• Rob Olson

Marathon Season 2021 Recap & Lessons Learned

Updated: 2 days ago


This past weekend I ran the Newport Marathon.


It was my first marathon race where I went "for time". All of my other races the past 6 years have been for completion. I'm happy to report that I ran it in 3:34, for an average pace of 8:07 min/mile, and most importantly, injury free!


This blog will go over:

- My training plan

- Costs behind marathon training

- Nutrition behind marathon training

- Impact on other areas of fitness

- Lessons learned

- Why I do it


The Training Plan

I have a lot of experience running. I've ran a marathon, completed an Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run), and even done some ultramarathons of 32 miles and 50 miles.


Those were all great for learning about running form, nutrition, preventing injuries, mindset, recovery, etc, but I did not have a lot of experience with speed. For this marathon, my goal was to go faster than I have before with a time of sub 3:30.


So I hopped online, did some Googling, and found a plan. Sounds simple enough, but I had more defining criteria.


I wanted a plan that had me running 4 days per week. This is just based off of my family life and what I thought I could get in each week as I like to run first thing in the morning, sometimes before the kids get up, sometimes the runs would be longer and they would be up when I got back.


I also wanted a "smart" plan, meaning a digital plan on an app that would automatically adjust to my fitness level.


Lastly, I wanted it to sync right to my watch. I'm a big fitness tech lover. My Garmin watch (945) has the ability to download the daily run from my training plan, and guide me on it. Meaning, all I had to do was follow along, there was no need to memorize what distance or speed I needed to do.


Here's an example:


1 mile at 9:30 min/mile

0.5 mile at 8:45 min/mile

0.5 mile at 8:00 min/mile

0.5 mile at 7:30 min/mile

0.5 mile at 8:30 min/mile

then,

8 rounds of:

1 mile at 7:30 min/mile

.25 mile at 9:30 min/mile

then,

1 mile at 9:30


So as you can see, this training was had a nice warmup, then speed interval work in the middle, and then a nice cooldown at the end. All I had to do was follow along on my watch.


The other good thing about following a training plan is they modulate the volume to help prevent injuries. Meaning in the beginning of the plan I may have ran 30 miles in the week, but towards the end of the plan I was running over 50. This increase was done in small increments, broken up by deload weeks about every 5 weeks.


With my 4 runs per week, they typically looked like this:

Monday - Speed work

Tuesday - ResoluteFIT Group Class

Wednesday - Recovery Run

Thursday - ResoluteFIT Group Class

Friday - Speed work

Saturday - Long slow run

Sunday - Rest


Costs Behind Marathon Training

Bare minimum:

Entry fee to race - $100

3 Pairs of Shoes - $400

Carbs to run with - $60/mo


Not needed by certainly helpful:

Training plan - $100

App for training plan - $75/yr

Running watch - Up to $600

Heart rate monitor - $100

Running vest to carry carbs/phone - $100

Massages - $80/mo


You can see even though going outside to run is free, there are certainly some costs behind training for a marathon.


Nutrition behind marathon training

It's no secret that running burns a lot of calories. My average run probably burned 1,500 calories.


I do not track calories or macros, but do have extensive history doing so. I currently go by feeling. If I'm low energy, I know I need to eat more. It's highly unlikely that I would eat too much during these training period.


On training days, I would eat more carbs. On rest days I would eat less carbs.


One change that I did make during this marathon season was breakfast. I would always run first thing in the morning, and I used to have a big egg based breakfast. But I changed that to a smoothie this summer, because I would get back from a long run and just not be ready to eat an egg based meal.


So I switched to this smoothie for my breakfast:

Coconut water

Frozen berries

Whey protein

Spirulina

Kale

Banana

Coconut oil


Hydration in the summer was also a key component of recovery. I would drink an average of 150oz of water per day. Adding an electrolyte drink like LMNT helped significantly.


In terms of nutrition while actually running, I used Tailwind. It's a carbohydrate and electrolyte blend and I would take an average of 50g carbs per hour while running.


Impact on other areas of fitness

It's no secret to anyone reading this blog that I love functional fitness (aka crossfit style training).


This marathon season I would do 4x/wk running and 2x/wk group classes at ResoluteFIT.


It worked, but in hindsight, I would do 3x/wk running and 3x/wk group classes. I felt a loss in some of my strength and even general fitness which I did not like. I feel I could still get most of my running gains with 3x/wk running.


I also credit maintaining functional fitness as a big reason for staying injury free. Many runners that do not cross train get injured, typically from unbalanced muscle groups or a weak core.


Lessons Learned


First, heart rate training is huge. I really recommend running with a heart rate monitor, at least for beginner and intermediate level runners. Once you can intuitively know your own heart rate during activity, it's not always necessary to wear.


Most beginner runners run too fast on long run days, and don't run fast enough on speed days. Having a heart rate monitor helps keep you in check.


Second, knowing your hydration plan is critical. I did a 20 mile pre-race run and felt great. I held 7:44 avg pace and at the end of the run felt I had more in the tank.


This helped me create my race-pace-goal of 7:35.


However, what I did not factor in, was the increased humidity the day of the race combined with my 5% faster pace.


As a result I got dehydrated in the race and it impacted my ability to keep my pace the last few miles. This is one of those things where you really need to experience it to learn it. It's hard to predict and be aware of unless you pay for expensive sweat-rate calculation tests. All good in the long run!


Why I do it

Discipline and delayed gratification.


Life these days is all about instant gratification. Amazon, Instagram, Netflix ... so much of life now you can get whatever you want immediately or next day.


But so many of the important things in life take longer. They take delayed gratification and discipline to achieve.


I like to run, but let me tell you there were plenty of days I did not feel like going out there.


Discipline keeps us in check and on our path to what we want to achieve.


Anything worthwhile in life is not easy. If we want to get the life we desire, we need to first visualize what they life will look like, but also be able to implement the steps necessary to achieve it. Without discipline to do the hard things, it will fall apart and you will not get the results you wanted.


I've done plenty of hard things in my life, so some might say "why do you keep doing it?"


My answers - complacency is just around the corner for all of us. Just because I've achieved in my past does not mean it comes easy or natural now. Discipline is like a knife - you need to sharpen it every now and then in order to keep the blade in working order. A dull knife does nobody any good. This is why I sign up for a race every year. To sharpen that blade!

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