14 Weeks of FIRST Training Pays Off

14FIRSTtraining (1)After 14 weeks of FIRST training, marathon day arrived, and to skip ahead, the quality training plan paid off. Technically the FIRST plan is 16 weeks but I was coming into it after already having had a solid base and by the time I was ready to start marathon training, I had 14 weeks until race day.14FIRSTtraining (3)The FIRST plan calls for three quality runs a week. Speedwork, a tempo run and a quality long distance run, though not quite a traditional LSD from other marathon training plans. Other days are ideally spent with cross-training and strength training; in my case that meant a weekly spin class and some inconsistent tabata work-outs toward the end. I missed only one long run on the whole plan while out of town for a wedding but made up for the distance through a few shorter runs and bike ride in that same weekend.

Embarking on any marathon training plan is hard. It takes dedication to fit the work-outs into the schedule regardless if it’s 3 days a week or 6. Marathon training in the dead heat of summer also takes a special kind of crazy and carrying water on distances I normally wouldn’t (10ks and up!). On this particular stretch of training I had a few particular runs that stood out in my mind.

The First Yasso 800s

14FIRSTtraining (2)Every week I did speedwork on Tuesdays. I would head to the track of our local community college for the prescribed work-out (which was different every week). Unfortunately about 75% of the time I was too early and the gates weren’t open. Luckily, my gym is literally right around the corner and I could high tail it to a treadmill. I did get to do my first set of Yasso 800s on the track. My goal time for these according to FIRST was 3:18. I was following a FIRST plan I’d used previously to hit a 3:35 marathon time. My current marathon goal was 3:40 but I figured if I could hit paces for the 3:35 plan perhaps I’d have wiggle room on race day. There’s not much more discouraging than being not only far off from the goal 800 time than to also be over goal marathon time. My first set of Yassos¬†may¬†have averaged 3:40 but likely slower.

The First Long Run

The first actual long run I did was 13.2 miles but the one I consider the “real” first LONG run was an 18-miler. I left around 5:40 a.m. which is as early as I can muster on a Saturday morning but still wasn’t early enough to beat the July heat. By mile 6 I was already considering “why do I do this??” Enough mental grit, chews and water powered me through slow and steady and gratefully the next weekend’s 20-miler was somehow easier.

The Training Pays Off

By the end of the 14 weeks and with marathon race day in sight, I felt like I have around any other taper, and like so many other runners do. It’s a strange type of panic that there all of a sudden haven’t been enough long runs, haven’t been enough intervals, haven’t been enough race pace runs. But then I did the final set of Yasso 800s. I nailed them. I wanted them under that 3:40 goal time. My 800s were: 3:24, 3:23, 3:28, 3:34, 3:33, 3:33 and 3:28. And a bonus, the track gates were open that day. My last long run, the weekend before the marathon, I did 13 miles with an average 8:08 pace. I was feeling confident.

On September 13, I was in Allentown, PA for the Via Marathon with a mission to run a 3:40:00 or less so I could earn a second Boston qualifying time. That story is for another post, but I came in with 5 seconds to spare at 3:39:55. Plan the work, work the plan.