Hacking the Marathon

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I’ve been working on the training plan this week, starting with setting my priorities for the marathon.  Obviously, getting to the start and finish as happy and healthy as possible are the most important things.  Rather than framing the race as the ultimate test of my training or some kind of referendum on the season, though, I’m trying to approach it from a broader view.  What kind of runner do I want to be at the end of this season, and how do I use this training as a means to get there?  

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past several days, trying to take a mature and objective approach to a mid-season evaluation.  I thought about what worked, what hadn’t, and what I could do better.  And it was intensely boring.  Eventually I realized, though, that what I was really trying to do was hack my training, and that sounded hardcore and awesome.  In that spirit, I recognized the following:

1. I love structure, but I start to get stressed out when I just can’t fit everything in.  

2. I run best when I trust my training 100%.  My schedule needs to allow some flexibility so that if I miss a workout or need a little extra time to recover that I don’t start to panic.

3. I like having numbers and data that I can use to evaluate my progress.

4. I tend to underestimate the need for, and benefit of rest.

In understanding how I work best and where I’m most likely to falter, I am aiming to create a training plan that plays off my strengths.  I know I will need a schedule that is highly structured (RLRF), but also has some slack in the system.  Given the choice between pushing through a scheduled run when I’m not feeling up to it or missing an important workout in favor of rest, I will always choose to push myself.  If I’m going to stay healthy, I need to give myself permission to take a day off when I need it.

With that insight, I returned to defining my big-picture goals for this year.  I’d like to get stronger in a way that I can quantify.  That means weight training, complete with logging weight, reps, and sets.  (Data, hooray!)  I’d like to be a bit leaner going into the marathon.  Again, this will probably take some dietary hacking, but shouldn’t be too difficult to quantify.  Third, I want to continue to build my confidence and work on my mental game over the next few months.  This one will be harder to measure, but I can at least be deliberate about the steps I take to get there.  If I can toe the line in Baltimore having accomplished those goals, the race will be a victory lap.  There’s just one teensy other thing that I want, and that’s a sub-four finish.  And that is totally doable.

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