The Vancouver USA Marathon was voted top 10 New Marathons by Runners World. It’s a great small town marathon and among other claims, it’s the only marathon with a Summer Brewfest and it enjoys a relatively inexpensive under $100 registration fee. I ran the half marathon slightly over a month ago, but I wanted to provide a race recap and discuss some of my training leading up to the race.
I last ran this race at it’s initial running in 2011. My time back then was 1:28:18, which placed me 6th among Masters (40+) and 29th of 1,427 overall runners. In 2016, there were not as many participants and I didn’t run as fast, finishing in 1:31:29 which was good enough for 10th overall males and 14th of 1,161 total runners. Although, I’m 5 years older, I was hoping for a better time (especially because I ran 1:27:59 earlier this year). The course is USATF certified and has a lot of uphills. Start and finish are at the same location, so it’s a net 0 incline, but the last hill at mile 12 really gets your legs. I can’t imagine what it feels like for those completing the marathon (which finishes alongside ½ marathoners for the last 11 miles).
I usually post my splits, but I’m having problems with my Garmin Forerunner GPS watch (it won’t sync up to the Garmin Connect site). I observed that at most miles I was running 6:55 to 7:05 pace, which is right inline with my finishing time.
Unfortunately, I came down with a bad cold at the beginning of the week. My frequent business travel finally caught up to me. Although I rested most of the week and ingested about 5 times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C per day all week, I don’t think my body was fully recovered by race day.
Enough with the excuses….the Vancouver USA half and full marathon are great races. Bart Yasso from Runner’s World attends every year and helps to promote the event with pre-race shakeout runs and talks. Race day weather this year was perfect (sunny and low 60s). There’s many helpful volunteers throughout providing water, Gatorade and even energy gels. The course is well marked and there’s plenty of spectators cheering racers on. The mid June timing of the race fits well for anyone training for a Fall marathon. I also enjoy how close the race is to where I live and the fact that I can park about 3 blocks from the start (so I don’t have to stand in a line and check a bag).
The organizers are strongly considering moving the race to September. They’ve taken some surveys and observed slightly declining registration over the years. The concern is that the race interferes with Father’s Day and graduation activities. Personally, I think that with the race finishing in the morning (as most do), conflicts shouldn’t be an issue, but that’s my biased opinion and evidently not how others feel.
This was the first race that I incorporated a 9 day cycle into my training. You can read about this concept in a post I wrote a few months ago. Because I view this race as more of a training run near the beginning of my marathon training, I didn’t start my longer (10+ miles) runs until about 45 days out from race day (beginning of May). I completed 2 x 10 milers, 1 x 11 mile and 1 x 12 mile run. I also completed 3 tempos of 6-10 miles (each with 1 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool down). My track work consisted of 3 sessions where I completed a combination of 200m, 400m, 600m and 800m ladder style workouts to improve my speed. A week before the race (just when I was starting to feel like a cold was coming on), I completed a track workout where I ran 2 x 2 miles at 12:50 and then 12:38. I completed strength work in the gym once per week and plyometrics/body weight exercises another time each week. Overall, I was pleased with my workouts and conditioning. I think that I was simply worn down from all my travel and my illness.
1) Get more sleep in the weeks leading up the race.
2) Run more tempo/lactate threshold runs at ½ marathon pace, which will help my marathon pace
I hope this race doesn’t move to September, but if it does, it may be reason for me to run the marathon instead of the half. I enjoy training for Fall marathons (primarily because the weather makes it easier and the long days give me more flexibility to run early in the morning or later in the evening). Regardless of when the 2017 will be held, I strongly recommend you consider adding the Vancouver USA Half or Full Marathon to your schedule. Registration fees are low and value is high.
Let me know if you’re going to be in town to run this race, I would love to link up and complete a pre-race run a day or 2 before.
One of the keys to successful marathon training is to vary your workouts. Unfortunately, many runners are challenged with having sufficient time to complete the types of exercises necessary to prepare them for the marathon. You can’t perform the same workouts at similar intensities and expect different results. The good news is, that for no cost, you likely have access to a “universal gym” that will allow you to complete exercises that not only advance aerobic conditioning, but also improve lower body strength and help prevent injuries. If you add some track work to your workout, you can actually build speed. In this article, I will show how you can benefit from incorporating a few different 20-30 minute stair climbing workouts into your marathon training.
