Two weeks into marathon training, after 5 days of running each week, and after two of the 4 longest runs I’ve taken in the last year, I actually don’t feel particularly sore, or particularly tired.
I certainly do feel somewhat tired and a bit sore after running 11 miles yesterday. But I don’t feel the same sort of wrecked I used to feel after most long runs in the past. If today wasn’t a planned rest day from running, I could certainly go run several miles today and could likely run again tomorrow.
This is despite getting poor sleep last night (the first true bout of insomnia I’ve had in a long while, not getting to bed until shortly before midnight). I actually feel alright mentally, energy wise, and chances are good I can go to the gym for tonight’s planned strength session.
I’m doing several things differently and I imagine they’re helping.
- Going by feel, I pulled almost completely back on all strength and cross training. Previously I’d been hitting the gym every weeknight and working out for over an hour, plus some weekends. Last week I took multiple nights off, and the extra break from training probably helped my energy for the longer weekend runs.
- Form wise, I’ve gotten way more consistent with two things that have helped my running efficiency: I’m focusing weight through the forefoot on steps (though the whole foot does contact the ground as normal), and am focused more on landing and pushing back in lieu of any effort or strain to reach forward. According to Garmin/Stryd/Runalyze, my pace and effort were remarkably consistent mile over mile at the end of yesterday’s long run.
- I’m now actively keeping my effort on midweek runs as calm and easy as possible. I’ve avoided the hillier routes on workweek runs, and found a route for weekend runs that has much less elevation shifting and more flat sections. Most of my prior running was along rolling hills, and I imagine that was taking a toll at a time in training where I need to build endurance first before I challenge myself with these tougher elevation shifts.
- Though I’ve always generally tried to stay in an aerobic zone, I’m now actively keeping my heart rate below 80% of max as much as I can. At the end of long runs there’s not too much you can do, but I keep it as low as possible as long as possible while making sure to stay efficient.
- I keep my running power (per Stryd) between 80-85% of critical power, not as demanding as race pace but also not too easy. Runalyze metrics have shown me that runs that are too easy sap my VO2max over time, and experience has shown me that going easier than 80-85%CP doesn’t feel markedly better in the present or the future than just making sure I give that 80-85%CP effort. Since this is a relative metric, my pace does change on uphill or downhill inclines accordingly.
- The above two items put together means I don’t focus much on pace. The only time during any easy run that I think about pace is when my Garmin watch goes off at the end of each mile, showing me the duration of that mile. But I don’t pay it much mind beyond the general idea of whatever pace it shows me.
- If I can get an easy midweek run done on my lunch break, I do it. But generally I try to do these runs before or after work. I just walk on work breaks.
- I’ve cut cross training down to just one spin bike or elliptical session on Mondays after work.
- After a lot of experimentation, I do two strength sessions each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and follow each one with my yoga session.
The biggest surprise as I’ve ramped up mileage is how not-beat-up I feel after each week. The back to back runs on the weekend I figured would kick me around, but I’ve finished the long run feeling tired but mobile, and today I feel a bit sore but okay. Even feeling tired, I’m not sure how much of that is last night’s unusually short sleep. I feel like I could run today if I needed to (but today is a rest day).
So far, so good. I’m sticking with the plan, and it’s working.