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Lessons Learned from Marathon Training

The next few posts are going to be dedicated to the marathon.  I could possibly spend 2 weeks talking about various aspects of my training but I don’t want to bore you too much.  I won’t be doing “an expo recap”, a “race recap parts 1-26.35 (because Garmins are more accurate then the NYC course itself) or traveling” ect. Type of posts.  I trained for this race for close to half a year so I do have a lot to say.

Here are just some of the posts I’m working on but feel free to let me know if you have any other questions or posts you are interested in  (or any you don’t want to hear about).

The full marathon recap (2000 words but there are photos!)
Training lessons (below)
Physical marathon lesson thoughts
Taper Review
The Carbohydrate depletion and load review
Advice for running New York City
How I’m recovering and future marathon plans   

I learned a lot about my first marathon via training and physically running the race.  These are lessons I think I could only learn by experiencing them for myself.  I did a lot of things I don’t regret but I also made a lot of poor decisions.  I didn’t make poor decisions because I meant too, I made them because I didn’t know what the proper thing to do was or what would work for me.

First my training as a whole:

I thought I had moderately good training for the full. I got the most important thing in: the long runs.  I did 4, 20 mile runs and 1 half marathon and then added 7 more to make it 20+.  So I did 5 long runs beforehand.  I got the mileage in despite traveling and moving.

What I didn’t do were workouts that resembled the pace I wanted.  In the most critical time of my training was when I lacked the most crucial part (speed). I think my legs had forgotten what pace I wanted to hold for the marathon.  For my first marathon that was fine and a lesson learned. I wanted to use this race as a learning experience.

Here are positives I liked about my training:

  1. I ran averaged about 70 miles weekly with a rest day.  It gave me confidence and also gave my body a day to recover.  I truly think resting and having easier mileage is what has kept me injury free.
  2. My only speed workouts were races and it made running by myself or with others enjoyable.
  3. I was never stressed about marathon training.  Yes, I wanted to a 3:10 but at the same time I wanted to enjoy the process of training for my first marathon and enjoy myself.  I had an umbrella goal because I was going in and not knowing what to except.

Here are things I think that hindered my training and that I will change for my next marathon (which won’t be Boston but I do plan to run many more):

  1. First I won’t be moving or traveling.  I can honestly say after I moved, the last 2 months my training were not exactly what I wanted.  I enjoy living outside of running and training though so I don’t regret anything.
  2. I didn’t do speed workouts that resembled my marathon pace.  Looking back I wish I had done more speed workouts or races leading up to the marathon.  I would have liked to do a couple more half marathons, 10ks, 5ks or anything really.  The half marathon I had my eyes on in Texas happened to be the week my knee was feeling off so I didn’t do it.  Multiple race options didn’t exist in Del Rio (unless I wanted to drive 3+ hours every weekend) but I have those options in New Jersey.
  3. I gained weight.  I gained about 5 extra pounds in the last month which I don’t really relate to marathon training but moving in with a significant other, enjoying life…ect.  I’m not worried about it but it was just a note of interest.  I’m not saying I have an interest in losing that weight but when you are used to running at a certain weight and all of a sudden you gain 5 pounds it’s a point of interest.
  4. I didn’t do core work or weight training like I wanted.  When life fell by the wayside, I don’t regret it but I know I should have done more of that.

The thing about training is that you also must exist outside of working out.  Something I often discuss outside of blogging is I want to be known as Hollie.  I don’t want to be known as Hollie and all she does is work out/run.  I think it’s very important to realize that even though I didn’t dedicate 100% of my focus to this training cycle, I had a very enjoyable time both with running and in the outside world.  I  am dedicated and got my miles in but there were several occasions that I skipped the gym/lifting weights or a second run in order to relax or hang out with friends.

It all worked out though and I learned a lot that I never would have learned without exper it for myself and training how I did.

Questions for you:

What have you learned from your current or last training cycle?

Tell me something that you do outside of reading blogs, working out, cooking of baking. 

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40 responses

  1. I think you have insane potential, based on your first marathon time. Something you did that only elites do was run a 100+ mile week. And you didn’t do any speed work. So a lot of those miles were junk miles. You could have achieved the same results with far less miles. But the fact that you could handle that amount of miles is awesome. If you throw in a few marathon specific speed workouts a week, you’ll see your time dropped tremendously. If this is something you see yourself getting really into, I’d invest in getting a coach that can help guide you better than you can.

  2. To me, you had a really great view on your training cycle and all the interruptions you faced, and that was a breath of fresh air. Now that things are simmering down for you, I’m sure your next training cycle, for whichever race you choose, will be much smoother and you’ll be able to focus on the different aspects of your training you feel need to be changed.

