The Fear of Mile 20 and Beyond

As I head into offseason training, even if only for a few weeks, I’m looking at ways to stay in shape whilst working on building up some muscle. The main thing I need to learn and learn fast is balancing my lower body’s muscle training with running without taxing it too much.

Sergio had told me at work on Tuesday that what people say happens to runners at or after Mile 20 is a “misnomer” at best. “People break down at Mile 16, some are able to make it to Mile 25.” The popular notion is that humans aren’t supposedly built to last past 20-21 miles, but that’s why we all have to work at it to build ourselves.

“Your longest run prior to your half was 15 miles,” pondered Sergio. “Given your training habits, don’t slack off and you’ll be fine.”

You hear about the people that die during these races or afterwards. Then again you hear about this all the time. It happens to people of all ages in football practices, basketball, etc. I could be oversimplifying it, but absent any medical/chronic conditions and assuming no abnormal weather conditions either, if people acclimate and train properly, there shouldn’t be any undue stress on the body. Someone who may go in without any training and just hop into the race could be the ones subjecting themselves to undue stress.

For someone that isn’t quite the most athletic compared to peers of the same age (defining peers here as those taking up similar physical activity) I will just take it one step at a time. It doesn’t surprise me that it took me 14 weeks (even Higdon’s schedule allotted 12 weeks) to fully be prepared for a half marathon that took me just north of 2 hours to run. This was also on top of a year of me completely overhauling my diet (yesterday was the first time in nearly a year that I had eaten any candy) and losing 20-25 pounds from my weight last year.

I’m fully aware this whole thing takes time.

My biggest challenge is trying to balance weightlifting – PARTICULARLY working on my quads, hamstrings and glutes – with my running and doing all that WITHOUT overtaxing my knees. Obviously stronger quads make for less stress on the knees, but I’m trying to see how I can build up those muscles AND do it in such a way it won’t adversely impact my running and vice versa.

Hal Higdon’s training schedules call for 4 days of running. I do my schedule from Sunday-Saturday. So my running days are Monday (longer), Tuesday (shorter), Wednesday (either longer normal run, longer tempo run, or sprints depending) and Saturday (the long running day). My WEIGHTLIFTING days per Higdon are Sunday and Wednesday, with which he calls stretch and strengthening days. Crosstraining days are Tuesday (optional in doing this in lieu of the shorter run) and Friday.

Thursday is my complete rest day. If I personally opt to do ANYTHING on Thursday, I will do weightlifting targetting my arms/chest/upper body, not even touching my abs. Even then I have a few discouraging this and telling me total rest is the way to go.

The offseason will be easy to get my muscles toned up a bit more efficiently. But trying to be a little more pushy with my lower body in terms of building up that muscle. I’ve experienced injury once in the past though, hopefully I can sort out a balanced but appropriate workout in the coming months. By mid-December it will be back to easing in a training plan for March’s Shamrock Fest and rebounding for a May 2011 race still to be determined. Could be April 2011 if I go for UNITE’s Half Marathon at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ.

I could also forgo racing in later spring 2011, and start strength training for my full marathon. I may take on the ING RnR in Philly 18 September as a precursor to MCM if I elect to run that race 30 October. If circumstances dictate me to run Chicago 9 October instead, I will go for the two half races in the spring and just train up all summer for Chicago.

Just need to find a plan of attack to work on my muscles, because this will be key in building up what I need to tackle a full. At least it will help my case. More muscle = more work. I’d be stupid to ignore that side of training. And mind you, I am just trying to complete the damned full. I’m not looking for a BQ (Boston Marathon qualifying) time.

Some people will call me being obsessive on this one, I am just trying to be strategic and play it smart because I don’t want to risk injury and regret anything later. Or rather, if I should get injured, I don’t want it caused by anything that I could have potentially prevented on my part.

I’m still in recovery week – took two days off Sunday and Monday. Light weightlifting for 30 minutes, focusing on abs/upper body, and elliptical for 30. Rested again Wednesday. Today, did chest and legs/lower body lifting (no issues, thank goodness) and 20 minutes on the elliptical. Tomorrow, probably arms lifting and elliptical or cycling, and Saturday I will run 3-5 miles depending on comfort level.

We’ll see how this goes.

As for course training, it will depend. Shamrock VAB is completely flat, with a VERY slight incline at Mile 7 for the half marathon.

If I do a latter spring race, I know ODDyssey is somewhat hilly with the hills towards the very end. UNITE Rutgers is mostly flat.

Fall 2011? ING RnR is supposedly flat. Chicago, should I do this full, is flat.

MCM is the worst though – has nasty climbs at miles 3, 8 and 25-26. Mile 3 is Rosslyn, more or less, Mile 8 is Georgetown University leading into M Street NW, and Mile 26 is the Arlington Cemetery leading to the Iwo Jima Memorial.

I’m not scared of the hills though, mainly because I hit SIX of them in my first half, and I have the ability to train in DC as I travel there for work rather frequently. So I am not scared. Sergio yet again gave me some insight on training for them having done so himself. From his input, it doesn’t sound bad at all.

Just trying to hash it all out in playing this smart from a purely fitness and physical standpoint. Anything I can do to prepare myself for that final 10k of a full. Suggestions are welcome.

Again, not trying to sound obsessive, but I’ll just take any advantage I can get. 🙂

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