Thursday, December 1, 2016

Phoenix and Beyond

Since I ran my first marathon in 2003, my running status could nearly always be classified into one of two categories:  1) marathon training or 2) injured.  I feel very fortunate to be steady on the first path recently, and the key to that has been my coach.  I’ve worked with him for two marathon training cycles now, and I ran two marathons 100% healthy with each cycle (Bass Pro and Dallas in 2015 and Prairie Fire and Bass Pro in 2016).  I also ran several other PRs during both cycles, including significant half marathon PRs (Waddell & Reed 2015 and White River 2016).  These 4 marathons were my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th best marathons ever (Bass Pro 2015 being the slowest of the four and my 5th fastest, which was still surprising since it was treated as a training run sandwiched between two 20 milers the weekends before and after, and I didn't taper or run all out).  I tried to go at it on my own again between these two cycles at the beginning of 2016, in an effort to avenge my 3:01 at Dallas, but the only place that got me was injured and sitting out my planned February 2016 marathon, which was the 2016 Phoenix Marathon.

Even though I'm a control freak, I'm not dumb enough to try to do it on my own again, and I am now on my Phoenix 2017 build!  This cycle begins with a recovery phase, though, before building my mileage back up, and this will without a doubt be the most maddening part of the training cycle (winter weather will likely be the second most maddening part)!  This is where I would screw it all up if I were on my own; I’m on a high coming off of my half PR at White River, it feels like the Bass Pro Marathon was forever ago, I even ran a solid 5K, I’m feeling enthusiastic and good, I am ready to jump into harder training, and I wouldn’t take recovery time on my own accord.  But, I’ve learned that less is more sometimes, and I am following my coach’s recovery plan (I think my exact words to him were, “I will follow the plan and not be crazy.”).  Looking at it objectively, it also makes sense to take these easier weeks when I’m still feeling good instead of getting run-down and then trying to come back from that. 

I get back to up 50 miles a week before too long – the week of December 5-11 – but I’m ready for 60+ miles weeks!  I will peak at around 65 mpw this training cycle, compared to 60 mpw in my last cycle, so it’s a conservative increase.  I've also learned that consistent weekly mileage over time means so much more than peak week mileage; running an 80 mile peak week after several weeks in the 50s probably won't help you more than running a 65 mile peak week after several weeks at 55-62 (the latter being what I'll do), and too big of a jump for peak week could get me injured anyhow.

I'm going into the cycle fitter than I've ever been, and it's a shorter build up due to the amount of time between Bass Pro and Phoenix (16 weeks total, so really 4 recovery weeks then a 12 week schedule).  But I’ve also been thinking:  "How am I going to run a marathon PR only increasing by 5 miles a week?  Shouldn’t I be doing 75, 80, or even 90 mpw?!  Look at everyone else trying to improve marathon PRs – aren't they all doing more?  People are running triple digits!  I'm not doing enough!"  Are you gaining some insight into how I end up injuring myself when I made my own schedule?  Haha!  Making long-term plans helps my patience, and I’ve learned that miles and patience are probably more helpful than anything else in marathon training.  My future builds will also be longer than the 12 weeks of this one.  Perhaps my long-term development with mileage and marathon training cycles will look like this:
  • February 2017 – Phoenix, peak at 65 mpw
  • Fall 2017 – one I can drive to, and probably Bass Pro as as B race, peak at 70-75 mpw
  • May or June 2018 – maybe Lincoln or Grandmas, peak at 80 mpw
  • December 2018 – perhaps California International Marathon, peak at 90 mpw
Right now, this is all very tentative and CIM is my hope to run my dream time if I can step up to it, hopefully along with Liz (who has inspired me to even consider it!)!  Who knows if these thoughts are even reasonable; I may not be able to tolerate that mileage, period, or be able to handle it along with life as a full-time working mother (time to hire a cleaning service, honey!).  For now, I’m going to run my recovery 40 mile weeks and remember to be patient!  I am super excited to be working towards Phoenix, and in true Sara form I officially committed the day after the White River Half (I got an elite entry!).

Dream big - it's the only way it will come true!


  1. I love this! Now is the time to go for it. I'm so glad you have a coach and are staying healthy! I really think you can handle that higher mileage if you do it right. I'm excited to see what is to come!

    1. In so many things in life, I think it's better to try and fall short than to not try and wonder "what if?". I'm not getting any younger, so I think now has to be the time, haha!

    2. So true, you'll never know if you can do something if you don't try!