Shamrock Marathon 2017 Training Plan

As expected, after I finished Ironman North Carolina I was feeling quite restless and antsy to take on a new challenge. I've definitely been enjoying the slower pace of life now that I'm no longer in hardcore training mode, but as much as I longed for these days back in the summer when I was spending 6 hours of my Saturday on my bike, I always knew I wouldn't hang it up after the big race was over. (And then, you know, the big race ended up being only 83% of what it was supposed to be, so the Universe didn't give me much of a choice but to keep going).

I knew shortly after finishing IMNC that I wanted to take a crack at a spring marathon, but I couldn't decide which one to run. I knew I could always run the Shamrock Marathon for a third time, but I also wanted to explore the idea of running a marathon in another state since I've run one in 3 states now and will be adding at least one more state in 2017 when I do IM Louisville. I looked at races all up and down the east coast and although I found a lot of great options, the New Jersey Marathon at the end of April seemed like the perfect fit: a coastal course, an early enough date that they weather will hopefully be in my favor, and one of my favorite running buddies/local New Jerseyans on board to tackle it as well. What more could a marathoner ask for?

The idea of Shamrock was still nagging at me, though, especially since I have a friend who is part of my group doing Louisville who has the same marathon PR as me and the same time goal as me. Knowing that we'd be able to get together for a few long runs and pace each other during the race seemed like an opportunity I just couldn't pass up. I may be insane, but I couldn't choose between Shamrock and New Jersey, so I've decided to run both. 

I have a busy spring - in addition to these two marathons six weeks apart, I'm planning to do a half Ironman 2 weeks after the second one. I don't anticipate being in tip-top tri shape for the 70.3 and that's okay - I'm mainly using it as motivation to keep my swimming and cycling base over the winter months before I start hardcore Ironman training in the summer, and as a baseline for my Ironman Louisville training. The way I've chosen to structure my training for the year (and I really mean the year, since all of this leads to Ironman Louisville) is to start with marathon training for Shamrock, incorporate more triathlon training about halfway though that in prep for the half Ironman, more or less play the six weeks in between Shamrock and New Jersey by ear (since my NJ goals really depend on what happens at Shamrock), take a couple of weeks to taper for the half Ironman, then shift into full-on Ironman training mode. Since I have so much training ahead of me this year, I'm breaking it down one goal at a time. That's the way I've always trained, with sub-goals and check-in races over a long period of time, all leading up to a big goal race, and that's always worked well for me. 

So with that said, for the next 2.5 months, this is what my training currently looks like, with my focus until March being finishing the Shamrock Marathon in under 4 hours. My training plan is 18 weeks long and started on November 14, so I'm already in week 8!

Training Plan
For my marathon training, I'm using a modified hybrid of Hal Higdon's Intermediate 2 and Advanced 1 plans. I'm basing my mileage off the Intermediate 2 plan (sans the Saturday runs, which I'm replacing with cycling), but I wanted to add in some targeted workouts, so that's where the Advanced plan comes in.  The Advanced plan cycles through tempo, hill, and speed workouts on Thursdays, so I've added those into my schedule (more on that later). The major modification I've made, as I've done with every training plan I've ever followed, is to change the number of running days per week from 5 to 4. I have tried running 5x/week and found that it was just too much stress on my body. It's been a few years since my last attempt at that so there's a chance things could have changed, but I figure if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If I find that after this training cycle I still can't break 4 hours by running 4 days a week, maybe I'll rethink this strategy and attempt a higher mileage plan, but for now, I'm sticking with what I know. 

Easy Runs
I'm really trying to make an attempt to incorporate easy runs into my training. I tend to do the majority of my runs at more or less the same pace, and I'm trying to slow down for one run a week. I usually do this for my first, post-long run run of the week, and I find that I really end up looking forward to coming home and putting in some easy miles to kick off a new training week. 

Treadmill Thursdays
Before this year, I could count on one hand the number of times I'd run on a treadmill. Nothing against the treadmill, but I really like running outside and I'll run in just about any weather, so I've just never really needed to use one. The apartment I moved into in May has a gym on the first floor of the building, and that was around the same time I was recovering from my foot injury and easing back into running, so I started using the treadmill more and more. It felt like the safest option since I never really knew how far I'd make it, and for a while I was supplementing my running with the elliptical, so it was easy to do the majority of my miles on the elliptical, then hop over to the treadmill to try a mile, two miles, etc.

Now that I'm recovered from my injury I don't need the treadmill for that reason anymore, but winter has given me a whole new set of challenges that have made me continue to embrace the treadmill. Given that my options for running are when it's dark in the mornings, or when it's even darker at night, and that I live in the city, which means stopping for lights quite often, it's been really convenient using the treadmill for targeted workouts. So far I'm really enjoying that I don't have to worry about hitting the exact correct pace or whether or not I'm going to half an uninterrupted half mile to complete my interval or whatever - the treadmill takes all the guesswork and uncertainties out of the equation. I know there are pros and cons to the treadmill, and sometimes it feels way harder to me than outdoor running while other times I feel like I'm cheating and it's not "real" running. But then I remember that first hill workout I did on the treadmill, lamenting that it wouldn't be as good as running the big hill behind my apartment, and then cranking the incline up to 7% and the speed to 7mph (8:34 minutes/mile) per my workout plan and worrying for a few seconds that I was going to fly right off the treadmill. So, yeah, I think it counts.

