Sunday, March 30, 2014

Marathon Training, at Sixty Plus

I
I ran for five hours yesterday, logging a slow, steady 36 kilometres. And at some point during those five hours, I decided that perhaps it was time to chat a bit, here, about my Marathon Training Plan and to finally post the photos I took months ago of me in my running gear.

If you've been reading here for very long, you'll have come across references to my running, and you might even know that I've registered to run the Vancouver BMO Marathon in May. You may even have been reading here long enough to know that last year, I also registered to run BMO but decided against doing so for fear of injury. Over the past year, I've adjusted my training regime and I'm feeling reasonably confident that I will at least make it to the starting line on May 4th.

What am I doing differently this year? Perhaps most importantly, I'm diligent about having two good stretch-strength workouts a week. Through the fall, I did one Pilates and one yoga quite consistently. Recently, I've switched over to two weekly yoga classes and I'm enjoying the change, although I expect I'll get back to Pilates at some point. There have been the occasional weeks when one class is all I can manage -- in that case, I make sure to do extra stretching at home.

With the two cross-training classes firmly in place, I also dialled back the weekly running schedule from four days to three. I did this intuitively -- out of respect to what my body was feeling and to the reality of my schedule. I've since done a bit of research into training plans for older runners, and I see that many recommend more recovery days between runs. Currently, I run 9 kilometres two days a week, generally Mondays/Wednesdays, and I do a Long Slow Distance run on Saturday.

Another important component of Marathon Training in most of the plans I've studied is Speed work. I didn't worry too much about this through the fall. I wanted to build a base at which I was comfortable running 25 to 30 kilometres without fear of injury. Over the last 8 or 10 weeks, though, I've played around with adding speed intervals into my 9-kilometre run one day of the week. Fartleks, to use the Swedish term meaning "speed play," seem to suit me best. I do a good long warm-up on my first loop (4.5km) of the island, waiting until I'm halfway round before trying out a sprint or two. From then on, I sprint at will, the way we all did as children. I'll race myself to the next telephone pole, then egg myself on to the next. After going all out for 50 or 100 metres, I'll ease back to a regular pace and wait 'til my heartbeat's back where it should be. Rinse. Later. Repeat. You get the idea. It's all fun, if exhausting.

Then the Hill Training. For that, I use my other 9-kilometre day. Lately, I've been replacing a few of those kilometres with repetitions of the stairs up the hillside in our little woodland park. I started with 3 reps up and down the 75 stairs. The next week I did those 3 reps, then ran a half-kilometre loop before doing another 3 reps. Each following week, I added 2 reps, so that now I'm doing 750 stairs in a 6.5-kilometre run.

As for the building of distance, the little bit of research I did on Older Runners suggested that I might want to peak at a greater distance than is conventionally recommended. While a younger runner might peak at 32 kilometres (that seems pretty standard across many training schedules), I'm not sure I want to add 10 extra kilometres on race day. So yesterday, I chose to run 36 kilometres, having already done 32 kilometres twice over the last month. I'm also very careful to drop back in distance the week following an increased distance run. When I first hit 32 kilometres, for example, I followed up with a 20-kilometre run the next Saturday, partly, yes, because I was fighting a cold. When I ran 32k the second time, two weeks ago, I followed up with last week's 28.7.  Right now, I'm deliberating between doing a gradual taper of decreased distances from now until raceday OR dropping back next week, doing 36 or 32 kilometres the following Saturday, and then tapering. We'll see -- I like to balance intuition with research, always, always listening to my own body.

If you've read this far, you might be curious about my goals for the race. I've run 8 Half Marathons in the past decade, bringing my time from an initial 2:12, if I remember correctly, down to right around 2 hours (I've pushed under that once, done 4 or 5 races within two or three minutes of it). My training regime is more consistent, more rigorous, this time 'round, but as I've been told often that, a Marathon is much more than double a Half.  And I'm older. So my goal is to finish. I'm thinking that if I do, I have a good chance of finishing somewhere between 4:30 and 4:45. If it takes me 5 hours, even 5:30, I'm still raising a glass of bubbly to myself. . . .


