Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Adios comfort zone...

If you're looking to run your first full marathon, your first and most important goal should be just to FINISH!  You are about to put your body through something its never done before, so a wide array of things could go wrong along those 26.2 miles.  The goal in the back of your mind should always be, JUST FINISH!  Now that I have two full marathons under my belt, I feel like I understand the distance.  I understand what it takes to truly train for it, to hydrate for it, to fuel for it and to mentally prepare for it.  I also understand that I have SO much more to learn!  I don't know if you ever really "perfect" the art of the marathon. 

For my first marathon in NYC, I trained doing "just enough" to finish.  You know what, I finished...but I felt like death afterwards.  I wanted to cry from the pain and exhaustion (and the fact that we had to climb one billion subway stairs before making it back to the hotel).  I learned a lot from that experience.  After the race I swore I would never do it again and for awhile there I thought I would be a one-hit wonder.  It took me almost two years to gather up the balls to decide I wanted to go for it again.  I thought about it long and hard because I knew this time around what I was signing up for!  I told myself that if I was going to go through it again, I was going to try harder and train harder!  I wanted to get every single training run in, and if I missed a training run, the only acceptable excuse was an injury.  With the San Francisco course being incredibly hilly, I knew I would have to make the extra effort to drive out to an actual hill (not too many of those hanging around in the Dallas area) and run repeats on multiple occasions.  I also made the extra effort to really educate myself on the nutrition and hydration needed to make it through training and the race.  After months of training and combining all of those elements, my PR at San Francisco completely validated everything!  Yes, of course, the PR left me ecstatic.  More importantly though, after just having run 26.2 (26.58 to be exact) I felt fantastic, sure I was moving a little slow!  Unlike NYC, I didn't feel like complete death.  I didn't feel like my insides were about to come spewing out from all parts of my body.  I was so excited, full of energy, and could not stop smiling!  I actually got to ENJOY that finish and relish in the accomplishment with my husband and friends.

The way I felt afterwards spoke volumes about my extra efforts in training.  This isn't an attempt to toot my horn, but rather to show that the marathon shouldn't feel like death.  Now that I have a better handle on all of the components for good training, I decided it's time to focus on the miles themselves.  I've used a traditional training plan for my last two marathons.  Plans that focus on the infamous 20-miler at the peak of training.  These plans have served me well (I finished, remember?), but it's time to step outside of my comfort zone.  It's time to really focus on being strategic with training and also time to shake things up a bit.  That's why I have decided to go with The Hansons Marathon Method Beginner Program 

The training plan is based around the theory of cumulative fatigue which basically means, you train your body to run on tired legs.  Why?  You know what happens to your legs after mile 16 of a marathon?  They get tired.  Really really tired.  Most notable about the plan is that your longest run at any given point is 16 miles.  They completely toss the notion of the 20-miler out the window!  To be fair though, I think the 20 mile run is important for your first time around.  It's more of a mental test than anything else.  By the time you get around to that 20 mile run in training, you're completely dreading it, so just "doing it" is the real victory.  One of the creators of the plan, Kevin Hanson, explains it best, "It also means that when a Hanson's-trained runner sets off on a 16-miler, there’s already three workouts’ worth of fatigue in their legs. So it’s not like running the first 16 miles of a marathon, it’s more like the last."  My running doc and I have had a few conversations about this theory and at first I thought he was crazy.  How in the world could that ever really work?  After reading the Hansons book it makes complete sense.  Anything over 15-16 miles and our bodies kind of start to rebel.  By conditioning your legs to continue to crank out the miles even when they are pooped,  in theory those last ten miles come race day should be easy right?  I guess only time will tell.  This plan also incorporates specific Speed, Tempo, and Strength workouts that are based strictly around your goal pace.  Honestly, I've never really done any of that intentionally.  This plan is really calculated and goal focused which I love.  In addition to hill workouts, I'll also be spending some time at the track!

The plan itself seems daunting at first glance.  Running this many days per week is new to me.  Having a peak week of 57 miles is REALLY new to me!  "If you do what you always did, you will get what you've always got."  Could not be more applicable to running!  So for the Metro PCS Dallas Marathon coming up on December 8th, I'm saying adios to my comfort zone and hello to a new adventure....