2016 Focus: End Of Year Review

At the beginning of 2016 I wrote about my focus for the year. I’ve posted a few updates throughout the year but want to take some time now to do a final review.

2016 Goal: Write 50 Blog Posts

2016-goal-writing

Self Grade: 10/10

I was able to, thanks to a heroic effort in December, meet my goal of writing 50 blog posts.

Here is a chart I found interesting. Blog posts per week vs miles run per week. While I got most of my running in during the first half of the year, I did the bulk of my blog posting towards the end.

Though I hit the target number, this isn’t an ideal way to do it. Part of my reason for setting goals like this is to set a habit that I view as positive. I believed that if I focused on writing posts for a year, I would get used to the process and continue doing it for years. The best way to do that is likely to have some regularity to it, rather than a huge spike at the end to hit the total number. Because of that rush to the finish, I am somewhat burned out.

To avoid that in the future, what I might do is explore setting up cutoff points so the target is evenly dispersed and I can not make up for past misses. If I had broken last year’s goal up to one post per week – I would have hit 29 of 52. Perhaps I would give it some flexibility though by breaking it up by month of quarter – that way I would have some room to absorb busy periods or particularly difficult to write posts.

Finally, incase you missed any (or don’t believe I wrote 50) – here they all are:

  1. 2016 Focus: Goal, Theme, Challenge & Exemplar
  2. Experiment: Family Feedback
  3. Health: Finding My Limits
  4. Setting Goals – How I decided on 2:37 for My Marathon Target
  5. Increasing Our Standard of Living
  6. Benjamin Franklin Types of Things
  7. Is Clinton Support A Gender Issue?
  8. How Are You Liking Seattle?
  9. COR 40L Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack
  10. The Bike Counter
  11. In America Today
  12. Thoughts Before My Marathon Debut
  13. Race Report: Jack & Jill Marathon
  14. Two Steps
  15. 2016 Focus: Mid Year Update
  16. Product Management & Collective Action Problems
  17. Passing My Athletic Peak
  18. Measuring Maturity Development
  19. Roots and Fruit
  20. Thinking Of Our Possessions Less
  21. Response: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
  22. Achieving Goals
  23. How We Use Time: Consuming, Processing & Producing
  24. Parenting Is An Exercise In Discovering Gratitude
  25. How We Use Time: Investing, Enjoying and Giving
  26. Should We Work?
  27. Run a Sub 2:37 Marathon – Training Plan
  28. The Chief Bottle Washer
  29. Running a “Marathon”
  30. Planning A Goal
  31. S.T.O.K.E.D. – Six Minimalism Tips
  32. To The New York City Marathon
  33. What Makes A Great Rivalry?
  34. How Could This Happen?
  35. Water
  36. How The Kroleski Family Does Toys – Our Rotation Process
  37. Getting Rid of A Collection
  38. Vaccines
  39. Measuring My Health
  40. Adding Efficiency Through Business, Government and People
  41. Team Loyalty In Sports
  42. Problems and Profits
  43. Yearly Focus – v1.4 Release Notes
  44. Chapters
  45. Today We Worship Our God(s)
  46. Steps I’m Taking To Get Sick Less
  47. Three Day Per Week Marathon Training Plan
  48. Race Report: New York City Marathon 2016
  49. The Day I Didn’t Run
  50. 2016 Focus: End of Year Review

2016 Theme: Health

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/pz1hGy

Self Grade: 6/10

I wrote three blog posts about health this year – one about why it was important to me, one about how I quantified it and one about steps I was taking to improve an aspect of it. All of those are the culmination of a good bit of thinking on the topic.

I would have scored myself higher had I read more on the topic from external authors. I was really synthesizing more than pulling in new information and I think I should be doing more than that for my yearly theme.

 2016 Challenge: Run a Sub 2:37 Marathon

2016-challenge-marathon

Self Grade: Failure OR 9/10

My fastest marathon this year was 2:42:23, which was ~5.5 minutes short of my goal. So using a binary scale I would have to mark this a failure.

I’m ecstatic with the results of this year though. The reason I do these yearly focus challenges is to get myself to focus on something. I believe that by doing less, I can do those things better and achieve results that are exponentially greater than the sum of what I could achieve by splitting my focus.