If the runners among you -- or any other fitness enthusiasts, or just curious readers -- are interested, I could follow up with a post on my Nutrition and Sleep adjustments as well as physio, stretching, etc. It also occurs to me, on rereading, that Motivation might make an interesting post as well. For now, I'll leave you with this limited glimpse into one Older Runner's Marathon Training schedule. And as always, I welcome your comments and/or questions.



27 comments:

  1. When I first met Monsieur L-B, we were in our 30's and he had run 13 marathons in 5 years. 20 years later, he led 1/2 Marathon groups for Running Room. It seems that you are doing All the Right Stuff. I am going to look for drop-in yoga or pilates in Paris and I travel with bands (pilates not musical) but I've done that too. Good luck with your training.

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    1. Wow! Your Monsieur's done a lot of running! We've planned to get to yoga classes in Paris, but never followed through, not nearly as bilingual as you are, so a bit intimidated. I do find, when we're there, that walking so much demands daily stretching. . . I'll be curious to see if you settle into a yoga class or two

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  2. I'm raising a glass to you right now and you haven't even started that freakin' race! Unbelievably impressive for anyone, at any age. But specifically so given that you are "in your sixties" with an incredibly busy life. The thought of running for the bus is so unpleasant to me, I know I will never try this kind of challenge, which makes it all the more impressive seeming to me!

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    1. We all have our fitness preferences -- your yoga practice is very impressive to me and I hope someday to develop my own a bit. It all takes so much time, doesn't it?! But brings so much well-being and satisfaction. . .

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  3. Hi Mater, this is fascinating - I've sent it on to my sister-in-law. She's not yet 60 but has been running for a few years now, so I'm pretty sure she'll find it interesting. I would definitely enjoy a follow-up post too - thank you for this.

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    1. Thanks for sending this along, Patricia. And thanks also for your interest -- I may just try to put together a follow-up.

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  4. Why wait? Raise a glass to yourself now. This is so impressive. I can't even imagine. I like the way you encourage yourself - to the next telephone pole, the next landmark, the next.... - it's something I do, too, but walking quickly, not running.
    I'd enjoy a follow-up post, too.

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    1. Well, if you insist, I guess I could find a glass. . . ;-)

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  5. You're definitely taking a sensible, measured approach - I have no doubt whatsoever that you're going to finish that marathon (which in my family we refer to as 'winning'). I look forward to raising a glass to you! I'd love to read about your nutrition and sleep stuff too. Spouse is currently training for a marathon in which he wants to get a time that will qualify him for Boston ... I've recently resumed running but no races in mind (yet); I'm just focusing on running 40 mins, most days. And I have surprised myself by looking forward to it - it's the first thing I do once everyone else is out the door in the morning.

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    1. Thanks so much for the encouragement -- and I like your family's definition of winning! Isn't it funny how we do come to look forward to our runs? There was a time I could never have imagined that . . .

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  6. I am amazed at the level of fitness you have attained. Congratulations and I think a glass of bubbly is certainly in order. I will look forward to your next post.

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    1. Hope it doesn't sound immodest, Lesley, but I have to admit that I amaze myself. I never, ever thought of myself as athletic, and even now I protest when someone applies the term to me. Yet it does seem I may very likely run a marathon. And drink a glass of bubbly afterward! ;-)

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  7. Wow, I am seriously impressed! And inspired. I haven't been able to run in years...serious pronating for too long created wonky knees. But reading this makes me feel I really need to ramp up my fitness routine.
    Love to hear a follow up on nutrition and stretching in particular.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. What is your main fitness component right now? I know you do many outdoor activities, so I'm guessing you do something to maintain strength and stamina in between. Or you do those activities often enough that they work as maintenance. . .

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  8. Impressed and inspired. That sounds like a great schedule and I am certain you will get over the line in the times you want. Fantastic achievement. The reason I am running now is that I want to be able to keep moving for as long as possible. You make me believe that at any age anything is possible if you want to do it. I would love more posts on this, sleep and nutrition especially. I am really interested in the impact. I am really tired at the moment and always hungry. You should definitely have a glass of bubbly now to celebrate your achievements. Isn't it amazing what our bodies can do? You look fab in your running gear.

