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Tim Proctor of Columbus is sharing his training experiences as he prepares for the Sept. 28 Mill Race Marathon in Columbus.
As training for the marathon draws to a close, runners focus on two things; the last long run, and the taper.
Stressing your body is part of training. It’s what makes your body adapt, get stronger and develop endurance for the long event. But it takes time to fully recover.
Ten to 12 days is not unusual before all effects are lost after a strenuous training effort. This means that the last really hard workouts have to be timed appropriately to avoid starting the race in an already partly fatigued state. As I mentioned in my last update, this is further complicated by my plans to start racing Cyclocross at just the wrong time in the buildup to the Mill Race Marathon on Saturday.
MONDAY: Track workout, 2 miles warm-up, then runs of 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,200 meters, 800 meters, 400 meters and 200 meters at 6 minute per mile pace; 2 miles cool down
TUESDAY: Cyclocross training
WEDNESDAY: Easy 5-mile run
THURSDAY: Off, Quaff ON! Race Team pasta dinner
FRIDAY: 3-mile easy run in the morning
SATURDAY: 26.2 miles @ 6:40 pace
SUNDAY: Lie in, enjoy a family Sunday without running
My Cyclocross racing has gone very well, as I have won the first three races of the season in my category. However, it had a much bigger impact on my running than I had planned when I crashed my bike while training with the Bicycle Station team in Mill Race Park. Fortunately, I was with friends who did a great job of looking after me and reassuring me that my bike was OK every time I asked about it. They called Clare, who came to my rescue. Clare and I had a date night in the emergency room as I had a suspected concussion.
I simply wasn’t up to running the next day, when I had planned to do about 20 miles in total with 12 to 15 miles at race pace. Instead, I had a sore neck, grazes on my face and arms, and a headache for most of the day. Fortunately, my legs weren’t injured in any way, so I was able to run on Thursday as preparation for my final long run.
My long run was on Saturday, two weeks before the race. I ran with a friend who’s got similar ambitions in terms of race time. We ran 20 miles in total, with 15 miles at race pace, which for me is 6:40 a mile. It was such a relief to run in the cool weather and actually feel fast. The pace felt comfortable. We talked most of the way around, albeit a little breathlessly, and even increased the pace for the final two miles just to see what was left. It was a truly encouraging way to hit a training milestone and so much better than the last time I did a workout of similar intensity in the hot and humid conditions of a few weeks ago.
The next and final challenge in the training is what runners call the taper, when you progressively reduce training volume to allow your body time to recover and gain strength ahead of the race. This is a period where a lot of people have difficulties.
Despite the rather pleasant description of doing less, the difficulty is striking the right balance. To maintain good fitness and form for the race, you can’t just stop running. It’s important to maintain a good level of training. Equally, as recovery starts to take effect, you start to feel great every time you run, and it’s easy to run too fast or too far, putting additional stress on the body and delaying the critical recovery ahead of the big day.
My plan is to continue with my typical training routine, keeping a speed workout at the track and a race pace run but to reduce the amount of work in each session. So instead of 4 miles total at the track, I’ll do 3 miles and then 2½ miles in the week immediately ahead of the race. My race pace run will similarly cut to 8 miles and then 6 miles. Easy runs in between will mean my weekly mileage drops from around 50 to 35 and then only about 10 to 11 miles in the week preceding the race. I will finish the week off at 26.2 miles, the full marathon distance.
My other priority is diet. I want to maintain the 10-pound weight loss. As I do less running, it’s easy to overeat simply because of the amount I’ve needed to consume in the past few weeks to fuel the training effort. So I’m counting calories and making a diet plan for the final week to ensure that I have a very high proportion of carbohydrates — I’m aiming for 70 percent of my calories as carbs — and minimizing the amount of fat I consume. This means I’ll be consuming plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and chicken as well as rice, pasta, bread and some beer.
If the weather is good on Saturday, breaking three hours should be easily within my reach, and I would hope to go under 2:55. If it’s hot or humid, then I will just focus on staying under three hours. I know that this will make me nervous the night before the race. I know I’ve got to concentrate hard on managing my pace throughout the race, and I know that the last 6 miles are really going to hurt.
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