2021: Whitefish Point Marathon

The previous training cycle – spanning about 26 weeks from late April through late October of 2020 – wasn’t my first time following a training plan. But it was my first time doing a good number of other things along the way that represented an athlete lifestyle. The training cycle included several virtual events and I was even fortunate enough to be a part of some in-person events … something I didn’t think would happen once the world as we knew of came to a screeching (or screaming) halt due to COVID-19. Looking through the training log and being honest with myself, there were a handful of other things that I needed to do consistently – not only to continue living the athlete lifestyle but also to earn the performance (or result) that I know I was/am capable of. This training cycle – spanning about early December 2020 through early April mid June 2021 – primarily focused on addressing these and see what it’d lead to in performance … should there be an in-person marathon towards the end.

In between training cycles

Following the collective advice from friends, I took some time off to decompress (or unwind) and detrain. While running (or biking, hiking, skiing) very occasionally between 27th October 2020 through 6th December 2020, I moved about 115 miles. Included in this movement were a couple of runs (Trick or Trot 5k in Marquette and Fatty McGee 5k-ish on Thanksgiving in Houghton), a couple of hikes to the top of Mt. Baldy and a couple of 5k-ish cross country skiing attempts (Turkey Birkie at the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation trails in Cable).

After letting the initial raw emotions dissipate, I reviewed the training log from previous block during this time off: to learn what I had done well and what I needed to better. The former included the ability to successfully design and execute a longer term training plan with higher to me volume. Success in designing included asking for help and that for execution implied remaining injury-free throughout.

In spite of being disciplined and committed to my training plan (the use of my is to indicate where the ownership lied and not necessarily all those who helped me design it), I had been a bit more lenient (thanks to Laura for this word in our mid-November 2020 conversation) with my workouts. I hadn’t put myself through scenarios where I had to dig deeper to push through what felt like pain or fatigue. One of the rational explanations was that high weekly volume and achieving paces were somewhat mutually exclusive for my then fitness level. The list of things that’d benefit me included the following:

  1. Hydration
  2. Strength work, strides and form drills
  3. Mental fortitude for the the later parts of workouts or races

We are on to Milwaukee Paradise

I knew of the Milwaukee Marathon from the early days of 2020. Its half distance variant in 2020 was supposed to be a tune-up event for the 2020 Illinois Marathon. As well all know, COVID-19 came along and neither of those events took place. The 2021 edition of the Illinois Marathon was (and still is) up in the air. In the absence of a crystal ball that’d help me look six months into the future, Milwaukee Marathon looked good in spite of some finely printed material. I signed up for it in late October 2020 so that I could go into the aforementioned In between training cycles period with some peace of mind and certainty – as much as the current times would allow.

I had come to like the high mileage plan. But the previous training cycle had shown me that anything more than 60-65 mpw would require doing doubles once or twice a week. Doing doubles during limited daylight of our long winter months would have presented an additional challenge. After some detailed search, I chose to go with the 18-week plan designed by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas, and detailed in their book Advanced Marathoning. With 20-25 less miles each week, I believed I could achieve the necessary paces during workouts and recover well between workouts. In addition, choosing someone else’s plan helped offload some of the responsibilities. I know it sounds terrible and often has the connotation of I am looking for someone else to blame if things don’t go well. Doing so didn’t eliminate all the mental jugglery but the savings were worth the investment.

The changes I made to this training plan were the conscious inclusion of strength training  on active rest days and adopting the Joan Benoit Samuelson (who won the gold medal in the first ever women’s marathon in 1984 Olympics) and Jacqueline Gareau (who unfortunately got Rosie Ruiz‘d in the 1980 Boston Marathon) approach. They often substitute easy/recovery runs with cross country skiing to keep the impact on joints low while not compromising on aerobic fitness. If it was good enough for the likes of Joanie and Jackie, it was sure going to be good enough for me!

