Honolulu Marathon 2017. Week 2. Show up and get to work.
“Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Chuck Close
Achieving any long-term goal requires commitment and discipline. Success isn’t an accident. Success is the result of committing to put forth effort and having the discipline to do so consistently over time.
This isn’t easy. People struggle with long-term goals all the time. In general we’re really bad at envisioning future outcomes and delaying gratification. A McDonald’s cheeseburger won’t make you obese, just like an impulsive credit card purchase won’t bury you in debt, but short term decisions accrue over time. Everyone would prefer to be in good health and financially secure, but over one-third of American adults are clinically obese and the average U.S. household carries $16,883 in credit card debt.
Compared to disease and financial debt, the marathon is trivial. At its core however, the principals to success are identical. There’s no secret, it’s simple. Show up. Do the work. Then do it again.
Do it again. That’s the tricky part. No single workout will make you faster, but link together a few months of workouts and the results will become apparent. There are endless reasons not to show up. Sore legs. Work responsibilities. A cold. Family obligations. An injury. More than any specific workout, your ability to consistently show up over the course of a training cycle will ultimately determine your success.
I’ve found that by establishing a schedule I’m better prepared to deal with issues that threaten my training. I view it more as a flexible framework than a rigid decree, something that can adapt and adjust as needed. To accomplish this, I do the following…
Schedule My Entire 16-Week Plan in the Calendar
Before my training cycle begins I make sure all my key workouts are reflected in my personal calendar. For this cycle my weekly key workouts include a Tuesday morning track workout at 6:30 a.m., a sustained speed workout on Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m., and a long run on Saturday at 7:00 a.m. The specifics of each workout are also included so I know exactly what I’ll be doing that day. This is my base routine, and I do everything I can to ensure I show up each week.
I don’t explicitly schedule workouts for the rest of the week, but I’ll typically run a general aerobic run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the early evening before dark. Depending on how I feel on Sunday I’ll either rest or do an easy recovery run at some point in the day.
Coach Blue built my training schedule in Training Peaks, which made syncing the plan with my personal calendar really easy. The only thing I updated was the duration of each workout to account for the time required to complete it. This allows me to view the plan in the context of my daily schedule all the way through race day, and I can immediately identify days where there are conflicts due to existing or potential commitments.
Another advantage of having the entire schedule in the calendar is you can proactively avoid potential conflicts by simply not committing to anything that jeopardizes your workouts. It depends what you’re willing to sacrifice, but “no” is a powerful tool.
Review Each Upcoming Week
At the end of each week I’ll take a moment and review the upcoming week to see if any adjustments will be required. If so, I’ll shuffle the key workouts to accommodate them first, then reassess my general aerobic runs. This not only gives me a plan for the week ahead, but also prepares me mentally by providing a preview of the workouts.
For example, I may shift a sustained speed run to Tuesday because I’ll be flying somewhere on Thursday for work. Or move a Saturday long run to Sunday in order to attend a family event. The idea here is to be proactive with the plan and do your best to ensure key workouts don’t slip.
Maintaining a Routine on the Road
One of the biggest challenges for me personally is work related travel, and I’m often on the road for a week or more at a time. This is very disruptive in general — airports, hotels, different timezones, crappy food, foreign locations — but there’s a few things I’ll do to help minimize the impact.
Again, this is where having my entire training plan scheduled is really useful. If I know I’ll be on the road during the upcoming week, I’ll do a few specific things to prepare accordingly.
First, I’ll check the weather forecast to determine what I’ll actually need to get my workouts done. Shorts or tights? Sweatband or beanie and gloves? Rain jacket? Having the proper gear is essential and something you can plan for.
Second, I’ll scout the area online. Where can I pull off a 22 mile long run? Are there well established routes that local runners frequent? Is there a public track available for speed work? I’ll do some sleuthing in Google Maps and Strava to get a feel for the location, bookmarking anything of interest.
Third, I’ll figure out a back-up plan. Sometimes it’s simply unrealistic to get a run in outdoors. Maybe you arrive late at night, or you feel uncomfortable in the surrounding area, or the weather is truly miserable. If that’s the case I’ll try to find an alternative such as a hotel treadmill, a local workout class, or even just a basic strength routine that can be done in a hotel room.
The Habit Loop
Now there’s a big difference between having a schedule and sticking to it, although I’ve found that that act of creating and actively reviewing my schedule tends to keep me engaged. I genuinely enjoy the process, but the habit just doesn’t stick for some people.
For more on that subject I highly recommend Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. It’s a fascinating look at how cues, routines, and rewards all function together to form the “habit loop,” and the book includes a number of fantastic case studies to illustrate how bad habits can be broken and positive habits created.
I do my best to be disciplined, but some weeks are better than others. Workouts will be missed and I’m okay with that. Let’s be real, there’s way more to life than running 26.2 miles. I’m committed to the goal. I’m committed to the process. But they’re not my only commitments, nor my most important ones.
Training Log. Week Two. 61 Miles
Another solid week mileage-wise. Managed to pull it off despite being in the Bay Area with the entire Planet OS team, which meant dinners and events galore. Stayed in San Mateo and found two new public tracks in the area, one at Menlo-Atherton High School (pretty good) and another at Menlo College (pretty bad).
Tuesday’s 14x100 stride set felt off. Cardio just wasn’t really there, but I ran it in the evening after a big team dinner, so, yeah. Nutrition was kinda fucked all week because of all the team dinners, but really felt it on this one.
Got my 6 mile tempo work done at a neighborhood park. Average pace of 6:15 per mile through the six, a bit faster than race pace but felt good. Friday was a holiday so we took the team up to Point Reyes national shoreline, got a quick four mile recovery in beforehand.
Saturday was my first run-in with the 22 mile + 9x1k repeats. It also happened to be the hottest day ever in San Francisco! Managed to get through the base 22 (tacked on 1,000 feet of elevation because I never looked at it before hand), then arrived to a football game at the track I planned to run the repeats on. Retreated to a nearby park, but by that time I was fading. Put together five reps in the 6:10 range and had to call it before I sweat to death.
Week two of a 16 week journey to set a personal best at the 2017 Honolulu Marathon. I’ll be sharing weekly updates here on Medium, give me a follow if you want to be notified when new posts are available. You can also tune in on Strava and Instagram.