Friday, June 17, 2011

Starting a new regimen

Having completed my first two marathons and done quite well in one of them, it's time to start thinking about what's in store next. Summer in the south is not a great time for marathoning, and that's fine with me -- I think I need several months to fully recover and ramp up training for my next major challenge. In fact, I haven't even decided what that challenge will be. I'd definitely like to run a marathon on a flatter course closer to sea level, and I have a couple ideas rattling around, but nothing set in stone yet.

That said, I have a few things I'd like to fix about my training regimen. First, I need to do more strength work, particularly in the core and upper body. Second, I need to find a better way to deal with my nagging IT band issues. Finally, I need to make sure I'm better prepared for those critical final miles in a marathon.

Last fall, I was taking a Pilates class weekly that I think helped a lot with core strength. Unfortunately, the class was cancelled at the end of December, and while I got a Pilates video which I followed fairly regularly, it wasn't as intense as the full-hour class. Then when I injured my shoulders in the National Half Marathon, I found I couldn't really do Pilates at all: Just lifting my arms over my head aggravated the injuries. The result: I simply didn't do any core work.

I've decided that I need to do core work every day I'm not doing a long run or tempo/speed work, which is four days in a typical week. From my Pilates experience, I now know plenty of exercises that don't involve the shoulder-aggravating moves, and I can do those exercises now, and add in shoulder work as I recover from the injuries. In addition, I've decided to start running with hand-carried water bottles rather than a fuel belt; that should help strengthen my arms (at least compared to zero arm work, which is what I had been doing).

For the IT band, I have been pretty good about stretching after every run, but I haven't done much to address the strength issue that may be at the root of the injury -- weak hip abductors. I've decided to incorporate some hip abductor work into a core exercise routine that I'll be doing four days a week. Just stretching was enough to keep the injury at bay so that I could complete long runs and tempo runs, but any time I tried to do more focused speed work, the injury would flare up again. The result was that I didn't do any speed work at all other than tempos and 8K and 10K races. I think I need a little more speed work than that, so hopefully adding the IT band exercises will allow me to do it.

The bonking issue is a little tougher to deal with. I felt like I was well-hydrated and fueled at Big Sur, and yet I still hit the wall at around Mile 21. I bonked even earlier at Steamboat, but I can probably chalk most of that up to a short recovery from Big Sur, plus inadequate compensation for the effects of altitude. Perhaps I simply started out too fast in both of these races given my level of fitness. But I can't help feeling that I still don't have enough experience running longer distances. I've actually only done three training runs longer than 20 miles: 20, 21, and 22. I think I either need a training regimen that includes more and longer long runs, or I need to change my strategy in those runs. Part of the reasoning behind the theory that you only need to do a 20-mile or so long run is that you're not running at race pace, so you don't need to run as far because you're actually on your feet just as long as you would be in a race. But looking back at my records for those three runs, I never did spend that much time on my feet: My times for the runs were 2:51, 3:08, and 3:12. My longest training run was still 25 minutes shorter than my fastest marathon. Maybe I just need to do my long runs slower!

There are actually a couple ways to deal with this issue. One is to start out the long run a little tired -- this can be accomplished by running a hard tempo or race the day before. Another would be to just do longer long runs. Or I could try running slower during my long runs. That last option might actually be the toughest, because one of the best motivation factors for long runs is running with a group, and it's hard to get the group to go slow enough.

With that in mind, I decided to take a look at a new marathon training program, Jack Daniels, because it seems to feature the longest long runs. I've ordered the book, but since it has no electronic version, I'll have to wait a week or so for the post office to deliver it. I'll keep you updated on my thoughts about the Daniels program as I read it.

Details of today's workout are below:

Today was my first day ever running with hand-carried water bottles. I have two, 20-ounce bottles, and I filled them all the way up despite the fact that I was just planning an easy 5.6-mile recovery run, where normally I wouldn't carry any water at all. The first couple miles weren't bad, but as the miles wore on, I could really start to feel the weight affecting my biceps. I tried drinking some of the water to lighten the load, but I couldn't drink fast enough to really make a difference.

Finally around the end of Mile 4 I just decided to dump the remaining water. What a relief! I finished the run relatively pain-free. I'm not sure I'm ready to take these out on a seriously long run. Maybe I'll just carry one bottle for the 12- to 13-miler I'm planning for Sunday.

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