In terms of setting focus, this was a monumental success.

At the beginning of the year I had never raced a marathon and it had been close to a decade since I was in good running shape – since I would have called myself a runner. I wasn’t completely sure I could get into this kind of shape again – that I could train like this – that I could avoid injury.

I am proud to call myself a runner again. I succeeded in focusing on it this year. I ran three marathons total, Jack & Jill, Big Sur & New York City – finishing in 1st place, 37th place (top 1.5%) and in the top 4% respectively. I ran a 4th of July 10k in my wife’s home town and won that as well. I also locked up KOMs (the fastest time) on a couple of Strava segments in my area. In total I ran 1,627 miles – straight through the midsoles of five pairs of shoes.

Here is a picture of all the shoes I wore through the year and the medals I got. Funny that the medal for winning Jack & Jill is smaller than the participant medal. The 4th of July race didn’t have a participant medal, only one for winning my age group.

I also had one of my most exciting running incidents when during a late night run I was attacked by an owl. I was actually on the local news as: ‘Greg Kroleski Attacked by Owl While Jogging’. Success.

All of this and I would still call my time commitment ‘manageable’. I ran or cross trained on 183 days total, exactly 50% of 365. Across those days I spent a total of 214 hours running. When you add in time for getting dressed, showering, stretching, etc. I would say my average amount of time invested per day was ~1 hour. That seems like the high end of the reasonable range for a yearly challenge.

All in all, this was a model year for me in terms of setting focus without overdoing it. I am going to be doing some thinking about how I can repeat this in future years.

2016 Exemplar: Benjamin Franklin

2016-exemplar-benjamin-franklin

Self Grade: 4/10

The original intent of the exemplar category was to learn more about what made that person tick and then implement a few of their practices. My focus was really split across the items this year and so this was the item that got the least attention.

I am about 100 pages away from finishing the lengthy Walter Isaacson biography and feel that I have a pretty good sense for who Ben was. The thing I did not get to do much of was implement his practices. If I had more time, that is where I would have spent it.

Race Report: New York City Marathon 2016

On November 6, 2016 I ran the New York City Marathon. I finished in a time of 3:11:37, about a half hour slower than my best marathon. Here is the race report.

I debated writing this – I wasn’t sure it passed my litmus test of being a race – or of deserving a report. In my mind the goal of writing a race report is to document the ins and outs of an all out effort in order to learn from it and also to serve as way to remember a momentous event. I ultimately decided to write this because I think I have something to learn from it, and it was quite memorable.

Successes

What am I proud of from race day?

  • Finished
  • Was leading my heat for the first mile
  • Solid effort through the first 22 miles
  • Finished before 96% of runners
  • Was able to run well off of minimal training

Failures

What areas could I improve for future races?

  • Lost to Chris
  • Did not take it easy enough the days leading up to the race
  • Did not get to the starting area early enough and missed my wave
  • Did not have a good read on my fitness
  • Went out way too fast
  • Ultimately did not have a sound strategy or unified goals
  • Didn’t stick to my fueling strategy

Thankfuls

What that was out of my control am I thankful for?

  • The random number generator that accepted me to the race
  • Amazing weather
  • The people of New York City
  • Volunteers with water every single mile
  • The New York City Mets
  • Getting to have a celebratory dinner with Chris, Gretchen & Rob
  • My wife for letting me leave her alone for two days to check an item off my bucket list

Frustrations

What that was out of my control do I wish had happened differently?

  • Morning logistics
  • No one to pace off of for the first 19 miles
  • Having to weave to pass a LOT of people
  • Having to walk almost a mile after the race

Race Report

The following is a detailed account of my race. It is long. This is my way of paying it forward to future athletes & documenting it so I can remember later on.

Pre Race Day

Before the race I changed my mind a few times about what my goal was.

My original intent was to run the NYC Marathon as a celebration after doing well at Jack & Jill over the summer.

I missed my 2:37 goal there by 5 minutes though and so I thought I could use NYC as a second chance. After studying the course I realized that was going to be improbable due to the travel stress & race course difficulty. So I signed up for CIM, the fastest course on the west coast, in order to give myself the best shot at hitting 2:37. I planned to skip NYC since I qualified for next year.

