2017 Chicago Marathon Training: Week One

This past week, my training officially got started for the Chicago Marathon. It was a pretty good start (as one would hope!) and I am excited about the next 17 weeks. I have a lot to catch up on so this will be a long one. Feel free to skim using the subheads.

My Training Plan
I haven’t written anything about my training plan yet which was simply because I had not received it. We had a training team meet up and run last Saturday where we got introduced to our coaches and were handed our plans. There are a few reasons I chose this particular group over others in the area, but training plan was a big part of that decision. The plan for this group was developed with team head coach in collaboration with VCU RunLab and a few college coaches. It takes some of the ideas from Run Less Run Faster and it’s very different from my last two training cycles.

When it came down to a training plan for this race, I knew I needed to step it up. My first marathon training plan focused on easy runs and building mileage, with just one GMP run every other week. My second marathon training plan focused on continuing to build that mileage, adding an additional day per week, and adding a day of speed work in. For marathon number three, I wanted to focus more on speed. At this point, I know I have the endurance and I have spent the past 8 weeks maintaining a solid training base with easy runs. I was at a loss for the best way I should go about adding speed that would work best for myself, but the plan provided to me seemed like a good fit.

My Chicago Marathon training plan is very different than what I have done in the past. I haven’t trained this way since my second half marathon, but I had a successful race then so I hope this will be a similar outcome. I will only be running four times a week, strength training once a week, and I will have two rest days. My mileage will peak at a similar level as last year, but overall it will be lower. This may look like a drastic change considering I was running 6 times per week last summer, but the intensity is so much higher. Here’s how it breaks out:

Monday: Interval Speed Training
Tuesday: Strength Training
Wednesday: Tempo Run
Thursday: Steady State Run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Long Run, with varying mileage at MP, MP+30s, MP+15s, etc.
Sunday: Rest

Interval speed training will be done at the track with my training team and Saturday long runs will also be done with my training team.

As you can see, there is pretty much zero easy running in this plan. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know this is the complete opposite of my usual training philosophy. However, I pretty much have spent the past 6 months running easy, so I feel I am in shape and ready to take on a challenging plan. I want to stick to the plan as closely as possible, but will take Thursday’s run at an easier pace if I’m feeling particularly run down that week. That will allow me to recover and be ready for my challenging long runs. Though it looks like I could use a rest day to get some additional strength training done, I honestly think I will need to just rest those days other than the normal long walks with the dogs.

My Race Goal
Last year, my race goal was thwarted by the unseasonably warm weather at the Columbus Marathon. That being said, my goal was still considerably conservative and slower than what my coach had originally proposed. I didn’t feel ready to start testing the waters and actually racing the marathon distance. Going into the race I felt confident that I could achieve the goal that we settled on and I still feel confident that I would have hit it or close to it had the conditions been better. Because of that, I felt it was playing it safe to train for the same goal again.

My goal this year will require me to train harder and actually – gulp – race the marathon. I have to face the fact that it could very well mean working my butt off for 18 weeks, having a great first half of the race, and blowing up somewhere in the second half. During Columbus, I consciously made the choice to pull back and take it easy in the second half. This time around, weather-gods-permitting, it will be my body that decides if I’m going to make it or break it.

Time goal aside, my ultimate goal is obviously to get to the starting line healthy. This is something I’m nervous about given the intensity of my training plan, but I think the additional rest days will help me recover properly.

Week One
So that brings me back to week one. Monday morning it was in the 70s which is pretty much the warmest it’s been yet this season. Count on good ol’ Mother Nature to pull out the heat and humidity for the start of training. I had 6 “easy” miles which means easier than fast, but faster than my usual easy. In fact, it was a pace I never run at and I had a hell of a time trying to find the pace. I failed miserably at finding it, struggled in the heat, but got it done. I felt indifferent about it. Day one of week one, I have 18 weeks to get where I need to be.

Tuesday I headed to a morning strength class that was about 45 minutes long. It was a good class and plan to continue this class throughout the 18 weeks.

Wednesday was my first tempo run. I met up with my weekday running group, letting them know I’d be taking off after the first mile to get to tempo pace. This will probably be my normal Wednesday routine. It’s at least nice to have other people around somewhere and a change of scenery. Wednesday’s route was one I had not yet run and it turned out to be pretty challenging. I did have to stop at the top of a hill during my second tempo mile to catch my breath, but the weather was better and I nailed my miles.

Thursday was my first steady state run. The steady state runs are done by time and not mileage, with this week’s being 45 minutes. It was in the 50s, so I did this one outside and figured I would just walk the rest of the way home once I hit my 45 minutes.  I ran it about 15 seconds per mile slower than prescribed, but again, it’s just the first week. I will likely start going to the gym and do these on the treadmill, especially when they extend to 60-90 minutes long. This will give me a break from the heat and the rolling hills. My husband has already downloaded some episodes of the final season of Bloodline onto his iPad for me to bring along since I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet.

Saturday I was visiting my parents with my sister so we could go see Train that evening with my mom. I love running in my parent’s town! I got up early and headed out for 10 miles. It was pretty nice out and I stopped for a few photos.

Overall, I was happy with this run. After some breakfast and a shower, we did some outlet mall shopping. I took a quick nap before we headed to the concert. Once the sun went down, it turned into a beautiful night and we had a great time. Natasha Bedingfield, OAR, and Train were all great.

We go back late to a note from my dad saying he was making us French toast for breakfast. It was delicious!

The Next Seventeen Weeks
The next seventeen weeks my training recaps won’t be quite so detailed (are you even still reading this?!?!). I have no idea what those posts will look like, but I hope to focus more on the psychological part of this training cycle in relation to my workouts than the details on miles and paces. I’ll also be trying to update my Instagram more often, so you can follow me on Instagram so more instant updates!

Happy running!


5 thoughts on “2017 Chicago Marathon Training: Week One

  1. Hanna @ minimal marathoner

    There comes a point in any runner’s improvement journey where they have to be willing to take big risks, both with training and with race strategy. That means exactly as you said – staring down the real possibility of pouring your heart and soul into a perfect training cycle only to blow up in the second half of the race or something similar. But that would still be a valuable, albeit difficult, experience for you. You would inevitably learn and grow from it. As unpleasant as it is, failure is an important part of the journey. Being successful in running means learning to play the long game. A “failed” race isn’t a failure, it’s just another step in the process toward your long term goals. One of two things will happen here: you will be successful and meet your goal, or you won’t meet it, and you’ll have all the tools you need to be even more speedy and successful at your next marathon. And there will be a next one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hanna @ minimal marathoner

      Oh, forgot to add: I’m looking forward to your more “psychological” training recaps! I always enjoy reading blogs that discuss the ups and downs and “beyond the numbers” aspect of the training journey.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Agreed! As we know by now, not every training cycle lends itself to a successful race. I think it’s just a little scarier for me at the marathon distance, though. Getting 10 miles into a half and struggling through the last 3 just doesn’t seem as bad as getting through 20-23 and then falling apart!


  2. Jennifer @ Dashing in Style

    Thanks for all the juicy details! I loved reading this because it’s so interesting to me how different people chose different training methods based on their unique situation. This sounds really great for you, and it’s nice you’ll have coaches & a training group to be with you along the way. I love that you’ve really thought through the details, like doing one treadmill run a week to beat the heat. And you even have entertainment lined up! You are clearly ready for the challenge! I look forward to following your training!

    Liked by 1 person

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