Back-to-back racing: Do’s and Don’ts

For the first time… ever (in my life, anyway), I will be competing in what are referred to as “back to back” marathons. Granted, there will be five weeks separating my two marathons (#1 as part of Ironman Wisconsin and #2 as the Columbus Marathon), but this is still a big challenge for me.

Five weeks is not very long*. Technically, I am already down to less than four weeks at this point. I recently adapted my marathon training plan (from Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning book) to outline exactly what I need to do to best prepare me for the follow-up race. It was surprising to see the first week included basically recovery, and rest. Which was perfect, because yesterday I was diagnosed with an ear infection. Perhaps a combination of blue-algae, swimming through vomit, and an airplane ride are to blame for that…

Anyway, I digress. The week after my first Ironman looked something like this:

Monday– hobble to car, stand up, sit down x 10 (getting in and out of car) and then stand for 15min in cold bath at SDC.
Tuesday– drive to school, hobble around campus
Wednesday– more hobblefest, with some recovery trail walking
Thursday– walk quasi-normally to school!
Friday– ride mountain bike for an hour or so
Saturday– feel like crap, promote ear infection with plane ride around Keweenaw, rest, nap
Sunday– hike around Keweenaw, some running, more napping

So, after that… I tried to get active! My legs are going crazy. They want to move. They want to go run. Bike. Something! So I rolled out for a 2-hour ride to Elo, Michigan, and- even though I experienced a quasi-bonk- I felt refreshed and more clear this morning. My ear still hurts, but I no longer feels like a toad is residing in my larynx, so that’s probably good.

Here’s what is on deck for this week in training:
Today: Recovery 6mi (actually did a 45 min run, so a little shy of this)
Wednesday: General aerobic 8mi
Thursday: Rest or cross-training
Friday: General aerobic + speed 8mi with 8×100 stride
Saturday: Recovery 5mi
Sunday: General aerobic 10mi

So what do I need to do this week? Doesn’t really look like much! That’s a relief, because I need to make sure I recover well from this ear infection. I also need to concentrate on certain “do’s” and “don’ts” related to this upcoming race!!

— Get active recovery
Check! Even though last week was a lot of hobbling, I did my best to stay on my feet and keep moving around
— Eat healthy, not junk, food
Volume of training will be greatly decreased compared to three-five weeks out from the first marathon of the two. Good thing my appetite disappeared with my DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). I especially need to focus on healthy, hearty, natural foods now because of my ear infection! Thanks to my CSA, my advisor’s donation of green peppers and courgettes, and an awesome anti-inflammatory soup made by Baberaham, I think I am following this DO pretty well!
— Listen to my body
If I start to feel tired on a run, it’s time to turn around and go home. Maybe even walk back. There’s no reason in pushing myself over the edge of physical exertion at this point.

— Start anything “new”
I was going to get back into the swing of using my kettlebell, but now is not the time. It can wait until after Oct 18.
— Spread myself too thin
Other life stresses can get piled on after a big “A” race event, especially if its out of town. For me, my trip to Madison cost me three days away from work and countless hours away from the lab. Luckily, some deadlines have been moved around and I am afforded with the luxury of a more relaxed work schedule. Now would not be a good time to spend 14hours in the lab doing histology or qPCR because I have already pounded down my immune system.
— Do anything “extra” in the workouts
Next Tuesday, my plan has 6x600meter repeats at max-effort pace. Even though I like 800s more, I am going to stick with doing six 600m repeats. And even if I feel good, I am only going to do six. The following week’s 3x1600m repeats are going to be more difficult… because I absolutely love mile repeats.

Luckily, because I modified my schedule to fit a five-week gap between races (from the Pfitzinger book’s described 4 and 6 week plans), I have some flexibility with my training. On the 4th, I have a long run, but it can be anywhere between 14 and 18 miles. That’s convenient. I do have to find a 8-10K race to do the day before, though… that could be a little tricky. There will not be any Tech meets that weekend, so maybe they’ll have a time-trial on the home course? I’m crossing my fingers.

*There is a select group of individuals, known as the Marathon Maniacs, that venture to do marathons even more frequently than what I hope to do this fall. In order to qualify to be a Maniac at the lowest of levels (Bronze), one has to a) compete in two marathons on consecutive weekends, b) two marathons in three weeks, or c) three marathons in three months. Only then are you be eligible to be a true Maniac, and must then pay $35 for membership … $58 if you want to wear this:

6 thoughts on “Back-to-back racing: Do’s and Don’ts

  1. oh man, this post frightened me a little…I am also doing two marathons, but only 4 weeks apart! (Baltimore marathon oct 10th and the marathon portion of the beach to battleship tri relay nov 7th). I really hadn't thought that much of it, but I really need to take good care of myself! I'll be looking forward to tracking your progress as well!

  2. 5 weeks should be fine so long as you don't beat yourself up too much training. Your running legs will be the last things to come back to you but you'll know if you're working them too hard.I've twice run Marathons 2 weeks after an Ironman and they've killed me. Sometimes though I've done something a month later and felt like I was flying.A lot will depend on how YOUR body recovers after IMOO, everybody is different of course. If you approach it with a more casual frame of mind then your IM training should carry you through it easily whatever training you do between now and then.

  3. Twice now, I've run a marathon followed by a mountain climbing trip one week later. It's doable. Not sure how much my legs recovered before I started walking up hills every day.The hardest part was letting my body recover, and not trying to get back into my routine too soon. Even though legs would feel fine, when I went for a run they would burn before the end of the block.

  4. I am hoping I can pull of a back to back this and next weekend. Recovery is definitely essential and as I learned at TransRockies, can be accomplished pretty rapidly. I am banking on my training from TR to be enough. I know lots and lots of the Marathon Maniacs,and many of them even do back to back ultras!They are an awesome group of (insane) people.It's funny since TR was just a few weeks ago to remember that I am in taper now and need to get rested, fueled and ready for my two big races.I wish you the best of luck with Columbus, my bestest everest friend Jonathan will be there running too!

  5. I think by next spring and Summer I could run 3 marathons in 3 months.THANK YOU for the advice. I think you are right. Finding a race, even in the distant future will give me an action plan and something to look forward to. No need to waste my miles in the muck and gunt of winter..Hope you feel better soon.

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