Specific Marathon Training Phase

The original training outline was published early June in Melbourne Marathon 2011 Outline. Since what my body is capable of didn't exactly match what was on paper, there are going to be a few changes. I am starting the Specific Phase early and will take on a different format. Before getting into the details, I need to cover my goals.

Melbourne Marathon 9th October 2011:
  1. Realistic: Run a personal record which is sub 2:58:44
  2. Hopeful: Run sub 2:55:00
  3. Dream: Hit 2:50:00 territory
Specific Phase:
  • Develop rhythm and efficiency at marathon pace
  • Develop racing abilities
The astute will note I have changed the last guideline. I have dropped the bit "through VO2max intervals and faster paced long runs", as I think there is now a slightly different approach that I need to take. Let's get into it.

Structure:
6 Cycles: usually 8 days, but with the 3rd being 7 days.
This will lead into a 15 day taper.

Cycles 1 & 2:
Marathon Pace 20km: Over a measured, looped course, with some steady climbs. This will be performed on feel at the what I think is about the right effort for race day. Heart rate and times will be ignored during the run, but recorded for analysis to guide the later training and get an idea what to expect for race day.
Long Run: 3 hours over variable terrain, mixed types of climbs and descents, some flat sections and majority being on off road trails. The aim will be for a mainly comfortable, but steady pace (terrain accounted for). The most important element is to maintain good running form through to the end without slowing down. I don't really care how fast this is run, but it should require a bit of concentration to keep from easing off.
VO2 Intervals: First week, 6x1000m (600m easy), second week as 6x1200m (400m easy). These should be faster than 10km race pace. So I would expect something between 3:30-3:40/km. It should feel fast and challenge my ability to maintain over the last couple repeats without being completely debilitating.
Volume: All the other running will be at very comfortable speeds. The basic endurance isn't at the level I was hoping at this stage. So I will aim to get nearly as many easy kilometers into the legs as I can. Ideally I would like most of these runs to be 15-20km, but my roster and other commitments dictate otherwise. As a result there will be a few double run days. A quick (hopefully realistic) calculation gives me about 145-150km/8 days or about 130km/week.
Others: I move away from the larger individual strength sessions, and will aim to incorporate a small amount of strength, core and corrective exercises in most days. None of this should impact on my running. A little bit of speed work, and form drills will be performed in the evening on the day of my long run. I'd also like to get an easy swim in each week to aid recovery.

Cycle 3: 7 days
Testing: A MAF Test and a 400m TT. Just to see where all my numbers are.
Fast Finish Long Run: A run of 30-32km. First half easy, then build to marathon pace and finish with a few kilometers at half marathon effort with a final burst at maybe 10km race pace. This run I will test race day nutrition and clothing.
Recovery: The test shouldn't take much out of me, and apart from the long run, the rest of the week is devoted to ensuring my body is recovering, absorbing and able to make the most of my training.

Cycles 4, 5 & 6:
Marathon Pace 20km: Same looped course. These weeks I will really try to zero-in on some specific times. These runs are kind-of truth runs. If I can't get the times here, then holding it over double the distance is too big an ask. From here I should get a good sense of my speed versus heart rates. If I feel I am heading to an early peak, or am being completely crushed by the training, then Cycle 6 is likely to be reduced to only 10km at marathon pace.
Long Run: Again about 3 hours worth of running over trails. The difference here is I plan on including a few climbs over the last quarter of the run where I push the pace. The Melbourne Marathon has a few moderate climbs at around 35km, so it will be important to be able to run well there. Out of the three cycles I'd also like to replace one long run with another Fast Finish Run, of 30-32km the same as Cycle 3, this will be in either Cycle 5 or 6 depending on what I feel suits me best at the time.
VO2 Intervals: 4-5 x 1600-2000m, with 400-200m easy recovery. I'll hold the same speeds as in Cycles 1 & 2, the difference is the overall distance is a little longer. At this stage, I should feel reasonably comfortable with these runs. They are hard, but very doable. I will be looking to find the ability to fall into rhythm with quick leg turnover. Heart rates will be irrelevant, it is about the speed and rhythm.
Volume: I'd like to start out with achieving nearly as many kilometers as I can fit in. Except for the key runs above, all other running will be very easy. The proviso on the volume is now it cannot in any way detract from the quality and my ability to meet the goals in the key runs. As the cycles progress, I will be happy to reduce the overall volume of easy runs. It is likely there will be no double runs in Cycle 6. The problem is I find a respond best when I am achieving a reasonable volume in training. Too little, and the back end of the marathon is likely to suffer. Too much and the benefit of the faster running is negated. Finding the balance is very hard to predict ahead of time.
Others: The volume of strength work will be very low. What is included will be mainly of a remedial nature. I'd like to maintain the easy swim, as it feels very complimentary and stretches me out.

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