Swim: 0 m/112,725 m
Bike: 14.4/1,352 miles
Run: 12/624.4 miles
Yesterday marked the start of my marathon training cycle. After two weeks of taking it easy (other than that 10k PR on Thanksgiving, of course), I was very ready to jump back into a structured training plan. This one is going to be hard work with big consequences at the end, but I’m eager to start the journey.
For the marathon I’ll be using the FIRST training plan, which served me well in my half-marathon a couple weeks ago. After offering a positive review of that training plan just last week, I’ll admit that I still have slightly mixed feelings about using it for the marathon. Not only is the distance twice as long as the half, but the training cycle is two weeks shorter, covering only 16 weeks. And while I enjoyed the two-week hiatus from structured training, I want to make sure I’m as ready as I can be for the challenge that awaits me on March 18.
My mixed feelings about using the FIRST plan stem from the limited number of miles I’ll be running each week. Just browsing through the workouts, it looks like my peak weekly mileage will be about 37, including a 20-mile run. As I follow the workouts of strong marathoners on Daily Mile, weekly mileage totals of 80 to more than 100 are common as they slog through the peak of their training. Many swear by the mileage, and if I said I was peaking at 37 in one week they would probably laugh me out of the room.
But what I’m doing with this training plan is focusing on quality over quantity. The three weekly runs will be very challenging as I reach for paces and distances – the plan includes five 20-mile runs – that will push me to the limit. And I’ll still be getting in at least two days a week of cross-training – essentially replacing another runner’s recovery runs with different types of cardio-building endurance work. Instead of 4 easy miles, I’ll be spending 45 minutes of moderate-to-hard effort on my bike or in the pool, building greater endurance while giving my running-specific muscles a break. Jason Fitzgerald over at Strength Running had an interesting post about this topic that helped me feel a little better about my decision to stick with the FIRST plan. Check it out here.
In any case, I’m taking a bit of a leap of faith. I’m putting my chances for success in the hands of people I’ve never met, who swear this plan will help me reach my marathon potential. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been through the book several times, I agree with the principles and I even have an 11-minute half-marathon PR thanks to its advice. I’m choosing this plan because I think it will work. But there’s that nagging little “more mileage” demon that’s whispering in my ear.
All I can do is follow the plan to the best of my ability. I need to bring my “A” game to every training run, and I need to make sure I’m attacking the cross-training with the same vigor with which I approach the running. Since I don’t have another triathlon on the horizon it would be easy to slack on the biking and swimming, particularly during the winter months. But that cross-training will be just as important as meeting my running goals. Since I’m replacing runs with cross-training, I need to treat those sessions as modified runs that serve a distinct purpose.
My first workout of the cycle was very promising – a speed session that consisted of three 1-mile intervals at a 5:56 pace with only 60 seconds of recovery between each interval. It was tough, and I have a lot more of that waiting for me over the next 16 weeks.