There won’t be an outdoor run today. The weather was fine, but I clearly needed to sleep in quite a bit, which for me is until about 6:30am, and at that point it’s far too late in the morning to get to starting a long run and not end up in too hot conditions for the run to go fine.
So the plan today and tomorrow is to work on the treadmill at easy pace to marathon pace, by swinging two workouts. Plan A was to do a long run of about 16-18 miles today and an hour of running tomorrow, and in each I’d stop and walk after 2 miles for fluid and fuel, as I will when I run Indy.
Workout 1 is an easy interval style long run, running most of it at an easy, slow pace where every 10 minutes I’d briefly surge to marathon pace, then dial back to easy pace. I’d pause every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel, then resume. Obviously the gym treadmills stop at one hour, so that break would be a bit longer, but I’d restart and get right back at it until I’ve done three hours.
However, if not feeling like death, the 3rd hour would increase 15 minutes in from easy pace running to marathon pace running, with 30 second surges to Easy Interval pace every 10 minutes. Again, I’d stop every 20 minutes for fluid and fuel as before.
Workout 2 is a marathon pace workout that should take about 80-90 minutes, and basically practices the mechanics of race day. I start with marathon pace, then slow to a walk at 2 miles to take fluid and fuel. Once situated I get back to marathon pace until I get to 4 miles, then stop the treadmill outright for fluid and fuel in a more extended break. Once ready, I restart the treadmill and repeat the process, ultimately doing four long marathon intervals of about 2 miles each. The reason I don’t do a full hour ending with a runout is I want to simulate the true mechanics of running between the Indy aid stations, and ending each hour with a shorter run-out screws that up.
I could start on the treadmill today and find it won’t work for my body to go 3 hours today, so then I could pivot to Workout 2 and only do an hour, maybe only do three 2-mile intervals since I’ll have been running a bit by that point, then take it easy the rest of the day and go for the long Workout 1 tomorrow.
However, Workout 1 today and Workout 2 tomorrow is the plan for now, and I believe that can work just fine. If I get through this weekend with both completed as planned, I’m in very good shape for Indy given where I was a month ago.
A good portion of you are running one of the many major marathons taking place over this next couple months: Berlin is this weekend, London next weekend, Chicago and Boston the week after that, and NYC on November 7.
As people do for these races, many of you are probably in an overthinking sense of semi-panic about getting trained and ready for these races. I’ve seen multiple accounts of people now injured ahead of these races, so I know the following advice is relevant.
Most of you are now about 2-3 weeks out from your race. This is now the time you should be tapering, not training hard or long.
Don’t forget: Your body can only gain fitness adaptions from any individual workout after about 8-14 days. Anything you do within 8-10 days of the marathon will not manifest in any training benefits until after your marathon. Any hard workouts within 8-10 days won’t do anything other than tire you out and possibly get you injured.
Many argue for tapering within 3 weeks of a marathon, but I’m with Jonathan Savage on the ideal taper being 2 weeks, with a gradually reduced volume of running at mostly your goal marathon-pace, e.g. instead of a workout of track repeats you’re generally better off doing a few miles at marathon pace and calling it a day. So anyone 3 weeks out at least has through this weekend to train long or hard before they need to wind it down.
At the same time, a lot of injuries happen within the month before a race because runners, generally knowing this truth, do the equivalent of cramming for a final exam, trying to jam in as much training as possible feeling they didn’t do enough the previous couple months. They overtrain within the last 4-6 weeks ahead of their taper, and then get hurt.
It’s a risk I clearly recognize with my own training for Indy in November, and one I have to balance against restoring training volume and best getting ready for that race. Granted, like NYC runners, my race is farther down the road, and I should be reaching peak volume anyway with my taper ideally happening in late October.
But those of you running Boston, London, and Chicago should be in your taper phase, and at this point any hard workouts are unlikely to significantly benefit you. The time to get the work done has passed. You’re either going to be ready or you’re not, no hard training you do from now to then will do much of anything at all to change that, and any long runs or hard work you do in the interim is more likely to burn you out, injure you, or otherwise leave you at less than your best condition for the race.
Side note: In fact, the only real benefit or purpose of any long run the week before a marathon is to tap into your glycogen stores so that any subsequent carb loading will best re-load them before the race. The goal isn’t to get in a hard workout to get you ready. Most would almost be better off cross training this workout for 2-3 hours than running at all.
So unless you want to join those people who now have a sudden injury to their calf, knee, hip, ankle, etc. with 2-3 weeks until their goal race… recognize that you won’t benefit from hard/long marathon training within about 2 weeks before your race, and start wrapping things up now. You had 2-5 months to get ready, and at this point you can’t undo the past.
Any hard work from 2 weeks out until race day is much more likely to get you injured than it is to get you ready for your marathon.
Someone responded that they found little sense in Butler waking up so early to train when he could just train after work in the evening instead.