Table #1: Training Paces
Based on most recent race performances and rounded to the nearest 5th second
  26.2M 13.1M 10k 5k 1M Recovery Easy LSD
Holland Haven (Summer) 3:27:44
7:55
1:38:42
7:30
0:44:17
7:10
0:21:19
6:50
0:06:09
6:10
9:05 - 9:45 8:00 - 9:00 8:00 - 9:20
Sunday Lake (Winter) 3:53:46
8:55
1:51:05
8:30
0:49:50
8:00
0:23:59
7:45
0:06:55
6:55
10:00 - 10:40 8:50 - 9:50 8:50 - 10:10

Conversations with friends as well as reading books and peer-reviewed journal articles had helped me learn that basing workout paces in week #01 on target marathon pace (usually 15-17-19 weeks down the road) was a recipe for disaster. They also had helped me realize that starting from recent performances in similar distances and building further was a more sensible approach. I figured using the range spanning Summer- and Winter-like conditions would save me some mental gymnastics, and made plans to take an honest stock of the fitness level and make necessary changes, if necessary.

Things moved fairly well for the first 10 weeks. I had been successful following in JJ’s (that is, Joanie’s and Jackie’s) footsteps, and workouts and workout paces were acceptable. As the workouts got longer, they became harder to complete on a treadmill … with a face mask on … with a 60-minute limit per treadmill session. The final entity – 60-minute limit per treadmill session – was never an issue at Michigan Tech Student Development Complex‘s Fitness Center: the managers of the facility and their supervisors were always extremely kind and gracious in letting me use the same treadmill as long as I needed … as long as no one else needed it. Breathing at 6:15-6:45 min/mile can be a difficulty on its own at times. But doing so with a sweaty face mask (or a buff) constricting the oral and nasal passages, as one can imagine, added an extra layer (yes, pun intended) of difficulty.

Table #2: Milwaukee Training Plan
Notation: Easy (E) | MLD (M) | LSD (L) | Recovery (R) | Speed (S) | Tempo (T) | VO2Max (V) | Race (R)
Distance in miles and time in h:mm:ss.
Entries in the final column represent the average miles after a given number of weeks in the training cycle.
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
01 12/07
T 8.00
8.10
2:05:06
12/08
Rest
-
1:15:00
12/09
E 9.00
9.04
2:22:11
12/10
Rest
-
2:15:00
12/11
R 4.00
4.32
0:47:53
12/12
M 12.00
13.12
3:26:11
12/13
Rest
-
-
33.00
34.58
12:11:21
33.00
34.58
12:11:21

33.00
34.58
12:11:21
 

W01D06 (2020-12-12) was the 2020 BAA #finishSTRONG Challenge Half Marathon.

02 12/14
E 8.00
8.03
2:07:35
12/15
Rest
3.61
2:18:46
12/16
E 10.00
10.03
2:28:57
12/17
Rest
10.04
1:48:40
12/18
R 5.00
6.27
2:28:28
12/19
M 13.00
13.13
2:46:17
12/20
Rest
6.51
1:08:08
36.00
57.62
15:06:51
69.00
92.20
27:18:12

34.50
46.10
13:39:06
03 12/21
E 10.00
13.13
1:55:46
12/22
R 4.00
8.00
3:19:50
12/23
Rest
10.83
3:04:32
12/24
Rest
-
1:00:00
12/25
R 4.00
10.44
1:56:35
12/26
M 14.00
14.04
2:05:23
12/27
T 8.00
14.23
3:44:16
40.00
70.67
17:06:22
109.00
162.87
44:24:34

36.33
54.29
14:48:11
04 12/28
E 8.00
16.35
3:42:45
12/29
R 5.00
7.25
1:10:55
12/30
E 10.00
10.03
3:37:31
12/31
Rest
10.86
3:31:32
01/01
M 15.00
15.64
4:00:46
01/02
Rest
-
-
01/03
R 4.00
3.28
0:28:28
42.00
63.41
16:31:57
151.00
226.28
60:56:31

37.75
56.57
15:14:08
 

W04D05 was the Vasaloppet China (XCC 25 km).

05 01/04
T 9.00
9.06
2:13:05
01/05
R 5.00
5.59
2:33:56
01/06
E 10.00
9.33
1:29:47
01/07
Rest
0.53
1:15:00
01/08
R 5.00
5.42
2:27:11
01/09
L 16.00
16.06
3:06:02
01/10
Rest
10.10
3:20:18
45.00
56.09
16:25:19
196.00
282.37
77:21:50

39.20
56.47
15:28:22
 

W05D03 was the SISU Ski Fest (XCC 15 km).

