Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Back-to-Back Races": The Definition is All Relative - The Firecracker Quadzilla/Quadzuki and multi-day racing

I recently read a post in the Half Fanatics group page where a relatively new member was about to do her first "back to back" races. It occurred to me that the timeframe for "back to back" really depends on your perspective. 

When we first started marathoning with Team in Training, our coach advised us not to do more than one race every six months. We started training in January of 2005 and did our first full marathon in June five months later. Getting hooked by the marathoning bug early on, we turned around and spent the next six months training for our second full marathon in December. Two full marathons, six months apart just like our coach told us to.

But somewhere along the way, we realized that on the ramp up in training mileage, we were already doing double-digit mileage so we threw in a bonus race along the way. In 2005, we worked in the Nike Women's Half Marathon two months before Honolulu Full Marathon and in 2006 we added Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon one month before the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Full Marathon.

Two to three races per year soon became four to five races per year. However, year six was when our goal setting got the best of us and we subsequently increased the number of races per year from eight to ten to twelve to nineteen. You know doing a combination of twenty half or full marathons in 2014 is inevitable at this rate. Sometimes you just have to let momentum grab you and take you away.

It was nerve racking this year when Susan realized that she “accidentally” signed up for two half marathons in one weekend over my Birthday weekend (American River Parkway Half Marathon and Diva San Francisco Half Marathon). All the preparation in the world couldn't prepare her for what actually happened. It turned out to be really no big deal. Not that she felt the need to PR at both events but still racing on what Coach Mama Lisa calls, “Tired Legs” is absolutely possible. 

So, of course, if one can do two half marathons on two consecutive days, what about doing two half marathons on the same day? It’ll be like doing a full marathon with a nice long break in between, right?  We’ll tell you all about it in November.

Where does the madness go from here? Well, Disney World’s 39.3 mile Goofy Challenge (half marathon on Saturday, full on Sunday) is definitely on the goal list for 2015. And the event organizers realize that more is better so the 48.6 mile Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, Half and Full Marathon on 4 consecutive days) has been created. It sold out in less than an hour of opening registration.

Assuming you get hooked on marathoning, it seems inevitable that you’ll eventually want to challenge yourself either by getting faster and setting new PR’s  or by doing more races. 

Maybe both?

Last weekend the Firecracker Quadzilla was held in Portland, Oregon. Marathoners had the privilege to do four full marathons on four consecutive days. Or if you were not quite up to that challenge, you can "back off" and do the Quadzuki race and complete four half marathons in four consecutive days. Is that all?

How far can human beings go with continuous racing?  We've had the privilege of hearing Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes speak at several races. Dean has some amazing accomplishments including running 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 different states. He has done 100 mile relay races as a 'team of one' and once ran 350 miles in 80 hours and 44 minutes - without sleeping. My favorite story is about him ordering a large Hawaiian style pizza during a long run. He rolls it up and eats it like a burrito.  

In 2012, Stefaan Engels set the world record for consecutive days running a marathon distance (not official races) with 365. Engels also set the world record for completing 20 Ironman Triathlons in a year.  He describes himself as just an "Joe Average goes to work on Monday morning, whether or not he feels like it. I wonder what he does for a living.  The record of most OFFICIAL marathons in one year was set by Larry Macon in 2012 with 137 marathons.

How do you train for back-to-back marathons? A Google search for how to train for back-to-back races defines “back-to-back” anywhere from consecutive months to consecutive weeks to consecutive days. Active.com has tips for training with 2 - 8 weeks between racesRunner's World's 2012 article reported that one in four marathoners complete multiple 26.2's each year and gave some good training guidelines if you plan to race with less than a full 5 month training plan. The rule of thumb is to take a day off (easy training only) for every mile of your longest distance. We humbly note that most articles of this type are geared toward marathoners who are racing at higher intensity levels and may not be applicable for those of us who are addicted to LSD (long slow distance) training. This is where the definition of "easy training" becomes a personal thing.

Addressing any aggravations early can prevent injuries down the road. Regardless of how many races you do in whatever time-frame you choose to do them in, the key is to stay healthy, stretch, foam roll, and strength train. Above all, know when you've had enough and your body needs to heal. Don't let a stress fracture, sciatica or other issues get worse and sideline you for months. Better to take time to heal and not have to go through the psychological agony of not being able to race at all. It might even be a good idea to book a slightly higher refundable air fare or hotel room until you're feeling good about a heavy race schedule.

The Half Fanatic doing "back to back" races was actually doing them with only two weeks in between half marathons. The group was very polite and encouraging, knowing that everyone starts somewhere.  

As you can see, the sky may not be the limit if you're a Marathoner for Life. 

The Firecracker Races were held in the Portland, Oregon area over the 4th of July weekend. Since the 4th fell on the Thursday in 2013, race director Steve Walters upped the ante on the 2011 Firecracker Triple and last year's Firecracker Double to create the Quadzilla. The event weekend consists of :
Foot Traffic Flat (Full/Half/5K races available)
Summerlake Loopy (Full/Half)
Freedom Marathon (Full/Half) 
Stars and Stripes Marathon (Full/Half).  
Our friends Kerry and Michael Caldwell did the Quadzuki (4 Half Marathons) last weekend. Kerry has started a Racewalk Revolution Facebook Page and is getting her website started as well. Check them out (and check out the collection of bling)!

Kerry and Michael Caldwell's Bling Haul from the Firecracker Quadzuki

Other multiple-race events include the Quadrathon (Ireland, mid-August) and the Seattle Quadzilla and Quadzuki (Thanksgiving Holiday weekend). If you want to throw in a little travel, Mainly Marathons runs several series with the races close to state borders for additional bragging rights. 
Day of the Dead Series (4 races, 4 days, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico over the Halloween week).
The Dust Bowl Marathon Series (5 races, 5 days in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico in late-March)
Center of the Nation Series (5 races, 5 days in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska in mid-September). Dust Bowl and Center of the Nation also offer half-marathons for the mere mortals among us.
Discounts for Mainly Marathon events are available for members of 50 States Club50 States Half Club50 States + DCHalf FanaticsHalf2Run.
The Hatfield McCoy Marathon offers back to back half marathons as part of the full marathon. Technically, this can be seen as two half marathons in two states on the same day since they are timed separately. Some hardcore Fanatics wonder if this is just a really good workaround, though.

1 comment:

  1. You two are so inspiring! I wish my body hadn't given out so early! I spent my whole childhood running & then walking has always been my preferred exercise. If I can get these discs fixed someday, maybe I can walk one! :)