If you live in Austin or the surrounding areas, you know this weekend was Austin Marathon weekend. It’s always exciting and the stories afterward are what makes the marathon so much fun. It’s always a great weekend. Well, maybe it was a bit soupier on Sunday than you’d have wished, but it’s really pretty rare that race day weather in any race in Texas is exactly what you’d want. Thankfully, the temperatures never got too high, and there was enough cloud cover to keep things kindasorta moderately comfortable.
With that notch on your belt, now you can give yourself a couple weeks respite from training to reset and recalibrate. But you know you’re going to want to get back to it sooner rather than later. It’s in your DNA by now, isn’t it?
Some of you will run the very next day, some of you might wait a week or so, and some may take a few weeks to fuller recover from the marathon effort. Whatever your case, it is most important to listen to your body and not to make any big efforts until your body is ready to go. Once you are ready to go, you should know that you’ve just put in some really solid base training for the upcoming Spring races.
In the traditional Lydiard training periodization, the majority of the training is what Lydiard called “marathon conditioning.” In a nutshell, logging as many miles as the body can handle to prepare you structurally and aerobically for the more intense, more specific work that precedes the focal race. You may know it as the Base Phase. For our purposes, your Marathon Training just became your Base Phase in preparation for the shorter, faster racing you have coming up—Cap 10K, for example.
Your body will be structurally strong and your aerobic capacity will be primed; all the adaptations you need to begin 10K work are in place. The first week or two back from your hiatus can be easy, relaxed jogging, initially at maybe 50% of your marathon volumes, to allow yourself ample time to make certain that body and mind are well recovered. Then another two weeks of reintroducing mechanical speed a couple of times a week in the form of strides or light fartlek, and high end aerobic work in a twice weekly unstructured progression run should bring back that familiar, fun feeling of moving fast and relaxed, without too much stress on the body.
In just three to four weeks since your marathon—instruments checked and all systems go—you’re just about perfectly prepared to run some crazy fast times. The first big workout should almost always be focused on effort. If your favorite fast workout is, say, 8x 800 meters with a 200 meter jog recovery, then it is often wise to begin with maybe 6 repetitions, or perhaps to do the workout without the laser focus on the watch. It is important that reintroduction to intensity should be done so with temperance. Most often, if you’re healthy and are mindful not to push too much, you’ll find that your workouts end up being much better than you’d expect and you perceived exertion will be lower than your times reflect.
Now you have four to six weeks remaining to really hone in on race pace. If you think about your training strategy as a pyramid tipped on end—an arrowhead, if you will, it becomes easier to design a workout template to follow in the coming weeks. Consider your 10K goal pace as the pointy part of the arrowhead, and the other two ends of the triangle are the paces on either side of the goal pace, you have a really simple plan to follow ahead of you. The first couple of weeks you can begin on opposite ends of the spectrum with a couple of longer marathon to half marathon paced tempos and shorter 5K to 3K paced repetitions. Once your body is comfortable with those rhythms, the repetitions are extended in length at paces that are closer to race pace.
For example: 10x 300 at 3K pace becomes 8x 800 at 5K pace which ultimately extends to 8-10x 1K at race pace. Conversely, your fast continuous efforts or tempo runs decrease in duration but increase in pace as you near the goal race itself. Thus, an 8 mile progression run that begins at marathon pace and ends at half marathon pace becomes a 6 mile run that begins at half marathon pace and finishes at 10K pace, which then becomes a 3.5-4 mile time trial at around 10K pace about ten days to two weeks out from race day.
By listening to your body, and then following a plan that works your goal pace along a spectrum, you are really well positioned to remain healthy and to nail your goal race. You’ve already done the long, heavy lifting in preparation for the marathon, so you really only need four to six weeks after you recover to get PR sharp for a fast 10K.