So, what are my thoughts on my marathon training cycle? For the most part, I feel pretty good about it. There are some tweaks I'll make next time around. It might be easiest to itemize my thoughts:
- Include more recovery weeks. I felt fresh relatively early in my cycle, and probably peaked about half way through. Toward the end, my legs went flat and I felt tired often. I only threw in two cutback weeks in my cycle. I feel that I would have stayed fresh longer if I had cut my weekly mileage every third or (at most) fourth week. That may also have allowed me to increase my mileage even more during my regular weeks.
- Find a way to eat even more. I felt weak toward the end of the training cycle. I believe I lost too much weight, yet my appetite wasn't ravenous most of the time. I think I could have solved the problem by eating small snacks throughout the day just to get in some extra calories. I just need to remember to do it!
- Keep up with the strength training. When I started running again last year, I intended to include some strength training at least twice per week. Nothing outrageous. Just enough to maintain some upper body and core strength. As my training progressed, I was just too tired to keep up with it. Consequently, my upper body continued to waste away. I'm not looking to "bulk up" necessarily, but just a little extra strength would have been nice.
- Hill work is my friend. I did a moderate amount of hill work, but I could have done even more. I feel that it's equivalent to strength training for the legs. I believe it can also enhance speed. My marathon was mostly flat, but with some ultras coming up this year, I'll definitely be focusing more on hills (and trails...which I love).
- Nail down my race nutrition. That's kind of a nebulous comment, but I had some definite issues during the marathon...although I think the heat had a lot to do with it. I don't think I'm far off. This one is just going to take race experience to figure out.
- Easier easy days. I usually structured my weeks thusly: long run, recovery run, hill/progression run, recovery run, recovery run, tempo run. Rinse and repeat. Not a bad plan (IMHO), but as the cycle went on, my "recovery runs" gradually got faster. Or some of them did. It's difficult to run slower than what feels comfortable, but I think even subtle pace variations can make a big difference.
What's next? Well, this year will continue to be interesting. As I write this, I'm three weeks away from the Lake Youngs Ultra (28.8 miles). There's no time for ramping up again for that, so I'll go into cruise control until then, running moderate mileage at an easy-moderate pace, hopefully going into the race pretty fresh. I don't plan on "racing" it, but I'd like to see what I can do. Then I need to shift into high gear, in terms of getting a little bit of speed back. I'm running a local 5k in early July in preparation for the Ragnar Relay, in late July. No races are scheduled for August, so I'll have a short window to ramp back up for the Skagit Flats Marathon (hopefully), on Sept. 12th. I'd like to see if I can improve on my Windermere Marathon time (and experience). No heat, please! Then, another short window before my first 50k at Baker Lake (Oct. 2nd). I hear it's a tough course, so again, this will be more for the experience than a fast time. I may run a little 10k in November, then will probably finish the year with the Last Chance Marathon (or half) on Dec. 31st. Should be a fun rest of the year. Hope I can stay healthy!