06 01/11
E 8.00
8.19
2:20:07
01/12
R 5.00
5.12
1:41:36
01/13
E 8.00
9.35
1:09:24
01/14
Rest
6.94
3:38:06
01/15
R 4.00
6.32
2:02:01
01/16
M 12.00
12.35
2:58:42
01/17
Rest
15.76
3:10:50
37.00
64.03
17:00:46
233.00
346.40
94:22:36

38.83
57.73
15:43:46
 

W06D03 was the SISU Ski Fest (XCC 15 km; attempt #2).

07 01/18
R 4.00
8.92
1:56:06
01/19
T 10.00
10.04
1:49:59
01/20
Rest
-
1:00:00
01/21
M 11.00
13.84
3:24:03
01/22
E 7.00
-
1:30:00
01/23
L 18.00
-
-
01/24
Rest
2.32
1:01:50
50.00
35.12
10:41:58
283.00
381.52
105:04:34

40.43
54.50
15:00:39
08 01/25
R 7.00
13.56
3:07:20
01/26
Rest
-
1:00:00
01/27
M 12.00
5.31
0:51:19
01/28
R 5.00
4.35
3:39:00
01/29
T 10.00
5.88
1:02:38
01/30
L 20.00
9.17
1:52:59
01/31
Rest
11.63
3:08:08
54.00
49.90
14:41:24
337.00
431.42
119:45:58

42.13
53.93
14:58:15
09 02/01
R 4.00
6.12
4:42:37
02/02
Rest
-
-
02/03
R 8.00
8.89
1:34:28
02/04
Rest
2.05
2:45:00
02/05
R 6.00
6.25
0:57:29
02/06
L 16.00
5.04
1:42:38
02/07
M 14.00
6.02
1:29:08
48.00
34.37
13:11:20
385.00
465.79
132:57:18

42.78
51.75
14:46:22
10 02/08
E 8.00
-
-
02/09
V 8.00
4.25
1:20:43
02/10
R 5.00
4.74
0:58:09
02/11
Rest
-
1:00:00
02/12
E 8.00
-
-
02/13
M 14.00
-
-
02/14
Rest
3.19
1:39:08
43.00
12.18
4:58:00
428.00
477.97
137:55:18

42.80
47.80
13:47:32
11 02/15
E 7.00
15.76
3:44:20
02/16
T 11.00
15.58
3:36:24
02/17
Rest
-
-
02/18
M 12.00
-
-
02/19
R 5.00
-
-
02/20
L 20.00
-
-
02/21
Rest
-
-
55.00
31.34
7:20:44
483.00
509.31
145:16:02

43.91
46.30
13:12:22
 

In the early days of week #11 of this 18-week training plan (i.e., mid-February), came the news that my friend, Kiera, had expected me to receive a week or so earlier. The organizers of the Milwaukee Marathon sent an email notifying that the event would be postponed to sometime in October. We weren’t on to Milwaukee after all. Instead of looking for an alternate event in the vicinity of April 10, I opted to put running and marathoning on the back burner and switched my attention entirely to cross country skiing.

Only in hindsight do I know that few events – Last Chance in Geneva, IL (April 17-18), Pine Line in Medford, WI (April 24), and Glass City in Toledo, OH (April 24-25) – indeed took place. It might have been wise to continue the training plan with minor tweaks. But I don’t have any regrets for not tweaking/continuing the plan OR look/register for these events. By the end of February, I got the word that the Whitefish Point Marathon would take place in the middle of June with limited field size and would likely involve chip timing to avoid congestion at the finish line as well to minimize contact. I didn’t need to be told twice by Bill, the race director, and so, I signed up as soon as the registration opened up.

Training plan and compliance

As far as a training plan was concerned, I opted to use the final 14 weeks of the same training plan … with some modifications for the first six weeks – purely XC skiing and loads of it for the first three weeks, and mostly easy/recovery pace runs for the next three weeks. The complete log of my training activities is available in Strava.

Table #3: Training Plan
Notation: Easy (E) | MLD (M) | LSD (L) | Recovery (R) | Tempo (T) | Unstructured (U) | VO2Max (V) | Race (R)
Distance in miles and time in h:mm:ss.
Entries in the final column represent the average miles after a given number of weeks in the training cycle.


