Training Recap: From Marathon Recovery to a 5k Race

In the spring, I ran the Jersey City marathon. It didn’t go quite as well as I’d planned.

But recovery from the marathon went pretty well. Within three weeks, I was feeling pretty good.

This weekend – seven weeks after the marathon – I’m running a 5k. Now that the race is almost here, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the last four weeks of training.

Mileage Over the Last Four Weeks

In my last marathon training block, I peaked at 85 mpw for the first time. But I’m taking my time getting back up to that for my next marathon block.

Over the course of the first three weeks of recovery, I ran 44 (including the marathon), 32, and 40 mpw. At the end of that span, I felt pretty good and I was ready to start slowly ramping things up.

My goal was to hit 70 in the final week before the 5k. I was on track for the first three weeks – 50, 56, and 60mpw. However, this last week I got off track a little bit, and I’ll end up with 62. But I’m still happy with that.

Really, the important thing was that I got back up to 60 mpw for a few weeks before my next marathon training block begins. And I’ll have one week at around 60 mpw in between this 5k and the start of training for the Erie Marathon in September.

At this point, the mileage feels good and I’m confident that I’m fully recovered from the marathon.

Long Runs Over the Last Four Weeks

Slowly phasing in longer runs over the last four weeks was also important. I didn’t need to do anything super long, but I will be launching into marathon training shortly. So I want to make sure I’m comfortable running 16 miles or so. The Jack Daniels 2Q plan I’ll be using has a lot of long runs in the 17-18 mile range.

The first couple weeks after the marathon, I ran slightly longer on Sundays than I had during the week (6 and 8 miles). From there, I slowly increased the length each week.

I started with 10 miles, and I also included 10 1-minute segments of faster running (5k-10k pace). My goal was to use this to start introducing a little speed before some real workouts. It went pretty well – although the pace faded on the last couple segments.

The next week, I did 12 miles, and I upped it to 15 1-minute reps. One of them happened to be up a steep hill on my route. I backed off the pace a bit, but kept up the effort, and I was huffing and puffing by the end. I passed another runner during the rep, and he passed me on the recovery. Turned to me and said, “That’s a helluva hill for an interval.” I said “Yup,” and we kept going. Overall, things went pretty well, but the last few segments I faded on the pace. I probably ran them a little faster than I should have.

The following week, I had 14 miles on the schedule. I was traveling, and I attempted a new route. Unfortunately, I got a little turned around. Thankfully, the navigation on my Garmin Forerunner got me back to the hotel. But I ended up running 16.5 miles instead of 14. I also ran fairly up tempo for the last 7 or 8 miles (~7:30/mi, not quite marathon pace) to try and get back to the hotel before my wife started worrying. I was happy I made it through the run feeling strong – but I also wore myself out a bit.

Finally, this past Sunday, I went for a long trail run. I mapped out a segment of the local Lenape trail. I always have this fleeting idea that I should attempt to snag the fastest known time for the Lenape trail – and then I run the last bit of it and remember why that’s insane. I did 16 miles in all, including the last ten of the trail, and it was very hilly. I survived, but the run was close to three hours long. I had anticipated being closer to 2:30 or 2:45.

But I’ve ramped the long runs up over the last month, and I’m definitely ready to start marathon training next week.

Reintroducing Interval and Threshold Workouts

The last few months have been a slog of high mileage marathon training, so I definitely wanted to hit a few workouts prior to running the 5k. I’m hoping this will help me pick up a bit of speed before I start training in earnest for Erie – and set me up for a solid BQ.

I started things off easy – with the 1 minute segments in my long runs and some strides after a couple easy runs. In the 5th week post-marathon, I tried an easy interval workout, in the vein of Jack Daniels Running Formula. 7×2 minutes running at H/I pace (~5k pace) with a 1 minute jog for recovery. I hit my paces for the first couple reps, but I faded a bit. Not great, but it was my first workout back.

The following week, I upped the volume to 7×3 minutes (21 total minutes) of H/I pace running with 2 minutes recovery. Again, I hit my paces on a couple reps, but I faded towards the end. But this week, everything clicked. I ran the same 7×3 minutes Hard with 2 minutes jogging recovery. I was consistent throughout, averaging 6:24/mi. Right on target for my goal of breaking 20 minutes in the 5k.

