Training Check In: Three Weeks to Go Until Jersey City

My training this spring is focused on the Jersey City Marathon coming up at the end of April.

The last time I posted a check in, I was three weeks into the training cycle and things were going well. Six weeks have flown by, and at this point I have about three weeks to go.

So let’s jump in to see how things have been going – and how things are looking for the race.

Training Plan and Background

As a quick reminder, I’m basing this training block off Pfitzinger’s 12 week plan peaking at 85 miles per week. You can read more about Pfitz marathon plans here, and the Pfitz 12/85 plan is in his book Advanced Marathoning.

I planned to make a few adjustments. I didn’t want to have 15 mile medium long runs on a week day, so I’ve shortened most of them to 10 to 12 miles. I’ve also added doubles on a few days to balance out the shorter morning runs and maintain weekly mileage.

For the workouts, I’ve converted the threshold runs to cruise intervals in the tradition of Jack Daniels. I really liked these in the JD 5k to 10k plan. I also converted the 100m repeats and the longer 5k intervals to time. For all of these workouts, I ran based on feel and checked my pace afterwards – instead of plugging a target pace into my watch and trying to hit it no matter what.

Last year, I ran 3069 miles in total (~60 miles per week). In the summer and fall, I hit a few peak weeks at 75 miles in preparation of my fall marathon in Philly. I tweaked my hip flexor in that training block, so I didn’t want to add too much additional stress this time around. That’s why I chose the shorter 12 week plan with fewer peak weeks, and I chose Pfitz instead of Daniels because there’s less intense quality running.

Mileage Targets

The first week, I easily hit my target of 79 miles. Due to travel, my long run got shortened and broken up. But thanks to five doubles, I hit my weekly goal. The next week, I had a down week of 71 miles.

Following that, the plan called for four peak weeks – 85, 82, 77, and 82 miles.

The first week was daunting, because I’d never before run in the 80’s. But I managed to hit 85 miles across 10 runs without incident. The next week, I hit 82 miles, again across 10 runs. The third week, I managed 77 miles across ten runs.

In the third week, though, I was starting to feel beat up. We traveled over the weekend, and it might have been a combination of the high mileage and the 6 hour car ride, but my knee was starting to feel sore. This, coupled with the fact that I have a 10k coming up at the end of this week, and I was trying to take it easy for a couple days prior to the race. Planning only 6 miles each on Friday and Saturday left me with a heavy front loading.

I made a few adjustments, and I initially thought I could still hit 80+. But by Tuesday, it was clear that I needed to cut back. I ended up planning for 60 miles instead – ending the week with 7, 6, and 6. Hopefully, that leaves me in great shape for the 10k race on Sunday and poised to recover strong and finish out the last three weeks of the plan.

Long Run Progression

We traveled on a few weekends, and that screwed up my long run plans a little bit. If we’re away on a Sunday morning, I don’t like going out for 2+ hours.

The first week, I converted an 18 mile run into a 4-14 split. In the fourth week, I only did 14 miles on Sunday because I had to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade that afternoon, and I followed up with a 15 mile long run on the treadmill later in the week. The final week of these six, I only did 11 because we were away on Sunday and I dialed back the miles for the rest of the week.

The other three weeks were great, though. I did an easy 17, averaging 8:54/mi. The week after that, I did an easy 18 and pushed the pace just a little, averaging 8:32/mi. I also had one 20 miler in there. This was in the third peak week, and I was feeling beat up from a previous workout, but I still managed to average a little under 9:00/mi. Finishing this run under 3 hours was a big confidence boost for me.

Those were my three longest runs of the training block, and my other “long runs” were a mix of 14 and 15 miles. Tomorrow, I won’t have a traditional long run because I have a 10k race. But I still have one 17 mile long run left next week, so as long as that goes well I’ll be feeling pretty confident.

Workouts and Pace Progress

One of the nice thing about Pfitz, compared to Daniels, is that there isn’t an excessive amount of workouts and intense quality running. The flip side is that there aren’t a lot of workouts to use to gather data about how training is going.

Over these six weeks, I had three threshold workouts and three 5k paced workouts.

I ran them all by feel, and I checked the pace afterwards. Two of the threshold workouts (7×5 minute T and 6×5 minute T) I ran around 7:00/mi. This was a little slower than I’d have liked, but not bad. In the final workout, though, I averaged 6:45/mi. This was more in line with what I expected, and it was also the highest volume workout (8×5 minute T).

The first 5k paced workout was pretty slow. I ran 6×3 minutes, with 2 minute rests, in an average of 6:45/mi. The next two were better – 5×2 minutes with 1 minute rest in about 6:15/mi.

I think if I had a few more weeks to sharpen these workouts, I’d improve a lot more. I have a feeling the peak mileage, combined with the lower workout volume, left me a little dull. But these paces are still in line with a 3:10 marathon finish – which is my ultimate goal.

Easy or General Aerobic Pace

The other thing I’ve noticed over the course of this training block is that my easy pace has improved significantly.

Last year, my easy miles were all around 9:00 to 9:30, depending on weather conditions and how tired I was. On occasion, I’d dip a little below 9 after I got warmed up. But this was usually on shorter runs and usually when I wasn’t in heavy training.

But over the last few weeks, I’ve found that around 8:30 to 8:45/mi is my new easy pace. Once I’m warmed up, I usually drop down to 8:30ish after one or two miles. On longer runs, I’ve been able to push the pace a little bit to get to the low 8’s and high 7’s, and this is sustainable but not “easy.”

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow, I’ve got a 10k race. I was feeling a little beat up last weekend, but after reducing my mileage to 60 this week I’m feeling pretty good. Based on how things have been going, I’m going to target 40 to 41 minutes and see how things go. Anything under 41 minutes will give me confidence that my 3:10 marathon goal is well within reach.

Following the 10k, I’ve got 70 miles planned for the remainder of this week with a 5k paced workout at the end of the week. If I’m not feeling recovered, I’ll bail on that and convert it to a general aerobic run.

That’s followed by a final long run (17 miles, easy) and two weeks of taper (64 miles and 49 miles). The two taper weeks have a couple easy workouts (2 miles at marathon pace followed by a mile at threshold pace), and that will be my final opportunity to gauge how my target paces feel.

Then it’s race time! Three weeks to go, and I’m excited. I’ll check in one final time during that last taper week to evaluate how I feel and figure out my game plan for the marathon.

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