My inspiration to register for the NCR was Karen. She wanted to run fast and she wanted my help with a plan to do it. I was so honored to be asked to help her. She is a dedicated runner, an amazing person, and good friend.
She too has a busy life, busier and more hectic than what most people experience because of some significant events. With an unpredictable schedule and less time to commit to training plans, I devised something I thought could help her run fast, while also not take over her life.
I took my inspiration from a plan that emphasized cumulative fatigue and medium length runs along with weekly interval work that was pretty challenging. This plan conspicuously lacked the "dreaded" Long Runs that take up half the day. What can a runner do on back-to-back medium runs at a moderate pace, in place of the usual long slow distance book-ended by rest days? Is a PR possible? How big?
Karen ran almost every planned workout at the prescribed paces for 18 weeks. I can't say enough how much this fact demonstrates how dedicated and motivated Karen is. The paces were selected in order to get her in somewhere between 3:30-3:40. The speed work was really tough. As the weeks flew by and she was fighting to hit every pace as planned, I was more than impressed. I really truly wanted her to see that 3:3x on the clock and I wanted to be a witness to her greatness, even though I knew I would not be running as fast at this race myself. With her PR off a much higher mileage plan, a few years ago, and a 3:50 being her new BQ time goal, anything under 3:50 would be a success on this plan. But anything within the 3:3x window would be super sweet. She deserves super-sweet.
I wanted to help her in any way I could. My plan was to pace Karen out to the 13.5 mile turn around at a pace that would set her up for a 3:3x. I then planned to drop my pace down to a comfortable 10 min pace (hoping to cut down my own recovery and stay peppy for my 24 hour run this weekend).
It was such a pleasure to run a race that had nothing to do with my performance. I felt sorry that I was not able to suck it up and hang at her pace this whole race with her and see her finish. As I enjoyed my comfortable jaunt through the woods for the second half of the race, I was dying to know how she was doing and whether this shockingly light plan could get her a good time.
I completed my own "workout" as scheduled and crossed the finish at 3:55. A sub-4 hour marathon as training is really quite nice and I think I will be doing more of this in the future (if not too pricy). Running a marathon with no pressure for time but for the benefits of a long run was just what I needed. I don't recommend trying to race a marathon, all out, at PR pace, if the training leading up to the race does not support such an intense effort. In this age of runners having cardiac issues en-route, I felt I was being very safe and comfortable running 1:45 first half and then cruising in for a 2:10 second half since I have done little work to prepare for an effort much better than that.
I dont want to give away Karen's story completely, but I can say that the lower mileage but more intense training plan I personalized to her lifestyle, schedule, and personal goals earned good marks. She crushed her BQ time while setting a significant PR, although her "A goal" was not attained.
I learned a lot from Karen as my guinea pig in this experiment. In hindsight we both agree that even though the plan was set up for a 3:30-3:35 run, with the lower weekly mileage and the lower LR miles, it would be wise to train with those pace, but plan for a 3:35-3:39 with race day pacing and strategy set up accordingly. Going out on 3:30 pace felt great but caught up to her too much in the later miles. This could also have been due to the warmer temps, the need for more fluids than available, or any other issue. However, I feel that good solid training can help reduce the impact of other issues. If I could pace her all over again, I would consider about 10 seconds slower per mile for the first half.
Now I need another guinea pig to test my theories. Who wants to be my next experiment. :)