Regardless of where you live, there’s likely a high school or college stadium, parking garage, apartment or office building nearby with enough stairs to complete some very challenging workouts. For marathoners, the benefits of training on stairs include:
- Improved VO2 Max which means you can run harder and for longer durations because you have improved the max amount of oxygen used during intense training because you now convert it to energy quicker.
- Stronger legs, glutes, quads and calves gained without the same impact on your limbs from running.
- Builds stamina
- Variety for free. Stair workouts are like having a universal gym without the cost. Runners can complete numerous exercises like sprints, lunges, plyometric moves and various combinations of bodyweight exercises. See below for some workout suggestions.
- Increase speed by warming up with strides and incorporating 200m-400m intervals between sets
One potential drawback of stairs is the possibility that your stride may be shortened when you’re trying to adjust to shorter step distances. This can be problematic if you include stairs into your marathon training too often and effectively shorten your stride. Longer and quicker strides help runners get faster, so when completing stair exercises, ensure you run up with quick leg turnover. Also, incorporate lunges or “bounding” strides into your regime and try to skip every other or every third stair if you can (do so safely).
I like quick reps because the increased leg turnover helps to build speed and improve running efficiency.
Start all workouts with a warm-up of walking up the stairs for 10 minutes or jogging a mile. Many high school or college stadiums are built around a 400m track. Follow this with light stretching. Workouts include:
- “Bounding” up steps by striding powerfully enough to skip to every other step. Ensure you use your arms to keep good form. Walk down.
- “Hopping” up the length of steps on two legs. Use your arms to swing into each hop. Walk down.
- “One leg hops” are same as two legged, but keep them quick. Switch legs when you’re half way up. Walk down to rest.
The hopping exercises will greatly improve your running strength.
CAUTION: If you haven’t done any hopping exercises, ease into this one. Trust me, you may make it through the workout, but you’ll be “whipped” the next few days.
Following are my favorite stair workouts. As your conditioning advances, you should challenge yourself by:
- Climbing more flights.
- Reducing your rest intervals.
- Increasing the number of intervals or rounds.
- Use weights (15-20 lb dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand).
- Adding track intervals between sets/rounds (if you’re doing stadium stairs)
- Completing body weight exercises between sets/rounds.
Traditional Stair Workout
b) Run to top of stadium or 10 flights (skip other step/go half speed). Walk down. Complete 3 times (sets).
c) Run to top of stadium or 10 flights (go full speed/every other step). Walk down. Complete 3 times (sets)
d) Repeat (b)
e) Repeat (c) except complete 4 times.
Walking Lunges – concentrate on proper form to maximize the effect and build lower body strength.
b) You don’t have to complete these as fast as traditional stairs. This will allow you to skip the additional step while maintaining proper form. Step up with your right foot and skip to second or third step. Ensure you bend both knees to a 90-degree angle and lower into a lunge. Next, push off with your right foot, then push up the stairs, step your left leg up to meet your right and then forward while lowering it to the next lunge.
c) Continue lunging forward until you reach the top of the stairs. Keep your front knee over your toes, and chest upright.
d) Walk down for recovery.
e) Complete 3 sets (each to top of stadium or 10 flights of stairs).
Skater Hop Steps
b) Start by stepping your left foot on the far-left end of the second step. Next, push off with your left foot and hop onto your right foot, placing it to the right side of next step.
c) Continue climbing the stairs, while alternating sides, until you reach the top or go up 10 flights.
d) Walk down for recovery
e) Complete 3 sets
Combination workout (1)-(3) – this workout really works your legs. Be careful – the first time I completed this workout, I was really sore the next day.
a) Complete 2 x 400m at 10k pace after last round of Skater Hops
b) Complete as many push-ups as you can in 1 minute
c) 10 minute cool-down
Gym Exercises – when stairs aren’t available or weather is poor.
a) Stairmaster interval workout
1) 30 seconds hard, then 30 – 60 seconds of recovery
2) Repeat for 20 to 30 minutes or complete a tempo workout for 30 minutes at a comfortably hard effort (you want to break out into a sweat and get your heart rate up).
b) Treadmill incline interval workout (similar to stairmaster)
1) After 5 minute warm-up, increase incline to 5% and speed to 5.5
2) Round 1 – adjust your speed and incline each 2 minutes by .5% & .5 up to 7% & 7.0 after 6 minutes. Adjust back down to 4% and 5.0 for 2 minutes.
