Are You Tough Enough?—Part II

If you’re thinking about training for a marathon or a distance longer than a marathon, there many resources available. Unfortunately, the numerous diverse resources offer as nearly as many diverse views on how to train train. Is there any one best way to train?

freeimage-4736745 Probably not, due to varying body types and conditions, but there are techniques that tend to work very well for a great number of people. So what are these techniques and where is the best place to look for these resources? Personally, I’ve found that
Jeff Galloway, Danny Dreyer, and Christopher McDougall, are a few of the experts in the area of distance running that take an approach that effectively addresses the fundamentals of running, technique, and the spirituality surrounding the experience that will serve as an excellent aid to any person training for a distance event.

In preparation for the Tough Enough run on April 6th, my running partner Chris Clemons and I are following a particular routine over the next three months that consists of just three running workouts per week. These workouts are taken from Jeff Galloway’s material, however, the specific running techniques and warm-up drills are also from Danny Dreyer’s Chi Running Techniques, and Christopher McDougall’s views on minimalist running, increasing foot strikes per minute, and drills like the 100 Up that train you to run with a full foot strike as opposed to a heel strike.

We primarily follow Galloway’s methods for our training days. The first workout we do on Monday and consists of a 1-2 miles of easy warm-up followed by 1-3 miles at what would usually be our projected marathon pace. If we’re still recovering from our weekend run, we do just 1 mile at that pace but if we had a relatively easy weekend run than we do 3 miles. For the two of us, this pace is just under an 8-minute mile. If we were training for a particular marathon then this pace would be very specific, but since we’re training for an ultramarathon we’re not as concerned. As the training progresses, this mile pace should be perceived as relatively easier each week although it does not change from the start of your training to the end in relation to your projected marathon for that season.

Tri training 4We do the week’s second workout on Wednesday with two miles of warm-up, five hill repeats, and then two miles of cool-down. We’ve found the hill on the bike path in front of Santa Barbara City College to be ideal for these hill repeats. The hill of choice should be between a 3-6-percent grade (not very steep) and 200 meters in length. We break the hill into approximately five equidistant sections. At each of these section breaks, we increase the speed of our run so that we are at about 95% of our maximum effort by the time we reach the top of the hill. We then walk the entire length back to the start for our next hill repeat. At the start of the hill repeats, we jog at approximately our warm-up pace and then increase the intensity at each checkpoint. I like to say the first segment is at 60-percent, second at 70-percent, third at 80-percent, fourth at 90-percent, and the last segment at 95-percent.

These percentages can be tracked pretty accurately if you figure out your “magic mile”. This is your fastest 1-mile pace which is then then projected out to your marathon pace (refer to Galloway). But for most just starting a routine, basically run the hill repeats at a pace where you can increase your speed at each checkpoint . When you finish the sprint, you should have been able to go just a little faster at the end if needed, but barely. As you start the program, the hill repeats will feel pretty tough, but as the months progress, this becomes a very fun workout and a primary component when it comes to increasing your ability to run faster.

The third workout we save for Saturday mornings. This workout is actually a combination of three workouts that we rotate through. On the first week, we start with our mileage build up. In starting a marathon program it is necessary to build up to a long run of at least six miles. Once you have that mileage, every third week you will do a slow long run that will increase the mileage distance. Galloway’s training program is unique from most others in that the last long run before your marathon is 28-30 miles in length. You are able to do this because of the walk breaks, and your pace is at least 2 minutes per mile slower than your projected marathon time. The second option for Saturday is a speed endurance workout. You can either do 1-mile repeats or 2-mile repeats with a 3-5 minute walk break between each. The pace for the repeats is 20 seconds faster than your projected marathon pace. For those I’ve trained with, these workouts are the ones that are the toughest mentally to get through, but are essential to building up speed endurance to hold your pace through the marathon distance. The third workout in Saturday’s rotation is the Magic Mile (a 1-mile run as fast as you can), a 5k, or a 10k. Both Chris and I have chosen to do 10k’s on these runs to keep our mileage a little higher. 

One of the more important parts of this program is making sure to take the rest days. It is alright to do a short, slow run the day before a training run but after each workout it is essential to take the following day off from training the leg/running muscles. In my case, since I’m training Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, I plan on doing a hike/slow jog with a canine companion on Fridays. This still gives me rest days on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Happy training and enjoy the amazing trails around Santa Barbara!

Robert DeCou is a fitness professional at Conditioning Specialists in Santa Barbara. Along with his prowess at ultramarathons, Rob is also an Ironman Triathlete and cyclist who has biked across the United States…three times.

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