My friends Chris & Gretchen were signed up for NYC, and beating Chris is one of my favorite pass times, so around October I decided to go and run it as a workout, one month before CIM. My high hopes were to run about 3:00 easy at NYC, which I knew would beat Chris, and then turn around to run a 2:37 a month later at CIM.

My training hit a few kinks, mainly due to my third child being born, and so by late October I realized a 2:37 at CIM wasn’t going to happen. I ran one tempo run that suggested I could hold 6:30 pace at NYC and finish around 2:50-2:55 though, which seemed like a great plan. Plugging some data into the NYC Marathon pace calculator tool, my plan seemed to line up with what they thought. I made the call to taper for the race rather than train through it and decided my goal was to have as much fun as possible while still beating Chris.

My strategy at that point was to go out slow, around 7:00 pace, drop to 6:45s for the bulk, catch up with him around mile 18-20, and then finish strong, leveraging a solid base from earlier in the year. (You will soon see that this is the exact opposite of what occurred.) I had another goal in mind of finishing with my average heart rate above 166 BPM, which is what I averaged during my fastest marathon. I knew I wasn’t as fast as I was then, but I figured if I was able to work that hard again or harder, that would be an accomplishment.

The day before the race I made a few big decisions – never a good idea. I decided that my goal was to have as much fun as possible and make this a memorable event. After all, I knew it wasn’t going to be fast (by my standards), so I might as well make it fun. I decided to wear a New York Mets hat to get the crowd support. I made the call to abandon a few of my pre race rest tendencies and go do a few NYC things. I opted to run with my phone so I could take photos & videos to remember it by.

I also decided that, since my qualifier time had me seeded with group 1A, I would go out fast & run the first miles with the professionals. I had this vision in my head of running out in front on across the bridge, side by side with runners I could never compare myself to. I could only hold their marathon pace for a mile or two, but perhaps I would even make it on TV during that time so my family could see me. After that I would likely need to take a breather, then get back in a fight through a tough and slow race. I was going to blow my race but enjoy the first 10 minutes of it.

What I hope is obvious is that I didn’t have a clear and locked goal. My plans were changing quite frequently based on the circumstances. Sometimes rolling with the punches is a good thing, but often it results in confusion and failure on all accounts.

Morning

I woke up at 6:00AM, caught an Uber with another runner and got to the ferry terminal plenty early for the 6:45 ferry to Staten Island. The race was scheduled to start at 9:45, which meant I had over three hours of waiting.

I did by best to stay warm and sit as not to burn energy. I stayed hydrated. I tried to be patient with the large crowds. I have never been to a race this big. In fact, very few people have since this year the NYC Marathon set a record for largest marathon – only a few other shorter races have ever been bigger.

I somehow bumped into Chris & Gretchen on the ferry and we acted like tourists the whole way over to Staten Island.

Once at the ferry terminal on the other side, we decided to stay inside for a bit rather than getting on the bus. A large part of that was spent waiting in line for the last nice bathroom we would see. The janitor there had a sense of humor about the crowd that remains a highlight of the day.

We eventually got in line to get on a bus, and made a mistake of getting on a full bus rather than waiting for the next one. We were standing in the isle and the bus was in traffic & not moving. We eventually sat down in the isle as best we could and watched our clocks as we realized we would likely miss our wave. We did hit another highlight though, a 70-something year old man who has run the race ~30 times telling us why he loved it so much and where the best bathrooms on the course are.

The bus pulled up and we ran to try and find our starting area. Hearing over the loudspeaker that we had missed our wave, I had to abandon my plan to go out in front and decided to go with Chris’ wave so we could run together. We got separated though and so I ran back over to my start area. After a bunch of shoving through crowds I found out I nearly missed the next wave too, but ended up making it to the front of 2A.

The Start

I asked around to find out what sort of paces heat 2A was set for and heard mostly 8:00-range. A fine pace for a marathon, but I had run a marathon at 6:11 a few months earlier. I was going to need to go out fast to avoid getting bottlenecked.

By turn of fate I would end up being in the perfect place to fulfill my vision of being in front on the bridge, without having to run 5:00 pace.

