Recovering from My Race and Bridging the Gap to the Next One

About six weeks ago, I ran my goal race for the spring.

I ran the Coastal Delaware Running Festival Half Marathon and set a new PR. Read the race report here.

I’m planning on running the Philadelphia Marathon in November.

From one race to the next, that’s about 30 weeks. I thought it would be helpful to step back and reflect on how I can use that time most productively.

Recovering from the Half Marathon

The first order of business is obviously recovering from my half marathon.

In the past, I’ve taken a day or two off completely following an effort this long and hard. But this time around, I wasn’t so sure that was actually necessary.

I’ve got a good base. I averaged ~65 miles per week leading up to the race. I’ve been running every day since December. So why not keep up the run streak, and just dial back the mileage and the intensity?

And that’s what I decided to do this time.

For the first week, I dialed it way back. Following the race on Sunday, I ran 3 miles on the trails Monday and Tuesday. I was a little stiff and slow, but I felt alright.

Wednesday, I went for an easy five miles around the reservoir with some strides. Felt better, but still a little slower than usual. The strides were very slow. Back to the trails Thursday (3 miles) and Friday (5 miles).

Saturday, I did an easy six around the reservoir. My easy pace was back around normal (~8:45-9:00/mi). The strides were still a little slower than usual, but I was getting back to normal.

Including the half marathon, that week was 40 miles.

The next week, I increased to 50. I did my regular 14 mile long run and about 6 miles every day.

By the third week, I was feeling normal. Without pushing the pace too much on my long run, I averaged 8:30/mi. I hit 60 miles for the week.

Post Recovery and Pre Marathon

With recovery out of the way, the next question becomes what do I do in the weeks leading up to my marathon training plan.

After the two weeks of recovery, I had about ten weeks left before the eighteen week training plan would start.

I wanted to increase my mileage a bit and peak at 75 throughout the next training block, so one goal was to increase my mileage.

After the two recovery weeks (40 and 50 miles respectively), I continued to slowly rebuild. The next week was 60 miles, followed by two weeks at 65.

From there, I wanted to hit and exceed 70 miles for a few weeks to prepare myself for the longer training block at that level. In the last training block, I peaked at 70 a few times, but never for more than one week at a time.

The plan is to spend two weeks running a total of 70 miles. I’m in the second of these weeks, and things are going well right now.

After that, I’ll bump it up and spend four weeks at 75. That leaves me one week to go before the training plan starts for Philly, and I’ll take that week to drop back down to 60 for a bit of a recovery.

Incorporating Intensity

For the most part, the plan is for this period to be easy running.

But I did consider adding in some easy tempo runs here and there.

One of the nuggets of wisdom from Keith Livingstone’s Healthy Intelligent Training is that Lydiard had his athletes do an hour of moderate tempo (around marathon pace) each week during their base training. It’s not hard training, but it keeps the aerobic system primed and ready.

This seemed like an interesting concept, and I tried it out at first.

The first day was really by necessity. I woke up late and I needed my 6 mile run to be a little quicker to get home in time for a meeting. So I warmed up for a couple miles and then finished with three or four miles at tempo.

It felt good, so the next week, I did five miles easy and five miles at tempo. Again, felt good.

I figured I could build up from there until I was doing 6-7 miles at tempo – around an hour. But the next week, I tried six miles easy and six miles at tempo. The tempo didn’t come as easy. I did about two miles before I admitted just aborted and finished at an easy pace.

I’ll probably still include a few shorter tempos and progressions in my long runs, but I don’t think I’m going to try for full on hour tempos. Maybe next season, after I’m more comfortable running 70+ miles.

Time for Doubles

I hadn’t initially planned on it, but I’ve also decided that now is a good time to incorporate doubles.

I did this a couple of times during the end of my last training block. It was a good way to break up some higher mileage days in those last few weeks when I wanted to be fresh for a race.

Now, I think it’s a nice way to ease into higher mileage without putting too much strain on myself. I can comfortably run 8 to 10 miles on an easy day. But why do that, if I can break things up into two shorter runs?

Instead, I’ve found that a 4-6 mile run in the morning, followed by a 4 mile run in the evening is a nice way to break things up. My work schedule is getting calmer, so I more frequently have time in the evenings. It also helps that it’s summer, so I can hit the trails after work at 6 or 7 after it’s cooled off.

Also, I can take my dog for this shorter second run without worrying about how long my first run is. In the summer, I don’t like running her for more than 45 minutes or so. That means if I’m out for 8 miles, I have to split things up and do half with her, drop her at home, and then finish up. By adding doubles, I can just run whatever I need to in the morning, and then go for the shorter run with her in the evening.

I’m hoping this will also make it easier for me to ease into the 75 mile weeks. We’ll see how that goes.

Once it’s time for the real marathon training to begin, I’ll probably cut back on the doubles and beef up my morning runs. But that’s kind of the point of distinguishing between the base period and the training period.

Planning Races

The final piece was to plan out some races for the fall.

I want to get some more experience racing, and I also want to have a few fitness checks built in throughout the plan. But I also wanted to make sure that I planned ahead to minimize the disruption to the plan itself.

The biggest race is – obviously – the marathon. Before anything else, I marked the Philly Marathon on my calendar for November 20. Then I sketched in the training plan to see how the weeks would line up.

I wanted to run a tune up half late in the training cycle. This is a big part of Pfitz’s plans in Advanced Marathoning, although Daniels doesn’t specifically advocate for this. But I want to make sure that I have a good gauge of my fitness before the big race, so I know whether I should be more aggressive (and try for a sub-3) or take the conservative approach (~3:05).

This wasn’t a goal race, so I had no intention of traveling far for it. I weighed a few options, and I ended up deciding on the Jersey Shore Half Marathon. It’s not crazy expensive, it’s not too far from my house, and it’s a nice course along the shore. Incidentally, this is the first half marathon I ran a while back. This race is seven weeks out from the marathon.

Two weeks after that, I also found a local 12k. It’s one of the USATF-NJ championship races for the season, so it should have some decent competiition. This will provide one last fitness check, five weeks out from the goal race.

I also wanted to set a new PR in the 5k. I never got a chance to race one this spring. There happens to be a local labor day race in the next town over. It also happens to fall about a third of the way through the training plan, so it seemed like a good time to check in and see how things are going.

Finally, I wanted to get a final fitness check before the plan starts to plan out my VDOT score and my paces. I could use the half marathon I ran in April. But after taking two months to recover from that training and build a bigger base, I think I might be in a little better shape. There’s a 5 mile race in another town nearby at the end of June, two weeks before my training plan starts. It’s like it was meant to be.

That’s the Plan

So that’s the plan for the summer and the fall – a 5 mile in late June, a 5k on Labor Day, a half marathon and a 12k in October, and finally the marathon in November.

Wish me luck! I’m excited and really looking forward to how things come together for Philly.

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