Vancouver Marathon 2011
Training…(for those of you who have asked in the past)
Upon realization that I finished within 10-minutes of the US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials standard in the Vancouver last year, I decided that my former goal of merely breaking the 3 hour barrier for 26.2 miles needed to be intensified and certain sacrifices be made in order to make this pipe dream of mine become a reality. My journey began in January of this year and one of the sacrifices I have made is forgoing my typical “triathlon training” to focus more on functional training for running, namely more quality running miles (60-70+) coupled 1-2 miles of post-run “recovery” swimming, 1-2 hours of cross training (usually elliptical with arms), and 2-3 hours of pilates/strength training each week. Interestingly, my “amped” mileage is still a far cry from my competitors who are more apt to log in the 80-100 miles/week. Nonetheless, I have found my body responds quite well to higher “quality” mileage coupled with lower “recovery” run recovery mileage. My body and, more specifically, my joints, definitely thank me for keeping the pounding on the downswing on recovery days as I have managed to avoid virtually every “running-related” injury that often keeps other atheltes on the sidelines for months, even years.
Anyways, with the help of my longtime coach and friend, Paul Greer, I put together a 16-week training program for Vancouver that incorporated a weekly speed session, longer intervals or tempo run, and a long progression run alongside more recovery-focused running and cross-training, explained a bit more below.
Speed Sessions/Long Interval/Tempo Runs
Twice per week, I implemented 20-30 minutes of speed-work along with plyo drills and strides, usually along beautiful Silver Strand in Coronado, in the mornings and doubled with a 3-5 mile run in the afternoon to help aid recovery from the AM session and also build my aerobic capacity. My speed sessions alternated between longer with minimal recovery to shorter, faster intervals with longer recovery. Both workouts helped to increase my lactate threshold, allowing “marathon pace” to feel like a walk in the park (well, maybe not that easy but close…Lol).
My long runs started at 12 miles and increased in distance by ~2 miles for 3 weeks before enjoying a cut back week where training volume reduced by 20-30% to facilitate nutritional and physical recovery. Each long run was completed like a progression run where I started about a minute per mile slower than my goal marathon pace and descended down to slightly faster than my goal marathon pace the final few miles. This got my body used to sustaining a harder effort on “fatigued” legs. By the time my long runs were in “taper” mode 3 weeks prior to Vancouver Marathon, I had completed 6 20+ mile runs.
Instead of logging super high run mileage, my body responds more favorably to supplementing run miles with cross-training. Remember that I have spent the bulk of my post-collegiate running career racing triathlons so the running-only focus is new to me. Each week, I completed 2 hours of pilates reformer classes with Armone’s Core Connection in La Jolla (great for hip strength and mobility as well as core function) and on most weeks I jumped into 1 or 2 functional strength classes with Bryan Hill and company at Rehab United (great for all-around strength and explosiveness). On the cardio front, I averaged 2-3 hours in the pool and/or elliptical with arms, usually done as workout #2 for the day and at an intensity to facilitate active recovery.
Racing as Training
I raced three times during my marathon training cycle, although ‘race” is a term that should be used loosely as they were planned harder tempo efforts as racing longer distances can make it hard to fully recover for the work, aka “training”, that needs to be done for the marathon. In February, I raced the Coronado 10k with the goal of running 6 to 6:15 per mile, aka “comfortably hard” effort. The workout was successful as I came across in 37:41 (6:04 pace) clinching me 3rd OA female for the day. One month later, I traveled out to NYC to race 13.1 with the goal of running target Olympic Trial Marathon pace (6:20 per mile). Once again, the race was a success as I ran progressively faster to finish in 1:22:20 (6:17 pace). My final race, Carlsbad 5000, was used as a test of running fast on “fatigued” legs as I completed 19 miles the day prior. Once again, it turned out to be a successful test as I ran a personal best on that course (18:01) to clinch a spot in the top 10 despite a solid long run effort the day prior.
Tapering for Race Day
I started my taper 3 weeks out from Vancouver after peaking with just over 70 miles of run training, a couple hours of elliptical, a couple miles of swim recovery miles, and a couple hours of pilates. Whew, that was a BIG week (for me) and the weekly 25% reduction in training to come was very welcomed. Crazy enough, however, I actually felt less rested during my taper and really didn’t come out of my “funk” until a few days prior to race day. It’s funny how the body can play tricks on you like that!
I LOVE race week only it is extremely hard being in a beautiful city without being able to take on the tourist “I want to explore” mentality. I arrived into Vancouver on Thursday evening via air and bus and immediately checked into the race headquarters, Sandman Hotel, a few blocks from the race so I could unwind after the long day of travel, and other than getting out to the race expo for packet pickup, to feed the machine with carbohydrate (thanks to Theresa, Matt, and Glen for cooking up pasta Sat night) and an Elite Athlete Reception where I had the opportunity to meet a ton of athletes from all over the world, this is where I spent most the time until toeing the line on Sunday.
