Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Training for a race on a short turnaround

I know, I know, I've just finished my first-ever marathon, I should take plenty of time to rest and recuperate before jumping in again. But as I trained for Big Sur, I saw that I was getting fast enough that qualifying for the Boston Marathon could actually be an attainable goal -- just one I wasn't likely to achieve at Big Sur, with its relentless hills. I will be 45 next year, so my qualifying time is just 3:30, an 8-minute pace. Based on my times in shorter races and my 3:37 at Big Sur, that pace looks to be doable. Since there aren't a lot of marathons over the summer and registration for Boston is in mid-September, my best option was to race again soon.

So I registered for the Steamboat Marathon on June 5, just five weeks after Big Sur. How do you train for a race like that? I spent 18 weeks training for Big Sur, after another 6 months training to get ready for the training program! Of course, I'm now in much better shape than I was a year ago, so my baseline is higher, but still, between recovering from Big Sur and tapering for Steamboat, there's not much time for training.

Fortunately, the book I used as a training guide for Big Sur, Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning, has a section on fast marathon transitions, and it offers training schedules for turnarounds as short as four weeks. But it doesn't have a five-week program, so I created my own based on Pfitzinger's four- and six-week programs. Here it is:

Click for a larger version
I actually did my first run today -- a short recovery run at a 10-ish minute pace. Tomorrow I'll "cross-train" by mowing my lawn, and then do a couple more recovery runs before my first "long" run -- an 8-miler on Sunday. My longest run will be a 17-miler three weeks from Big Sur and two weeks before Steamboat. There's a little speed work in the schedule, but as before, I'll probably switch to tempo runs if the speed work starts to affect my IT bands. I'm also thinking about doing a 10K race on Saturday, May 21. If I do that, I'll probably shorten my long run even a bit more, to 15 or 16 miles. I don't think I will actually be able to improve my conditioning over this short a period, but if I wasn't doing some hard workouts, I think I'd definitely lose something, so this will probably serve more to maintain fitness than to improve.

Steamboat is another beautiful course, but it shouldn't be nearly as difficult as Big Sur. It starts at an elevation of 8,000 feet and descends gradually to about 6,700. While there are a few climbs, it is essentially all downhill! And yet the course still counts as a Boston qualifier. The biggest challenge will probably be the elevation of the course; I'll be heading out a few days early to try to get used to it.

Some have suggested that the pounding on my quads during all those downhills will also be challenging. I agree, but it's also true that this course has no more downhill than Big Sur, so I think it's a level of pounding that I can probably handle.

Details of today's workout are below:

I was a little concerned about my run today because it was the first one after Big Sur; I simply didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. While there was definitely some pain, it wasn't anything I couldn't handle, and by the end of my short 4-miler, I actually felt pretty good. The run also gave me a chance to catch up with Chad and Marc, so it was definitely worthwhile.

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