Week: #01 | #02 | #03 | #04 | #05 | #06 | #07 | #08 | #09 | #10 | #11 | #12 | #13 | #14
Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
01 03/08
E 8.00
8.32
2:06:36
03/09
R 5.00
9.43
2:04:51
03/10
E 8.00
8.28
3:00:59
03/11
Rest
-
2:30:00
03/12
R 4.00
4.69
2:34:03
03/13
M 12.00
21.91
5:03:30
03/14
Rest
17.81
3:02:55
37.00
70.44
20:22:54
37.00
70.44
20:22:54

37.00
70.44
20:22:54
 

W01D06 (2021-03-13) was the 2021 Great Bear Chase (XCC 25 km + 10 km).

02 03/15
T 9.00
31.24
4:58:42
03/16
R 5.00
11.75
1:39:02
03/17
E 10.00
13.69
1:34:53
03/18
Rest
20.31
3:22:13
03/19
R 5.00
9.47
1:09:41
03/20
L 16.00
31.09
6:44:31
03/21
Rest
12.73
3:42:04
45.00
130.28
23:11:06
82.00
200.72
43:34:00

41.00
100.36
21:47:00
03 03/22
T 10.00
0.81
0:10:19
03/23
R 4.00
6.23
2:20:51
03/24
M 11.00
-
2:00:00
03/25
Rest
6.98
2:34:35
03/26
E 7.00
8.15
3:13:51
03/27
L 18.00
13.18
4:10:36
03/28
Rest
-
1:30:00
50.00
35.35
16:00:12
132.00
236.07
59:34:12

44.00
78.69
19:51:24
04 03/29
R 7.00
6.22
2:33:17
03/30
M 12.00
6.51
2:39:28
03/31
Rest
-
-
04/01
T 10.00
6.34
0:57:21
04/02
R 5.00
10.31
3:15:13
04/03
L 20.00
15.99
2:59:11
04/04
Rest
-
-
54.00
45.37
12:24:30
186.00
281.44
71:58:42

46.50
70.36
17:59:41
05 04/05
R 6.00
4.29
0:41:25
04/06
M 14.00
16.34
4:44:08
04/07
R 6.00
6.26
2:37:26
04/08
Rest
3.13
0:22:43
04/09
R 6.00
-
-
04/10
L 16.00
6.29
2:06:21
04/11
Rest
-
2:00:00
48.00
36.31
12:32:03
234.00
317.75
84:30:45

46.80
63.55
16:54:09
06 04/12
E 8.00
8.21
4:06:59
04/13
E 8.00
8.17
2:45:55
04/14
R 5.00
5.02
2:28:27
04/15
Rest
10.17
4:16:01
04/16
V 8.00
13.32
3:36:18
04/17
Rest
6.14
1:13:46
04/18
M 14.00
15.36
4:23:37
43.00
66.39
22:51:03
277.00
384.14
107:21:48

46.17
64.02
17:53:38
 

W06D05 (2021-04-16) was the 2021 BAA 5k.

07 04/19
E 7.00
7.14
2:16:01
04/20
Rest
4.02
1:42:09
04/21
T 11.00
8.16
2:40:25
04/22
M 12.00
16.64
4:00:16
04/23
Rest
-
-
04/24
R 5.00
3.36
0:37:52
04/25
L 20.00
3.12
0:46:18
55.00
42.44
12:03:01
332.00
426.58
119:24:49

47.43
60.94
17:03:33
 

W07D01 (2021-04-19) was the 2021 BAA Patriots' Day Mile.

Wk Mon
Tue
Wed
Thu
Fri
Sat
Sun
Week Cycle Average
08 04/26
U
-
-
04/27
U
3.23
0:51:51
04/28
U
3.84
0:47:47
04/29
U
-
1:30:00
04/30
U
-
0:30:00
05/01
U
14.50
2:53:42
05/02
U
6.27
2:59:33
0.00
27.84
9:32:53
332.00
454.42
128:57:42

41.50
56.80
16:07:13
 

W08D06 (2021-05-01) was the 2021 Lake Monona 20k in Madison, WI.

