October 2020 Marathon Status Report

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.

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Current October 2020 Training Status Report

I have been training for a half marathon to be determined in early January, though (as long as it’s not cancelled) that half marathon will likely be the Lake Mead Half Marathon on January 9.

I’m on the 5th week of an algorithm-programmed Garmin plan, and have done quite well on all runs throughout the plan. By maintaining the GPS-estimated assigned paces, I have actually completed my easy training runs with an average pace of about 10:00 per mile (6:13/km), far faster than I had previously run my easy runs.

These faster easy runs actually have been little trouble to complete, thanks to one simple adjustment: I focus on maintaining a light, quick cadence over anything else. I used to run at about 160-165 steps per minute, and am now doing all my runs at 174-178 steps per minute. Clearly the extra steps per minute are making a difference not just with the average pace, but making that pace easier to sustain. For whatever reason, this was always hard to do in Chicago, but has been very easy to do now.

The Garmin algorithm plans to have me run a 1 mile time trial on Wednesday, from which it should program my subsequent speed, tempo and long run workouts. The last mile I ran about a year ago came out to a disappointing 7:34, and my documented PR is 7:05.

According to Garmin’s race predictor, I apparently have the fitness to smash my PR’s in the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and of course full Marathon. The Electric Blues Daniels tables indicates from these that I could probably run the mile in 6:33. I don’t foresee running that mile time after having done no speedwork for a while, but to break 7 minutes on a mile trial would be terrific.


I have also cross trained quite a bit during the training plan. It might be a big reason I’ve been able to improve so quickly.

After taking on a Garmin Badge Challenge to bike 300K in a month, bike 16 hours, and walk 16 hours… I ended up riding the spin bike at the gym almost every day, about 45 minutes each time, which at my usual 95-110 rpm came out to about 12-13 miles each go. I also walked about a couple miles most days to get those 16 hours in.

I’ve also continued strength training with my mostly upper body push/pull 20 minute workouts roughly 3-4 times a week throughout all this.

Between all this training and the 5 running workouts each week, I’ve probably logged about 8-10 hours of total training (not including the walking, which I generally don’t count as training) each week since beginning the Garmin plan. There were many days I’d spend 2+ hours at the gym, aside from my running (none of which, by the way, was done on a treadmill; all of my running was outside in the morning).


Other than feeling understandably weary at times, I haven’t been too beaten up or worn down by all this.

One key to that is maintaining a protein rich diet, eating to maintenance calories instead of a calorie deficit, and having given a backseat to intermittent fasting.

I’m focusing more on fueling for recovery and eating to a minimum of energy availability. This leads to a slight calorie deficit when I hit the minimum calories, though I’ve still managed to get my bodyfat to 18% while keeping my weight around 170-172 lbs (78kg).

The other key, obviously, is getting enough rest. I have slept an okay amount, and for me I usually do get less sleep than average during summer due to the heat and extended sunlight hours. I generally sleep better during winter when it’s dark more often. Naturally, I wake up rather early, often around 4-6am, and I go to bed around 9-10pm. I have also taken advantage of all this free time and taken naps on various days, which slightly helps. Now that I’ll be working again, naps will only be an option on the weekends and holidays.


After last month’s extensive cross training, I’m going to scale that back and diversify that a bit more. After sticking almost exclusively to the spin bike, I’m now going to mix in sessions on the rowing machine and the ARC Trainer, and will probably cross train less frequently than the “pretty much every day” I had been doing.

I can now take it easy on the walking, doing it only to make sure I get 10,000 daily steps in (an ongoing Seinfeld calendar goal of mine, which is now at 32 days straight and counting). Plus I generally train less time on the rowing machine (I like to row for 20 minutes max vs the 45 minutes I always go on the spin bike), so that will lead to shorter gym visits than 2 hours.

Also, of course, working again means I have fewer time windows to work out. The early morning runs will remain, so long as I can finish workouts well before 7am so I can shower/dress and commute to work. I can also train following work most afternoons (unless a situation demands overtime, of course), and will probably do my cross training then… crowded gym be damned. The weekends of course are wide open.


