Words by: Francisco Balagtas
Pictures by: Conor Hayden
Preface:

My formula for the last two years (2017 & 2018) with running was simple; run every day, run as many races as possible, and set a personal best in every distance. In 2017 I ran every race I could and set PR’s in the Mile, 5K, 5 Mile, 10K, 15K, 10 Mile, Marathon, and the 50K. In 2018 I raced 40 times throughout the year and PR’ed in the 5K, 10K, 15K, 10 Mile, Half-Marathon, Marathon, and the 50K. It wasn’t until October of 2018 at the Chicago Marathon where things became clear that I needed a new approach to my running. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about my performance in Chicago where I crossed the line in 2:48:43 securing a PR by just under two minutes. I dwelled on the race for days, going back through training logs and weeks of run data trying to figure out where I went wrong. I ultimately made the decision to eliminate different stresses from my running in 2019; reducing my number of races and focusing only on one distance discipline. Gone are the days of hearing “Of course you are” when someone asks me if I am running a certain race and I reply “Yes”.

It is going to be hard to sit out of countless races I wish I could be a part of. But in 2019, where I’ll split my time as a 34 & 35-year-old, I’m making certain choices, so I can continue to improve in the distance that best suits me, the marathon. I’ve allotted myself 2 races in the Spring and 2 races in the fall, one race in each season to be my primary focus. Along with continuing my run streak for @ProjectNoDaysOff, for the Spring I’ll be preparing for my second Boston Marathon.

Goals are as follows: A.) 2:40:00-2:42:00, B.) Sub 2:45:00, C.) New PR.

 

Week #1 Recap 1/7/2019-1/13/2019:

Good first week to first phase (Week 1-4) of the training cycle. For the first four weeks I intend to build up strength through mileage and work in speed sessions to gear around my goal marathon time. Since I decided to part ways with the running club I have been affiliated to for the last 4 years, a majority of my training is done solo. I also utilize flexibility in my work week to run when it is most convenient for me no matter what time it is. I’ve never had a formal running coach since I started running marathons in 2012 and I’ve chosen to continue this in 2019. I’ve chosen to coach myself and write my own training plans. However, I still my keep my ear to the ground, absorbing any good advice and strategies that cross my path.

Week #2 Recap 1/14/2019-1/20/2019:

There are always hardships with training, but I didn’t expect to run into them in my second week. This week was filled with switch ups on workouts leading into the weekend. However, I was in Stowe, Vermont for a snowboarding trip with friends and was unable to hit the roads for my long runs on Saturday and Sunday. Instead it drove me to break my resolution of a treadmill free 2019 campaign. I don’t particularly love the treadmill as its utterly boring unless you are taking a class, so I kept my session on it to 30-35 minutes. The end of this week leaves me a bit worried as I came in 17 miles under my projected mileage.

Week#3 Recap 1/21/2019-1/27/2019:

A little better improvement from Week #2 but had to switch up my Tuesday and Thursday workouts because of work conflicts. Good track workout on Thursday with a distance ladder, but I still fell 9 miles short of my projected distance for the week. I am trying to not worry too much about the missing mileage. Since I’ve been running from October through January maintaining my fitness base I don’t think I’m losing any fitness, but I don’t believe I’m gaining anything either. This week felt a little more taxing and tiring than the previous. The sheer combination of work obligations, the rigors of training, and unfavorable weather conditions make the Spring Marathon training cycle one of the toughest of the year. There have been points this week where I’ve doubted myself. Asked myself whether I’m doing this right. Marathon training is a heavy time and emotional investment. Getting yourself to the starting line is a race it its own right.

 

Week #4 Recap 1/28/2019-2/3/2019:

This week was the best since Week #1. I had a long Track/Speed session on Tuesday and proceeded to take some time away from New York City, retreating to the New Jersey suburbs. I also found my love for the treadmill again with an on-demand class on the Peloton Tread thanks to my Physical Therapy sponsor @MotivNY and @DavidMotiv. I nailed my projected mileage for the week and I’m now eager to jump into Week 5 and start the second phase of the training cycle, stretching out the mileage and dropping in more speed work.

Week #5 Recap 2/4/2019-2/10/2019:

Going into this week I’ve started thinking about my weight again. I am still unsure if I’m too heavy for race weight. I think about where I was weight wise in 2017 and then 2018 (heavier). But I still managed a PR going from 145 to 150, and now I’m at 155 so far heading into Boston. I’ve changed a little, a couple years older, my body is hanging onto a little bit more fat, but I’ve increased my strength regiment more in the last few months. The last 2 years I’ve skated by with little to no strength training, at the very best I could label it as inconsistent.

