May to Mid-July (weeks 17 to 26)
After a successful first few months, Jon and I transitioned his training into more specific work for late spring and early summer.
- We introduced longer anaerobic threshold stimulus efforts such as 2 x 20 to 25 minutes
- 4- to 6-mile tempo runs
- Longer fartlek sessions at 85- to 88-percent effort
- Long runs were increased at this point from 11 to 12 miles to the 15 to 17 miles.
Every third week, we introduced a "planned" rest week by reducing his mileage 15 to 20 percent, including a day of complete rest and bringing the long run down to 13 or 14 miles as well.
As with most of the athletes I work with, Jon actually felt stale during his "down" weeks; however, looking back at his year, these weeks were critical to his success.
During this period, Jon raced every two to three weeks in lieu of a tempo effort for both a fitness check—this allowed us to change the efforts for tempo runs based on improved fitness—and to begin honing his racing skills. We raced everything from a 2-mile race to a 25K and, not surprisingly, with a few months of aerobic conditioning work behind him, he ran lifetime bests of 5K, 8K and half marathon (1:23:44).
Mid-July to Early November (weeks 27 to 42)
After a big downswing and 10 days of recovery, Jon and I began our specific marathon training with all of the expected elements, including longer long runs (five runs over 20 miles), marathon tempo work and transition into longer intervals with shorter recovery. Jon's training during this build-up was detailed and specific, and included rest periods and touching on virtually every energy system. In the end we stressed health above all else, while keeping in mind that no great reward comes without risk. We raised Jon's volume to its highest average ever, always making sure to toss in planned rest and a pullback every few weeks.
In the end, Jon did reach his goal. He ran 2:58:09. Critical to Jon's success: setting reasonable and lofty goals, and establising specific process goals he could implement. For Jon, they included nightly sleep quantity, weekly massage therapy and even specific fluid intake to avoid dehydration (a major problem for him in the past).
Post-Marathon Rest and Transition (weeks 43 to 46)
Art Gulden, who coached at Bucknell University for 31 years, gave me the best coaching advice: "Rest is not the absence of training, it is part of training." As you conclude any targeted distance running goal, whether the goal is achieved or not, be certain to give yourself some recovery time to heal and regenerate both physically and mentally.