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    1. Thanks! I'm similarly impressed by you, going from zero to marathon training in not even a year, right? I don't believe running is for everyone, and I don't know that anything is possible for everyone, but I do know that if you want to move as long as possible, then you need to move as long as possible -- dancing, swimming, walking, running, yoga, dancing from the waist up in a chair, sit-skiing if you're a bold quadriplegic like an ex-student of mine. Whatever works! And yes, let's be amazed at what our bodies can do. . .

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  9. You will certainly be ready on Marathon day! I've been following your training with interest. Agree, three days a week is optimal at this stage of our lives. You've been wise not to focus too much on speed. I was surprised at how far ahead of race day you were doing the 30 plus runs. Are you following a specific training program? If you did the half in 2 hours, a 4:30 marathon should be well within your reach. I can only offer the well known tip- in the marathon, run by feel, not a specific pace. I still haven't learned that lesson! Your body will tell you what pace to do.
    I wrote a post a while back about motivation and habit. Habit and the effect on self-image so important. A virtuous circle. I think if you wrote something about this, it would be very helpful, especially for your non-running readers and those who have difficulty maintaining a fitness regime. You are such an inspiration. Best wishes for the marathon!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Angela. I've made up the training program as I've gone along, making it so much longer than the 18-week ones I've seen out there that seem to abrupt for me. I've been comfortably running 25kilometres at a go on and off for a year now, with much of the additional 10 coming on in the last several months. I don't have enough experience with pace to think I'll have much control on race day. I suspect/hope that I'll stay conservative. We'll see. I think I will try to write something about habit, commitment, and motivation, and I'm going to look up your post to see what I might build on. Again, thanks so much for the advice and encouragement.

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  10. And you look great in your running gear too!

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  11. I love reading your running posts, even though I will never be a runner and I have known this for a long long time. You seem to be taking a reasonable and measured approach and I am confident that you will finish whenever whatever you decide to start. Best wishes for the continued training, and the marathon as well.

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  12. i'm so inspired by you! and this comes at a wonderful time as i'm just thinking of getting back into running again. i trained for a half-marathon years ago and have run a few 10ks - many years ago - but always manage to sabotage myself on my way to my goals. now that i've kept weight off, and have been doing pure barre consistently for almost 2 years, i feel like i'm over that and would love to embark on another "big" accomplishment. i did always love running also...

    i look forward to reading more! love your running style too :)

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    1. This is the way I got back into distance running, step by step. I didn't write here about separating weight loss from running, but that was a separate goal last year. I think it's important to have some of those other elements in place first rather than flinging into running too much, as some do, inevitably sabotaging themselves (as I've done in the past as well -- too much running, not enough stretching, etc.)
      There is something about being able to run, if you can get to that, that's surprisingly satisfying, isn't there? About any kind of fitness, really -- our bodies like movement!

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  13. I love to run, as you may know, but a chronic achilles injury (with the unfortunate [even sexist?] name "pump bump") is keeping me to two-mile jaunts every second day or so. Boo. There's nothing like the feeling after a long run and I am enjoying living through you vicariously.

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    1. I do know you love to run and I'm sorry about the achilles problem (never heard that horrid term). I did a long physio program a few years ago for mine and am pretty attuned to what's going on with it, paying it attention with ice and with stretching -- not to mention crossing my fingers. . . .Glad you're at least managing 2Miles -- not sure how you find time even for that, given all the juggling you do!

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  14. another suggestion: have you run the course yet? I don't mean all at once. This helped me with the visualization and mental prep- A few weeks before marathon day my husband dropped me at the QE park start and I ran the course all the way to the beginning of Stanley park- about 30K. Print out the map and bring with you. Another time, I ran the rest of the course around Stanley park and to the Coal Harbour finish. This really helps mental preparation. I wish I'd done it before Victoria. Maybe you've already done this but I thought I'd mention it. You know about the Camoson hill right?

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    1. A great suggestion. . . in fact, I have done this, and I think it was one of the smartest parts of my training. The Seawall is a run I do regularly, and I also run regularly out to Spanish Banks from our West End apartment. Then three weeks ago, I met my sister at Oakridge Skytrain Station (so I haven't been right at the QE start, but pretty close) and we ran the route from there to the West End side of the Burrard Street Bridge. Haven't done the bit up to Coal Harbour, but by then, I'll be within 2 kilometres. The Camosun hill didn't seem too bad -- if anything, it was the long downhill portion that challenged. But what a view!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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