Back From the Brink


Semi-actual photo - I first felt ill 2 weeks ago in the Winter Flight 8K.

This past October, about 6 weeks before I was scheduled to run the Richmond marathon and attempt to qualify for Boston, I became ill. After taking 5 days off to recover, I emailed a local high school cross-country coach and asked for advice on how best to bounce back.  He responded, ‘This may not be the right time to qualify. It may be more important to simply learn what went well and what didn’t during this training.’  He said more, was courteous, and mildly encouraging, but not particularly motivating and he certainly didn’t provide any specific advice.

2 weeks ago, only about 4 weeks before my next qualifying attempt (in Virgina Beach), I came down with bronchitis.  I lost another critical week of training and I was borderline despondent.  Training had been going so well.  Now I was weak, depressed, and unsure how to approach post-illness training.

Enter Jeff Gaudette, coach of Jordan Kinley (winner of the 2009 Charlotte Thunder Road and Oklahoma City marathons). After I wrote on my blog about my illness woes, Jeff was kind enough to post some advice.  Jeff’s post was exactly the kind of advice I had been seeking last fall. 

Here are excerpts from Jeff’s advice and my attempts at following the plan:

Hi Allen, My name is Jeff Gaudette and I am Jordan’s coach. I hope I can give you a little advice for the upcoming weeks as you prepare for the Marathon. Qualifying for Boston is such a huge goal and it sucks to see it derailed by bronchitis. My advice would be to run very easy for the next three or four days. You want to make sure you’re recovered completely before doing anything hard. Otherwise, you’ll just prolong the “weak” feeling that you have as your body tries to fight the last bugs. On Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, a day after you’ve felt 100% for the whole day, you should try 5 x explosive hill sprints:

After 3 days of slow, short 6-7 mile runs, I did the explosive hill sprints.  Prior to getting sick, I had been loosely following an intermediate marathon training plan from renowned coach Brad Hudson.  Coach Hudson is a huge proponent of the hill sprint so I’m no stranger to the workout.  I did the 5 repeats, pounding up my standard, short-but-steep hill on the University Research Trail. 

I would then have 5 days of intensive training. It is hard for me to suggest particular workouts because I have no idea what you’ve been doing up until this point. But I would suggest 3 workouts (1 intense track session, 1 tempo run, and a medium long run at a steady state with some 3min pick-ups during the course of the run.

For my intense track session, I ran Yasso’s – 10 x 800 meters in under 3:20 – with 400 meter jog recoveries.  For the tempo run, I followed my regularly scheduled Hudson run:  a 2-mile warmup followed by 2 x 15 minutes @ half-marathon pace (~7:30), with 3 minutes jog recovery, with a 1-mile cool-down.  For the medium long run, I ran the Corporate Cup half marathon, slightly faster than goal marathon pace (7:30/mile pace versus 7:39).

After the intense 5 days start your taper and let yourself recover. The intense few days won’t get you injured, since it’s only 5 days, and you’ll have plenty of recovery time given the taper.

So I’ll be doing just that this week, picking back up on the 2 weeks of taper on the Coach Hudson schedule.

In the last 7 days, I’ve run more miles than I’ve run in a week since beginning training for Virginia beach. 

While I don’t quite feel as strong as I felt before getting sick, I think I’m much closer than I would have been without Coach Gaudette’s advice.  If I somehow manage to qualify for the Boston marathon, the coach will deserve much of the credit.


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