My roommate, Emily Tallen (who not only is a phenomenal runner from Canada but also one of the coolest peeps I met over the weekend), and I were up a couple hours prior to gun start to once again feed the machine. My go-to pre-race meal continues to be the low-glycemic and easy-to-digest Pure Fit Nutrition Bar (www.purefit.com) coupled with a 100 mg dose of caffeine and a sports bottle full of Infinit Nutrition’s Run-focused sports drink (www.infinitnutrition.com) that I sip on leading up to race start. After fueling, it was off to the starting line to do some ballistic stretching (my version of a warm-up for 26.2….and something I now realize I need to build upon) before “go” time.
Unlike last year, I had the pleasure of knowing other athletes on the line with me, which is always nice, and the biggest plus was that there was NO RAIN. The weather was absolutely stunning with temperatures around 50 and not a cloud in the sky. I was pumped and ready to get the show on the scenic 26.2 mile Vancouver course. And then the gun went off…
The first miles are always a tough gauge as I don’t have any fancy gadgets to monitor pace and racing in Canada (as well as Europe) entails that you understand the metric system, something that is not used frequently in the US running circuit. Fortunately, much like I do in training, I ran “comfortable” based on the perceived effort scale, a scale that has worked in other successful racing experiences of mine. Much to my excitement, this “comfortable” exertion had me running 20 meters behind the top 3 gals, two of which were trying to qualify for the Olympic trials, including San Diego phenom Theresa Lowrey. If I didn’t have these gals in sight, I would have been in “no-man’s land”, which always makes racing harder so I tagged along.
Unfortunately, my right hamstring unexpectedly started to bother me (kind of like a Charlie Horse) early into the race, with a dull cramping sensation arising around the 10k mark. Not good with 20 miles left, right? At this point, I just shrugged it off and prayed that it would just work itself out because pace-wise, I was comfortable. Not my luck on this day, however, and thus, as I rolled across the halfway point in 1:22:19 a couple minutes back on the leaders, I knew that between the hills and my seizing hamstring, I had a tough journey to the finishline ahead of me.
Previous thoughts of “Olympic Trials” were now replaced with “how can prevent my hamstring from completely failing on me so I can finish?”. My solution was to allow stretch breaks as needed, which ended up being every 1-2 km. My company, the lead cyclist for 3rd OA woman, kept me inspired to keep plugging forward despite these frequent stops; he definitely served as my racing angel the second half. With just a few miles left, I caught glimpse of the 4th place gal who no doubt was gaining ground on me. This ignited my competitive spirit and so I exchanged some evil words with my hamstring and powered up over the final grueling hill (Burrard St) Bridge where I was greeted by a welcome smile and cheer from my friend & Vancouver local Greg White. This propelled me on and I was able to hold on to 3rd overall chick for the day and miraculously dip under the 3 hour barrier for only 2nd time in my running career at 2:59:22.
While I was over 3 minutes slower than last year despite better weather and a good 10 minutes off my goal time, crossing this finish line ranks as one of my proudest racing moments as I was able to physically overcome a mountain of adversity within my hamstring and mentally overcome the demons who encouraged me to stop many times during the race. It is also strangely encouraging as I am now confident that my Olympic Trials goal of 2:45 is within reach if my body (and Mother Nature) cooperates. My lesson learned this time around is that I need a more sufficient warm-up pre-race so when I give 2:45 a go this Fall (race yet TBD), you’ll see me jogging with the Kenyans for 10-15 minutes =)
3rd OA out of 1,398 woman
1st OA out of 253 in 30-34 age group
Props go out to…
-The 14,000 athletes completing either the 8k, ½ marathon, and marathon
-John Armour of San Diego Track Club and Infinite Running for finishing 5th OA in the men’s race with a new PR of 2:37
-My roommate for the weekend, Emily Tallen, winning the women’s half marathon in 1:16
-Rutto Kibet, one of the many awesome athletes I met over the weekend, for winning the men’s half marathon in 1:06:30
-Allison Macsas, fellow elite runner, for qualifying for the US Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials (hope to join you next January!)
-Brian Torrance and the Vancouver Marathon race crew for once again making my racing experience an amazing one.
-Saucony for keeping me equipped in the swiftest and sweetest gear
-Robb Latimer for his countless hours of sports massage, an essential part of my training!
-Nicholas Linn of Neuromuscular Fitness Training for helping keep my muscles moving and performing at peak
-Ryan Schuler for his specialized muscle treatment at the peak of training
-Rehab United for kicking my arse and keeping me strong with their functional training classes
-Armone’s Core Connection for introducing me to pilates, an important component of my marathon training
-Pure Fit Nutrition for cooking up the perfect ingredients for pre-race fueling.
-Infinit Nutrition, my partners in crime, and sports drink of choice.
-Infinite Running for keeping me inspired and on target in my training.
-Greg White for playing host to me on a whim and showing me why Vancouver is such a sweet place to explore.
-My coach Paul Greer and the SDTC family for helping support all my running adventures.
-My family and friends for always believing in me as I chase after my dreams.