Weeks 19+20 for Ottawa Marathon – Time to Taper

Finally, the hard work is done and I’m only two weeks from race day! From here on, it’s easy running and reduced mileage to absorb the training put in over the last six months, rest the legs, and get ready to run a marathon. I’m really not sure how it will go but I don’t think I’ve been better prepared.

I’m happy to have made it through the last six months without any significant injuries or time off. That was a real struggle for me during the last two marathon cycles. I learned some valuable lessons from looking over my training logs. It was painfully obvious that I had increased mileage too quickly, got caught up chasing arbitrary mileage numbers, and didn’t put enough recovery between workouts. I tried to address those issues this time and thankfully it seems to have worked. One big change for me besides reduced but more regular mileage was routine visits to chiro, physio, and massage. This maintenance work was key in identifying and addressing minor issues before they developed into full-fledged injuries. In a hyper-repetitive sport like long-distance running, a small issue can really blow up if you don’t take care of it.

Anyway, I’m at the point where I can look over the last six months of running in order to decide how I’m going to attack this marathon. My marathon pace workouts varied between 5:30/mile (pace for a 2:24:12 marathon) and 5:35/mile (pace for a 2:26:23 marathon) so I think my target is somewhere in that range. Hopefully with fresh legs I’m able to run on the faster side but I’m planning on going out cautiously, targeting 1:13:00 to 1:13:30 for the first half. After that, I’m hoping I can pick it up a little for a negative split and a finishing time under 2:26. Who knows if things will go to plan, so I’m prepared for the possibility that it will require some suffering to maintain that pace for the second half.

In addition to building confidence from my workouts, my recent race results are also putting me in a similar range of fitness. The 1:09:29 half marathon I ran 10 weeks ago equates to something around 2:25:26 and the 31:00 10K I ran three weeks ago equates to a 2:23:06 (but that race was downhill… so I think it is closer to a 2:25 marathon effort).

And the third thing that I think puts me in the 2:25 ballpark is the recent results of John Mason (who runs for the Speed River club from Guelph). He finished ~10 seconds ahead of me at the Chilly Half (1:09:20) and went on to run a 2:24:41 in Rotterdam (a fast course, but apparently a windy day). Just last weekend, he ran a 31:04 at the Sporting Life 10K (same course as the Yonge St 10K where I ran 31:00) so we appear to be running pretty similar times right now. I’d be thrilled to run a 2:24 marathon!

The elite starting list for Ottawa has been posted. You’ll see Canadians Rob Watson, Terence Attema, and Lucas McAneney on there. Just last weekend, Watson ran a 1:04:48 half in Vancouver and McAneney ran 1:07:00 in Mississauga. The weekend before that, Attema ran 1:06:38 in Montreal. I’m pretty sure those guys will be untouchable since they all seem to be fit and ready to go so I won’t be trying to hang with them. As far as Canadians go, I think those are the three to watch. Just about every other Canadian marathoner who is able to run under 2:25 has either already run a marathon this spring or is running the Canadian 10K Championship race the day before the Ottawa marathon. 


What looks really promising is the women’s elite field (posted above). There are eight women with personal bests between 2:23 and 2:26, so if there’s a pack going at an appropriate pace, I’ll probably try sticking with them for as long as it makes sense. My priority is to put down a good effort and be happy with my own race and then to enjoy a few well-deserved recovery beers, see the sites of our nation’s capital with my family, and destroy a monster bag of sour jujubes on the drive home!

Anyway, here are my last two weeks of training and my final workouts!


Week 19

The Wednesday threshold session went alright. This was one of the first warm days of the year and I faded pretty hard on the second interval and then decided to skip the third.

The Sunday marathon-paced long run was the last of my training plan and my final chance to nail down my goal pace and fueling. After blowing up a little on the previous marathon pace workout, I tried to be a little more cautious with the pacing this time. To practice fueling, I setup my Cytomax bottles on a ~3 mile loop that I ran several times. I ran a little slower than I wanted, but I was still happy with the effort. My legs are feeling pretty dead the last couple weeks so hopefully the taper does what it’s supposed to and freshens them up.

