Saturday, December 3, 2011

Embracing Aerobic Training and First Marathon

The month of November marked a decided shift in my running away from high intensity short duration efforts to long duration aerobic efforts, culminating in my first marathon this past Sunday.  I have learned a lot about endurance and myself by pushing my limits in this unfamiliar territory.  Naturally there is still much to be learned and attempted.  This is an exciting new space for me and I hope to continue to see large gains from this change in focus and concentrating on base miles over the coming months.

The best way to quantify the previous paragraph is in terms of time and heart rate.  Of course doing so cheapens the sensations and challenges that accompany actual human endurance feats, but serves to establish a reference.  Short duration represents efforts between 30 and 90 minutes.  High intensity represents anaerobic efforts at a steady pace that began greater than 80% max heart rate and feature significant cardiac drift to maximum heart rate.  Long duration reflects efforts greater than 2 hours.  Aerobic efforts are those that take place at a low heart rate and feature no cardiac drift at a sustainable pace.
My most loyal training partner is tireless and unstoppable in the cool weather and has been packing our food and drink for long runs.  Here he is excited to go.
I have spent most of my life with a simple training philosophy of pushing my body to its limit quickly out of the gate and staying there as long as I can. It has served me well and I have seen much improvement in the half marathon space as such. To reach my full potential and conquer marathon plus distances I will need to better balance my training. Such heavily weighted anaerobic training has always yielded faster race times for me in short distances and comparatively slower times in long distances when using equivalent performance race tables. Conversely heavily weighted aerobic training yields the opposite result.

My first marathon was nothing special, just a training run with my dog the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  The weather could have been better at 37 F and 18-22 mph winds but to fully appreciate the best we have to experience the worst.  I split the run into three sections and took a food and water break for the dog and I at miles 9 and 18.  The first nine were easy with the wind at my back, the second nine more challenging into the wind and the last 8.2 miles were 100% of the effort.  I have never had so desperate a recovery by the time I finished.  My animal was annoyingly strong and capable.  All the details are on Garmin connect.

Cold, wet, and less excited after being caught in the rain the last hour of a 3 hour  run.
I can only describe the run as a failure, the last 10k were a terrible struggle and I found my limits well before I finished.  Had the run gone well I would have learned little, failure is the greatest teacher and as such the run was a great success.  There is plenty for me to adjust for future efforts from pacing to food and water intake etc...  Now that I have experience at this distance I can better understand and appreciate the training theory that accompanies it.              

I have long been aware of the concept of high mileage training to include recovery runs but dismissed the notion as junk miles. After failing to conquer my first attempt at a century ride, and other experiences cycling I began to rethink running. Seeing the writings and accomplishments of runners successfully utilizing high mileage training plans further fueled my intrigue, notably Britt of ChicagoRunner Girl. Excellent accounts about the merits of recovery runs by Patrick Mahoney at Endurance Athlete Project and of base training here and here by Will at An Ultra Runners Blog greatly aided in my acceptance and understanding of aerobic training. I am thankful to all for sharing their accounts.


  1. Been doing the same thing over the last few months and the results have been consistent. Recovery runs are essential as is foam rolling, compression, and icing the sore spots, proactively, at least for me.

    Keep up the hard work you are doing great!

    Wish I had a training partner as cool as yours.

  2. Love the pictures of your running partner. Did you have any trouble breaking him in with wearing the Ruffpack? I run with my Lab but I am not sure if he would like that on his back but it would sure be nice if I did not have to carry the water for us both.

  3. Thanks for the reference to my sounds like you are on the right track. Another benefit of aerobic training is that you will notice things - natures things - around you a lot more. It moves the motivation of training from an ego driven pursuit to a holistic experience. Enjoy.

  4. Thanks Brooke. It took a few runs for Lefty to take to the pack. He would rub against trees and roll on his back. He still does not account for the extra width and bumps into everything in tight spaces but does not notice the pack otherwise. It does serve to slow him down a little (a good thing). It seems comfortable and has plenty of adjustments and padding. I have never seen evidence of skin irritation or any chaffing.

  5. Wow, I am impressed that your dog can run that far!!! That's amazing.