A great long run, a tweak to my training schedule?

I’ve only trained for a full marathon once before, and for my runs of 15 miles or longer, I found I could only be comfortable with

An awesome long run on Thursday has let me consider the rest of my training schedule, which has highlighted some conflicts ...

An awesome long run on Thursday has let me consider the rest of my training schedule, which has highlighted some scheduling conundrums ...

a pace that meant I was doing more shuffling than walking.

That was in Florida in March and April of 2007, before the Nashville Country Music Marathon. I finished that marathon in 4:34 — roughly 10:30-minute miles — feeling fabulous, but with the sinking feeling that perhaps I was feeling a little *too* fabulous, and should have pushed myself harder somewhere along the line. To be fair, I ran and trained for the race in true southern heat — sometimes the blistering, soul-sucking kind. But still …

I’m happy to report that things are coming along a bit differently this time. Thursday marked my third long run during which I’ve managed a 9:30-minute-mile pace, quite comfortably, with negative splits at the end. Negative splits! Me! Who woulda thunk?

I mention this because my success on my 17-miler on Thursday has allowed me, for the first time since an old hip injury flared up this spring, to start seriously planning to run this marathon. This, in turn, has highlighted some weird scheduling conundrums I need your advice about.

My training plan calls for the following long runs: 18 miles on Sept. 20, 10 miles on Sept. 27, 20 miles on Oct. 4, 13 miles on Oct. 11, eight to 10 miles on Oct. 18, marathon on Oct. 25.

My life calls for a road-trip to see a University of Colorado football game in West Virginia Oct. 1, followed by a backpacking trip immediately after, which is really, really not conducive to a successful 20-miler. The weekend before, there’s a 10K I’d really like to run on Sept. 26, the Clarendon Day 10K. I feel comfortable running up to 17 miles on a weekday morning before work, since I make my own schedule, but 20 is enough to basically ruin any chance of productivity for the rest of the day.

So: How do we feel about me swapping my 18-miler and 20-miler? It would be nice to do the 20-miler exactly three weeks out. But it would also be nice to, you know, have a life. Plus, my husband’s helping a friend move the morning of Sept. 19, making it the ideal Saturday morning for a life-consuming long run. And a glance at my running log from 2007 indicates that I did my sole 20-miler that year five weeks out rather than three (thanks to a wicked case of food poisoning, but whatever).

What do we think? Would all hell break loose if I timed my only 20-miler a bit earlier than my plan calls for, or is this swap OK? Please, please weigh in on this — I need some affirmation!

In other news: After fears of rain nearly led me to postpone the aforementioned 17-mile run, it turned out to be dry, gorgeous, ego-boosting and uplifting — in short, everything I hoped for and more. I ran 17.15 miles in 2:43 — 9:30 minute-mile pace, with an 8:30 or two thrown in at the end. I went on Sligo Creek Trail again, creature of habit I am, with a few hills thrown in to avoid getting *too* much of an ego boost. I also tried a few new things, with varying effects:

  • Champion shorts from Target are my new true love. They cost $15. They don’t chafe, even on the longest, sweatiest of runs. Truly, my shirt chafed before my shorts. Buy these NOW.
  • Mocha Clif gel and I will have to go on another date to see how things go. The gels contain 50mg of caffeine a pop, which I’m a total sucker for (I dream of a day when gels will all contain carbs, caffeine and a wee bit of acetaminophen), and taste like Hershey’s syrup with a little bit of espresso. I like that they’re all-natural, but I might just like the texture of my tried-and-true latte-flavored PowerBar gels better. Jury’s still out.
  • Big bowls of frozen berries and my stomach are, from this point forward, forbidden to have contact the night before a long run. Seriously. My stomach isn’t even accepting calls from berries anymore. I told myself fruit was light enough to balance the high fiber content. Yesterday morning, my stomach informed me I should shut up and stick to the pizza, please.