The cannon went off at 10:15 and I took off. I was in front. A quarter mile in I started to feel winded, and realized I was going sub six, uphill. Not a good idea. I slowed down a bit, but around then I spotted Chris’s wave.

The Bridge

I need to provide a bit of context. The way the NYC marathon start works is kind of complex. There are three color starting lines: blue, green & orange – each of which takes a different course through the first 8 miles before combining.

I was in Blue and Chris was in Orange. Both of those crossed the bridge on the top level, but were separated by a concrete barrier. Our paths would later split in Brooklyn, only to recombine at mile 8.

When I saw Chris up ahead I figured I would go catch him so we could run together. We said hi and ran side by side, like we have for hundreds of miles. (Except there was a concrete barrier between us – which, honestly, is probably a safe measure to implement on future runs). I was leading my wave and he had only a few people ahead of him in his. We essentially got to run on the narrows bridge with nothing else around – another highlight of the day.

My watch beeped after one mile, 6:25. 50 seconds faster than the plan. The, 20 second later I heard Chris’ watch beep. That is when I realized that our courses were parallel but not even – I had gone out faster, though we were now running the same pace.

You can see in this image a blue and orange line showing the different courses – notice blue starts further back but orange has to run a few extra blocks in Brooklyn.

Around then the bridge crested and started heading downhill.

We cruised down the hill and hit 6:03 for the second mile. Again, much faster than planned. At that point our courses split into Brooklyn, they would reconnect around mile 8.

Brooklyn

The miles through Brooklyn were my favorite of the race. The joke is that I loved the Brooklyn half-marathon – I did quite well too. The crowds had so much energy and that was the first time we got to experience them since there had been no spectators on the bridge.

Their energy kept me pumped up. ran a 6:21 & 6:36 for my next miles and took my first gel. Around that point I started to catch people from wave 1. I was relieved that I wouldn’t be running alone. I was foolish.

I took some video, a selfie and settled into a better pace. 6:47, 6:35, 6:41, 6:42.

During those miles I passed the stragglers of wave 1 and made my way towards the majority of the runners. I love passing people, which probably kept my pace a few seconds faster than it would have been if I had been running with people my own pace. I took my second gel around mile 8.

Around mile 8.5 I ran past my cousin Rob’s house. I’ve been out to see Rob in NYC a half dozen times over the past 15 years, so it was great to run through his neighborhood. He was out there cheering and we connected for a high five – another highlight of the day.

At this point in the race the three waves combined and the course got really crowded. I was catching runners from wave 1, which had started 24 minutes before mine. So the runners I was passing were running about 3 minutes per mile slower than I was (doing the algebra, I was at 6:45 pace and they were at 9:15). That meant I had to plot a course around them essentially like they were standing objects – it was much like running rapids. It was draining and I wouldn’t be surprised if I ran an extra half mile weaving back and forth to either side of the road to pass people. This went from fun to frustrating.

Some rough math – I finished in 1,762 place and had started at the front of wave 2 of 4. So there were probably 12,500 people in wave 1. I passed most people between miles 5-15, of which 3 of those miles the course was still split in 3. I figure I passed around 10k people across 10 miles, roughly 1 person per 5 feet. I took a video that confirms those ballpark numbers.

Queens

I crossed the half at 1:27:31, right on schedule actually. I figured at that pace I could keep pace to hit a 2:55, go faster to get closer to 2:50 or slow down a tad and still break 3. This was a great place to be. I took my third gel somewhere around there – I can’t quite remember.

Around this point I was averaging a heart rate of 166, which was one of my goals, so I was feeling great about that.

Unfortunately I got bottlenecked on the Queensborough bridge and ran my first 7:00 split. There was just no way to pass people and I my early decisions were starting to catch up with me. I didn’t have the motivation to yell to pass them by a few seconds so I settled into pace.

Manhattan

Despite going slow, I couldn’t manage to pee, so I stopped right after the bridge hoping to put that all behind me.

As I turned down 1st avenue I decided to give it another go and put up a 6:48 & 6:52 and had my fourth gel. I had two more on my belt that I planned to take during the race but ultimately did not do that – it was a mistake that cost me.

