5 Weeks of Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training: Ironman Nostalgia

Welp, I’m back at it again. Had planned to write an update every 2 weeks but with the due date of my wife and my first child fast approaching, well… I skipped a week. Sue me (please don’t).

None the less(!) the quest to run a sub 3 hour marathon continues.

In the last 3 weeks I’ve doubled the longest run (from 4->8) and started bumping up the speed intervals/distances during the week as well. All in all, things are going pretty well with one (major?) exception…

I might need shoulder surgery that derails this entire plan.

A week ago I got an MRI to check out some pain I’d been having in my right shoulder since ~April, and I’ll get the results here in a few days.

If I do need surgery, I’ll have to do it ASAP so I have 2 functioning hands when the baby arrives. The downside to this (other than the obvious) is I won’t be able to run & will have to defer the Baltimore marathon until next year.

All that said, I’m continuing training as if that’s not a thing, so that if by a miracle I don’t need surgery, I’m still on track!

To run a sub 3 hour marathon, sometimes you have to run slow

I learned from research and friends that pushing my long weekend runs is actually, not such a great idea.

In fact, Hal Higdon says that your slow runs can/should be up to :45-1:00 slower per mile than your race pace.

In this Maryland heat & humidity, my response to this? Thank god.

The logic here is that you’re doing significant speed work during the week whether through mid-distance race pace intervals or the fartlek runs, so on the weekends, just work your body up to the distances required.

So, if my target race pace is 6:50 (almost exactly a 3 hour marathon), just how much slower should I go?

Before we answer that:

Ironman marathon nostalgia

The Ironman training plan I followed when I ran Ironman Maryland (recap here) required me to do 1 hour runs, twice per week (Tues/Fri), which for me at the time, was 8 miles on the nose (at 7:30).

These 2, 1 hour runs per week started in early April, and went every week all the way through to race day at the end of September. It was a total of 21 weeks, meaning I ran my 8 mile route 42 times(!) and even more when I had a similar length run on the weekends.

I’ve since moved from where I lived during all that training, but conveniently enough, I moved to a house right on my old 8 mile running route.

When it came time to run 8 miles this weekend, the route was already set in my mind, I get to go back to my old ‘stomping grounds’!

Only one small (major?) thing has changed though…

Hills are good for you, hills are good for you, hills are good for you…

I’ve been a HUGE proponent of hilly runs for years now. I find that if you run a consistent pace, regardless of the terrain, you get the benefits of hill training, aerobic training, and interval/HIIT training, mainly because you’re pushing your heart to do all sorts of different things while maintaining poise/consistency during the run.

Here’s the problem.

Where I lived when training for Ironman Maryland, I was at the lowest point of the 8 mile loop.

For me, this meant a really though 3.5-4 miles out (mostly up hill) but a solid, cool-down style down slope for the returning 4 miles.

Now? Oh now it’s much worse.

I moved to what is essentially the peak of the 8 mile loop, starting at the top.

The elevation chart at the top of this article is my life now. A smooth easy 3-4 miles out, and a crushing series of hills & elevation change on the way back home.

They’re the same hills, on the same route, but man oh man are they much more evil this time around (hence the skull…).

Let’s not forget about running fast though

As much as the long runs can be a slog, it’s the Tuesday fast runs that I think are going to get tough first.

So far, I’ve had up to a 5mi run on Tuesdays, where only 2 miles of that have been “race pace” miles. The first 2 being a warm up & the last being a cool down.

In the next 5 weeks though, the race pace portion of Tuesday’s run goes from 2 miles to 7 miles, and the total run length goes from 6-10.

This coming week I’ll run 6 (2 warm up, 3 race pace, 1 cool down), and in 5 weeks I’ll be up to 10 (2 warm up, 7 race pace, 1 cool down).

Running the same (and longer) courses than my standard 8mi loop, but at ~:40 seconds per mile faster is going to be a chore. That said, if I can do that, things will really start to fall into place for October.

Until next time.