Adam Reger | Freelance Writer

Pittsburgh-based freelance writer

Tag: Philadelphia marathon

Marathon Looms

No looking back, no backing out now: the Pittsburgh Marathon is in six days, and I am in the chute. I’m looking forward to it, and ready, though I could be readier.

It’s been a weirdly anticlimactic last three weeks of training. I did my 18-mile run, and on the following Thursday’s 10-miler started to have lots of pain in my right knee. I finished that run and then began resting my knee, diagnosing myself with runner’s knee, a common enough overuse injury. I did a long run the next weekend of 8 miles, stopping when I felt twingeing in the knee, and that following Thursday I did 7 out of the prescribed 10 miles. Where I really lagged behind was in doing 12, the following Sunday, instead of the prescribed 20.

Since then I’ve actually gotten mostly back on track. The downside is that by the time my knee felt better, I was into the tapering part of my training schedule. In other words, I skipped the really long training run, and my 18-miler, now almost a month ago, will go on record as my longest training run. It would be worse if I hadn’t run marathons before, but I feel less than fully prepared. I’m not sure what else I could have done in this situation, though.

On the positive side, though, my legs feel strong and ready to run, and I’m looking forward to the race in a way I really didn’t in the lead-up to the Philly Marathon, which when it rolled around found me with tired, aching legs. I’m hoping that fresh legs outweigh the lack of doing a super-long training run. I’ve done some good cross-training this time around, and feel really good about setting a new personal best, ideally by dropping another ten or more minutes off my Philly time (4:01 or 4:02; I don’t remember it except to note that I would’ve broken four hours if it weren’t for the “.2” part of “26.2”).

Marathon training begins

Speaking of marathon running (as a metaphor for writing), my training regimen for the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon kicked off last Tuesday evening. I’m following this Runner’s World plan, which served me well last time. It’s still the “beginner’s” plan, but my intention is to replace the uphill runs (usually 4-milers that include a certain portion to be run uphill) with tempo runs (runs where you go at a faster-than-comfortable pace for a certain amount of time). My main concern is increasing my speed, not contending with hills (of which there are surprisingly few in the Pittsburgh course).

As I set out, only 12 miles into what will add up to around 300-400 miles of training runs (Oh God.), I’m optimistic about dropping my time by another 10+ minutes. I plan to cross-train more aggressively this time around. For a start, I expect to swim more consistently than during my Philadelphia marathon training, when I took it up more than halfway through my regimen. Perhaps more promisingly, I’ve enrolled in a cross-training program, offered by (apparently famous?) orthopedic surgeon Dr. Vonda Wright and sanctioned by the Pittsburgh Marathon. It begins next month, but I attended an orientation session that I found grueling even in its abbreviated form. The emphasis is on building the core muscles, strengthening both the abdominal and back muscles, and paying some attention to the arms as well. It should be a great addition to my training, not least of all because it’ll be an indoor workout during the worst of the Pittsburgh winter (which, so far, has been nasty).

Marathon Homestretch

Over the weekend, I put in my longest training run: 20 miles. It was a good, good feeling to hit the showers after that one, knowing I’d reached the pinnacle and my running would now begin slacking off in preparation for race day, November 21. After the rough, dehydrating experience of running 18 miles the previous Sunday, I was smart enough to bring two little bottles of water with me, plus a packet of GU Energy Gel. It made all the difference in the world. As much as I’d like to think I’m tough enough to go without, the difference between absorbing no calories during a long run and taking in 90 calories is substantial. (An aside re: GU: the gel, while restorative during runs, is kind of gross. Decidedly awesome, on the other hand, are GU Chomps, which taste and go down the gullet like the fruit snacks I so loved as a boy.) And the difference between being totally dried out after a run and being pretty dried out, but not completely, is maybe even more notable. My legs were sore, and I was obliged to take a nap, but I did not feel as drained and just overall zonked out, the way I often do after these long runs. I’d thought those feelings were just inherent to running 14+ miles in one go, but apparently I could have avoided some of these lost Sunday afternoons had I but planned a bit better.