Mile 20 I found a runner who was going a bit faster than me – likely someone who also had to start in the later wave – and I forced myself to stay with him until the mile marker. I figured if I grit it out and hold hold pace for a bit, I would get back in the groove. It was a 6:57 and that was my last sub 7 mile of the race. My hypothesis did not hold true.

Bronx

As we turned through the Bronx, which they let you run in for all of one mile, my pace was 7:20. This was now easy run territory but it didn’t feel easy. I started checking my phone to see where Chris was. As it updated I realized he was closing in on me. At one point I had a 2 minute gap on him but he had nearly caught me.

Manhattan Again

We turned back into Manhattan and just then I saw Chris pass me – we were right around the 22 mile mark. He didn’t see me so I called out to get his attention and we exchanged a few words. I thought he would run with me but he seemed pretty focused – I think he was trying to break 3:00. We were both clearly hurting. I regret that we didn’t just run the race together – that probably would have been more fun given the situation we were trying to deny we were both in.

At this point I knew it was going to be a rough finish. I decided to make a cut then and jog slowly to make sure I could finish. My next miles were 8:20 and 8:40 – that seemed like a deep enough cut in pace to enjoy the finish but was not.

I should have likely gone closer to 9:00 pace and focused on refueling. Unfortunately at mile 24 I thought my race was nearly over and that I could just push through it. It would ultimately be another ~30 minutes until I finished. I wish I had respected that time and taken in some calories.

Central Park

As I hit the park my body bonked. Full on “you don’t have the calories to move that fast” bonk. My heart rate dropped from 170 to 130 – I just didn’t have the energy to push harder. Even at that I had to take a few breathers.

The way to understand bonking is to think about fuel for a car. My body was dripping fuel into the engine at that point and if I tried to move faster than about a 9:00 mile it would burn through it and I would be forced to walk so a bit more energy could accumulate.

I walk/jogged the last two miles. It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before in a race. My mile pace was about 11:30. In the race report I wrote for my fast marathon this summer I described how towards the end everything was breaking down and I had a tough time finishing my last miles. Looking back, my slowest mile that day was a 6:37. This time around it was quite shocking to be moving at nearly half that speed.

I’ll include this picture only because I think it captures how much I was trying to grit through the pain. Not having available glycogen isn’t something you can just grit through though.

One of my big miscalculations was thinking I could hit 166 BPM for this race. What I failed to realize is that energy use is a factor of time, not of distance. This is less obvious with short races and on the track, what I am used to. I had previously proven that my body could work at a level of 166 BPM for 2 hours and 42 minutes – not 26.2 miles. When I checked my watch throughout the race and saw 166, I felt good. In reality, all that would get me was 2 hours and 42 minutes of running before a crash. In order to run for a longer time, I would need to be running at a lower effort. In fact, checking my splits, I crossed the 2 hour 42 minute mark at mile 23.5. That is almost exactly when I crashed.

I ended up finishing with a 162 average. If I had thought about this more before the race, I would have aimed for that earlier, gone out a bit slower and likely finished much faster.

This was a hard lesson but will be important if I ever run on trails where distance is often a bad predictor of time, due to elevation climbing. In those cases it is important to think about energy as a function of time. I won’t forget that.

The Finish

I timed my walking so that I had a bit of energy to jog across the finish line. It wasn’t really a celebration other than the fact that I could stop moving and get on with enjoying New York and my friends.

I regret that I didn’t do something more fun at the end. I should have just stopped at a deli around mile 24, had something to eat and gotten back on the course. Then I could have jogged it in and maybe done some pushups at the finish line for good measure. That would have been fun and my time would have been in indistinguishable 3:25 – still a great marathon time. A fun poor performance is much better than a miserable one. Misery is fine if you’re setting a record for yourself though. I wish I could have realized sooner what was happening and made that call. If ever I end up in that situation, I’ll know what to do.

Post Race

The post finish experience was one the worst I’ve ever experienced. We essentially had to walk one mile (I mapped it below) to where we could meet our family and get on the subway. Thankfully they gave us calories right after the finish – I sat down to eat and eventually met up with Chris. We got pretty cold before the .75 mile mark where they finally gave us our ponchos.

That mile probably took close to 40 minutes. I guess that was my slowest mile of the day.

Data Breakdown

It wouldn’t be a Greg post without a few charts. Here are a few of the interesting bits from this race.