09 05/03
U
10.04
3:49:09
05/04
U
6.58
1:18:33
05/05
U
10.81
1:52:14
05/06
U
8.17
2:53:11
05/07
U
3.25
0:43:38
05/08
U
-
-
05/09
U
13.06
4:15:29
0.00
51.91
14:52:14
332.00
506.33
143:49:56

36.89
56.26
15:58:53
10 05/10
U
-
2:00:00
05/11
U
16.25
4:45:11
05/12
U
9.31
3:43:11
05/13
U
3.11
2:12:10
05/14
U
-
0:30:00
05/15
U
14.19
2:03:20
05/16
U
17.52
3:14:17
0.00
60.38
18:28:09
332.00
566.71
162:18:05

33.20
56.67
16:13:49
 

W10D06 (2021-05-15) was the 2021 Syttende Mai Festival 10-Mile Run in Stoughton, WI.

11 05/17
U
-
1:30:00
05/18
U
8.02
1:33:06
05/19
U
16.02
3:37:32
05/20
U
5.35
3:05:25
05/21
U
9.15
3:27:59
05/22
U
-
-
05/23
U
10.60
2:14:47
0.00
49.14
15:28:49
332.00
615.85
177:46:54

30.18
55.99
16:09:43
12 05/24
U
6.27
0:52:47
05/25
U
-
-
05/26
U
15.23
4:30:21
05/27
U
3.21
1:37:04
05/28
U
-
2:00:00
05/29
U
25.49
5:04:57
05/30
U
10.91
3:44:30
0.00
61.11
17:49:39
332.00
676.96
195:36:33

27.67
56.41
16:18:03
 

W12D06 (2021-05-29) was the 2021 Back 9 Endurance Run in Copper Harbor, MI.

13 05/31
U
3.19
2:06:55
06/01
U
8.33
2:55:06
06/02
U
10.17
3:14:06
06/03
U
-
-
06/04
U
5.18
0:52:05
06/05
U
10.93
1:38:56
06/06
U
10.93
1:56:04
0.00
48.73
12:43:12
332.00
725.69
208:19:45

25.54
55.82
16:01:31
 

W13D06 (2021-06-05) and W13D07 (2021-06-06) were the 2021 Howard Temin Lakeshore Path Parkrun and Blue Mounds Trail Run around Madison, WI.

14 06/07
U
-
3:00:00
06/08
U
-
2:00:00
06/09
U
-
-
06/10
U
-
-
06/11
U
-
-
06/12
R 28.20
-
-
06/13
U
-
-
28.20
0.00
5:00:00
360.20
725.69
213:19:45

25.73
51.84
15:14:16

At the halfway point (i.e., after 7 weeks) of the renewed training cycle, I reviewed my training log again. Maybe it was the cumulative physical fatigue of the past 20 weeks OR the cumulative mental fatigue of moving workouts around multiple times during most weeks OR a tug of war between Spring and Winter like weather conditions throughout April … OR a combination of all these, I felt pretty tired. Sticking with the plan for 7 more weeks, I felt, was asking for longer-term trouble. So, I made the conscious decision of scrubbing the plan rest of the way, partake in unstructured activities (as such, the U for most activities in the above table after week #07) and run the Whitefish Point Marathon for fun and by feel.

I believe the that this period of unstructured activities did me a lot of good. I ran a bit more than what the plan would have called for but a vast majority of these miles were at an easy to a very easy pace. I was fortunate enough to travel in/out of the area and race in some shorter distance events (Lake Monona Run, Syttende Mai Festival, Back 9 Endurance RunHoward Temin Lakeshore Path Parkrun and Blue Mounds Trail Run).

Training eye candies

Activity type by distance (miles)

Activity type by time (hours)

Surface type by distance (miles)

Heart rate zones (time; minutes)

Power zones (run; time; minutes)

Easy-Hard distance (subjective; miles)

Companion-Solo distance (miles)

Vitals (sleep and resting heart rate) are/were measured every day shortly after waking up. If a measurement wasn't taken on a given day, then the recorded value from the previous day is used for computing the 7-day moving average. Numerical half of the body weight was the hydration goal in fluid ounces for each day.

