Training for Big Cottonwood Marathon

Coming off my BQ (Boston Qualifier) at Mountains 2 Beach, I wasn’t sure if I would do Big Cottonwood as a full since I already had my qualifying race. I had been sold on Big Cottonwood with tag lines like "fast" and "Boston qualifier" without really studying the course (rookie mistake- guys!!! If you're going to spend every Saturday and Sunday ALL SUMMER LONG waking up at 5 am for Tempo Runs and Long Runs, please spend 5 minutes studying a course profile.) Looking back, it was a bad sign that we were dropped off for the start at the Brighton Ski Resort. (I am living proof that there is a reason you SKI down a Black Diamond and not RUN down it. WHO KNEW!!!)

Anyways- I decided to race (I use this word loosely and liberally) Big Cottonwood Marathon and try to PR again. I used a handful of races from Mountains 2 Beach Marathon (May 25, 2014)  to Big Cottonwood to prepare me and help work on my speed.

at the expo for Big Cottonwood Marathon. 1. ignorance is bliss 2. my sign is cruelly ironic.

at the expo for Big Cottonwood Marathon. 1. ignorance is bliss 2. my sign is cruelly ironic.

Shorter distance races leading up to the big one is something that was incorporated into the SDTC (San Diego Track Club) training program- and it's something I LOVE about our marathon training program. So I did a 5k [Bonita 5000], 10k [Old Pros 10k], and two half marathons [Tijuana International Half Marathon & Lululemon Seawheeze Half Marathon]- PR-ing in all these distances to work on building back up my speed. By the last tune-up race that I did, my half marathon pace at Seawheeze Half was the same pace I did at the 10k a month earlier. So I definitely was set up to do well at this race (once again, if it didn't consist of me falling off a cliff and struggling to survive for 11 miles...at 4500 feet).

TIjuana International Half Marathon

TIjuana International Half Marathon

Coming back from basically taking 2013 off was really tough and it’s hard to come back into a group and not get discouraged by how slow you feel in comparison. I decided to do most of my training/long runs alone and followed a modified version of Hanson’s training plan.  http://www.hansons-running.com/training-plans/advanced-training-plan/ 

Hanson's Advanced Training Plan

Hanson's Advanced Training Plan

I liked that it had speed work incorporated and was lower mileage- but I modified it by upping Sunday’s mileage every week so that ultimately it would get to 22 miles (I just wouldn’t feel comfortable not going past 16 even though I know that is the whole premise/appeal of the program). I did Hanson’s modified and then added Saturday tempo runs with the long runs following on Sundays. So basically my training plan looks nothing like Hansons- but that’s at least where I started. 

Saturday Tempo Runs would include a warmup two miles, a tempo (6-9 miles) and then a 3 mile cooldown. Then, Sunday morning I would do a long run on dead legs at "easy" pace (pace ended up falling in the 8:15-8:30 mins/mile)- which was slower than last cycle's long run pace, but I also wasn't doing 12 miles with a tempo thrown in the day before. 

So what about crosstraining?? Ok so running is my crosstraining- I basically run 6 days a week. But I also did Pure Barre RELIGIOUSLY (read: 4-5 times a week) during this cycle. I think it strengthened my core and arms and helped me to use those to gain some speed. I DEFINITELY noticed a huge difference right when I started doing it before training for Mountains 2 Beach- so can't stop a good thing when you're seeing results. 

the real reason i did barre: for photo opps in exotic locations (La Tigra National Rainforest, Honduras)

the real reason i did barre: for photo opps in exotic locations (La Tigra National Rainforest, Honduras)

Looking back at my training cycle for Big Cottonwood, I think I did everything right for hitting my goal – but on a relatively flat/rollers course. At sea level. Although my time doesn’t reflect the gains in my fitness- I would have done far worse if not for my training (like DIED on the course, ok not really). All humans are created equal, but sadly as I have come to find out- not all race courses are.

Three things I LOVED about this training cycle:

1. Flexibility- I added Tijuana Half Marathon in really last minute and decided to race it instead of long run it. Great decision since I ended up getting a new PR, placing second in my age group, and coming back to Los Estados Unidos 3000 pesos richer. I decided to race it instead of long run it (I was "supposed" to do a 20 miler that weekend per my schedule) because I went with the "what's going to be a better memory at the end of the day?!" logic. Schedules are GREAT- but if you can't have a little flexibility and enjoy the process, what's the fun in that?!

my speedy, amazing friend Shambra and I down in Tijuana... and yes, we drank the water... it made us faster.

my speedy, amazing friend Shambra and I down in Tijuana... and yes, we drank the water... it made us faster.

2. Tempo, tempo tempo- I am SOLD on the business of tempo-ing in training. SOLD. Like I'm buying stock, y'all. Nothing like getting out there first thing in the morning and running 6-9 miles at your "all out, can't hold on much longer, am i dead yet" speed. Doing that made race pace for the half and the full seem more doable. If you're interested in tempo-ing, hit me up. I run with a great group on Saturday mornings. 

3. Double Days- I don't know why but I love running twice a day. (And no- it's not just so I can eat more- but that's reason number 2.) I definitely felt like I was getting stronger through throwing in a second run in my day. Compiling fatigue (is that a thing?) and making myself work through the tiredness seemed to get me stronger. Also word on the street: It does more for you calorie-wise than running all those miles at one time. 

via Runner's World- http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/double-your-pleasure

via Runner's World- http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/double-your-pleasure

Three things I'll do differently next time:

1. Probably not pick an early fall marathon- Training this summer felt like masochism (a concept I am VERY familiar with). In hindsight, I'll pick a later race (December) so that I can relax and chill out during the summer.

2. More strength training- I had been doing barre and love it- and I think I need to start adding some weights or something intense like that to the mix- anyone have any luck with the gym/want to show me around??!

3. Give my body more rest- There's a fine line between pushing yourself to the max... and pushing yourself off a cliff. Getting in the marathon rhythm, you get so pumped with gains in fitness and speed and so it's hard to back off and give yourself time off. More is not always... more (run-wise). Sometimes you need the break physically/mentally/emotionally. Coming off Big Cottonwood, I was instantly researching what race to do this December. But then I realized I was psycho and had already done 3 marathons in 7 months and I should probably let myself recover and get ready to do a great Boston instead of being burned out and pushing through another training cycle only to start training for Boston immediately after and potentially being EXTREMELY burned out. (See guys, I AM learning...)

Anyways- I'm CONSTANTLY looking for the next best training plan- so what training plan have you had the most success with? 

— K Chanel