I worked with a coach when I was training for my Boston Qualifier marathon. I’m a bit of a stubborn gal and I had it in my head I needed to run at least 140km per week as my top mileage weeks with the remaining weeks anywhere from 100 to 126 (I’d been reading a lot and this made sense to me). So each week I told my coach what I wanted my mileage and workouts to be, he’d give offer a few suggestions and possible alterations, and I’d put it into action.
Obviously, it worked. I crossed the finish line in 3:33:24 and qualified.
Then he said something that has always stuck with me. He told me maybe I’d missed my “sweet spot”. I’d jumped from an average of 25-50 km per week all the way up to 100-140 km per week. Maybe I could still perform at the same level on slightly less mileage.
Yet when it came time to train for my next round my stubborn nature took over and prescribed me 160km week. I then ran my 1:36:25 half marathon.
High mileage still working. But I was tired.
It came time to train for this past spring’s marathon. I considered the words of the coach I’d worked with. And so I figured I’d try it out – by default really. I averaged 75 to 90 km per week in training.
Considering the years and years I could never break 4 hours in the marathon, my 3:45:59 wasn’t awful. But it wasn’t the sub-3:30 I’d been gunning for either.
Which brings us to today. Training for my fall marathon. Running 80-120 km per week (but let’s be honest – I hit that 120 once, and that was actually the week I’d wanted to hit 140).
I ran a half marathon yesterday, in prep for my marathon – the Skagit Flats Half Marathon. Even though I knew a PB was almost certainly not a possibility, of course I wanted one so that’s the pace I went out for. Well, maybe a little faster than that. And km two may have been a lot faster. Bah.
Now, I had a blast out there. I ran about 5 miles with the 3:15 marathon pace group – they were fun. It was an out and back route, and of course I was turning around much sooner than they were, so we parted ways and I ran the second half completely on my own. Small race, few runners. I’m used to being surrounded by other runners.
The course was flat – like, pancake flat. I’ve never run a flatter race. It brought us out along quiet farm roads. The smell of strawberries at one point was intoxicating. When I ran by the strawberry fields on the way back I seriously considering just running off the road and into the strawberries. I wanted to eat them all.
I loved flying onto the track at the high school and dashing for the finish line. Hubby was there, cheering me in, laughing at me. Why laughing? I guess my tank top had managed to get so wet that it had stretched itself down far enough to grab the bottom of my shorts and pull them up. Anyway – it looked like I had forgotten to put shorts on. I knew something felt odd – but just didn’t have any energy to expend on checking my outfit those last few kilometres!
All in all, I ran my second fastest half-marathon of all time.
Yet I was a good 4 minutes off my PB (I crossed in 1:40:13).
I could attempt to lay blame to the fact the last 2 kilometres were run on the sidewalk. You can see there was a bit of jumping around and dodging obstacles below. I especially like the second pic – telling me to run straight into the telephone poll. I can do that on my own without an arrow. Ha.
Or I could try to blame the weather. The minute I turned around at the half way point I realized I’d be running into the wind and that alarmed me. However, that would mean discounting the perfectly cool, slightly foggy and ideal running conditions I knew I was running in.
So, no. No excuses. I’ve got nearly 2 years of running a lot under my belt now (compared to the running 2-3 times per week I did for the first 9 years I ran). And I get it now. I got my reality check. I need my high mileage if I’m to ever imagine I’ll PB again. And by high mileage, I do mean 140+ kilometres per week.
It’s a bit of a wake up call. I know that 140-160 km per week takes a lot. And other than my ridiculously competitive nature – I really enjoy just running around 85km week and having fun at races. It fits in my life, without taking over. But then there’s that ridiculously competitive nature of mine, calling, beckoning me to 140+ km per week.
I knew as I entered the home stretch yesterday that my time was not even going to be a sub 1:40:00, but I had a huge smile on my face anyway. Partially because of my new rule (to never look like I’m dying) and partially because I came to terms with everything while I was out there.
Hubby did get a PB, by a minute. Super proud of him. He’s done more training than ever before in his life and averaging around 100km per week. He says he ran really hard and it felt really hard and he’ll never do better than he did today.
I beg to differ. Mileage baby, it’s all about the mileage. *
34 days to race day.
*disclaimer: this blog is my own personal story of my running experiences and not meant to be taken as any type of coaching advice! every runner is different and while some thrive on high mileage, others do indeed find their “sweet spot” on less – it’s about experimenting to find the volume and intensity of training works best for you as an individual.