I mentioned earlier that I went at a good pace and caught up with a lot of runners that started in an earlier wave, only to have many of them pass me again. Here is a nice chart that shows how it played out with one particular runner I found on Strava who ran a 3:24. Their splits were really even so the change in time between us is all due to my pace dropping. I started ~20 minutes behind them, meaning they were about 4 minutes back into wave 1. You can see that I steadily gained on them until the 23 mile mark. At that point they started gaining on me and ended up putting a good bit of distance on me in the last few miles.

Here is my pace (blue), heart rate (red) and foot turnover (pink) during the run. This is one of the charts I look at for every run. Here I see a nice build up at the start (perhaps too fast for the first half mile), then a solid steady run at a good cadence. The pace bumps around mile 15-17 are mostly due to GPS noise. You can see my bathroom stop at mile 16 where my cadence drops for a bit. At mile 22-24 things start to look a bit rough, mile 24 sees a major slow down and then you can see my alternating walking for the last few miles.

Heart rate is one of the metrics I pay a lot of attention to, so here is a look at just that.

You’ll notice a few spikes, the first one at mile 1 when I sped up to catch Chris, the spike at mile 2 when I started passing people, mile 8.5 when I saw Rob, mile 16.5 after I got out of the bottleneck of the bridge, mile 19 when I decided to push and hold onto another runner, mile 24 I made a big push to get over the last bit of the hill.

I mentioned before that I had hoped to have my average heart rate over 166. I essentially hovered at an average of 166-167 from mile 3 to 21. At that point it slowly started to drop. Going into mile 25 I was still at 166 but those last two miles dropped the average to 162.

 

What is Next?

2017 is going to be a light year for me. I won’t be trying for any records. I am signed up for the Boston Marathon, might repeat Jack & Jill to pace a buddy and have my eyes on a few really cool races including the legendary Dipsea & Bloomsday races.

Run a Sub 2:37 Marathon – Training Plan

This year I challenged myself to break 2:37 in the marathon. In order to hit that time I would need to get into the best shape of my life.

But things have changed in my life from when I raced in college and my training plan would have to take that into account.

Here are details about the training philosophy I used to race my first marathon. Ultimately it resulted in a time of 2:42:23 (so far).

Background – My Historic Training Plan

Before I get into the plan, here is some background on me as a runner.

I ran for my school team’s in high school & college – eventually making varsity at each. I was a good local-level competitive runner, but never state or national level. My PRs back then were 15:53 in the 5k, 4:11 in the 1500 & 34:17 in the 10k (road).

I’ve typically thrived on a Jack Daniels’ (not the drink) training system that relied on weekly schedule of 1 long run, 2 quality runs (tempo, hills, track repeats, etc.) & 4 easy days. My seriousness about running progressed with age and by my final years in college, I reliably ran 7 days a week, usually in the 60-70 mile range – missing only one or two unplanned days per year.

More recently, in 2014 I trained for my first triathlon, an Ironman which I finished in 11:01:10. The 26.2 mile run at the end of that (after swimming 2.4. & biking 112 miles) took me 3:45.

Limiters & Factors For Adjustments

Going into this season, I knew I had to make concessions due to the following:

  1. Limited Time – Along with a demanding job, I have a wife and two kids (third one on the way). A few years ago, in 2014, I trained for an Ironman before & immediately after my first son was born. It was pretty difficult for my wife towards the end of that season when I would be gone for 6+ hour training rides. Part of the deal I made with my wife this year is that I could train for a race as long as it wasn’t taking away from my responsibilities at home.
  2. My Body Is Older – In college I dealt with running injuries, as almost every runner does. I had knee, ankle & shin problems. That is part of the reason I took nearly a decade off of serious running. I’m now older, require more time to heal and have more injury build up from time – things I need to be sensitive of.
  3. The Race is Longer – A lot of running training, especially the early season work is the same no matter what race you are running. Most of it is about building general fitness and efficiency. Eventually a training plan should become more specific to the race – a faster race requires more speed work, a longer race requires longer training runs.

My Training Tenets

With those adjustments in mind, here are the core tenets I landed on.

Note that this is an advanced training plan, which will look much different than a beginner ‘finish a marathon’ plan. I wouldn’t recommend this approach unless you were capable of a sub 3 hour marathon.

