Six Weeks to the Erie Marathon: Training Check In

In six weeks, I’m running the Erie Marathon in Pennsylvania. I’m halfway through my twelve week training block, so this is a logical time to check in and see how things are going.

Background and Context

If you haven’t been following the blog, let me start with a quick bit of background.

I’ve been working towards running a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon in 2024. I’ll be turning 40, so my BQ is 3:10.

My first two marathons were Atlantic City in 3:35 and Philly in 3:20. When I ran AC, I used Jack Daniels 2Q, peaking at 55 mpw. I’ve steadily increased my mileage since then, and I’m now comfortable running 70+ miles on a weekly basis.

I ran the Jersey City Marathon in April, and I thought was well prepared to hit that time. Things went well for the first half, but then they went downhill. I ended up blowing up, slightly pulling my hamstring, and finishing in 3:26.

I licked my wounds and spent some time recovering. I looked around for an early fall marathon that would let me take a second crack at a BQ, and I settled on the Erie Marathon. It’s within driving distance of me (around six hours), and the course is fast and flat. A lot of people run it to qualify, so I’ll have plenty of people to run with.

Five weeks after Jersey City, I was feeling great. The hamstring felt 100%, and I hit the ground running with twelve weeks to go to Erie.

Training Plan Details

In the past, I’ve used Jack Daniels 2Q and Pfitz. I loved JD, but found it very challenging. In my training for Philly, I pushed a bit too hard and tweaked my hip during a tune up race. I chose Pfitz for Jersey City, because it allowed me to hit a new peak mileage (85mpw) without quite as much intensity. But I think it also left me a little under-prepared.

So for this round, I wanted to stick with my previous peak mileage (85mpw) and up the intensity. So I went back to Jack Daniels. Check out this post for a comparison between JD and Pfitz.

The 2Q plans in Jack Daniels Running Formula are all 18 weeks long. So I cherry-picked which weeks to include – trying to keep the general build up and periodization the same.

I ended up with a twelve week plan that ranged from 70 to 85 mpw, a bunch of 18+ mile long runs, and some tough workouts.

Dealing with Travel and Heat

It’s summer time, so that means two things: travel and heat.

Travel is fun, but it inevitably disrupts training to some extent. During these six weeks, I took three trips.

We went to Ocean City, Maryland for a weekend to attend a wedding. We spent a week in West Palm Beach, Florida visiting my wife’s family. And most recently, we spent a night in New York City to see Billy Joel at the Garden.

I dealt with this mostly by re-arranging some runs, but I did have to cut two long runs short.

It’s also been hot – especially when we were down in Florida. At home, I’ve successfully dealt with this by moving my runs inside to the treadmill. But in Florida, I just dropped all the intensity and slogged through with some hot, easy runs.

Weekly Mileage

JD prescribes weekly mileage for his plans as a fraction of peak mileage. For me, that meant 70 mpw (80% of 85), 77 mpw (90% of 85), and 85 mpw (peak).

Despite having to accommodate the travel and heat, I’ve stayed on track to hit 100% of the weekly mileage goals.

  • Week 1: 70 miles, across 7 runs
  • Week 2: 77 miles, across 10 runs
  • Week 3: 70 miles, across 8 runs
  • Week 4: 85 miles, across 9 runs
  • Week 5: 77 miles, across 9 runs
  • Week 6: 70 miles, across 7 runs

The second half of the peak mileage week happened to be when we were in Florida. Putting in ten miles each morning was tough in that heat. But otherwise, I haven’t found the mileage to be tough at all. It’s been easier than the last cycle, and 70 seems to be a comfortable new base for me.

Quality Runs

In JD’s 2Q, there aren’t separate long runs and workouts. There are just quality runs – which are long runs with workouts.

Q1 is the traditional long run. I run them on Sunday. When we were in Maryland, I modified a run from 17 miles down to 14, and in Florida I took an 18 miler down to 12.

But the other four weeks, I’ve been fully on target. The first 18 miler (2 x 6 miles at marathon pace) went pretty well, despite the heat. I averaged 7:44/mi and 7:38/mi across the two reps. The other two 18 milers, I finished the mileage, but I struggled with the paces due to the heat.

In the most recent Q1, I did 17 miles, with 15 minutes at threshold in the beginning and 15 minutes at threshold at the end. The first rep averaged 6:51/mi and the second one 7:01/mi. In good weather, I’d hope to hit these at 6:40-6:50/mi. So on a summer day, I’ll take that as a win.

For the Q2 runs, I hit the mileage on five of them – 3×15 miles and 2×14 miles. One day, I woke up late and didn’t have enough time before work, so I did the workout portion in a 10 mile run in the morning, and I finished up with a 5 mile double in the evening.

The first two workouts were ok, but I suffered a bit in the heat. In the shortened workout, I did 8 x 3 minutes at 5k pace. I averaged 6:36/mi – about 20 seconds off what I should have run in good weather. But again, not bad for a summer day.

I ran the same workout twice on the treadmill inside. It was a long warm up of about an hour, followed by 4 sets of 10 minutes at threshold. The first one was a bit of a struggle, but the second time I did this workout I felt much stronger. I’ll take that as a sign that I’m getting fit – and getting ready.

Overall, I’m feeling good about the direction things are going. I struggled with the paces on some of the early runs, due both to heat and being early in the training cycle. But my most recent workouts have started to build up my confidence.

I’ve also been using these quality runs to practice with nutrition and gels. In the past, I’ve only used gels on the last couple long runs. This time, I’m using them on every one – so I can really get used to running while taking the gels.

Pace on Easy Runs

As another sign that things are going well, my pace on easy runs has been getting better and faster. Once I get warmed up, I’m settling in to a pace of around 8:30 to 8:45. Especially considering the weather, this is much faster than I was last year.

On a recent 12 mile easy run, I averaged about 8:35/mi. I’ve got a twenty miler tomorrow, so I’m eager to see how that goes without a workout in the middle.

I’ve also been running some of the easy runs on the trails. As a general rule, anything longer than 8 miles I run on a paved route. But the shorter daily runs, I enjoy doing on the trails. It’s cooler, it’s shady, and it’s a little bit slower.

Looking Ahead

With six weeks to go, I’m feeling good. There are no lingering effects from my minor injury in Jersey City, and the mileage feels easy. I’m starting to hit my paces more consistently in the workouts.

Over the next six weeks, I have one peak week left (next week). Then, there’s one week at 77 miles, two at 70, and a two week taper (60, 45).

For long runs, i’ve got 2×20 miles, an 18 miler, and then some 16s and 14s.

It’s been a slog training though July, but the weather is looking nicer over the course of the next week. Hopefully, August is a bit more temperate. And I’m really looking forward to the beginning of fall weather in September. It might still be warm here in New Jersey, but things should be fine up on the lake in Erie.

I haven’t formulated a race plan yet, other than try to beat 3:10. But after I see how the last six weeks of training go, I’ll dial in how I plan to pace the race and what time I’m really targeting. One way or another, I think things are looking up.

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