All that is sort of a prelude to say that I faked myself out somewhat and the real pinnacle of my training came last night. Thursday-night runs have slowly been ramping up throughout training, from 5 to 6, etc., and jumping up to 10 last week. I think I knew this already, but last night’s run was also a 10-miler. It sounds like a piece of cake, if one has recently conquered a 20-miler.

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Marathon Update

Tomorrow will mark one month to the Philadelphia Marathon. This past Sunday, I completed a 16-mile run and felt surprisingly, almost weirdly, good afterwards. (I usually feel zonked out, a bit nauseated, and go to bed pretty early after these runs. Only some mild zonked-outness occurred this time.)

Pretty soon, I am going to transition into carbo-loading most of the time, as well as officially banning beer from my diet. (Circumstances have happily conspired to keep me from drinking more than one or two per week.) On the whole, I’m happy with my progress and feel good about the race in Philly. I am also upbeat about the fact that it probably won’t rain the entire time, as it did during the Pittsburgh Marathon.

One point of concern has been a lack of training to go faster for longer. I’m following this Runner’s World plan, which in fairness is for beginners. If you look along the “Tuesday” column, where most of the shorter runs are, you’ll notice that a lot of attention is given to increasing your “TUT”—that is, “total uphill time.” I think that aspect of the training has helped, but I worry that it’s beside the point for a course as flat as Philly’s, and that I may have been better served by doing tempo runs—i.e., doing some or all of a run at a faster-than-comfortable pace. There are some of those on the schedule I’m following (marked “AI”—“aerobic intervals”), but I wish there were more.

Obviously, it’s on me to take it up a notch or jump up to a non-beginner marathon plan. In that vein, I plan, during my nine-mile Thursday run tomorrow, to try doing intervals of three miles at marathon pace, with a brief jogging intermission between each.

I have the uneasy feeling that I am entering into the dangerous and seductive next level of running; that it is not as difficult to finish a marathon as it is to improve one’s time; and that, in general, doing a long run is not the important thing so much as keeping your motor going, pumping your arms and challenging yourself to keep the pace up. I am comforting myself that these are lifelong-struggle types of issues, not to be resolved in the next month.

And anyway I am confident of improving upon my first marathon time, four hours and fourteen seconds. My primary goal is to crack four hours. How feasible that goal is will probably be answered, in part, by how much tomorrow’s run kicks my ass.

Marathon training begins (AND, Reason to Love Pittsburgh #5: The Pittsburgh Marathon)

As of yesterday, I am in training for the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon, to beĀ  held November 21. According to the Runner’s World plan I am following this time around, I began my training with . . . a day of rest. I know, anticlimactic.

This will be my second marathon, as I ran the 2010 Pittsburgh Marathon. As you’ll deduce from my running a second one, I loved the marathon. It was rough stuff, but I had fun doing it and was immensely proud of the accomplishment. (My Facebook status several hours after the race: “Holy shit. I ran a marathon.” I feel that still about sums it up.)

I’m pretty excited to train right this time—I had kind of a nebulous training schedule last time, wherein I’d do two weeknight runs per week, of whatever distance I felt like (rarely going above 6 or 7 miles per outing), and steadily upped my Sunday long-run distance, getting as high as 20 before tapering down. It wasn’t a terrible training regimen, and it left me ready to do fairly well in the race (my time was a respectable four hours, fourteen minutes). But it was sort of a lazy way to go about it, and rather unfocused. My goal this time is to break four hours. With proper training I should roll up to the start line (or, you know, a cattle pen half a mile from the line) confident I can hit that target.

Anyway, this post is by way of introducing this topic to the blog, as it will become more and more of a preoccupation over the next 3+ months.

Bonus Marathon News: I also, yesterday, signed up for the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon, which places me among the hooked. I was surprised to see that the race will start at 6:30 a.m.! and 5:30 for walkers! It’s one of those things that can’t dissuade you from signing up for an event that’s more than eight months in the future, but damn, that’s early.