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