I’ve made it through the first 70+ mile week where the main goal was more mileage while dropping the average pace on workouts. Will begin the next week on the new strength plan. I’m feeling more tired than ever. I’m not sleeping as much which really sucks. Everyone has their share of dealing with life’s struggles outside of running and I am no exception to the rule. I have to remember that.

Week #6 Recap 2/11/2019-2/17/2019:

The start of the week was great. Mileage was up, and I had 2 workouts under my belt going into Thursday to add on a third workout. But it came to a screeching halt all because of work. Work lately is the bane of my existence. It’s not that I mind working, because I know I have to do it, I am not a professional runner, I am not sponsored, I have to earn my income to keep running. But work has offered nothing redeeming to my week. I used to like work as I thought it gave me a break from the hustle and fast pace of running and training but now it’s reverted back to how most people see it. Running has become the outlet to aim my frustrations towards when the work day is over.

I’m lucky to have siblings who understand the grind of marathon training. For the second time in this cycle I’ve retreated to my sister’s place in the New Jersey suburbs to take a small escape from the city scene and took to a quiet path spanning across to a few towns to get my long run mileage in.

Week #7 Recap 2/18/2019-2/24/2019:

This is the week that comes during every marathon training cycle, that week. The one that can make or break you, both physically and mentally. I dove into to my Tuesday workout and nothing seemed to be clicking at all. Every repeat felt different, harder, uncomfortable, and the same time the strides felt unfamiliar and not efficient. There isn’t much tinkering you can do in the middle of a track workout in February when it is right around freezing with the wind blowing about 5-10 mph off the water. It is the most dreadful feeling to lose that warmth and tighten up and have to start all over again. Shorted myself a couple repeats after being frustrated and told myself there are other days ahead and not to worry.

I woke up Friday morning with a really sore latissimus dorsi muscle on my left side. I blame it on a poor sleeping position. It didn’t bother me all day while snowboarding, or even on my recovery run late in that evening, but any lateral turn and movement I did felt very uncomfortable. It was so bothersome through the night that it kept me up for most of it. I woke up the next day exhausted and missed my window to get my long run in. I made some slight improvisation but only netted 11 miles on day slated for 20. I was still feeling the residual pain on my short run on Sunday to end the week. Not only was my back sore, but my ego as well, feeling disappointed about coming very behind on mileage and beginning to second guess everything.

Week #8 Recap 2/25/2019-3/3/2019:

I took Monday off from work to start the week fresh. I needed to recharge, I needed to square my head away and get some positive thoughts going and motivation to move into the week to rebound from the last. I took a longer easy route around my old neighborhood in Hoboken, NJ that evening. I pushed through the week nailing my Tuesday and Wednesday workouts, but when Thursday came around I had to switch the workout to Friday because of more work obligations. I don’t typically like doing a workout the day before a long run, but I had to get through it as best as possible.

Much to my surprise, Saturday turned into a great day with 2 run sessions, 18 miles on the roads and 6 more on the treadmill, all surrounded by friends. With all the solo training I’ve been doing over the last 8 weeks, it was nice to catch up with some familiar faces for some good company throughout the day.

 

Week #9 Recap 3/4/2019-3/10/2019:

This week signifies the last phase and final 4 weeks of my training cycle. The paces will get harder, while the mileage remain the same. I started off the week with a run in Hoboken on Monday evening with some of my old teammates which felt very nice. Even though I was far off my intended recovery pace, it felt way better to go a bit quicker as a pack chatting back and forth and catching up.

What I’m not liking particularly about training right now is dealing with the cold weather when I’m doing speed workouts on the road or track. I don’t feel particularly confident in my performance when I’m bundled and at the same time being handicapped by the sub-freezing temperatures. While trying to push my effort levels to almost maximum, I can’t help but worry about stretching myself too far and possibly getting hurt. I wish I knew at what point it is ok to push hard or when to back off.

It’s only Tuesday and I’ve run into a spot of bad luck. Looks like I had some bad food Sunday or Monday and it pretty much crippled me all of Tuesday, sharp pains hitting me all day in my stomach. I couldn’t do my intended workout but was able to get some sort of mileage at a recovery pace.

I finished off the week ditching every workout I had planned and was only focusing on hitting my mileage for the week, no matter what way it came to me by. Surprisingly by Saturday, I was able to put together a 22-mile run despite the setbacks earlier in the week.

Week #10 Recap 3/11/2019-3/17/2019:

This seems to be the week when everything seems to be coming together. It is the feeling when you get when you think magic is real and things start happening and all the grinding that happened in the previous 9 weeks finally starts to show.