“I will never understand why some runners insist on running before the crack of dawn instead of in the afternoon or evening. School probably gets out around 3. There is plenty of time to do the workout later. It’s not Florida or Arizona so it won’t be that hot. Is getting to bed at 7 and waking up at 4 really a better option?”
Without getting too deep into my methodology… every few days I schedule one or more days off from training, whether I’m just base training or actively training for a goal race (as I’m doing right now). On these days the only exercise I do is walk and use the spin bike. Otherwise, I avoid exercise and definitely avoid training.
In the past I trained with few to no days off, and in fact leading up to Chicago in 2018 I ran 70 straight days… with no ill effects in either case. My only knockout injuries have occurred randomly during down periods in training.
But, never minding the first digit in my age is now a 4, I recognize the balance between training enough (and hard enough) to generate fitness adaptions… and taking enough time away from training to allow those adaptions to manifest through recovery and supercompensation.
What I’m doing with the Indy training plan is something that for now I’ll call a Trickling 18 Week Plan. At some point I’ll diagram this all out in detail but in general I’ll describe it:
Now official: I plan to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 6, 2021.
I wanted to run a marathon before the end of the year, before training for Vancouver in 2022. This will be it, for a few reasons.
I also wanted to take the plunge on a personally unprecedented task: Training for a marathon through the brutal Vegas summer.
After a summer and a half (I did move back in mid-summer 2019), I learned from experience that during summer the only time of day you can do a serious run workout is early in the morning before temperatures top 90-95°F. You also can’t go particularly long once the sun is up, so longer runs beyond an hour ought to begin before the sunrise (which to be fair was true in Chicago summer weather as well).
But I also previously went on walks outside during work breaks on hot summer afternoons, lasting anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes. Recently these became shorter runs, and since I keep these easy they probably won’t be much more demanding than those previous 100-110°F walks. Either way, I know what being out in this heat feels like, and am confident I can still go on short 7-10 minute work break runs to add to my volume, keep my body active, and get extra form practice.
I had considered various marathons between September and December, but Indy landed in the right spot timing wise. November allows for peak training (e.g. 20 mile run days) to take place after the weather has cooled off a bit. It’s not so late that recovery could possibly impact Vancouver training, which should begin at the end of the year. Plus, with food holidays like Thanksgiving and Xmas shortly after Indy, the extra food can help with recovery.
Also, Indy’s race day weather should be rather mild by November, in the 50-60°F range which should make Indiana’s somewhat high humidity feel good rather than terrible.
Colleagues in Chicago have run Indy with mostly amicable feedback. It’s an accessible marathon with a reasonable topography. There is a hilly section around the middle of the race but the terrain is overwise mostly flat with mild undulations. Vegas’ slanted valley topography should make that course feel easy. It’s not exactly a “starter marathon” but it’s an easier marathon to do well in before you train for a tougher marathon.
I didn’t want my first marathon back to be Vancouver in May 2022, in case my comeback training cycle didn’t go well or I made any major training mistakes (There is also a chance that circumstances could prevent me from running Vancouver AGAIN). I could apply any lessons from this cycle to training for Vancouver. Having trouble with Indy wouldn’t exactly break my heart, though obviously I intend to do well.
What’s the training plan for this race?
Mission one is base building. This is not just about adding weekly mileage but template building.
I currently plan to follow a variation of the Higdon Novice 2 Plan, doing the weekday runs in the morning while doing my work break jogs afterward. The latter will add about 15-20 miles per week to the base training volume, and for now I don’t plan to do those break runs on the weekend.
In short, the Higdon Novice 2 plan has you run Tuesday-Thursday, then do your long run Saturday and an hour of cross training on Sunday. Monday and Friday are days off. The Wednesday run is longer than the Tues/Thu runs, though shorter than the long run, and every other week the Wednesday run is done at marathon pace instead of easy pace like all the others. Obviously, the extra work break runs would be done as easy as needed and would rarely go longer than a mile each. Higdon recommends strength training Tuesday and Thursday if you already strength train, and I certainly will.
The weather and needing time to prepare for work is the key reason to keep weekday runs easy while technically not training Monday and Friday (obviously I’ll still be doing work break jogs those days and logging some miles). The later Wednesday runs reach 8 miles and could be a challenge, though the plan for Wednesday and Saturday was already to get up before sunrise (I already typically rise around 5am) and log some time before the sun is up.
Higdon Novice Marathon is an easy plan to follow if indeed you’re a novice. Though I’m certainly more advanced, I wanted the freedom to add the extra work break runs to my training volume without overtraining.
The key here with the break runs is heat acclimation. Smaller 10 minute doses of running in extreme heat will acclimate me to heat without much distress, which will help with the longer morning runs down the road, and certainly will help with racing the marathon on race day regardless of the conditions.
So right now I’m following a shell schedule version of the plan, gradually adding morning run workouts matching the schedule of the actual training plan, though at a lesser volume. The goal before July is to get accustomed to the schedule so that when I start the actual plan it’s not a big jump or change.