  3. I’m glad you are able to recognize the good things you did (which there are SO many) as well as things you could improve on. If you don’t learn anything from the race, than what is the point? Your next one, whenever or wherever or ifever again– I know you will do things a little differently, and hopefully not be travelling all over gods green earth before hand. But you learned a lot about what works for you and what doesn’t and that is something no one else can tell you and no book can write about.

  4. “because Garmins are more accurate then the NYC course itself” – you crack me up.
    I’m excited to read about the carbohydrate depletion and loading situation.
    As for the 5 lbs, my guess is that it might be water. I tend to put on water weight when training for long distances as my glycogen storage capacity goes up. Each gram of glycogen buddies up with 4 grams of water, etc etc, leading to more weight. Still, as you said, it feels weird to run with sudden weight gain.

  5. I have to say I very much enjoy reading your posts, your approach to training and life balance is very refreshing! Especially for someone with such amazing potential as yourself!!
    Lessons learned: take down time from training. I have been training for something for the better part of 3 years consistently. I often forget that I love running these days. After another marathon in a few weeks I am going to run for me for a while. Not goals. Oh and REST.
    PS 26.33 for the NYCM course for me from Garmin 😉

    • I’ve learned that time off is so important too! I’m very excited and embracing this rest time. I don’t know about you but people constantly ask me my next full marathon on the chart but lord I need to recover from this one first!

  6. Great post! You seem to really have a good head on your shoulders and I LOVE that you are set on being Hollie and not just defined by your workouts and racing. Admirable things for sure but you are definitely more than just that! 🙂

  7. I’ve told you this before but I think it’s awesome how you balance personal life with Tim/moving and all the running you do. I have a hard time balancing my fitness routine and my personal life (part of that might be due to lack of ‘real life’ friends in the area) and find myself known as the “gym rat”
    Can’t wait to read the post about future marathon plans 🙂

  8. I gain quite a bit from your posts, even though you are much younger and more athletically gifted than I. I have been cycle training for the past four years. Initially, I was going for distance, this year was all about speed. I did increase that, but fell victim to some overtraining late in the season and have now cut back. I have recently found out about TRIMPS calculations, which I will start to use for help designing my training cycles with more intense speed intervals and race pace sessions built in – hopefully avoiding burnout.

  9. Since I just can’t bring myself to wake up early to work out, I think I lose a lot of time where I could be running or at the the gym without interefering in my personal life. I remember wen I was really big into CrossFit and decided to be a trainer, I was spending 3-4 hours a day at the gym AND working tons of overtime. It wasn’t practical and I got so burnt out. I felt like I never saw friends or did anything else because I wasn’t. So the balance is definitely good! It’ll be fun to track your next marathon and see you incorporate all that you’ve learned into it. I still think it’s awesome that you ran it, and I bet had the course not been so hilly, you easily would have made your goal time!

  10. (I can’t comment from my blog for some reason! It told me I don’t have an access token. Wtf?)

  11. I love love love this post! You have such a great perspective on balancing your training with the real world. It is clearly a reflection of your attitude towards life in general. Love it! I do look forward to some of the other updates as I am now going from triathlon training back into my long distance runs. I hope to absorb some of your lessons and put them to good use.

  12. I so admire your recent attitude toward running; Your posts about the marathon have been mature, thoughtful, and really refreshing to read.

    Something else to keep in mind is that the marathon is really rough on just about everyone, no matter how they train. Many talented runners are urged to hold off on it for years, if necessary, and tackle the shorter distances first. (I remember reading, in Alberto Salazar’s memoir, that his coach urged him to wait to do the marathon… obviously he wound up doing, er, just fine, but his body broke down far too early in his career, too).

    I don’t think there is any reason you should feel obligated to run marathons. You have been progressing really fast at the half distance and running some great 10ks. It’s no coincidence that the fastest 10k’ers tend to be the fastest marathoners.

    Anyway, sorry the comment is so long. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your marathon reflection posts. Oh, and welcome to the East Coast! I’m an NYC’er myself and can vouch for the quality of races in the area.

  13. I think you did a great job and have a lot of potential. Even if you didn’t meet your A goal, I think if the stars were aligned (not moving, not job hunting, etc), that you could definitely do it. There is no doubt in my mind.

    The tough thing about marathon training is speed- and I think that’s what got me too. It’s hard to balance speed and endurance. Doing speedwork to be successful in a short distance like a 5K, is totally different than the type of speedwork you want to do for marathon specific. I did speedwork, but it was short + fast. When I really should have done more longer runs at marathon pace, etc. Almost everyone I talk to uses their first marathon to learn from and if they do more they have a lot more success bc they know the distance. Now that you know the distance, what it feels like, and recognize how you can improve, you will do even better.