Two other changes I’ll make for future long runs. First, I really do need to start my pre-run diet two days beforehand, eating roasted vegetable lasagna and homemade pizza rather than, say, burritos and bean dip two days out (true story). Also, I need to find a new lucky long-run shirt that doesn’t chafe on long runs. The one I wore in 2007 has a permanent stench after many, many miles and many, many races.

Don’t forget to enter my very first contest for a pair of Saucony ProGrid Xodus Trail-Running Shoes! All you have to do is post a comment sharing your best trail-running story at the bottom of this post by the end of next week.


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11 responses to “A great long run, a tweak to my training schedule?

  1. I affirm your revised training schedule! This isn’t based on any technical knowledge or vast experience. It is based only on my attitude that–while we need to be disciplined about our training (which you’ve been)–life happens and we’ve all got to work with it.

  2. Don’t worry about changing the schedule. Since your 17-mile run went so well, I think you’ll be just fine. I know we runners like to stress out about a difference between 18 and 20 miles, but really, its TWO miles. Not much compared to the extra 6.2 we’ll have to run on race day.

    I’ve never been a gel user, but the one you mentioned sounds really delicious and helpful, I just might try it!

  3. KateKirk

    Based on my looooong experience training for marathons (since March of this year), I applaud your flexible approach. I find that not beating myself up about having to shift things around keeps me in better mental shape. For those of us running to finish and running for personal accomplishment, changing my life *too* drastically would make it no fun and I promised myself that if it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it. And I’ve been having a blast so far! My food sacrifice has been wine on Saturday nights, and this weekend, I’ll have to wait until Sunday to enjoy the fruits of our labor grilling and peeling 20lb of green chiles…not great running fuel.

  4. I think any run of 17 miles or more constitutes a long run. I read an article recently that referred to some elite Marathoners whose longest runs in training was only 16 miles. Point was, quality of training is better than quantity. Have fun!!

  5. I don’t think you’ll have any problems flipping the two runs. You aren’t going to lose any conditioning before the race. I jumped from 17 to 20 and then did three 20 milers when I was training for MCM and I didn’t have any problems with the 3 mile increase.

    Good luck in the Clarendon run. I want to run that one (I can walk to the start line), but I’ve already signed up for the Dogfish Head Dash in Delaware on the 27th.

  6. Courtney

    i thought the point of the 20 miler was just to work up to 20… so what if you can do it earlier than the program says… SWITCH… no brainer.

    and as for the shirt with the STENCH… wear it. maybe people will smell you coming and just move out of your way. plus with a few more long runs before the race… you’ll have it ripe and ready!

    now… have i already suggested the SHINS’ Girl on the wing? my kids love that song.

    • THANKS for the advice, and the song idea! Totally looking for some new tunes!

      And re: the smell shirt: I realized it was smelly when, on a group run, I looked around in disgust, wondering who hadn’t showered that day. Then, I realized: Holycrap, that’s ME! If it weren’t actually distracting to me, I might torture my fellow runners. It’s pretty nasty, even after using that fancy-pants sports detergent. 🙂

  7. Look at you go Amy!! Great pace on that long mileage. You are smoking it! You should have no prob swapping the 18 and 20 mile run. I swapped mine with no recourse. You got this, girl!!!

    Had to LOL at the gel + acetaminophen comment. Yes, please! And YEAH for Target Champion shorts. SOOOO glad you like them!!! (I’m always nervous recommending something to someone)

    Have a great weekend and good runs!

  8. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for weighing in! Decision made: I’m tackling the 20 next weekend!

  9. i too think the swap would be fine. i know if anything were to come up, you’d behave and listen to your body, but it sounds like you’ll be just fine. glad the training is going well!!

  10. trialsoftraining

    Wellll, I’ve never trained for a marathon, so I’m not sure how much my opinion will help 😉 but…I think swapping the LRs should be fine as long as you don’t overdo the mileage on that week. Maybe cut down an easy run earlier in the week to make up for the extra 2? and rest up! obviously 😉

    $15 shorts from Target?! Uh, I need to go to Target now.

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