October 22, 2009

Planning Race Season

I love race planning. Usually I plan four to six months ahead. In the past four years my goal events have been marathons. While I never stop training, aside from about a two-week break after a marathon (typically I do two of those per year), I make sure that I allow for unstructured training if my mind needs a break.

As mentioned in previous posts that is what I did this summer. After racing two marathons close together, finishing both in 3hrs 10mins, I needed a physical and mental rest from my training routine.

With a book and articles to write, starting a new part-time job, a puppy to train, two art shows to coordinate and a few more to participate in, overseas visitors for three months straight and a partner who was training for Ironman on top of working full time, I knew I didn't have enough time in my schedule to prepare for a fall marathon.

Instead, I just ran as I pleased for two months before setting this Sunday's 9.5km race as my goal event and asking my coach Pat Carroll for a training program focused on this.

I really enjoyed having a program again, as much as I enjoyed not having one for a few weeks too. I want to know that my training is focused, that I am training as efficiently as I can and that I am not overtraining and risking injury (never any guarantees).

The best thing about having a training program designed for me specifically by someone I respect and trust completely is that it takes all the guess work and thinking out of it. All I need to do every day is to open up my spreadsheet to see what session he wants me to do - then I do it.

If he wants me to run as hard as I can I do. If he wants me to take a rest day I do so too. If there is only an easy run then I do that. I have wondered whether it is time to change coaches, just for variety and because I have been with Pat for 4 1/2 years. But so far I haven't.

He always manages to put enough variety in my training programs - I love them. He challenges me but also provides enough recovery so that I do not feel stressed, mentally or physically. While training for a marathon is tiring, I have been able to cope with his sessions and been able to stay healthy - that is the most important thing of all.

All the above means that I trust my coach completely. And each time I wonder if I should check if the grass is greener on the other side, I realize that my side is probably as green as it gets.

With my goal race only a few days away Pat doesn't like me to think about the day, let alone weeks and months after. And I will not think about anything else in the next few days. But in the last few weeks the thought of running another marathon kept crossing my mind.

To have a solid and focused marathon preparation I like to start at least five months out. With the Vancouver Marathon, my logical `home-town' race, on the first weekend of May it was time to consider my options.

For the past couple of years I have toyed with the idea of running a marathon in The Netherlands where I was born and raised. While I have raced everything from 5k's to half marathons as well as triathlons ranging from Olympic distance to 3/4 Ironman distances in The Netherlands, I have yet to race my first marathon there.

Perhaps I could combine a family visit with a marathon. I found a great flight, direct, in early April - perfect timing for the Rotterdam Marathon, which bills itself as the second-fast marathon in the world.

Having lived in Rotterdam for a while in the early 90s, I would love to revisit this city and see it in a different way. Registration only starts at the end of the month. I haven't been able to find any details on their site, such as what time the race starts or how much it costs. But if all goes well I think the Rotterdam Marathon 2010 will be my next goal race.

That will determine my training from next week until the end of April (including recovery). I will probably try to find a 10km and half marathon in between - in consultation with Pat of course.

For now, I need to focus on Sunday. Today's session is a speed session, alternating two minutes of hard running with 30 seconds easy (six repeats).

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