Transitioning from Summer to Fall
by Luke Humphrey, Aug. 13, 2009
Transitioning from Summer to Fall
Now is the time of year where many of us are making the transition from our “Summer of Speed” towards marathon specific training. With both Grand Rapids and Detroit just around the corner, many people are wondering if there is enough time. From the time I am writing this (August 13, 2009) to the marathons, there is roughly 10 weeks. So to answer the question, “Yes, there is time.” Unless you are a true beginning runner, I think that many people take too long in their marathon build-ups and end up in less than optimal condition to run their races.
Many of the runners I work with directly have a pretty set racing schedule over the summer and fall. They run the same races every year and then a fall marathon. If done properly, one can encompass all of there summer traditions, yet still use it to advance their marathon goals. As summer 5k’s and 10k’s begin winding down, we are starting to see the longer fall races starting to show up. The Crim seems to be the kick-off to the fall, even though we all know that it ends up being the hottest day of the year on that Saturday! For many of my athletes, they are just beginning their fall marathon preparations and we use this as a fitness test to guide the next 8 weeks of their training. Many of us use our 5k’s from the summer as our guide to marathon time goals, and that is fine. However, the longer the race, the better the equivalency you will get to a marathon performance. So, even though it is early, it will still give you a good baseline for current training capacities.
From this point, you have the last part of August, all of September, and then the first couple weeks of October to begin a taper for your marathon. Looking at that, you have six weeks to really improve your marathon fitness. That means a transition away from your speed work towards lactate threshold workouts. These are traditionally longer intervals such as, 6xmile, 4x1.5 miles, 3x2 miles, and 2x3 miles. The paces can be from 10k to half marathon pace, depending on the runner and I tend to prefer doing these on roads or paths. The track tends to create injury problems, but can be used if the best place available. Besides the replacement of traditional speed, there should be the increase in tempo run distance. I personally consider 8-10 mile tempo runs at goal marathon pace as important, if not more important, than some long runs. However, you still want to run long runs, but I would focus on keeping them to 25-30% of your total weekly mileage. These are a great time to practice your strategies for rehydrating and refueling. Many people will say, “Wow, that’s a lot of work over six weeks. That seems like a lot of intensity and mileage.” Well, true, it is. However, there are some things to consider. One, you are carrying over your mileage and speed intensity from your summer road racing. Many people won’t take very much time off between segments, so most of the time, you are adding to current fitness levels. Secondly, the mileage increases tend to be handled alright, IF, runners actually run easy on their easy days, don’t press their threshold workouts and tempos, and don’t run outrageous long runs in comparison to their overall mileage.
By early October, you have done about all you can. Last year, some of my athletes wanted to run the Brooksie Way Half Marathon here in Rochester. At first, I was apprehensive, but did not want to turn away support for a local race. So, I said ok, but they had to treat it as their last long tempo/long run before Detroit. Overall, it was a success. The athletes got one last rehearsal before the big show and it didn’t seem to take anything away from their marathons a couple weeks later. It works out that you should be starting your taper at that point, so with the decreases in mileage and intensity, the runners recovered and were fully rested two weeks later.
So, despite the common belief that you need a long build-up for a marathon, hopefully, I have shown how to plan accordingly and still incorporate your racing traditions into a shorter, race specific training plan. Best of luck to those racing this fall!
For more information on me and the coaching I offer, please visit Hanson’s Coaching Services. Please, feel free to suggest training topics you'd like to see discussed.