3) Rounds 2, 3, 4 – repeat round 1. On last round, go up by .5% and .5 the last 1 minute (so you’ll be at 7.5% and 7.5).
4) Complete 5 minute cool down at 0% incline and 5.0 – 6.0 or pace that allows you to slowly reduce your heart rate.
You can always add difficulty to these workouts by including body weight exercises between each rep. Consider adding push-ups, sit-ups, planks or burpees. To break up each round or set, I perform half the exercises at the top of the stairs and then the other half at the bottom. Remember that even when you’re fatigued, the most efficient conditioning occurs when you maintain focus on good form.
15 Minute Strength Workout for Runners
Marathon Training Tips for Busy Professionals
Getting the Most out of Your Marathon Training
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There are certain people you encounter who leave an everlasting impression on your life. These people are typically relatives, good friends or someone professionally who has helped you. Think of someone who has positively influenced you. Sam Marx was one of those people for many in Vancouver, WA. Sam was a young scholar, athlete, Eagle Scout, and talented musician. He was valedictorian at his high school and known as a kid who made the most of everything. During Sam’s senior year of high school, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer (desmoplastic small round cell tumors). His disease required experimental treatments, some of which were made possible through funding from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. His courage, strength, and love were magnified as he helped raise funds for pediatric cancer research through St. Baldrick’s events in the Portland, OR area during his treatments. Unfortunately, Sam didn’t survive his fight with cancer, but his memory lives on.
A few weeks ago, my family and I participated in the 5th Annual Sam’s Run/Walk to benefit childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The event’s proceeds were included with the “Team Sam I Am” shavee donation to a Vancouver, WA St. Baldrick’s event, also held last month. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer powered charity that directs every possible dollar to carefully selected research grants, with the goal to find cures for childhood cancers. Most typically it’s through their head shaving events, but also numerous small community events like our Sam’s Run/Walk. In 2015, St Baldrick’s raised $37M. YTD 2016, events have raised $32M. Besides raising money to support cancer research, St. Baldrick’s is an event that brings people together for hope and support during difficult times. Donations give hope to infants, children, teens and young adults fighting childhood cancers.
My family has been friends with the Marx family for many years and we have participated in all 5 Sam’s Run events. My wife raised $1k+ and bravely had her head shaved 5 years ago, so we’re committed to the cause.
This year’s run was on a recent overcast Saturday morning along the Heritage Trail in Camas, WA. It was actually perfect conditions for approximately 50 people ranging in age from little kids to seniors. For a nominal donation of $20+, participants received a colorful, “Team Sam I Am” t-shirt. After a few words of encouragement and thanks from the Marx family and some lighthearted jokes from host/emcee, Dave Griffin, the event was started with a horn. No clock is used, so finishing is purely for fun and exercise. Everyone cheers on each other as they complete their way through the 5k. With coffee, juice and bagels waiting at the end, it’s a perfect way to get your exercise in on a Saturday morning, while contributing to a good cause. My wife ran with a friend. My youngest son finished first and then proceeded to run an additional 5 miles to get his planned 8 miler in for the day. He’s an over achiever….lol. This run was a nice, easy and a fun break. Each one of my workouts is not always about marathon training. On this day it was great to spend time with old friends.
I encourage you to click on the link to find out more and even consider a donation to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. If there’s an event in your area, consider supporting it. Get really brave and commit to getting your head shaved. Considering all the kids with cancer who lose their hair during treatment, it’s not that big of a sacrifice for such a worthy cause.
