A few months ago, two Chicago Athlete ambassadors detailed their journeys on qualifying for the 2019 Boston Marathon. In the second of three installments, Mandi and Jeff discuss their training and how they’re preparing for April 15.
With Boston less than a month away, I am getting ready to hit my last long run of training. After that final peek, I’ll begin a two-week taper, which is one of the most difficult parts of training for me; I know the importance of rest and recovery, but have a hard time with the actual application.
Overall training has gone very well. I have incorporated long runs, speed, incline, tempo, and strength. Surprisingly, I have most enjoyed the speed workouts. The main reason for this is that I have been working with Robyn LaLonde, Head Coach for Nike+ Run Club and owner of Edge Athlete Lounge. The sense of community and support that she brings adds so much to those tough speed/incline workouts. Plus, I get to cuddle with two incredibly cute pugs when I’m at Edge.
When I first began these difficult training sessions, Robyn continuously encouraged me to drive my elbow back on inclines. Although it felt strange at first, I began to notice a real difference when going uphill. Not only could I keep my speed up, but focusing on my elbows helped the hills go by quicker.
Robyn also helped me with gaining a quick recovery following tough inclines. “Begin your recovery before you hit the top of the hill,” Coach Robyn challenged me. “Start with deep breaths so that by the time you hit the top of the hill you can pick up speed and get your heart rate back to normal.”
This technique really worked for me. After finishing about 80 percent of a hill, I would begin deep breathing and planning my recovery. After peaking I was able to fall down the hill and get my heart rate back to normal.
My biggest challenge of training has been the Chicagoland weather. Although I have run a few spring marathons, I have never actually trained for one. My intense marathon training has always taken place in the summer and fall.
We have had a real doozy of a winter with temps hitting -32 at times, causing cancellation of schools and many workplaces. I’ve grown up in the Midwest, so I’m accustomed to winter running, but this winter had me looking for jobs in California!
The cold temps have brought challenges such as losing my music and podcast distraction when my phone shuts down, ultra-layering of clothing which has caused me poor form and low speed, and constant folding and un-folding of my buff in order to get the ice crinkles off.
I know, boo-hoo. Big deal. Toughen up and get out there and hit it. Which is what I did. And through every bone chilling run, I encouraged myself to keep going because, as 2018 Boston runners know, the weather could be even worse on Patriots’ Day.
All of my weather related complaining aside, training has gone very well. I am still working through the virtual CARA program in combination with weekly sessions with Coach Robyn. Strength training has been key to this training in particular, as I look at a course full of uphill and downhill challenges.
My plan for the next month is to keep on trucking along, following my CARA training plan and one-on-one training with Coach Robyn, and listening to my body, allowing for recovery when necessary.
Training has also gone surprisingly well for me, and I am counting down the days until we cross that start line in Hopkinton. I finished the Dopey Challenge at Disney World back in January, so I worked with Fleet Feet’s Coach Kiersten McCartney to customize a plan for starting back into their workouts. After Dopey, I took a full week off from running and focused on lower impact activities like swimming and cycling to allow my body time to rest and heal. Coach Kiersten was wonderful helping me recover from one marathon and then get right back into training for the next one. When I started running again, my body felt ready and there were no lingering aches or pains.
Probably the biggest change I have made this training cycle is decreasing the frequency of my runs and increasing the amount of time I spend doing lower-impact cross-training activities. I used to run every day, but after being plagued with injuries the past few years, I am taking a bigger picture view and sticking to the principle that less can be more. I have a lot of big goals for this year, and I need to stay healthy to accomplish them.
Coach Kiersten assured me, “There are certainly times where it becomes diminishing returns. If you can’t get to the line healthy because you ran six days instead of five, then do those days seem worth it from the sidelines?” I couldn’t agree more.
While my weekly running mileage may have decreased, my cross training has greatly increased. I am now swimming laps 5-6 days a week and taking a cycling class 1-2 days a week. The swimming has definitely improved my cardiovascular endurance and my breathing when running. I feel like I am in a good place heading into these last few weeks.
I think that I picked the right year to move from Chicago to Dallas. Although the weather here has been cooler, we never have the temperatures that have plagued Chicago this winter; snow and ice are non-existent. Training for Boston has actually been a pleasure this year. I am sure my opinion will change this summer when I am training for my fall marathon, but for now I’m just going to enjoy every nice day of running I can get.
My plan for the next month is to keep doing what I’ve been doing – nothing new! My long runs will decrease and I’ll continue to focus on cross training and recovery. Hope everyone has had a healthy training season and is feeling ready for Patriots’ Day.