I also ran a couple of threshold workouts with some speed tacked on the end. The first week was 2×5 minutes at Threshold with 1 minute walking rest. I ran by effort, and the pace was a little slow. I followed that up with 4x40s at R pace (similar to 200m intervals), and these went pretty well.

The next week, I upped the volume to 4×5 minutes T with 1 minute rest. I started great, and the first rep felt good but it was way too fast. The second one was on pace. The last two, I faded. It was hot, and I should have brought some water with me. I also shouldn’t have busted out the gate on that first rep. I followed that up with 4x80s at R pace (similar to 400m intervals). Not quite as good as the shorter intervals the week before, but some decent speedwork.

Unfortunately, the wildfire smoke this week forced me to cancel my final workout and move things inside on the treadmill. But that just means my last workout before the race was the best one – the well executed 7×3 minutes at H/I pace.

I enjoyed the faster running, and I think after I recover from Erie I’m going to take a couple months to really focus on shorter races and speed.

Straightening Out My Diet and Weight

Leading into the Jersey City Marathon, I got carried away a little bit with eating. I was hitting highs in mileage, and I wanted to make sure that I fueled myself well.

When I look back to last summer, leading up to the Philly Marathon, my weight consistently fell in the mid 160’s. I put on a few pounds after Philly and through the holidays, which is to be expected. But by the time Jersey City got here, I was still in the low 170’s. Not overweight by any means, but certainly heavier than I want to be on race day.

My goal is to slowly trim some of that weight off and show up for the Erie Marathon at around 160 pounds. That’s a little over four months to drop about ten pounds. It’s not nothing, but it should be manageable if I straighten out my diet.

Since Jersey City, I’ve made a few adjustments. I’ve been eating salads before dinner, to up my vegetable intake and help cut back a little on the volume I eat at dinner. I’ve also made an effort to snack on a lot more fruits – bananas, apples, raisins – instead of processed carbs – wheat thins, chips, and graham crackers. Finally, I’ve swapped out high carb breakfasts (pancakes/waffles with syrup) for yogurt with granola and/or fruit. I’m also trying to cut back on alcohol – with a goal of limiting myself to 1-2 beers during the week, and 3-4 drinks on the weekend.

So far, things have been going pretty well and are moving in the right direction. I averaged 171 in the week leading up to the race. Over the next four weeks, that dropped to 169 to 170. The last three weeks, I’ve averaged 168 to 169. I’m not trying to make any drastic changes, and if I can keep slimming down by 1-2 pounds per month I should be well below 165 by the time race day gets here.

Race Goals and Pacing Plan

The race I’m running this weekend is the Fitzgerald’s 5k Lager Run.

It’s a local 5k on a fast course that has a slight net downhill. That’s a nice refresher from the shorter races I ran last summer with significant hills. I haven’t had a solid 5k effort in a long time. During my last 10k this spring, I split the first 5k in 20:15. My PR for a full 5k race is much slower – 20:59.

If I had a few more weeks to train, I think I could easily break into the low to mid 19’s. But, given the short ramp back from my marathon, and given the fact that it will be warm on race day, my real goal is just to break 20 minutes. The race is at 5:30 in the evening, and it should be in the high 70’s, cloudy, with moderate humidity. Not great by any stretch – but not horrible for a June race.

Looking at the course more closely, the first mile is a slight decline, followed by two small hills in the next half mile. From there, the course is downhill for the last 1.5 miles to the finish.

My plan was to start out slightly conservative in the first mile. On a flat course, I’d aim for around 6:30 – but if it’s downhill I’ll try to stay below 6:25. I’ll probably slow a little through the next half mile with the hills, but hopefully split 6:25 to 6:30 for the second mile. Then, I’ll open it up on the last mile and take advantage of the decline – aiming for 6:00 to 6:15.

If all goes well, I should be able to finish in 19:45 – give or take 10 seconds. If I kill myself on the two small hills in the middle, though, who knows. Let’s hope things work out. I’ll be sure to write up a race report on Monday.

As long as I finish in the mid to high 19’s, that’ll be a huge confidence builder going into my next marathon training block that I can run in the neighborhood of 3:05 after a solid 12 weeks of training.

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