Race week

The race week was unlike any other since I got into semi-formal/semi-structured training a few years ago. Collective diagnosis from my healthcare system during the first three days of the race week was that not only my left ankle had rolled during the Blue Mound Trail Run but the left foot had also jammed back. Their collective advice over the same period of time was to let the left ankle/foot heal on its own time (~10-14 days), and that while walking/biking was totally ok, jogging/running was totally not so ok. In all honesty, I do sincerely wish everybody could get as much caring professional and personal attention as I got (and it’s not just this one time around either) in their lives all the time.

In my pursuit of the athletic lifestyle, I have come to understand that while we attempt to emulate the pro athletes in a lot of categories (e.g., clothing, nutrition, hydration, sleep, training plan, gear, etc. just to name a few), we tend to become our own doctors (or rely heavily or solely on Dr. Google) when faced with an injury. More often than not, we don’t give the body enough time to heal full and well, and resume training … potentially causing ourselves longer term damage. Not wanting to be another data point in this regard, I opted to forego any/all running including the Whitefish Point Marathon.

I still wanted to go to Paradise and be a part of the event – to be a volunteer in some capacity and cheer racers on. Turned out that my buddy, Sam, was timing the event and I’d get to be the assistant to the chief timer (it’s a skill I have been working to get better at – details some other time)! Packing for the trip to Paradise didn’t take long. Using prior experience, I opted to carry the instant Pot and necessary groceries to make a healthy meal in Paradise. The drive, on Friday morning, started shortly after tying up some loose ends at work, and included a longer stop in Marquette around the lunch hour. After another side trip off of M-123, I finally arrived in Paradise around 6:30 pm. The check-in process at the Tahquamenon Suites was a contact-less breeze! The next couple hours were spent cooking and sharing a cabin-cooked meal with Sam. I didn’t stay up too long once the dinner was done and I was fast asleep by 10 pm.

The morning of the race day came early but after a night of quality sleep. I got to the general start area shortly before 6 am as planned. Packet pickup was quick and after a brief chat with Nancy, I made my way to the specific start area. I was pleasantly surprised at the absence of any part of me that wanted to run back to the cabin, change clothes, pin the bib,  put on a pair of running shoes and line myself somewhere in that pack of racers. Anyway, Bill, the race director, had given me a very important task of starting a handheld timing device (likely a backup) and I was busy focusing on that task. After a beautiful rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and the Irish Prayer, a kind lady sounded the starter’s horn and off all the racers went.

We (by we, I mean Sam) figured that we’d have about 3 hours or so of the lull by the finish line (which was just across the street from the starting area) before the runners would finish. After setting up the finish area (timing mat and such), I made a quick trip back to the cabin to pack up my stuff and checkout. We (this time around, Sam and I) also figured – based on my knowledge of previous few editions of this event – that there’d be one or two sub-3 finishers followed by a radio silence for about 30 minutes or so … before the rest of them crossed the line in small-to-big groups.

A group of runners that looked fast during pre-start warmups were indeed fast. We had not one, not two but 8 – EIGHT – of them finish under the coveted 3-hour mark. On par with the performance of those fast folks, to me, was that of the runners on the other end of the spectrum – persevering through what had certifiably become a warm day under the blaring sun and finding deeper reserves of energy to get themselves across the finish line … when barely anyone was watching or cheering them on. Around 1 pm or so, following guidelines from the race director, we packed up the finish line and started the homeward journey. There were pit stops along the way at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, Marquette and Negaunee but it was safe and uneventful. I might not have toed the line at this race but trust me, I did come home with valuable lessons learned from racers, organizers and volunteers that’ll help me moving forward.


Thanks be to

the rejections and opportunities life has brought my way, event folks (organizers, sponsors, volunteers, timers, law enforcement officials, photographers, fellow participants and spectators), and the family of good friends in and outside of my community for all the unexpected, undeserved and unrewarded acts of constant encouragement as well as offerings of constructive criticism to improve myself as an athlete and a person. I am eternally grateful to all those who let me train with them, who shared their invaluable tips with me, who helped keep my mind, body and soul in good health, who helped me stay the course during the training cycle, who continued to teach me the value of work-life balance, and who cheered me on from home or along the course.

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