Boston Marathon Training Update – 11 Weeks to Go

Boston Marathon Training Update – 11 Weeks to Go

Well, here we are: 11 weeks until Boston, so I guess now I’m officially “training for the Boston Marathon.”

Flights have been booked, stay with friends arranged – all I’ve got to do, really, is run.

And try not to get injured.

Oh wait, I already did. Let me tell you about that first.

It’s “just” an ankle sprain — except it happened three times in the past five weeks, on the same ankle. The first was a couple of days before Christmas, during my cool-down jog home after a hill repeat workout. It was mild; I had no pain and almost no swelling a day later, so after a pre-scheduled day off of running and a couple of shorter, easy pace “test” runs, I went back to normal.

Except two weeks later, two miles into a 6-mile tempo run (I did a 1.5-mile slow warmup, then picked up the pace, hoping to gradually descend it to 7:20-ish over the first three miles and try to keep it there) – BAM. Twisted that same ankle on what I could swear was flat asphalt. Since that was pretty much in the middle of my out-and-back route, I had to cover three miles back to the car one of two ways: limp slowly and be in pain longer, or continue the tempo effort and save myself a few minutes of pain. I chose to try and keep the pace as best as I could:
Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 11.45.55 AM
But there was no doubt this time that the sprain was worse, so I took five days off running — with a short, easy-run test (10 minutes) on the fifth. Things looked and felt in order, so on Day 6, I knocked out a 12-mile run, descending my pace from an easy warmup (9:00-ish) down to 8:00 for the last mile. It felt great — obviously, a week off of running doesn’t have to ruin your fitness, especially if you can stay on top of things, like your bike trainer. (Not joking: riding was not bothering my ankle at all, so my coach made me do some pretty nasty trainer interval workouts that kept my quads burning!)

The last sprain came another two weeks later, as I was walking down a hill in the recovery portion of a warmup hill repeat. It wasn’t a bad sprain, and I went on my trail run as planned — good thing, too, because otherwise I’d have missed this amazing rainbow:

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

But. The sprain was at the exact same spot as the other two and I’m not deluding myself: even though it is now visibly recovered and I am back to running with no pain at any sort of pace, I know there is a weakness there that needs to be addressed. On Coach’s orders, I am doing ankle strengthening exercises daily: lots of eccentric calf drops, calf raises, one-foot standing balance with eyes closed, and what not.

OK… are you bored yet? Here is what my last week-and-a-half of training looked like:

Week 1: 12 weeks to Boston

Monday: swimming, 2500 yards. Rest day from running.

Tuesday: 6.2 run around a dirt-road surface track during kid’s soccer practice. Turned it into a fartlek to test out the ankle at different paces. After a mile warmup (9:06), I ran one mile fast (7:41), then 0.25 easy + 0.75 fast (7:39); then 0.5 easy + 0.5 fast (7:16); then 0.75 easy + 0.25 fast (6:41), and a one-mile cooldown at 8:50. All “easy” intervals were around 9:30 pace.

Wednesday: Morning swim (2300 yards); afternoon easy run – 5 miles at 9:21 avg pace.

Thursday: 9 miles: first three at a faster pace (7:57-7:53-7:31), followed by 6 easy miles with a friend. Well, the Super Bowl is in town and the San Tomas Aquino bike “trail” that goes right to Levi’s Stadium has become quite the popular destination for runners. I have to say, that “trail” (I use the quotes because there’s nothing trail-y about it) is not pleasant. But – how often do you get to check out a stadium all decked-out for the Super Bowl?

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

Friday: Morning swim (2400 yards); afternoon run: 6 miles at an easy pace (9:33 avg).

Saturday: Trail run, 8.2 miles on a somewhat hilly terrain (790 feet total elevation gain, so OK – not that hilly). Pick up the pace for the last three miles, to 8:05/ mile.

Sunday: Morning ride: 21.5 miles with one little climb (just under 1000 ft total elevation gain); it was rainy and really not that pleasant to be out in the chilly morning. Afternoon run: 5.4 easy-pace run at around 9 min/ mile pace.

Total run mileage: 40
Training phase: Volume.

And that was my “12 weeks to go” Boston Marathon training. I’ve also started reading more about the course and what to expect. It’s not flat!

Any advice from past Boston Marathon runners?

The Post-Workout Snack: What and when you eat can have a huge impact on recovery and future performance

The Post-Workout Snack: What and when you eat can have a huge impact on recovery and future performance

I don’t fancy myself a food blogger — much less a foodie — so naturally I don’t write about food often. I mean, what’s to write about: I swim, bike, or run. I eat. Training is a big part of my life, and so is food. Anyone who’s experienced “runger” in the peak mileage weeks of a marathon training cycle knows what I mean. (Not to mention “ranger,” which occurs if you don’t address runger, STAT.)

All jokes aside, though: what you eat and when has such a big impact on how well you recover from training. It’s a simple rule:

  • Within 30 minutes after workout that lasts for an hour or more (and is of higher intensity), you must eat something with carbs and a bit of protein.

Joe Friel gives a succinct, simple explanation of what to eat and why on his blog, and focuses more on recovery here.

Problem is, this is easier said than done: how many times have you you found yourself stuck in traffic on your way home from a long run or rushing to get work done, that snack forgotten until you realize you’re about to pass out or kill a coworker in a pang of ranger? Or you had the very best intention of grabbing a banana on your way out, but forgot?

Which brings me to my next point: the post-workout snack stash. One of my training buddies is excellent at this: she always has a bag full of healthy snacks in her car. I’m talking apples, home-made trail mix, freshly baked almond-flour protein cookies… seriously gourmet stuff. My friend is smart. We should all be like her.

