Monday, November 15, 2010

Marathon Training Strategery and a Huge Milestone!

Experts in the field of running (runologists?) often advise athletes to simulate anticipated race day conditions in their training in order to be better prepared for their target race. I have implemented this concept time and time again: For the Flying Pig Marathon, I trained on hilly terrain. For the Chicago Marathon, I trained in the blistering heat of summer, and incorporated a lot of goal-pace miles. Did it help? You bet it did. I managed to PR in both marathons.

The experts call this Specificity of Training. Since I am hardly an expert, I call it Marathon Training Strategery.

So why wouldn't I implement this tactic for my next marathon?

The conditions of my next marathon are very easy to predict, which makes Marathon Training Strategery incredibly easy to accomplish. There will be no hills, no wind, and it will be exactly 55°F. It sounds like the perfect marathon, doesn't it? Oh, yeah, and it consists of over 95 laps around an indoor track at an ice arena.

Wait. What?

That's right! Fellow FASTie / Stashie, Kristi, and I are officially registered for the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon. This unique event is held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the middle of January. It's a beautiful time of year in Milwaukee.


Sorry, I just couldn't keep a straight face for that one.

For those of you not well-acquainted with the upper midwest, let me assure you that mid-January is not generally a good time of year to run outdoors for any length of time, and it's definitely not a good time of year to run a marathon. But that doesn't mean that people in this area don't want to run marathons. We just have to be creative. So if we can't run a marathon outside, we must do the the next best thing and run it inside. There are basically two options for runners forced indoors - treadmills and indoor tracks.

Now personally, I would rather have my arms chewed off by hyenas than run more than about 8 miles on a treadmill. There's just nothing worse than running and running and running and going absolutely nowhere. I'm pretty sure a treadmill marathon could be used as a form of torture to get confessions out of people. ("Tell me where you hid the body or I'm gonna set the incline to 10%!") Also, the logistics of holding a treadmill marathon could be rather tricky. You'd need a lot of electrical power, a lot of precision-calibrated treadmills, and some sort of backup in case any treadmills break down. Add to that the extra safety concerns of treadmill running and the ease of cheating (just put your feet on the side rails to take a break!) and the disadvantages of a treadmill marathon become too great to overcome.

This leaves us with the indoor track. The indoor track is marginally more enjoyable than the treadmill. There is the obvious advantage of actually making forward progress. However no matter how you dice it, you're still just running around in circles. So why would anyone want to run a marathon on an indoor track? Because it's different. Because it's flat and temperature-controlled. Because it's like a 5-hour-long party with 120 of your closest friends but instead of dancing, everyone is running. Because it's fun!

Before you start questioning my sanity on that last point, I urge you to skim through some of the reviews and reports of people who have run this marathon in previous years. A race doesn't earn countless 5-star ratings by being boring or poorly-organized. This has Kristi and me very excited about all the fun we're going to have running around in circles.

Now, getting back to my Marathon Training Strategery...

When my training schedule called for a 14 miler this past weekend, and the weather was just way too cold and windy for my still-recovering-from-a-cold lungs, I decided to take my run to the track. I figured it would be boring because, well, 14 miles is 168 laps at my gym, and if that isn't boring, I don't know what is.

But it turned out Kristi wasn't a fan of the predicted cold and wind either, and she decided to join me on the track for 14 miles of strategery. We agreed to meet at the gym right when it opened at 7am Sunday morning. We were either really dedicated or really crazy. Maybe a little of both.

When I arrived at the gym, there were exactly 3 other cars in the parking lot. The locker room was silent except for the whirring of a tabletop fan. Most of the lights were turned off in the big gym / track. It was like some kind of fitness ghost town.

Kristi and I started our run in the "wrong" direction. That is, we ran clockwise even though everyone is supposed to go counterclockwise on Sundays. We were breaking the law. Thwarting authority. Living on the edge. Oh yeah. Our plan was to run the "wrong" way whenever there was nobody else on the track, so that we wouldn't get any muscle imbalances or unusual stresses from always running in the same direction. (Yes, this is a valid concern for indoor track running and a real cause of injuries!)

I kept track of our laps. At first, this was discouraging. After 12 laps, we had covered one measly mile. Which meant we still had 13 miles to go. But as we got further into our run, the large numbers kept us motivated.

"84 laps! We're halfway!"

"100 laps - woo hoo!"

"120 laps - that's 10 miles!"

Sometimes we chatted about this and that, and sometimes we were content with our own thoughts. Our pace stayed consistent and comfortable throughout the run, averaging 55-56 seconds per lap. We stopped every 4-5 miles to have a drink and get some fuel (and I would have a brief coughing fit). Before we knew it, we had only two miles to go. And then one. And then two laps to go. And then one. And then we were done.

If we can survive 168 laps on a dark and uninteresting track, then surely we can survive a mere 95 laps on around an interesting ice rink with lots of other people and cheering fans. Yes, Marathon Training Strategery has given us confidence.

Will we be doing all of our long runs on the indoor track? Not if we can help it! But at least we now know we can do it (without dying of boredom) if we need to. Now, I would love to show you my Garmin data from this run, but it's... well... boring. It's just a long list of laps and lap times. But I have taken the liberty of creating a lovely Excel chart for you so that you don't have to look at a long list of laps. Because I'm just nice like that.

Look how we finished strong! That's also part of Marathon Training Strategery!

Now it's time for a change of subject. My loyal readers, it is time for a celebration!

*throws confetti in a festive manner*

Why, you ask? Because I realized (a little too late) that my last blog post was my 100th! Hard to believe I've been rambling on for over 100 posts now. Even harder to believe that people keep reading them! To celebrate this momentous occasion, I have baked a cake to share with all of you, my awesome readers.

I bet you didn't know I had such mad cake-decorating skillz. Or that I apparently really like birds. And pointy rosebud things. And that I know Japanese (it roughly translates to "Long live the blog of awesomeness!" True story.). Believe me, it all came as a shock to me too!

So everyone gather round and I'll slice you off a hunk of bird or rosebud. Thank you all for reading. Without you, I would be basically talking to myself. I'm a marathoner - I don't need any more evidence in support of my insanity. So, again, thank you.

*throws more confetti in a festive manner*

Peace. Love. Train.

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