Preparing for Dopey

by Mike Paxton

It’s about seven months until the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. These last two weeks I’ve been on the road quite a bit and I’m sure like many other Dopey runners, I have been trying to think about how best to train for the Dopey.

I’d like to make the caveat up front that everyone is different and we all have different training styles that work for us. Some of do better with a higher volume of running, others might use a lot of cross training in their training plan. This post is really to give you some ideas of what I’m thinking about and hopefully adding to your toolbox some things that you can take and use for yourself.

There are some assumptions I’d like to make here. First of all, I’m running the Dopey here. I’ve done the Goofy now twice and I’d like to survive the weekend of races and also work on improving my overall time for the marathon. That is where I’m coming from but many of these suggestions can be used for people of all levels.

Training to Train

I call this period of time from now until the middle of September, “Training to Train.” This is where we build our base and do a lot of experimentation so that when we get to the fall we don’t have a lot of decisions left to make in our training plan. Now is the time to try new things out.

I plan to incorporate speedwork into my workout schedule for the race. I’m going to use this period of time to experiment with new and different types of speedwork. For those of you who are thinking about adding some to your training plan, start looking around and try some of these workouts. Whether it’s running on a track doing 400m repeats, hill repeats, fartlek runs, or Yasso 800s there are lots of workouts out there that can help improve not only your speed but also your stamina. Speedwork not only makes us faster, but it also helps train lesser used muscles that will overall help out support our bodies better.

If you are going to use Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method of training/running, now is the perfect time to experiment and figure out which interval length works for you. It might even be that if you are doing multiple races during race weekend you might use a different interval depending on the length of the race. I myself do a 4 min run/1 min walk for the marathon but for the 10k I plan on doing a 4:30 run, 30 sec walk. Everyone has a different interval that works best for them.

Building a Base
I’m going to keep a solid base of running during this period. This means about three days per week with my long runs going up to about 11 miles or so. This also will keep me ready for the Disneyland Double Dumbo Dare in September. This way when I get into my race specific training, I will be already used to running on a schedule and will have a good base of fitness.

If you haven’t nailed down your nutrition training yet, now is a great time to start experimenting. For Dopey we are going to be burning a lot of calories. Maybe GUs have never really sat well with you. Perhaps you have never tried gel shot blocks. This is the time to try something new. I really suggest going down to the local running store and buying a variety of different types of running nutrition snacks and giving them a try to see what works for you. If none of those work for you, try to eat real food while you run (fruit, nuts, pretzels, etc). Figure out what works now on your stomach and for your fueling needs.

Losing Weight Before Training
This is a good time to focus on losing weight. For most of us the more weight we lose the less impact on our legs/feet and the faster we can go. A general rule of thumb is that losing 1% decrease in body weight can lead to a 1% improvement in your race time. Weight loss is a tricky thing in our society, everyone is different and for many of us it’s a bit struggle. If you are at a place where you can afford to lose some weight, just think of it as free speed that you don’t have to train for. For myself I’m hoping to lose 15 pounds this summer just to reduce some of the impact I’ve been feeling on my knees.

If you feel yourself getting burned out during this period, do something else. Go for a trail run. Go biking. Run with friends. Also if you have any injuries going on, take care of them now. It’s very important that you manage this period of your training so that when you get into your race specific training in the fall that you are excited and healthy to train. For many of us it’s going to be 12-20 weeks (depending on which race you are doing) of a lot of running. You really want to make sure that do not go into the fall burned out or injured if at all possible.

SAU (Spousal Approval Units)
This is a term that a friend of mine taught me. Urban dictionary explains it as: The SAU or “Spousal Approval Unit” is a measure of how much spousal approval will be lost or gained by performing an action that one’s spouse either approves of (SAU’s earned) or disapproves of (SAU’s spent). Training takes a lot of time and this period of time, before my actual race begins I’m going to be focusing on building up as many SAUs so that when training gets intense in the fall, I will minimize any issues with my wife. If that means cutting a workout a bit short to go see a movie with her, that’s what I’ll do.

Race-Specific Training
This is when your actual training for the race begins. For most of us doing the Dopey or Marathon it may be 16-20 weeks out from the race. Here is where the real work begins for Marathon weekend.

Training Plan
I suggest that by now you have nailed down a training plan. Once you have it, try and make yourself somehow accountable to it. Maybe that means finding a running buddy and the two of you are accountable to each other. Maybe it means using daily mile. If you don’t have a training plan, Jeff Galloway has several on the Run Disney website. Otherwise you can adapt of the many out on the internet (like Hal Higdon or one from Cool Running) for your race or speak to one of your teammates. I believe that running is like many things in life, what you put into it is what you get out of it. If you can, find a training plan that works with your schedule and your body and stick with it throughout the training season.

By now you may have tried several different workouts and decided to incorporate them into your training plan. Yay! Speedwork sucks for most of us. It’s not necessarily fun per say but it will make you stronger. I try and wrangle my friends to run with me on speedwork days so that we can suffer together.

Hopefully you are close to locking down your nutrition and hydration. The goal here is not only to fuel our bodies during the run, but it’s also to help train our bodies to process nutrition while running (something that it doesn’t do very well). When you take nutrition and have to digest it, you are moving blood from your muscles to your stomach to process the nutrition. The more we train our bodies to do that, the better that system works. For me that means on any run longer than 45 minutes I’m taking some sort of nutrition every 45 minutes while running, whether I need the fuel or not. Same can be said of hydration.

Sleep/Rest Weeks
Recovery is very important for our bodies to build the muscle that we working on with our training. That means not only getting adequate sleep each night but also it is suggested that runners build in a week of rest every 3-4 weeks where they scale back their running by a percentage to allow the body to rebuild the muscles.

Weight Loss During Training
This was a tricky one for me to learn, but when I got into my race specific training, weight loss for me had to go on the back burner. When you lose weight you are basically forcing your body to use fat as fuel instead of glycogen. When you are training for a race and attempting to build more fitness you really want to properly fuel yourself as much as possible. Eat healthy foods, drink lots of water but try not to focus too much on weight loss. Don’t worry, you will be building muscle during this time.

This is a problem that plagued me this past year for The Goofy Challenge. I had gone through a summer and fall season of races and when I got to Goofy training I was already a bit burned out. This summer I’m taking it easy so that when I get to the fall I’m ready to go full ahead with my training.

Again, everyone is different. We all have different backgrounds, levels of fitness, age, history of injuries, etc. Hopefully there is something here that can help you prepare for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

Please remember, not everything in here will pertain to everyone…but there might be something for you.

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