But for those of us who forget to whip up a fresh batch of homemade granola before a run, here’s an alternative: stash a protein bar or two in your car. Eat when needed; replenish supplies. Voila!

Along those lines, my latest discovery comes via Fit Approach (a.k.a. #sweatpink) and Manitoba Harvest, the company that makes Hemp Hearts, a vegan raw hemp seed I’ve been adding to my oatmeal for that extra protein and omega-3 boost. Great product, but not so practical to eat on the go, right? Except now, we have the perfect on-the-go solution, a Hemp Heart Bar.

Hemp Heart Bar

I tried tree flavors – vanilla, chocolate, and apple-cinnamon – and they were all delicious, especially with the nutty “kick” from the hemp seed. (By the way, for those of you who’ve never tried hemp seed: no, you don’t smoke those. Hemp seeds are just like chia seeds or flaxseed, you add them to cereal, oatmeal or smoothies.)

Hemp Heart Bar Nutrition

So if you’re looking to try a new, organic and plant-based protein post-workout snack, grab a Hemp Heart Bar. Use discount code hhbarlaunch1015 for 15% off if you order from ManitobaHarvest.com.

And not least, check out the company’s photo contest for a chance to win a box of your favorite flavor (I recommend chocolate).

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

This is a sponsored product review opportunity from Manitoba Harvest and Fit Approach. Opinions are my own.

A Triathlete’s Year: 2015 by the numbers

A Triathlete’s Year: 2015 by the numbers

One of my early-January rituals is to look back at the past year and crunch the numbers on my training: miles, time, sessions, race favorites, results, PRs… you get the idea. I’m getting to it a little late this year, but what can I say: January got away from me.

I’ve been busy training for the Boston Marathon… is that an excuse? Maybe. But I did crunch the numbers first thing this month. Then I ran a little 2014-2015 comparison. I love that sort of stuff, don’t you?
THE NEW YOU

How many miles does a triathlete travel by swim, bike and run?

Nearly 4,000! To be precise: 3,988. That includes:
Swim: 150
Bike: 2289
Run: 1548

My overall mileage was lower than last year (4,422), but my running miles are higher (last year I ran roughly 1,300). Makes sense, considering 2014 was a three-70.3 year and in 2015, I only did one 70.3 — then racked the bike for months to train my butt off for a BQ marathon.
 

Time is on my side, yes it is

The thing with endurance sports is that time is on your side: if you’re consistent and train smartly, you will get better. But, you do have to put in the time.

How much? In 2015, I spent 496 hours swimming, biking or running. That’s nearly 21 full days of training, not including sleep. (Don’t get any ideas, though — sleep is more important to me than food… OK maybe it’s a toss-up.) Oh, and that doesn’t include the time spent putting on cycling gear, foam rolling tight muscles, driving to the pool or the trail; not to mention the travel time to races. Triathlon is quite the (incredible, amazing, empowering, endorphinizing) time suck, isn’t it?
 

One, two, one-two

My way of saying: how many times a day did I train? The answer is an average 1.7. I did a total of 630 swim, bike or run activities in 2015. A few of these included some bike commute time, so there would be days when I’d log in four bike rides – but hey, everything counts!

If you know triathlon training, you know two-a-days come with the territory, and most solid marathon-training plans have you running twice a day at least a couple of times a week, too.

I will state for the record that I took a total of 15 rest days in 2015 (ha! numbers. love ‘em!). Three of those were in the very beginning of the year when I came down with the flu (luckily, I was out for less than a week, thank you immune system!), and the rest were either after big, tough races – or for international (super-long) travel. And before you rule me out as crazy, understand that my training schedule is meticulously planned to involve proper rest after hard workouts – an easy swim after a hard run, or a very short and slow run after a long day on the bike. I survived the year without major injuries — and I did take a solid two months off of structured training, during which I did light, easy activities (swim, bike and run, of course) just for the fun or the social aspect of it, usually both.
 

Race miles

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

2015 was a year of quality, not quantity. I raced a grand total of 10 times during the year – not even once a month. And now that I’ve gone both ways — in prior years, I’ve raced anywhere from 14 times (2015) to 24 (2014), I am convinced that if you want to see race results, you have to sacrifice race frequency. I didn’t realize back in 2014 how tough it was on my body to race twice a month – and no, signing up for a half marathon with the excuse that “I’ll use it as a training run” just doesn’t work for me. I show up, I get amped up, I go as fast as I can – which often doesn’t end up very fast because a week isn’t enough to recover from a race in order to race well again.

Total race miles: 229.

That included:
One 5K
One 10K
Two half marathons
One marathon
One sprint-distance triathlon
One Olympic-distance triathlon (sort of; Escape from Alcatraz is in its own category there)
One half Ironman (70.3)
And two overnight relays (The Golden Gate Relay and Ragnar Napa Valley)
 

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

Results!

And now, the fun part! I PRed every distance I ran this year, with which I am very satisfied. This was, after all, the whole point. Here are my 2015 PRs:

5K: 21:55 (previous: 23:11 in 2014)
10K: 44:29 (previous: 49:13 in 2014)
Half marathon: 1:42:12 (previous: 1:49:19 in 2014)
Marathon: 3:37:24 (previous: 4:22:43 in 2006 — oh yeah, I was overdue to try).

Going to Boston next year!!!! #bostonmarathon #boston #squeakedinby8seconds! #lucky

A photo posted by Aleks Todorova (@aleksruns) on

The knowledge that in your late 30s you are faster than you were in your early 20s — or ever: Priceless.

How was your 2015? What accomplishment are you most proud of — and what are your goals for 2016?