Pre-CIM: Planning for a 2:34

Kelsey Bruce — Behind the Scenes (CIM)

The Plan (that went wrong)

After a ridiculous 2:36:07 debut marathon for Kelsey Bruce at the 2016 Grandmas Marathon at the age of 23, expectations were ridiculously high. We now had one of the top-20 (or so) young marathoners in our stable and had a full four-years to get her into the top-10 (or top-5?) at the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

So, with high excitement and an eye on what needed to be done before 2020 we set out with our plan. The goal was to spend the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017 developing her speed. Her 3km (9:50), 5km (16:42), and 10km (34:00) personal bests are just too slow to compete at the level she’s expecting to run at. We would build back slowly from Grandmas and have a full 2017 Indoor and Outdoor Track Season where she would make an assault on her PRs, before then turning to a Fall 2017 marathon.

If the training leading into the 2016 Grandmas Marathon was good, then the work we were doing in the fall and winter of 2016 was GREAT. She was faster on all of her hilly progression runs, faster on her mile repeats, faster in everything that we were doing…

But sometimes faster is not better. And sometimes harder is not better. And sometimes great training is not better, especially if it never sees the light of a race.

And that’s what happened…some time in December Kelsey’s plantar started hurting which turned into a cycle of a great workout, followed by several rest days, followed by another great workout, followed by more rest, which eventually led to a very subpar performance at the Houston Half Marathon.

At that point we realized we were fighting a losing battle and decided to rest, seek treatment, and come back healthy.

The pre-build up

After what turned out to be an entire spring season lost, we set back to very easily and gradually building back her mileage. All of April and May was spent running very easy and slightly moving up the mileage week to week.

In June we set out to mimic a summer base, like she ran in college. Afterall, it was a summer base leading into her 5th year in XC that led to a 4th place NCAA finish, a 1:13:57 half marathon, and an Olympic Trials qualifying time.

The summer was just what we do for our college athletes, all of June is easy mileage with a speed maintenance session on Fridays. The speed maintenance session is pretty simple, 3-4 miles warm up, 2 x (5 x 200 meters) with a 200 meter jog between the reps and a 1000 meter jog between the sets, followed by a 3-5 mile cool down. She would typically run 36-38 seconds on the first set and 34-36 seconds on the second set.

A typical June 2017 week looked like this:

M. Easy AM // Easy PM
T. Longer easy run
W. Easy AM // Easy PM
T. Longer easy run
F. Speed maintenance AM // Easy PM
S. Long run over hilly course
S. Easy

Once we get into July we start adding in a little more structure to the summer with progression runs twice per week and making sure that the hilly long runs start becoming a bit more progressive in nature.

A typical July 2017 week looked like this:

M. Progressive run AM // Easy PM
T. Longer easy run
W. Progressive run AM // Easy PM
T. Longer easy run
F. Speed maintenance AM // Easy PM
S. Longer run over hilly course
S. Easy

Her peak mileage was right around 100 miles per week at the end of the summer.

M. 12 miles progressive AM // 5 miles easy PM
T. 14 miles easy
W. 12 miles progressive AM // 5 miles easy PM
T. 14 miles easy
F. 10 miles w/ speed maintenance AM // 5 miles easy PM
S. 18 miles hilly
S. 5 miles easy

Total: 100 miles

The goal was to have five of the easier weeks and five of the more structured weeks, which would lead into our college team’s XC season. Luckily for Kelsey, as she is an assistant coach with our college squad, she was able to just hop right in with the guys once they returned to campus for our XC season.

For the fall we wanted to get her back into racing, and while she had a great summer base, we knew there would be a transition back into racing, afterall, it had been basically a year since she had run a competitive race. We set the schedule to include a few low-key events, as well as some major national road races.

Fall 2017 Racing Schedule:

Sep 4th — USATF 20KM Championships (New Haven, CT) — 12th place

Sep 16th — Missouri Southern 5k XC (Joplin, MO) — 1st place

Sep 23rd — Virginia 10M (Lynchburg, VA) — 8th place

Oct 8th — BAA Half Marathon (Boston, MA) — 6th place

We took a few days easy / off after the BAA Half Marathon before starting the build-up to CIM.

The CIM build-up

Eight weeks. That’s it. Just eight simple weeks of marathon specific training. In 2016 we only had 7 weeks to prepare specifically for Grandmas and with such a strong base and a lot of weeks leading into this build up, I was comfortable with having just eight weeks to really dial into marathon training.

We wanted to go every four days…that’s what I asked of her this build up. Be ready just every four days for a solid quality session. That would ensure enough recovery from session to session and allow for us to get in enough volume for each session without the fear of breaking down.

The cycle looked a bit like this:

Day #1 — Long quality session

Day #2 — Easy

Day #3 — Speed maintenance

Day #4 — Easy

Day #5 — Long quality session


Throughout these eight weeks she was running between 90 and 110 miles per week with her longest run being 25 miles on her 25th birthday. During that run she was sub 6 min pace average for the last 8-10 miles.

The rundown of the key workouts:

1 — 22 miles w/ miles 16-20 at 5:45/mile pace.

2 — 18 miles w/ 3 x 4 miles (5:45-5:50/mile pace) w/ 1 mile float in 6:25/mile.

3 — 25 miles w/ last 8-10 miles sub 6:00/mile.

4 — 22 miles w/ 4 miles (5:45/mile) + 10 miles steady (6:25/mile avg.) + 4 miles (5:44/mile)

5 — 22 miles total w/ 10 miles easy + 10 miles at goal pace (5:51/mile avg.)

6 — 10 miles total w/ 6 miles tempo run (5:46/mile avg.)

7 — 10 miles w/ last 3 miles at 5:45/mile pace

Now, we are one week out and there is no doubt in my mind that she is prepared to run 5:48-5:52/mile pace for the CIM Marathon (USATF Marathon Championships).

This week leading into the race is very simple…

M. 8 miles w/ speed maintenance AM // 4 miles easy PM
T. 8 miles easy
W. 6 miles w/ 2 miles at goal pace AM // 4 miles easy PM
T. 8 miles easy
F. 4 miles easy w/ 4 x 200 meters
S. 4 miles easy w/ 4 x strides
S. CIM Marathon

This was originally written on November 24th, about a week out from CIM. Kelsey ended up running 2:34:03 for 6th place at the USATF Marathon Championships…an average of 5:53/mile. We were pretty close to being spot on. 

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