Long Runs
I've never been able to slow my long runs down to the 60-90 seconds per mile slower than goal pace that's recommended by basically every running coach out there. I understand that long runs are significant wear and tear on the body and that doing them too fast can cause more harm than good, but given that I'm not a super fast runner and that my biggest hurdle to running as fast as I want to isn't as much physical as it is mental, I find it helpful to practice my race pace during my long runs. 

For this training cycle, my goal long run pace is around 8:45min/mi. I'm not super concerned about the exact pace since I try to run more on feel than an exact pace, and because anything faster than a 9:10 pace will get me to my goal time. However, I want to make sure that I have enough cushion for water stops, bathroom breaks if I need them, and anything else that might come up. So far my long runs have been anywhere from 8:25 (on a particularly speedy day) to 9:02 (on a muggy day when I was just feeling off), which is quite the range but all well within my target pace range. I'll be moving up to longer distances soon, so I'm interested to see if I can continue to keep those paces!

Strength Training
Strength training is something that I know is so super important, but it's the first thing to go when I get busy. I had strength workouts built into my Ironman training, so I did a decent job of keeping up with it, but I definitely could have done better. I don't have a ton of time to devote to strength training, so I really need whatever time I do spend on it to be effective and useful. I've spent the last couple months experimenting with different types of strength training and really trying to figure out what works for me. At first it was Pilates videos at home, which was really good for my eternally weak hips. Then I missed lifting heavier weights so I got back in the gym, but with no set plan or schedule. I recently picked the New Rules of Lifting for Women back up - I've gone through the program twice, although not recently, and really liked it and the results. Maybe I'll find something that sticks for a while, or maybe I'll bounce around between different types of workouts. The rest of my training plan is pretty structured, so I think the key to fitting in strength training is to make it something that I actually want to do.

Swimming and Cycling
Although I'm not worried about following a super strict, triathlon-specific training program to get me ready for a half Ironman in May, I do need some sort of structure if I have any hope of keeping up with my swimming and cycling, so I recycled an old HIM training plan and modified it to fit in with my marathon training, beginning next week. 

The plan calls for 3 swims a week, which I already dropped down to 2 (same thing I did when I used this plan to train solely for a HIM) because I know myself, and in reality may end up only being 1. As long as I make it to the pool one, maybe two times a week, I'll be doing a lot better than I usually do over the winter.

Over the last 8 weeks since my marathon training started I've continued to do one Peloton class on the trainer every week, and I've gotten in some 1-1.5 hour trainer rides on the weekends when I've been able to fit them in. When my HIM training kicks in in a couple weeks I'll be adding a third ride every week, as well as longer (2-3 hour) weekend rides on Saturdays. Obviously it's not quite as important to keep up with so much cycling right now, and if I find that it's a detriment to my running, I'll have to reevaluate my plan. However, I've found in the past that swimming and cycling are really beneficial in helping me stave off injuries, so I'm hopeful that they do more good than harm!

I love incorporating races into my training. Even though I mostly use them for training runs, I find it really motivating to have races to look forward to on the road to a bigger goal. I'll be posting my full race schedule for this year later this week or next, but these are the ones I have on my calendar for this spring (goal races in bold):

  • January 28: Tidewater Striders 15-Miler (Hampton, VA)
  • February 28: Tidewater Striders 20-Miler (Chesapeake, VA)
  • March 11: Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon
  • March 19: Shamrock Marathon
  • April 2: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler
  • April 23: George Washington Parkway Classic 10-Miler
  • April 30: New Jersey Marathon
  • May 13: Kinetic Half Ironman

I'm not sure frequently I'll be sharing/recapping my training, but my first update is here and I share a lot more of my workouts on Instagram!


  1. You've got some big plans this spring! Hopefully all of your training goes well as well as the races that you've signed up for. I love throwing some smaller/less distance races when training for a half... it breaks up the training for me and lets me see where I stand.

  2. Sounds like a busy and fabulously fun spring! :-)

  3. Yay, I've been wanting to ask you if you were going to do the GWPC! I'm doing the 5k again and think Renard might do the 10 mile. He was also considering doing the NJ marathon (or half), but quickly realized that it's a lot harder to find motivation to run in the winter when it's dark and cold all of the time. It sounds like you have everything set in place for continued success for your first big race coming up!

  4. haha when you said i may be insane, i was like she chose both! and i wouldn't have expected anything else from you ;) i say that lovingly. i honestly think it's brilliant that you're doing multiple races and half/full irons so you can break up all the goals. seems a little easier to split it all up like that (not that it's easy, at all!).

    hahahaha yeah i think running on the treadmill counts. i agree, there are pros and cons. i love the treadmill in the winter for all the reasons you said.

    i've been doing weights for over 10 years but never like consistently or the same thing. i enjoy switching it up. i find something i stick with for a bit and then switch it up. whatever works i think. and it really does help in every other area (well, i know it helps me with running).

    good luck with your training and all your races!

  5. Yay! I'm running Rock 'n' Roll DC too! I'm also thinking about the NJ Half!