So, in all, I am once again seriously training. I am training a lot. And I’ve been able to train consistently at a higher level than I have before.

But what about my marathon plans? Well… I’ll get into that in a bit….

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A quick work/life update.

I am starting a new full-time position next week, a full-time consultant role where I step in with an agency’s local clients on a generally 2-3+ month basis assisting with accounting, admin and analysis needs, as well as working with the agency on filling staff with the client as needed.

It’s a more actionable version of what I did as a temp for years prior to working in education, and I’ll have more of a direct role in addressing client staffing concerns and agency/client objectives. I’m looking forward to a role far more engaged and directly relevant to my skills and experience than my last role. Plus, it’s a combination of my prior temp career, with the more advanced skillset of my prior full-time careers.

Going back to work follows about 7 weeks out of work, which I certainly put to good use in the interim with a lot of training and recovery.

Since I’ll mainly be working with standard offices, this means I get to return to the traditional 8 to 5, Monday to Friday schedule with standard holidays off. I actually began to miss it after several months on my prior, unconventional work schedule.

I will now commute every day again, after being remote for a good portion of the last few months. There are advantages to what should be a hassle, and the biggest applies to what’s left of the Vegas Indian Summer as well as next summer: Offices are typically air conditioned, and I may no longer have to struggle through midday heat in thinly insulated conditions.

This also will re-regiment my daily diet, which had been variable, unpredictable and a bit challenging to maintain during the last few weeks, despite more freedom. Having to bring a healthy lunch to work (in this role, eating out will be too much of a hassle) will help with nutritional consistency and energy levels.

Also, as you’d hope, it pays more than my last job. And my last job paid okay, so this is good news. The last couple months were understandably lean financially as I stretched out my savings to cover needed expenses. Working part of this month, I should be able to stretch out and cover October. Once I get a full set of paychecks in November, I’m once again in good shape with savings, as the job will allow me to save while paying down debt on schedule.

I’m looking forward to it all.

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Half Marathon Training and Finding A Faster “Easy” Pace

Training for a Half Marathon, and running quicker on eays runs than before

Ambivalent about forming any 2021 training plans, I decided none the less to use one of Garmin’s automated training plans to build up for a hypothetical half marathon by the start of next year. Being in shape to run a half by January would get me in line to be ready for a late spring marathon… if coronavirus allows it to happen.

(Incidentally, BBSC Endurance currently plans to host the Lake Mead Marathon, Half Marathon and other races on January 9, 2021, which incidentally fell 18 weeks after I had started the half marathon program. So, if that Half Marathon happens, it would be a good goal race. We’ll see.)

Garmin’s automated training plans prep for either the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or Marathon distance. You select a desired training schedule and time goal. You choose from one of three coaches, whose identity determines the algorithm that automatically prepares your training schedule. Garmin then has you do a brief 5 minute “benchmark run” to estimate your current fitness, from which your initial workout distances, intensities, schedules, etc, are set. This benchmark also clues you into how realistic your chosen pace goal may be.

I’ve built my own training schedules for years, but for many reasons decided this time around I’d prefer to let Garmin build it for me.

  • I have more schedule flexibility.
  • I’m doing other strength and cross training
  • Garmin tends to book shorter workouts, which is easier to get done.
  • I’m studying for certifications and working on other projects.
  • I wanted to train and build volume, but didn’t want to worry too much about how to go about it.
  • Not to mention… with coronavirus cancelling everything for a while, I had nothing to lose in trying things this way.

So this time around I used an automated plan.

Garmin’s three choices for coaching styles are:

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How I Hydrate (Especially Around Hot Desert Runs)

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

Since I now live in the desert, the higher altitude fringe of the Las Vegas Valley, I’ve gained a lot of experience in running in these hot and dry conditions. To do well running in these conditions, i obviously had to learn how to hydrate effectively.

Workout hydration is a delicate balance. You need to hydrate to avoid the performance (and possibly health) damaging effects of dehydration. But if you consume more fluid than you need, you’re simply going to end up needing the restroom/toilet too often too soon to be worth the trouble.

Over my years of running I have through trial and error developed a useful approach to hydration that running in the hot Vegas desert has helped me fine tune into a reliable methodology.

