On April 24, I ran the first ever Blue Ridge Marathon. It was a tough road course, boasting 3,100' of climbing, all within a few miles of my hometown, Roanoke, VA. It was a great run, and I had a very fun time.
I was a bit nervous about this one because I was trying again to run a long, tough endurance run on very little mileage. I am no longer following "Crossfit Endurance" as prescribed, but I do still workout like that. My daily runs are usually 3-5 miles with lots of high intensity sprints, hills, squats, planks, pushups. burpees, etc. thrown in. In fact, the workouts focus on the sprinting and the "calisthenics," the running is just transportation to/from the park were we workout. I think I did about 4 long runs (13-21 miles) in preparation for this marathon. But they were very spread apart, and most of them on trails, not roads. To break it down even more, my 2010 weekly mileage has only crossed 25 miles per week 3 times. My longest week was just under 40 miles two weeks before the marathon. Most of my weeks this year have been at or under 20 miles running with lots of cross training.
I approached the marathon not knowing how my body would respond to this low mileage. So I started out very conservatively. My goal was to run aerobically (conversational pace) for as long as possible. I knew that would last only a few miles before the climbing started. Over the first few climbs I was feeling great. The fourth climb is the big one up Roanoke Mountain Overlook. This would be the pinnacle of the race. I chose to walk most of that climb, and still caught many people along the way. I knew I could comfortably walk a 12-13 minute mile, so that's what I did.
At the top of that climb, I realized that with most of the climbing behind me, I was averaging 9 minute miles, and feeling great. At that point I knew a sub 4-hour marathon was in my sights. I continued to push, anticipating the "wall" that hits me in most marathons around 18 miles in. 18 miles came, no wall. 20, no wall. 22, no wall, and at this point I was picking up speed. Several times between 20 and 24 I caught myself running a 7-minute per mile pace. I was having a blast, passing people, cheering on other runners and (half marathon) walkers. I found that the more I encouraged others, the better I felt.
End result: a pretty tough road marathon, 3:53, on very little weekly mileage. I recovered quickly, and was back to my crossfit-style workouts on Monday. Can this type of training get me back into ultra shape? I'm going to find out.
Run hard out there.