The genesis of my marathon-a-month challenge for 2017 is actually the training for my first 100 mile race, The Yeti 100, in September. A consistent training recommendation I hear from veteran 100 mile runners is “time on your feet”. I’m not a particularly high mileage per week runner and don’t plan to change that much. I’ve found in the past that 3-4 days of running/week with back-to-back weekend long runs when needed, and lots of cross training, has prepared me best for distance events while preventing injury or burnout. The marathon-a-month challenge seems like a good way to keep miles on my feet without going too much beyond marathon training distance on my own. So far for 2017 I’ve done:
- January: Cloudland Canyon 50 (turned 35 due to weather)
- February: Thrill in the Hills trail marathon
- March: 5:15 pacer for the Publix Georgia Marathon
I can’t find any April races that fit my hectic work/school schedule but I did cover the distance in a much more important way; I attended the Yeti 100 training run. The training run covered the entire 33-mile Virginia Creeper Trail segment we will run 3 times on race day. The race director led a group of about 40 runners from the start line at White Top, VA to the turnaround at mile 33 in Abingdon, VA. It was a great way to get a lay of the trail, the surrounding area and crew access points (the trail is completely accessible at all points), tips and tricks from the director and previous participants, and start adjusting my training plans. Full disclosure: I’ve been working non-stop in school with little sleep and spent the first half of this week at a conference in Florida. I’m constantly tired, my nutrition is whack, and my training has been non-existent since Publix Marathon on March 19. I ran into some friends taking pics at mile 26 and decided to hang with them rather than drag myself the last 7ish miles to Abingdon. I was feeling depleted and nauseous, and had already decided to come for the 2nd training in June so I wasn’t too concerned or even sad about this. It was an amazing day, and amazing run with great people. Zero complaints or worries. I completed 27 miles (with the walk back to the car) so I accomplished my April marathon goal. Check.
Take home points:
- Wear road shoes next training visit and on race day. The trail is an old rail line that has been converted to gravel path. It was completely non-technical but it’s also nearly as hard as road so my hips, knees, and back were feeling much like they do in a road marathon. My trail shoes with a rock plate were not helping. Cushy road shoes it is; most other participants agree this is the way to go.
- Wear short gaiters. Many trail runners wear these to keep mud and rocks out of their shoes. I usually only wear them in muddy conditions, but the small gravel on this trail was easily kicked up and depositing around my ankles.
- Strength training – it turns out my friend and I already plan to add strength training after our kickboxing sessions twice a week at X3 Sports, starting on Monday. This is well timed. Since the trail starts down hill for 18 miles, then levels to flat and only slightly uphill to the turnaround, it’s a deceptively difficult course. I used intervals in order to force myself to go easy on the long downhill. Race wisdom shows that blasting down the first segment ends in defeat when you blow your legs up early. The pounding on a hard surface and the relatively unchanging grade makes for a brutal time on your quads, hips, calves, etc. I’m convinced that some good lower leg strength work is needed so that my legs feel better for longer on race day. We’re 6 months out from race day so I’m really glad I know this now. Plan in place.
- My new Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Mini headphones fit much better than my original full size pair, and are very comfortable for extended periods of time, even while wearing a visor and sunglasses. The entire Hamilton soundtrack got me 15 miles. I have a feeling this will be my playlist of the last 15 miles on race day. Side note: these headphones use bone conduction technology. They sit on the outside of your ears so you can jam out while running but still hear your running partners and surroundings. Check them out!
I’ve decided to attend the next training run on June 17, so this gives me time to implement the above changes and see how it affects the next run. I came. I saw. I created a plan. Relentless Forward Progress.
*Thanks to Race Director Jason Green for the awesome cover photo!