Monday, February 27, 2017

I'm Starting to Believe

I’m becoming a believer….

This whole strength training thing is starting to pay off…

The Challenge:

I’ve found that my racing performance peaks out at about 15 miles.  Anything over that and my body starts to break down after the 15 mile mark.

Las Vegas Marathon – Came out hard, holding an 8:30 min/mile pace.  Ran into cramping at mile 15.

Phoenix Marathon – Tried to stay conservative during the downhill start, came into the half  at about 8:30 min/mile pace.  Ran into ITB issues at mile 15 with cramping for the remainder of the race.

McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50k – Came out really strong, 8/9 min/mile pace on the trails, and ran into cramping at mile 15.

As you can see, mile 15 has been my breaking point.  Being 100% honest, ever since my first marathon attempt, I’ve had this mental breaking point at that 15 mile mark.  Anytime I’m running over 15 miles, I have this thought in the back of my head just waiting for the 15 mile mark and for the cramping to begin.

The Hard Work:

About the beginning of the year, I decided that enough was enough.  I was dedicating myself to start adding some light strength training into my weekly training.  The plan was to hit the weights Mon, Wed, & Fri each week regardless of how it impacted my runs.  The focus of my plan was strengthening my hamstrings and secondary was my quads and core.  Key workouts were going to be leg curls and leg extensions with squats and lunges mixed in here and there.  So began the hard work.

The Baby Steps:

A few weeks back when my coach was getting ready for his 100k, I ran a pretty good 20 miler with him at what I considered a pretty good effort.  I started to feel some twinges in my left hamstring around mile 15 but nothing came of that.  Overall it was a solid day and really started to build confidence that I may be over this whole 15 mile problem.

Fast forward to this Saturday.  I purposely planned for a blow up day.  Some of you may be wondering what’s a blow up day….

It’s basically a test of fitness.  For me, it’s a day where I go out and run as hard as I can for as long as I can to see where my body starts to break down.  I planned and expected for my legs to start cramping around mile 15.  That was the goal for this day.

I was able to schedule a majority of the miles with one of the faster guys in our running group (He just ran a 1:28 half marathon at the Rock N Roll Half).  I was starting a little bit earlier than him and had about 5.5 miles until I met up with him.  I came out strong and was able to hold about an 8:30 min/mile pace over those 5.5 miles.  GREAT START!!  Grabbed my running buddy and we were off.  We had a bit more climbing to do running back over my original 5.5 miles to meet up with the running group, but even with the elevation gain, we still held onto a 9:00 min/mile pace over the second 5.5 miles.  STILL RUNNING STRONG!!

Our run group is a “no runner left behind” kind of group on Saturday mornings.  We take frequent breaks to make sure everyone can keep up and get the proper water and nutrition.  My running buddy had to be done early so he was jumping ahead and didn’t plan to make any stops.  Staying true to the planned “blow up day”, I jumped out with him and we proceeded to throw down another 5 miles at a 8:30 min/mile pace.  I was dying during this entire sections…but it wasn’t my legs.  I couldn’t get my breathing under control and was gasping for air pretty much the entire way.  Knowing the trails as well as I do, I was in full blown mantra mode…Just make it to “insert landmark”, just make it to “insert landmark” LOL. 

I parted ways with run buddy around mile 17 and decided to wait there for the rest of the running group.  The morning was a bit chilly but overall gorgeous.  I had no problem taking in the views while I waited for everyone.

Even after this little break, I laid the hammer down for the last half mile and clicked it off at about 6:30 min/mile pace. 

The Validation:

As you can see, nowhere in those miles do you see cramping.  I’m starting to believe that this whole strength training thing is working.  I waited so long and avoided strength training like the plague, but now that I’m starting to see the benefits I keep asking myself…”Why the H@#$ did you wait so long you idiot”…LOL.  I plan to stick with this strength training, it seems to be a huge benefit, and really can be the difference maker in the rest of my year.  I love racing but now I’m REALLY looking forward to racing.

Go ahead, let me know, why the H@#$ did I wait so long to start strength training lol…


  1. I thought I was doing a good job with strength training, then got ITBS. Now my main focus is strength with running coming in second place.

  2. Haha, nothing like a little "hindsight is 20/20" to make you feel foolish for not trying to change something sooner. I hope this really is the end of your cramping issues.

  3. So glad you are seeing the results of strength training pay off! Ive been strength training for so long now that I couldn't imagine not doing it anymore.

  4. I find the older I get the more I need to do strength training. When your body starts to fatigue, it is what you fall back on!

  5. I didn't do much but I felt the little I did do for NYC Marathon helped a TON. I think going from zero to something would make some difference, lol!!!

    My mental breakdown was always mile 16--that's where I would always cramped. It's funny because that's the highest Hanson's Marathon Method goes up to, so in training, I never "got to see" how I'd do beyond that. But you know what?? When I ran New York (and Phoenix last month), I wasn't scared. I just kept on running and told mile 16 to eat shit.

  6. Ooh interesting! I too am trying to build more strength training into training but it's so hard because running takes up so much time. I know, excuses, right?! I've done the best at this current training cycle so I hope I see a difference on race day.

  7. I have a love/hate with training for my legs when I am trying to really train. I hate trying to struggle through the sore! I'll train upper body and core anytime but I go through phases with my legs lol I know, I know...we need it :)

  8. Hey!!! Are you okay??? what's going on in schlub land? Hope all is well with you and your family !


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