The 2022 Boston Marathon is just two weeks away, and the most difficult and most revealing workouts of the training cycle are now behind me. So where am I at, and what am I expecting on race day?
I think it’s useful to include some degree of flexibility when setting goal times for a marathon. In addition to normal day-to-day “how you feel” variance that could make the difference of a minute or two over a 26-mile race, the weather at Boston is not always ideal, like when it was 70 degrees and sunny in 2017 or 40 degrees with hard rain in 2018.
- C goal: Set a new Boston PR, so faster than 2:32:01, set in 2017;
- B goal: Set a new marathon PR, so faster than 2:28:24, set in Houston in perfect conditions in 2018; and,
- A goal: Run low-2:27, maybe even 2:26-high.
This is a rare statement for someone who turned 41 years-old last week and who has been racing competitively for 27 years: I’m in the best shape of my life — or, at least the best “marathon shape” of my life, since I’d struggle mightily to break my high school mile PR or my UTMB split from 2017.
The Boston training cycle began in mid-October of last year, at the end of my guiding season. That gave my coach, David Roche, 188 disruption-free days to get the most out of me. We jumped on an opportunity to run the fast California International Marathon in early-December (2:32:01 finish, with 1:16:27 – 1:15:34 splits) to establish a baseline and to accelerate my fitness.
Since CIM, I’ve “leveled up” at least a notch, probably two. In the key workouts of the training cycle, I’m running about 10 seconds faster per mile than before Boston 2017, Houston 2018, or CIM 2021. That’s 262 seconds, or 4:22 faster over a marathon, which puts me in low-2:27 territory.
Training: A typical week
To see my training, you can review my Strava profile, though without descriptions it may be difficult to see exactly what I’ve been doing.
In this interview, David and I discussed at length his training approach. In the four subsequent years, he’s refined his system but kept it mostly in tact.
Weekly mileage in this cycle started at around 65 miles and has increased to about 80 miles.
A typical week is:
- Monday: rest;
- Tuesday: 10 easy with some striders, or a first workout;
- Wednesday: AM workout and short PM workout, or easy 10 after Tues workout;
- Thursday: 10 easy, or a second workout if on the Tues-Thur cycle;
- Friday: 4 to 6 easy, maybe with some striders;
- Saturday: Long run of 20 miles +/-, usually with some miles at or below race pace; and,
- Sunday: 10 to 12 with some hill repeats.
Training: Key workouts
I live in Boulder, Colo., 5,300 feet above sea level. Per Jack Daniels, my race pace is about 10-12 seconds per mile slower here than at sea level.
Recent mid-week workouts have included:
- Mar 16: In the AM, 10-8-6-4-2 ladder (in minutes) with 2 minutes easy in between, weighted avg 5:29; in the PM, 10 x 1 minute with 1 minute easy in between, 5:06 avg
- Mar 23: In the AM, 10 x 3 minutes on a hilly course (5:36 avg) with 1 minute easy in between; in the PM, 20 minute tempo at 5:39 pace
- Mar 30: In the AM, 5 x 1 mile (5:19 avg) with 3 minutes easy in between; in the PM, 20 min tempo at 5:28 pace
Recent long runs have included:
- Mar 5: 20 miles with 3 x 4 miles (5:47 avg in freezing drizzle)
- Mar 19: 20 miles with a half marathon at marathon pace (5:42 avg)
- Mar 26: 24 miles with a 5-4-3-2-1 ladder (miles) with one mile easy in between (5:42 weighted avg)
- Apr 2: 21 miles with 10 miles at marathon pace (5:37 avg)
I attribute my current fitness to two factors. One has been the length of this uninterrupted training cycle, and a coach who knows how to use it. The second was that I had a training partner five days a week, including for nearly all of the hard workouts and long runs.
Last fall Matt Urbanski of TeamRunRun moved in about a mile away from me. We leave our respective homes at 7:15 AM, meet in the middle, and run together from there. He’s also 41 years-old and lined up for a new PR at Boston, likely cracking 2:30. Our personalities and fitness are a match, and he has made this training cycle more fun and more fruitful. I’ve been really thankful to have him.
Ideally, I could roll this fitness into another marathon, like Chicago or New York in the fall. But I don’t think that will be the case, since I have a very full spring and summer guiding calendar. I’m a lifelong runner and don’t see retirement happening soon.