I have gotten quite a few questions lately about my training... about what plan I am using, what I do for speedwork, etc. so I am going to write a little about it. Sorry if it is boring, and I hope it is helpful to some. :)
The NYC Marathon will be my sixth marathon ever and my sixth in under a year. I ran my first marathon on Dec. 5, 2010 (the Las Vegas Rock N Roll Marathon). Here is my marathon race history:
12/5/10 - Vegas RnR Marathon - 4:15:50
1/9/11 - Disney World Marathon - 4:20:18
4/16/11 - Salt Lake City Marathon - 3:57:29
9/3/11 - Pocatello Marathon - 3:32:36
9/17/11 - Top of Utah Marathon -3:28:15
I have been very lucky to find that my body recovers quickly and adapts well to training. And most importantly, I love it. :) I love the marathon distance. Love it!
My training has changed quite a bit in the last year. For my very first marathon, I used the Hal Higdon Novice 2 training plan. There was one 20 miler, and the longest mileage week was about 35 miles. There was not any speed work and I didn't pay attention to my pace. I just got the miles done (although I did notice I was getting faster as the training progressed). I finished Vegas in what I think was a respectable time for a first marathon. I never hit the wall and was injury free before and after.
Since my second marathon ended up being just a month later there wasn't any real training for it. I took a week or two to recover from Vegas, did another typical week with a long run and then tapered for Disney. Again, I ran well and felt good the entire time, and was free from injuries.
For the Salt Lake Marathon I really wanted to get under four hours, and decided to start adding in some speed work to my training. This time I used the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 Marathon training plan, and I added in some speedwork. I used the mileage on the HH plan, but made Tuesdays "speedwork" day, and then did a tempo or pace run on Thursdays. I started by doing the speework on the treadmill (which felt safer than the track or the roads somehow, and the track was buried in snow anyway).
At first the speedwork was really hard (and the paces I was running my speed intervals at are paces I run regular runs at now). Paying attention to my paces and pushing my paces was new. But I liked it, and I loved the awesome feeling I had at the end of a tough speed workout. AND, even better... I noticed that the more I did it, the faster I got. When the snow melted I took it to the track, and I LOVE doing speedwork on the track. Love it. And it feels much easier to me than the treadmill.
I do my tempo and marathon pace runs on the road now too. Those are tougher than on the treadmill or track because you have hills (at least where I live!) but races often have hills too so I figure it is good for me.
Training for SLC I ran three 20 milers in my training and my longest mileage week was 58 miles, with most weeks about 40-50 miles. This was the first marathon I felt like I "raced" and I was very proud and excited to get a time under four hours. I ran strong and was still free from any major injuries.
For my fall marathons, the awesome (and super fast!) Dorothy over at Mile Posts sent me a training plan to try. This one had three 20 milers again, with the highest mileage week being at about 60 miles and most weeks being at around 55 miles. I PRed in both of my fall marathons and qualified for Boston. I did give myself a puffy and sore achilles that set me back a week or two after switching around my training because of a trip, but I learned an important lesson (never do back to back speedwork days). I rested and took care of the achilles and it was 100% in time for my races.
And right now I am following the Bart Yasso "hardcore" marathon training plan (found in his My Life on the Run book). I love the Yasso training plan and it is my favorite so far. He offers lots of great tips and advice, as well as a 10-day or 7-day training schedule to pick from (I am using the 7-day schedule). My longest training week has been 66 miles and I have had a bunch of weeks over 60 miles (LOVE this mileage). This plan has you run two 20 milers and two long runs over 20 miles, which was new for me (and beneficial I think).
I have done a lot of reading on training and training plans. including "Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon - How to Be Your Own Best Coach" (which I am going to reread). The two things that I really took away from it though were NOT to be afraid to tweak/change up any training plan to make it work best for you, and the benefits of race specific training and confidence building workouts.
A typical training week looks like this for me right now.
Monday - easy recovery run, 6 miles
Tuesday - speedwork, 10 miles total (examples - mile repeats, or 10x800m)
Wednesday - easy run, 8 miles
Thursday - 10 miles with 8 miles at marathon pace, or 5-6 miles at tempo pace
Friday - rest day or super easy 6 miles
Saturday - 8 miles
Sunday - 16-23 mile long run with four miles at marathon pace
I have lost my running buddy and Josh has been having some ITB pain, so almost all of my runs are done by myself. I run outside for almost all of them, but relent to the treadmill when the roads are very icy.
I use the McMillan Running Calculator to determine what my interval, tempo, pace run and other training paces should be. I am a big believer that when you look at your speedwork goals they should scare you a little bit. Beyond the physical benefits I have gotten from speedwork, I believe that I have gotten mental strength as well. Conquering a tough speed workout, and hitting your paces even though you are tired and hurting towards the end, builds confidence and teaches you how to keep going when the going gets tough (like, say, mile 21 of a marathon) :)
On my "easy" days I usually don't wear my Garmin, time myself, or think about pace at all. I just run by feel.
This morning I did a marathon pace run. These 10 milers are one of my hardest training runs, but also are the biggest confidence boosters for me. I do a one mile warm up, eight miles at marathon goal pace and then a one mile cool down. In my plan for the NYC marathon, my slowest mile is an 8:10 (first mile) and my fastest is a 7:16, with a 7:31 average pace.
This morning I ran 8:58 (warm up) then 7:25, 7:24, 7:28, 7:12, 7:18, 7:29, 7:21, 7:22, 9:10 (cool down).
On top of my running schedule I do strength training twice a week. I don't use weights or machines, I just do a half hour routine of exercises like lunges, squats, pushups, V-sits, planks, etc. I work everything from glutes to legs to shoulders to arms to core. I think this has really helped me get strong over all and avoid injury. Besides that, I don't cross train (unless you count laundry or vacuuming).
I also do a short warm up before every run, and stretch and foam roll after every run (and foam roll again at night if I have any sore spots or am extra stiff after a tough run). I ice sore spots right away and try to stay in tune with my body. Any run over 13 miles ends with an ice bath.
This is what has worked for me so far. I am sort of just winging it as I go. I read a lot and when I find that something works I go with it. I try to keep pushing myself, and am excited to see how far I can progress. I enjoy it all immensely. :)
If you have questions or advice for me, please leave a comment!