Wednesday, October 16

Houston Marathon: Baseline

This is the second installment in a multi-part series documenting my path to the Houston Marathon.
Part I: Back to Work

Before we dive into the details of my Houston Marathon training, I think it's very important to establish a baseline for my current fitness: what have I been doing lately, and where do I currently stand. 

As we all know, everything is relative and context matters. In other words, Week 1 of my training will look much different than Week 1 of others' training. Obviously someone who hasn't run further than 2mi will have a different starting point (and thus training program) than an Olympic marathoner.

Customizing a marathon training plan based on the individual is key to success. Furthermore, defining success itself is critical. Qualifying for Boston entails a much different training strategy than someone looking to just cross the finish line. These variables, along with many others, dictate a lot of the training program. This is part of the reason I have a coach and typically don't advocate catch-all online programs. More on this later.

In last week’s post I mentioned that for the past few months I've been on a training and running hiatus of sorts. I knew this to be true, but I wanted to examine exactly how much of a hiatus I was on. I wanted to see details. Technology makes it incredibly simple to record and track any workout, so here you have it, my running sabbatical in numbers.


The above chart is called a run-rate analysis (no pun intended). Sounds fancy, but it's pretty straight forward. Each column represents cumulative running totals over two periods of time, separated by my Newport Marathon on 6/1. Each time frame is 110 days, so just over three months, which allows for a more apples-to-apples comparison. The first column (2/10 thru 5/31) is the period leading up to the marathon and the second column is life after Newport, formally known as my hiatus. You'd expect the numbers to be lower after a race, but not that much lower. 16 runs in over three months? -- that's barely one run per week. For additional context, I ran twice in the month of June after the marathon. This is the epitome of burnout, something I'll intentionally avoid while training for Houston.

So that I paint the most accurate picture and stay honest to my baseline, I must admit a footnote to all of this: While it may appear that I was a lazy couch potato for three months, I still remained active, just not as much in the form of running. Cycling, tennis and some weight training were more prevalent. Also, my diet has been cleaner than ever. I've been living a predominantly Paleo lifestyle and also did a Whole30 in August. All of this has kept me healthy and arguably helped preserve [some of] my fitness.

September 21, 2013: Tour des Fleurs 20K

A few weeks ago I did my third consecutive Tour des Fleurs Race. It is a 20K (~12.4mi) run here in Dallas that I absolutely love. Below are my results over the past three years. 

For this recent race my coach told me to run Boston-qualifying pace, or a 7:00/mi. At first, I laughed in his face, keeping in mind the amount of training (or lack thereof) I had done lately. "No, seriously Mike, what do you want me to run?" He was dead serious, and beneath the race plan was an intention to motivate. Up until this point I hadn't been training much for reasons I outlined last week. This was his [sick and demented] way of lighting that competitive fire again. He knew I'd run a BQ pace for a while but wouldn't be able to hold it. He also knew that my inability to hold the pace wouldn't sit well with my competitive nature. He was right on all accounts. 

Jess and I at the TDF 20K
About 6mi into the run my legs said "screw you, man -- we can't keep this pace." Couldn't really blame them; after all, I had neglected them over the last 110 days. The rest of the run was a combination of run-walk until I crossed the finish line. It was a humbling experience, for sure. I was encouraged by the fact I could keep a 7:00/mi pace for over half the race on minimal training. The back half was a rude awakening and served as a motivating force, just as Mike had expected. And above all that, I was also really happy to be out with a community running after a long time off.

September 28, 2013: Yasso 800s (#1)

I'm not going to go into the details of what Yasso 800s are, although I plan to write more about them in the coming weeks. If you'd like to read about them now, Runner's World has an article and video here. For the purpose of this post I'll try to keep it simple. A Yasso 800 is a type of workout that some argue can gauge your race-day aptitude. Put another way, if you can complete a set number of Yasso 800s at a set speed, you have a high probability of running a marathon proportional to the Yass 800. If this is confusing, hang tight, as I'll explain it all in more detail soon. For now, know this: I did Yasso 800s a couple weeks back as a baseline 'test' to see where I was in my training. I ran a pace during the workout that would correlate with running a sub-3hr marathon (since that's the goal for Houston). The goal is to be able to finish 10 Yasso 800s.  I finished three.

So there you have it. My baseline. It's the context in which I'm starting my training. This will be an important reference to refer back to in the future. I wouldn't call my current benchmark of fitness good, nor would I call it bad. As you'll come to learn with training, often times "it is what it is" is the ideal philosophy to adopt.

You'll notice the time stamp of this post is actually 2.5 weeks into my official Houston Marathon training. Over the next couple of weeks we'll get caught up on Weeks 1 & 2, at which point I'll begin updating you on a weekly cadence. Each update will include training details from the previous week, such as the types of workouts, the theme/focus, nutrition and other information.

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