The first “Ah Ha” moment was after a track workout where I surpassed all my splits on a 3 Mile, 2 Mile, 1 Mile ladder workout and felt faster and stronger than I had ever been during my time as a runner.

I took the confidence from that workout to Boston for the weekend where I was ready for a practice time trial on the first 20 miles of course.  With the help of Heartbreakers Run Club (@heartbreakrunco), I hopped on the bus to Hopkinton a few hundred other runners hoping to do the same. I found myself out in front, alone, which lasted all the way until Mile 20, but it didn’t bother me. I was soaking in the course again, predicting every hill and turn as it came. It was almost as if I had run the course only yesterday and not on the rainy, windy Patriot’s Day of 2018. I followed exactly the plan I wrote up for the day, and everything went off without a hitch, 20 Miles at 6:12/mi Pace. I couldn’t be happier. Up to that point I actually thought about finding a half marathon to run shake the rust off before the big dance on April 15th, but now I’ve begun to think that it won’t be necessary.

 

Week #11 Recap 3/18/2019-3/24/2019:

Two weeks left in my last phase of my training cycle and I’ve begun feeling the aches of last weekend catching up to me. After the time trial on Saturday, I hopped right back on a bus to New York City, cheered for my friends in the NYC Half the following morning, and spent the rest of the day helping runners with recovery at the Adidas Runners NYC pop up area.

By the time Monday morning came around my left hip was feeling a bit wonky and weak which found me back at Motiv NY, consulting with my Physical Therapist. I kept my run to a strict 30 minutes that Monday not wanting to risk any more discomfort.

I jogged for an hour Tuesday morning to loosen up my hip and bounced back with good 4 x 1200m workout in Central Park with Streets 101 (@streets101nyc) which really felt like I was pushing my speed. On Thursday, I played on building more endurance as one of my mates Ashley Gilbertson (@ashgilbertson) got me out at 6:00AM for a 12 x 800m Yasso Workout on the track, which turned out to be a long, yet fun and challenging morning.

Nevertheless, the week continued to build. It was back to Boston again for another weekend of workouts on the race course. On Saturday, fellow Ciele athlete Matt Meyer (@matthewlukemeyer) and I ran 22 miles from Newton to Ashland and back, working on our attack plans for the hills.  On Sunday, I boarded another bus with the Tracksmith (@tracksmithrunning) Trackhouse back to Ashland and escorted fellow NYC friend Sam Anderson (@sam4nderson) for 13 miles from Mile 4 to 17 as he was on his way to a 22 mile simulation as well.

Week 11 proved to be my highest mileage week of the entire cycle at 90.93 miles. I had no desire to try to reach 100, nor did I find it necessary. I felt really nice when Sunday evening came about knowing that I was right where I wanted to be despite the rocky road getting here thus far.

Week #12 Recap 3/25/2019-3/31/2019:

Last week of phase 3 of the training cycle and I’m making my way through the usual recovery and speed workouts I had mapped out. Unfortunately, on Thursday I started feeling a little bit of knock in my calf. It is almost a feeling that someone punched you, but yet that was hardly the case. I took it as a sign that the previous high mileage week and track workout that followed on Tuesday was causing the discomfort.

As you can imagine, I was back in my PT’s hands again. I’ve probably visited David more times this training cycle than in all of 2018. After bike escort duties for the OSR (@orchardstreetrunners) 30 Mile Race, I pulled myself together for 10 Miles after a few stops in the first 20 minutes to try to get my calf warmed up better. I promised myself that if I finished 10 miles I would reward myself with pizza. So obviously I finished.

Sunday turned out to be a mirror of Saturday with another 10 miles at an easier pace. I became very guarded about this feeling in my calf and am really eager to see it subsides after the first taper week (45 miles).

 

Week #13 Recap 4/1/2019-4/7/2019: Currently in Progress

I’ve begun breaking in my shoes for Boston with an easy 5K on the treadmill at Motiv NY. I was still leaning more towards soft surfaces until the knock in my calf goes away.

I had my last hard work out on Tuesday on the track in McCarren Park in Williamsburg with Brooklyn Track Club (@brooklyntrackclub) with a 4 x 1200m and 4 x 400m set. My original intention was to run a bit more controlled and slower to maybe save any stress and fatigue to my calf, but as I began to warm it up the discomfort began to dissipate. This left me open to pull the trigger on my running which led to some of my best splits on those distances.

Week #14 Recap 4/8/2019-4/14/2019: To come.

See you all in Boston.

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