It is worth noting that training with some degree of very mild dehydration can be useful for developing aerobic fitness. The line between useful and detrimental is very fine, not to mention the line between proper hydration and needlessly overloading your kidneys and bladder. You also must bear in mind that carrying hydration adds weight to your body and will to some subtle degree slow you down on your run.

Thus I don’t mind being a little “dry” during a training run, whether it’s an easy run, a harder speed workout, or a long run. However, I want to avoid tipping over the edge into performance loss from dehydration.

So, my objective is to go into a training session with a rudimentary amount of pre-run hydration, then hydrate as needed during or after the workout.

My Keys to Hydrating Workouts:

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The 80/20 Running marathon plan: What’s It Good For?

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Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running (2014)

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. I want 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.

The Nuts and Bolts:

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10+ Thoughts on Building Training Breaks Into Strength And Endurance Training

Runners typically train for a race through 8-24 weeks of focused, progressive training, then take a break of either reduced or no running for some time afterward.

It just occurred to me that:

  1. People who primarily strength train as their exercise never train like this.
  2. Many who strength training typically see their development and progress hyperbolically slow after training for some time, and take for granted that this is normal.
  3. Serious runners also see their progress hyperbolically slow after years of mostly continuous hard training for some time, and take for granted that this is normal.
  4. Except for a weeks/months long “offseason” where they basically don’t train at all, most serious runners train continuously for their entire season with few, often brief planned breaks
  5. Runners could benefit from peak-and-valleying their training season in the style of a 12 month grade school. Basically, you ramp training around recurring goal races, with the plan to downscale training in the week(s) following those periodic goal races.
  6. Strength trainees may see more progress if they were to build regular periodic training breaks or “de-loads” into their training. Basically, progress training as usual for 8-24 weeks, then take a week or more where training stops and/or volume (whether reps, weight, frequency, or all of the above) are substantially, pointedly reduced. You rebuild, re-load energy and drive, then resume training a few days/weeks later really to attack the weights/road/water/bike/etc.

6a. Unplanned breaks like injuries and other life emergencies don’t count. Your body and mind are taxed and have to heal in other ways during breaks like these, and aren’t as fully available to rebuild and heal the way they do during a conscious, planned break in training. Sure, some recovery can happen, but imagine how you feel after a very stressful vacation. Are you “refreshed” and 100% when you go back to work or school?

  1. I imagine a lot of the stalled progress in muscle growth and other “GAINZ” most strength trainees experience would cease to stall if they consciously built to a scheduled peak over weeks/months, then made a point to take a 1-2 week break afterward before resuming.

7a. Fitness loss is minimal during a 1-2 week extended break. As distance running’s Hanson Brothers have attested, the body tends to reap direct benefits from a key workout (and conversely, experiences a loss of fitness from a lack thereof) after 8-12 days. You can probably take a week off before resuming training and experience little to no loss in strength/fitness from where you left off. Two weeks off, and the loss would be very slight, to the point where after a couple weeks of gradually resumed training you’d be back to where you had left off.

  1. So now, I’m looking at you, runners. Many of you have the right idea, where you start training mainly to run a goal race, train hard for that 8-24 weeks, then run your goal race and take it easy for a few days/weeks. There are certainly many things you could do better, but you have the right idea.

8a. And then there are some of you who continiously train, and train hard every week. You don’t take many planned breaks, maybe after a marathon or a longer race, but otherwise you’re doing high intensity workouts and/or high volume almost every week. And then you’re wondering why you get injured or you constantly have nagging injuries.

8b. Some of you call them “niggles”. I call them red alarm signals that you need to take a few days off.

  1. This doesn’t mean don’t run unless you’re training for a goal race. This means your training should more consciously ebb and flow, at the very least follow a 3-5 week continuous cycle of gradually increasing volume to a peak before a week of lighter training. But what could benefit you most is longer 8-16 week cycles of gradually progressing volume, then or preceding gradually increasing intensity, before tapering and/or a goal race, followed by a 1-2 week period of reduced or eliminated training at a substantially lower intensity.
  2. Plan breaks into your training before life makes you take unplanned breaks from training.
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