Friday, February 10, 2012

Umstead Marathon Training Update: 3 weeks out

I currently am in the peak week of my loosely adhered-to marathon training plan for Umstead Trail Marathon, which takes place in 3 weeks (March 3rd).  This will be my 3rd race of marathon distance or greater, the previous 2 having been Thunder Road Marathon and Frosty 50K.  For Thunder Road, I followed a digested form of Hal Higdon’s Intermediate training plan for nearly 4 months.  I juggled around some long runs here and there, and I improvised the speed work, but I was pretty faithful to Higdon’s template.  I finished Thunder Road very confidently without hitting a wall or getting hurt.  I feel I was well trained, but also that I was performing well within my limits.  Ideally, I’d wanted to push myself right to the edge of my limitations, so I took a slightly less conservative approach to Frosty 50.  Frosty was 8 weeks after Thunder Road, so I adopted a fairly symmetrical pyramid of recovery/increased training, peaking with a 22 miler at 4 weeks out, and then tapering down as if doing it all in reverse.  After getting over some wear-and-tear injuries early in this plan, I started setting massive PR’s for 5K’s, Half Marathons, and the like.  My goal for Frosty was sub-5 hours.  I accomplished this by a margin of about 90 seconds, and my body was spent by the time I crossed the finish line, so I was convinced I had found out where my limits were.  However, I went running the very next day…and he following day…and the day after that, and so on until I had gone almost a full week without a rest day despite having just run and ultra.  Having another 8-week window between Frosty and Umstead, I decided I might be able to handle a more rigorous training pyramid.  This ended up including two 20 milers instead of one, back-to-back long runs (to practice running on tired legs), weekly speed work/races, and several two-a-day runs when my schedule allowed.  I also have kept up with my cross-training (a few elliptical sessions here or there) and I maintain at least two days of weight training each week.   My recovery was and has been a lot more positive this time around.  2 weeks ago, I ran 21 miles with a hydropack on my back at an 8:12 average pace and felt fresh as a daisy afterwards.  I never had that kind of resiliency during the late stages of Thunder Road or Frosty 50, and I ran each of those at a much slower pace.  Maybe my body is just finally adapting to a higher sustained volume of training/racing.  Tomorrow will be the test.  I will be doing my last 20 miler on the trails of Lake Norman State Park before my taper for Umstead.  This 20 miler will help me solidify my goals for the race.  My original goal for Umstead was to finish in less than 4 hours—conservative to account for high mileage on unfamiliar trails.  However, I feel confident I could complete a road marathon in 3:30 if pressed to do so in a couple weeks, so I figure I can do Umstead in 3:45, especially since I am becoming very accustomed to trail running.  I would be happy enough just to PR, which would mean beating my Thunder Road time of 3:52.  I understand that publicizing these goals now holds me accountable, and some of my training partners may yet admonish me for being too conservative, but a marathon is like a baseball game: the damnedest things can just happen without any warning. I will be sure to post any updates to my training as they come, especially as March 3rd draws nearer.  After all, once I get through Umstead, I have another 9 weeks to do it all again in preparation for Long Cane 50K in May.

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