  14. I learned that I need to do more strength training. I can run faster now but it takes a lot more out of my legs.
    Outside of blogging and running, I started my own running related business this summer. That has consumed most of my “down time”. I’m a news junkie and watch a lot of BBC, Bloomberg and such. I’ve also been dong genealogy for the past few years.

  15. For the cards you were dealt you did a great job. I have no doubt that in your next training cycle you will be in a bit more of a stable environment and be able to really stick to a schedule that works for you and gives you time for life outside of running.

    I’ve only ever done one training cycle and it was for a half marathon in March. I honestly can’t even remember…. Outside of blogs, working out, and eating… I have a bf, dog, and cat who are all pretty awesome. I also work full time doing IT software development planning projects. My background is computer science and I love it! I am currently figuring out if I want to pursue grad school, an MBA, a PMP cert, or lean 6 sigma cert.

  16. I think it’s important to establish a life for yourself outside of working out. I think I realized I had a bit of a problem when I would choose working out over friends. I wish it would have been a red light at the time because now it’s hard to become more social when you’re used to being unsocial. Oopsies. I do pretty much the three things you listed, but I really truly love to bake things. I kinda wish I could do it professionally because I love it so much.

  17. Yep, we all know Garmins are more accurate than certified race courses. 😉 I’m such a runnerd that I’d enjoy any NYC Marathon post, and I’m particularly interested in how the carbohydrate depletion/load went. Given everything you’ve written about and dealt with during this training cycle (moving, the knee issue, etc.), plus the actual (read: hilly/challenging) race itself, I cannot wait to see how you do on an easier course. When you’re ready to do another 26.2, of course. 🙂

  18. Great job during training. We all do some things wrong, but then we do some things right. Life happens and we have to adapt accordingly. And there IS a life outside of running. If all we did all the time is run and nothing else we’d all be so boring! While I love running and talking about all things running, I also love to read (which I don’t do nearly enough), I love a good history documentary, and I love spending time with family. Oh yea, and playing in the woods. 🙂

  19. I really enjoyed your training recap. The marathon program I’ve followed in the past also didn’t (IMHO) have enough race pace runs. That’s something I’ll try to incorporate in next years training schedule. I also need to do more core and strength than I have in the past.

    I’ve got young kids so most of my non-running time is spent with them. My wife and I love movies and books so that is also in the mix.

  20. I absolutely love these posts and looking into future goals I’m finding them super informative!

    … I also wanted to post on your gym rant blog but it seems to have disappeared?! Basically… I totally get you, I’ve gotten comments this week about running and lifting heavy (and “dieting”) and just ignore them, I know my body and my goals, they don’t!

  21. Thanks for the awesome training feedback. I love reading what worked and what didn’t work from other runners. It helps others learn as well. Since training plans are “guides” and not “contracts”, having a recap like this will help you next time. I think setting goals and training principles broad at first and then really dialing in on what works and removing what doesn’t is the best way to progress as a runner. It is how I coach my runners as well. One thing to ‘try’, is add an extra rest day, and like you mentioned do a few more marathon pace or slightly faster pace runs along the way. Might give those legs another opportunity to rest up and you might be surprised at the results. I have sped more runners up by adding a rest day, than sometimes playing with pace. Just my 0.02…;-)

  22. Great post!! You are an incredible runner!! I’m so inspired by your racing and training! I trained for a marathon this summer to race early fall and ended up hurting my hip and having to scrap the race. I’m back in full swing, and focused on a spring marathon. I love reading your marathon advice!! Best of luck on your future races and training, I will be rooting for you 🙂

  23. I have become a disciple of my training plan’s mantra “train slow to race fast.” That is a specific reference to the long run.

    Based on my experience thus far – which includes being able continuously improve on my PR – the training plan, its structure, and the timing of key elements are core to my success.

    1. It is a 16-week plan broken up into phases, each phase with a specific goal. Strength, speed, endurance, recovery.

    2. Long runs 3 out of every 4 weeks on Saturdays with shorter goal pace runs on each 4th Saturday (recovery weeks)

    3. Speedwork and tempo runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    4. Base miles at recovery pace on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Sundays.

    5. Cross training options on recovery days.

    6. Long runs (other than goal pace) are done at least a full minute per mile slower than marathon goal pace.

    7. No plan should consume your life. You can’t do 100% of the workouts and rarely can they all be done at 100%. Work-life balance is part of a good plan, too.

    Also, weight gain is normal. I’ve done some reading on this. And nutrition – both leading up to the race and on race day – are huge. I just started a new book on this because I want to tackle my late race power fades within the boundaries of what my stomach will tolerate when I’m racing.

    Love to chat with you more about all this!

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