Monday: Rest.

Tuesday: 60′ easy with strides (9.4 miles @ 6:24/mile).

Wednesday: Workout: 14 miles with 2x 3-miles at threshold pace (15:48 or 5:16/mile, 16:11 or 5:24/mile).

Thursday: 45′ recovery (6.4 miles @ 7:04/mile).

Friday: 75′ easy with strides (11.5 miles @ 6:28/mile).

Saturday: 60′ easy with strides (9.3 miles @ 6:21/mile).

Sunday: Workout: 30′ warm-up, 25 km at goal marathon pace (5K splits: 17:14, 17:23, 17:20, 17:19, 17:49).

Total: 71 miles, 7 hours 22 minutes.

Week 20

This week had the final real workout – a long warm-up followed by a bunch of 3-mile threshold intervals. I had no hard pacing target this time and went out cautiously (although, not cautiously enough apparently). I came through the first 3 miles at ~5:21/mile, the second interval at ~5:25/mile, and the final interval in ~5:34/mile. Big fade, but on the other hand, this time I actually completed the intervals. This is it for the hard work. Everything else is just to recover and remind my legs what marathon pace feels like.

Monday: 45′ recovery (6.4 @ 6:53/mile).

Tuesday: 75′ easy (11.6 miles @ 6:27/mile).

Wednesday: 75′ easy with strides (11.4 miles @ 6:34/mile).

Thursday: [AM] Workout: 12 miles with 3x 3-miles at threshold pace (16:02 or 5:21/mile, 16:12 or 5:24/mile, 16:38 or 5:33/mile). [PM] 25′ recovery jog (3.5 miles @ 7:06/mile).

Friday: 60′ recovery (8.6 miles @ 6:56/mile).

Saturday: 60′ easy/steady with strides (9.7 miles @ 6:05/mile).

Sunday: 12.6 miles with 30′ at goal marathon pace (5.3 miles @ 5:34/mile).

Total: 75.9 miles, 8 hours.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    You got this Aaron …so proud of you and all your training!

    1. Aaron Cooper says:

      Thanks for the vote of confidence! Just counting down the days now…

  2. David Freake says:

    Hey Aaron,

    Just taking the time to properly read through your last few posts and workouts. You are ready to roll my friend. I see nothing that indicates a race over 2:25. Obviously it comes down to the weather but your going to hit a big one man. I’ll be on the course cheering for you buddy. Can’t wait to see you do something special out there!


    PS: The layout of this blog is great!

    1. Aaron Cooper says:

      Thanks Dave! The way I see it, 95% of the hard work is done and all that’s left is race execution. This is what I’ve been training for over the last six months and I can’t do much to now except try not to screw it up! :) Need to get more sleep and watch that I don’t over-do it on calorie-consumption now that I’m running less.

      Sounds like you’re also ready to roll in the 10K. Can’t wait to watch that one- so many awesome runners! Best of luck to you! Get in touch after the race for a beer!

  3. Anthony says:

    Hi Aaron,

    I stumbled on your blog through the Moose Mugs forum, just wanted to say good luck for the weekend and thanks for posting your training, it has given me a lot of food for thought, I ran a 2:48 in Boston this year and was hoping to go a bit quicker, by the looks of things, more marathon pace long runs, longer threshold work and overall consistency seems to be working well for you, I will try a similar build up for my next marathon.

    All the best.

    Anthony from Australia.

    1. Aaron Cooper says:

      Hey Anthony,

      You must be doing something right already, having run 2:48, so just be careful that you don’t change up your formula too much. Consistency, staying healthy, and increasing the stress (mileage, speed, etc.) occasionally are key, but be careful not to overdo it.

      If you want to see some examples of threshold and marathon pace workouts, take a look at Jack Daniels’ book.

      Best of luck to you! And thanks for stopping by!

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