(As always, this could change based on evolving needs and fitness development. But the plan is to build to this schedule going into July.)
So the plan is set, and now it’s time for the long ramp to Indy in November.
As for my next marathon… the ongoing Coronavirus situation and the looming work situation has led me to reconsider how 2021 will go.
At this point, I don’t think Vancouver will happen in 2021. Even if Coronavirus fades out and Canada re-opens the currently-closed border, I will be so new to my job that I doubt I can command and receive a week off from work. And I don’t want to rush to a destination marathon on a Friday night or Saturday morning, run it Sunday, and have to hurriedly fly back for work on Monday. That’s not worth the trouble and will probably lead to a bad marathon.
Plus, the way the schedule lays out… I would only have 16 weeks after the Lake Mead Half to train for Vancouver, so instead of recovering from a strong Lake Mead effort I’d have to immediately begin training for Vancouver the next week.
And that never minds that, if Coronavirus is still a thing, Vancouver organizers may just go ahead and cancel the race for the 2nd year in a row, or make it purely Canadians-only.
The writing’s on the wall to forget about Vancouver for 2021, run a different marathon instead, and think about doing Vancouver in 2022.
I still want to train for and run a marathon in late spring after Lake Mead, so I spent the previous few weeks looking over the 2021 race calendar. Local or nearby marathons are my best options, where I can drive a few hours each way to get there. Even if sore and beaten after a marathon, I can handle a 6-8 hour drive home and work on Monday if I at least get a good night’s sleep after the race… which means unless there’s a holiday on Monday I probably need to pick a Saturday race.
But alas! A few weeks after the projected Vancouver 2021 date is Memorial Day weekend. And though that’s a shitshow travel weekend, there happens to be a Sunday marathon in Southern California: The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon between Ojai and Ventura, only about 5-6 hours away from home (and that’s if traffic is expectedly bad through the Mojave Desert).
Since Memorial Day is the following Monday, I would have a full day to recover and drive home after that race. They also have a fairly generous refund policy if their race is cancelled.
Plus, Memorial Day weekend allows for a week off after the Lake Mead Half, and then 19 weeks of training… making the Running On Air plan a perfect fit. After the relatively strict pacing demands of this current Half training cycle, the looser workout requirements of the Coates plan would be easier to follow.
So that will probably be the marathon plan for at least the front half of 2021. Again, the Vegas summers make marathon training very difficult, so I don’t know if a 2nd 2021 marathon could work right now.
If I repeated the Coates plan for a late 2021 marathon, and I still have no trouble waking at 4-5am, plus work schedules don’t ask me to come in before 8am… training could be do-able in manageable morning heat.
There’s also the somewhat conveniently timed St George Marathon on October 2, 2021. The timing would allow for 2 weeks off after Mountains 2 Beach in May, and then 16 weeks of training, which fits several plans. St George is only 2 hours from Vegas, so getting to the city for an overnight or weekend stay would be very easy, as would getting home.
Otherwise, I’ll pivot to training for shorter races, or to once again focus on strength training. Or maybe I just train to maintenance and focus more on helping clients as a coach/trainer. We’ll see: It’s a ways away.
Matt Fitzgerald’s written a lot of books, and a lot of them are good books. He’s one of this generation’s great minds when it comes to endurance training.
He is also one of the champions of 80/20 Endurance Training, the approach found by Dr. Stephen Seiler to be the most efficient mix of easy and hard training. In a nutshell, 80% of your training is done at easy intensity and 20% is done at harder intensity.
Fitzgerald’s aptly titled 2014 book 80/20 Running is an extended research guide on how he and everyone determined that 80/20 training was the optimal blend of easy and tough workouts.
And as you’d expect, the book includes a set of training plans broken out by difficulty for every major racing distance, from the 5K and 10K, to the Half Marathon and the full Marathon. So I’d like to take a look at the Marathon training plans.
As usual, I’m not writing this as a review of the book… though I will freely admit that I love the book and, however dated it might be, I highly recommend you read it if you’re a serious distance runner. Triathletes will get just as much from his more recent 80/20 Triathlon, which adapts the principles to training for the three-discipline endurance sport.
And I will offer this important caveat: Fitzgerald makes it clear that he believes you should take the listed workouts in his book combined with 80/20 principles and create your own training plans based on your needs. So to review this training plan is fundamentally undercut by the fact that they are merely written as templates or samples, something to follow if you just for some reason cannot or won’t make a training plan of your own.
However, given the plans do mirror many of Fitzgerald’s general principles regarding scheduling workout and training progression, I’ll go ahead and review the marathon training plan anyway.
Do note that the training plan, not to my knowledge available in the public domain, would either way require that you have the book 80/20 Running. The workouts are listed only by title, and the finer points are outlined elsewhere in the book. So, you need the book to follow the plan.