Season Schedule

My season would progress in a pretty typical Daniels manner.

A prep period of three months to take me from completely out of shape up to being able to run ~5 days a week for ~30 miles. In order to prevent injury I would only increase each week by ~5 miles or 10%.

  • A base period where quality work is slowly introduced as the weekly total mileage continues to get longer. A few tempo runs, some hill repeats, etc.
  • A build period where the weekly mileage totals begin to decrease but intensity increases. Longer tempo runs, track work, etc.
  • A peak period where mileage and volume of quality running decreases in order to rest my body for the race.

During each of those phases, I would have three weeks on and a fourth week of rest & recovery. More on that shortly.

Here is a visual I made when planning for my Ironman a few years ago. Though I changed a number of aspects of my philosophy (as I’ll describe in the next points) the season progression remained very similar.

greg-kroleski-ironman-training-plan

Weekly Template

During the weeks of the season, each followed a general workout template – though the total distance, speed & quality volume of each day was determined by where in the season that week fell.

The template is 1 long quality run, 1 medium quality run, 2-4 easy runs & 0-1 cross training sessions per week.

I borrowed this from Jack Daniels, as simplified by my friend Josiah. The difference between this and what I was used to is that it took some of the quality work that was on its own day, and put in on the long run and then made the other quality day a bit longer.

What is nice is that it means only two days a week were really important workouts – one which I would do on the weekend, and only one mid week, as opposed to the two I had been used to. That made scheduling much easier. I can always find one morning or evening per week to block 2 hours to train. I can’t always find two.

For those medium quality days, the milage tended to be in the 12-14 range with a significant portion of that being quality work. Some samples include:

  • (3:00 @ 10k effort + 90 jog) x 6
  • 2 x 2 @ HMP, 2 x 1 @ 10k (2 min jog rest)
  • 8×800 @ Interval Pace w/ 60 sec rest
  • 8 mile tempo run

I really loved the quality long runs. Instead of going out to do 20 miles slow, my long run would consist of some miles at or close to marathon pace. This was designed to train my body to work at a high intensity, even when exhausted. The runs actually stopped getting longer pretty early in the season – I ran a 20 miler 5 months before the race – and then just started getting faster. Some sample runs include:

  • 120 mins w/ last 4 @ Marathon Pace
  • 130 mins w/ last 20 min progression (MP down to 10k pace)
  • 22 miles @ 45 seconds per mile slower than goal MP
  • 21 miles: 3 warm up, 15 @ MP, 3 cool down

The easy days would all be a run at whatever pace I felt like for 5-10 miles, really whatever mileage I needed to hit my weekly total.

Finally, the cross training days were just a way to reduce risk of repetition injury while still adding some fitness. Just a way to get more miles in.

I mainly used those during the build up as my body adjusted to running. I preferred to bike and would give myself 2/3 credit for the time – so a 60 minute bike ride at 130 BPM would count for as much work as a 40 minute run at a similar effort.

Variance In Pace

Rather than always running at the same speed, my training would be at various paces. This is somewhat implied by the workouts above, but I want to stress this point. In a typical week my running might include:

  • 9:00/mile or slower for recovery jogs during workouts
  • 7:00-8:30/mile for easy runs
  • 6:00-6:30/mile for quality runs
  • 5:00-6:00/mile for intervals
  • 4:30-5:00/mile for bursts & some track work

The idea of variance of pace is that each different workout should be trying to stress a particular system(s) of the body, and as such should be at a specific pace(s) and duration(s).

Here is an example workout where I touched a number of zones. The average for that ~10 mile run was 8:00, but that consisted of a few miles in the 7s, 15 minutes at 5:30 pace and a lot of recovery time around 9:00 pace.

running-workout-with-pace-variance

I based the training paces one of Jack Daniel’s pace tables that explain workout paces based on recent race results. I would use periodic time trials to gut check my pace, including a few 2 mile time trials, a 10k race & a half marathon.

Regardless of what the chart says, I knew the pace that was the most important for me was…

6:00 Pace

Since my goal was to run a marathon at 6:00/mile pace, I knew I would need to get really comfortable running at 6:00/mile pace. As such, I planned to focus workouts, when possible, around that pace.

