went amazing.

At the end of week 5, I’ll be running a 10 mile race. Tentatively, I’m planning to target 6:30-6:35 at this race.

After that, I’ll be taking it easier for a week or two before ramping up again for the second half of this training block.

Check back next week to see how the 10 mile race went. And leave a comment below to let me know how your training is going. I’d love to hear about it!

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