I haven’t had any “A” races or big running goals in the past couple of years. My friend Scott and I jumped into a local 10k in November of 2018 and I got first in my age group, in the Masters division, and came in 3rd overall. I ran the Run for the Water 10-miler this past November and PR’d. I ran my best times in each leg of the 10th annual Capital to Coast Relay. I also ran my poorest 3M half marathon in January of last year. I just hadn’t been really training hard or with much ambition toward any race or any kind of goal. I’d run the Boston Marathon in 2018 and kind of rested on that achievement for a year.
Since my Boston experience was less than what I’d hoped for (35 degrees, pouring rain and a 30 mph headwind), I decided that I wanted to run another Boston-qualifying marathon, so I signed up for the Mt. Hood Marathon. My goal was to run another 3:05 or better marathon, qualify for Boston, and the family and I would make another trip to Boston in April of 2020. As part of my training block, I invited myself to run the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim with my friends Patrick and Michael. While that was probably the most epic running adventure I’ve ever been on, I also severely sprained my left ankle when we were but a few miles into descending the South Kaibab trail. I’d sprained it so badly that it warranted a trip to the emergency room in Flagstaff the next day, and a diagnosis that I was going to have to lay off the running for at least 8 weeks. That diagnosis was on May 19th. The Mt. Hood Marathon was on June 27th. I had to drop out of the marathon.
Shortly after I’d signed up for the Mt. Hood Marathon, I also signed up for the Houston Marathon. The goal for Mt. Hood was to get into Boston. The goal for Houston was to run a sub-3-hour marathon. Mt. Hood is a downhill and extremely fast marathon, which would pretty much guarantee a qualifying time for Boston. Houston is a very flat marathon which is, as they’d say, a level playing field. Running a sub-3 in Houston would be a true test of training & endurance. I owe it to my friend Iram for putting it into my head to try to break 3.
My current marathon personal record is 3:05:42. I trained hard for that marathon, and that’s the race that qualified me for Boston in 2018. I ran a lot of miles in my training, and many of those miles were fast. I coached myself for that race and I’m still happy with the results of the race and training leading up to it.
I’ve coached myself for Houston as well. Before this training block started, I seriously considered seeking out a coach. I guess I stubbornly told myself that I could coach myself just fine, and I think I’ve done a good job. I’ve incorporated a lot of mileage, back-to-back weekend long runs and, this time, I incorporated two workouts per week. My workouts have consisted of hills, intervals and tempo runs. Workouts were usually on Tuesdays. I ran many hill repeats on Allerton, which is a good 1/3-mile 100 ft. climb behind our house. I ran more of my hill repeats up and down Wilke Dr. in Barton Hills, which is 1/5 of a mile that gets to a grade of 22%. Friends would ask if they could tag along for my Tuesday runs.
“I’m going to go run Wilke.”
I quickly established a love/hate relationship with the track. After a Sunday long run, I’d look at the following week’s workouts and the interval on Tuesday would always jump out at me. Part dread, part excitement. I’d run a couple miles to warm up before my intervals, and I would just think of the run I was in at that moment. Then I’d start in on 800-meter repeats. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t count and do math and anxiously await until those repeats were over, but I knew I was running hard around a track for a reason, and I’d put myself to work. And while it wasn’t really a goal I’d set for myself, I’d usually run each interval faster than the previous. Loud music usually helped a bit. I’ve listened to Tool’s “Fear Inoculum” quite a bit on the track.
I also made myself work really hard on tempo runs. I think I naturally gravitate toward tempo runs. Or maybe I’ve convinced myself that tempo runs are synonymous with progression runs, where I’d run negative splits. During this training block, I made my tempo runs into hard workouts. I’d go out fast, and then ~2/3 into the run, I’d run at threshold and hang on for dear life, and then ease back right before my legs gave out on me. This has hopefully improved my VO2 max.
I ran all of the longer Saturday pace runs faster than my prescribed pace, but I don’t feel that it’s to my detriment. My prescribed pace for the marathon is 6 minutes and 50 seconds per mile. I’d usually hang between 6:20 – 6:30 for my Saturday pace runs. On peak weeks, my Sunday 20-milers felt great. I’d never look at my watch. I’d run how I felt that day, and I’d average a pace in the low 8’s and feel great after being on my feet for a little less than 3 hours, which is exactly how those long runs are designed.
I feel really, really good about this training block and the excitement far outweighs any anxiety for Houston on Sunday. I’ve done everything that I can leading up to this point as I start my last week of training, which is a tapering week. I have a couple 3-mile runs this week and a little 4 x 400 track workout on Tuesday. Other than that, my goals for this last week are to stay happy, healthy, fed and well-rested. I’ll really dial in my nutrition this week and get lots of rest and sleep. I’m looking forward to a lot of reading with my feet up!
I usually build out an 18-week training plan for a marathon. I’d already been putting in some mileage leading up to Mt. Hood and the Grand Canyon, so my build-up for this training block was a smooth transition. So this training block was actually 21-weeks, beginning on August 26, 2019.
Since August 26th, I will have run 876 miles and have spent 116 hours and 18 minutes on my feet. All of those miles, time and pushing hard so I can run 26.2 miles on January 19th at 7 a.m. in less than 3 hours.
My Houston Marathon goals are:
- Goal A: 2:56 – Because why the hell not?
- Goal B: 2:59:59 – Sub-3-hour marathon
- Goal C: 3:04 – This would be a personal record
- Goal D: 3:15 – This would get me into the 2021 Boston Marathon