VA Creeper Expectations and Training Review
16 weeks ago I devised THIS training program with some aspiration of achieving a marathon PR on March 25 in Damascus. To some extent PR chasing will always be one source of motivation when I sign up for an event, but when I look at the numbers I don't see much reason to think it will happen. Yes, I do have the knowledge that my training for VA Creeper, my 3rd marathon, has been less taxing than my other two marathons, but its also been slower and less consistent.
My key strategy of 4 runs at 30 miles 4 weeks apart never really materialized due to inhospitable weather, I stopped trying to meet pace targets, and I found that incorporating planned walk intervals into my long runs actually makes me want to walk more. I had even considered using a run 5/walk 1 strategy on race day and approaching the VA Creeper with a just finish attitude.
Not that there is anything at all wrong with just finishing an event...its actually a good attitude to have...I do usually like a challenge though. Looking at the numbers in all honesty I'd have to say that a 4 hour finish will be a challenge that I'm likely to be up to. My previous marathons a 3:35 and a 3:34 at Richmond in '10 and '11were fueled very much by a desire to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The VA Creeper is a USATF certified Boston Qualifying course, but I never approached this event looking to run it for a BQ. I did think in terms of a PR for a while, but thats just not realistic right now either. (BTW a Boston Qualifying time for a 40-44 yr old man is 3:15, at 45 it drops to 3:25 so I'm looking to BQ in 2016 depending on how things go, but it's too far down the road to be planning for it).
Still, I have to call my training leading up to the VA Creeper a success for the following reasons:
1) I knew when I signed up for an early spring marathon that winter training was going to be tough. I've never been a fan of bitter cold and even since I started year round active living I've still usually spent the winters more focused on weight lifting and 12 mile long runs. It was a harsh at times, but I got in most of my 20 and 20+ milers and all of my scheduled mid week 12 milers also!
2) LET ME STRESS THIS WITH CAPS AND BOLD PRINT. Running is not a good weight loss strategy. Running performance might arguably be called a good performance indicator for a weight loss strategy, but in and of itself weight is controlled mostly by food. I had been steady gaining since May of 2012, not much, but I had let myself drift above AMA guidelines by almost 10 lbs. I like to wake up in the morning first thing and weigh myself before I do anything else. I had gotten up to 183 and AMA guidelines per THIS website is 174 MAX. I am happy to say I am back to about an average of 170. If for no other reason keeping this number steadily below 174 makes it ALL worthwhile.
(Historical Note: I was peaking as a runner when I was waking up at around 163-166. I did an experiment over last summer with gaining muscle mass so I had convinced myself that my weight gain was healthy muscle. As part of fueling muscle growth I allowed myself to eat more "garbage" type "zombie" foods. Of the 15 or so lbs that I had added back on since reaching an adult low of 163-ish in Aug 2011 I can estimate that it was probably just 5-ish lbs of muscle and 10-lbs of fat. When I picked up my running mileage and still wasn't losing weight I was forced to remember what I had already learned and started eating with more discipline. Then the fat and water weight started falling off again. Eventually I will start fighting for PR's again and I will see how much muscle I can keep or if it's all just dead weight to a competitive runner)
3) I really enjoy running right now. I look forward to maintaining my current 40-50 mile weekly mileage base. I couldn't say that approaching the past 2 marathons in Richmond. I had actually started dreading some runs. I may be a little slower right now, but it feels good and I'm enjoying the time I'm spending running. That's a big win no matter how you slice it.