Are you “stuck” at a certain half or full marathon time and wondering what you can do differently with your training so you can make improvements? I’m often approached by runners with this request. They are following a 16 -20 week plan and putting in miles each week, however the results don’t meet their expectations. A common root cause is that their plan doesn’t have sufficient recovery between difficult workouts. Eventually (much sooner if you are older (40+) runner) they don’t get the full benefit of the training that they desire. In this post, I will offer a solution that has proved successful for one of the world’s best marathoners.
Olympic marathoner Meb Keflezighi switched a few years ago from a weekly to nine day training cycle, also called a microcycle. He realized that he needed more recovery between hard and long workouts. I was intrigued by the concept, so I did some research to find out more. What I discovered is that extending the training cycle from 7 days to 9, 10 or 14 days is not new. The main benefit of rethinking how to train is primarily to enhance recovery.
The typical seven day cycle is how we’ve always trained, but it really doesn’t have any meaning to the human body. What we really want to do is apply a stress or hard workout and then allow the body to recuperate. To get the best results, we need to incorporate both the workout and recovery to ensure adaptation.
How The 9 Day Cycle Works
A 9 day cycle works because we can actually incorporate 3 micro-cycles of 3 days each into the cycle. On day 1 we can complete a hard/stress workout like a long run. Days 2-3 would be recovery runs at an easy pace with cross-fit and conditioning or plyometrics on at least one of these days. We would then complete 2 additional micro-cycles in the same manner. The other hard workouts would include tempo and some kind of intervals (doesn’t have to be on the track). I recommend scheduling and completing a tune -up race, like a 10k or 1/2 marathon during one of your cycles.
Not only does a slightly longer training cycle make sense for older and injury prone runners, but it can be particularly beneficial for busy professionals that don’t always have the time to fit in the challenging workout necessary for a half or full marathon.
Long Runs, Tempos and Track Work
The longer training schedule allows us to keep the same workouts such as track, tempo and a long run, that are all part of a typical seven day cycle, but now we can spread these workouts out more. The end result is that the runner will be recovered and ready for higher quality training.
One of the challenges with extending your training cycles is being able to complete your long run on the weekends while still giving yourself recovery time. For those not limited to running long on weekends because they have some flexibility in their schedules, a mid-week long run as called out in the extended cycle may be perfect.
Alternatives to 9 Day Training Cycles
Another option to nine day cycles is two week or month long blocks. The same approach would be to plan for specific key workouts within the period and then take however many easy days necessary. A two week cycle may be easier to fit in the typical weekend long runs that many complete with a group.
Rules of the Program
One rule of training with extended cycles is that you’re not allowed to cram missed workouts at the end of the cycle. You’ll have to incorporate these missed sessions into your next cycle of training. Also, it’s essential that your rest days and easy days remain in place. Unlike most 7 day schedules which typically have Tuesday track and Thursday tempo runs and don’t allow much room for a missed workout which could result in 2 hard workouts back-to-back, the 9 day program allows for sufficient rest between stress workouts.
Another challenge is simply adjusting your schedule. Give yourself time to adjust and allow your body to adapt. Make sure you try a couple of nine or 10 day cycles before you decide to switch back.
A few of the runners that I coach have agreed to try a day schedule over the course of this Summer as they train for a Fall Marathon. I am currently using something similar to the following schedule as I train for the upcoming Vancouver Half Marathon. If all goes well, I will use this type of schedule as I complete my marathon training for Portland.
Typical 9 Day Training Cycle
Day 1 – Long Run (90 minutes – 2 hours+ as called out in your plan)
Day 2 – 30 – 40 minutes easy + 20 minutes conditioning (core and strength work)
Day 3 – 40 minutes easy
Day 4 – 60 minutes (15 minute warm up, 30 minutes of fartlek or intervals on the track or hills, 15 minute cool down)
Day 5 – 40 minutes easy
Day 6 – Rest or Cross Fit (elliptical, stationary bike or rowing machine)
Day 7 – 60 – 75 minutes (15 minute warm-up, 30 – 45 minute tempo or some kind of increasing uptempo pace, 15 minute cool down)
Day 8 – 40 minutes easy
Day 9 – Cross Fit + 25 minutes conditioning/strength training
All runners must find a schedule that works best for their needs and abilities. This may mean you need to extend your schedule. The good news is that doing so can help you avoid injury and help you achieve your goals.