I would sometimes shorten or lengthen a workout to get the target pace closer to 6:00 miles.

My goal was to build up the miles I could run at that pace on a single day and throughout a week. My first tempo run was 2 miles at 6:00 pace and I was spent afterwards. I continued to increase it by a mile or so per week until I could comfortably hit 15 in a single workout in the 6:00 range. By that point weekly total reached 21 at that pace, split across the two quality days.

Rest A Lot

This is mainly for injury & burn out prevention. Because I’m older now, this is even more important that it once was.

While many running plans suggest taking every 4th week as a down week, only running 80% of the normal miles, I learned from my Ironman days the benefits of resting even more. My rest week would be every 4th week and only include 50% of my normal miles and no quality days – my long run would be longer than what I ran during the week, but usually shorter than my typical medium day.

The idea is simply more variance. By resting every 4th week, my body would be able to recover more and thus be fresher for the workouts during the normal weeks, allowing me to push harder on those days.

In addition to rest weeks, I would take rest days. This was new for me. In college I would run 7 days a week.

My plan was to run 5 days and cross train one day to. That would give me one day of complete rest and one low impact cardio training. That should help avoid injury.

In reality I ended up averaging 4.7 days a week as I trained for this marathon. You can see below in the red that I didn’t have a single week at 7 days and many weeks were at 3 or 4 days. That extra rest was nice for my schedule, helped fight against injury and also allowed me to push harder on the days I did train. More days training certainly might have helped, but I am happy to have finished a season without injury or burnout.

marathon-training-plan-days-per-week

Run As Much As Possible

This is prioritized after the previous item intentionally. My goal was to run as much as possible when I felt good – but to stick to my rest schedule to allow that to be true.

When it comes to how many miles a runner should log – most runners agree that more running is considered better. Some coaches have gone so far as to say – run X miles per week in order to hit X time in the marathon. There is actually some science behind why that works for multiple runners of different fitness levels.

Under that philosophy, most coaches would suggest that I run between 80-100 miles per week in order to hit a 2:37 marathon. I agreed with them at first & decided to aim for high volume. I planned to average 60+ miles per week and max out at a 100 mile week.

My actual miles averaged to 41.7, my highest week was 67. If you ignore my rest weeks, the early parts of the season and unplanned sick days my average was closer to 55 per week. Still much lower than many would recommend and less volume than I had planned.

The reason for that should be somewhat obvious from the section above. I didn’t actually train six days per week, and I didn’t compensate for the missed days. Part of why I took more days off was needing more rest in order to hit my quality days. What I decided was that my two quality days were the most important and that if I needed more rest to make those happen, then that was ok.

Of the 40 workouts I had planned in the 25 weeks leading up to my race, I only missed 3 and another 2 were slightly adjusted during the run because of how I felt. I put a lot of emphasis on hitting those days at the cost of volume. I believe that was the right decision.

Go Long

The marathon is a race that requires a lot of muscular, cardiovascular and digestive endurance. Because of that, emphasizing long runs was a key part of my plan.

That might seem tricky given that only averaged 41.7 miles per week – not even twice the race distance. But when you look at the actual runs, my two quality days would often add up to make up 60-70% of my total weekly mileage.

In the 25 weeks leading up to my marathon I did 7 runs of 20 miles or more. That is typically more than most plans call for. The reason is 2.5 hours, which is a typical marathon long run maximum, at my pace totals ~20-22 miles. I did another 8 over 15 miles.

In total ~30% of my runs were longer than 10 miles.

Key Learnings and Next Steps

Looking back at the plan, I would say the general training concepts were perfect for the marathon distance and my level of training. The workouts continually pushed me and got me into great shape.

The hardest part for me was consistently running due to a busy schedule and lot of unplanned sickness. Having kids impacted both of those areas. That is largely why I only ran ~2/3 of the volume I had planned. I would say this plan is great for anyone with a bit more free time.

As for me, I was generally pushing the limits of what is sustainable in my life during this chapter. Though most of my runs were at night or nap time, I was away from home more than I can be. As I consider future races, I’ll have to make some adjustments to the amount of training I plan. I am actually experimenting with a few things now and will post an update after my next race.