Mistakes I made training Myself for the Marathon

February 6, 2016 | By | 18 Replies More

Mistakes I made training Myself for the Marathon

(and future Training/Racing considerations)


So I failed by 12 seconds.

As most of you know by now, I’m not toeing the line at the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials next weekend. This goal of mine, to qualify for what would have been my 3rd Olympic Marathon Trials race, has been a disappointment and I’d be lying if I said I’m still not upset about this “failure.”


But it has caused me to look in depth at my own training and progression in running, see some mistakes and areas for improvement, and to ultimately to be thankful for what I have been able to do!


Here are the Facts:


  • I ran 4- marathons in a 10-month span, all between 2:19:12 and 2:20:32 in very different weather conditions, and on very different courses. That’s consistent…consistently too slow!


  • I threw in a mountain-ultra win at the Speedgoat 50km in July and spent summer mountain training in France where I ran the first 40-mile of UTMB in the lead pack before falling and hurting my knee on a rock on the way down….which required stitches and took me out for awhile.


  • According to Strava.com (where I upload 100% of my training) I only ran about 4200-miles in 2015 (a weekly average of about 80 miles a week) and only had a handful of weeks that were over 120-miles a week. Now to most that would seem like a lot…as it is….but consider my first 5 years out of college (where I actually ran up to 150 miles a week once), I averaged about 90 miles a week (4700 miles/year) at much higher intensities and mostly on pavement/tracks. I used to hit 120-130 miles a week a heck of a lot more often!
I had a decent year of training..but it wasn't a 4700-mile kind of year...relative to what i did right after college this is kind of weak sauce.

I had a decent year of training..but it wasn’t a 4700-mile kind of year…relative to what i did right after college this is kind of weak sauce.

  • Ultimately my early year marathons in LA (8th at USATF Champs 2:20:02) and Boston (16th place overall in 2:19:12 on a headwind day with cold/rain) were better than CIM (2:19:52 ) and Houston (2:20:32) considering that LA and Boston were slower courses and both were in much worst weather conditions.


Boston was windy...and that hurt a lot! Photo Credit: John Frederick

Boston was slow with a 10-15mph headwind…and that hurt a lot! Photo Credit: John Frederick


In hindsight, gathering all these points together got my mind working (I’m very self biased with my own running/training/racing so this was a good thing perhaps as it gave new perspective!). I came up with the following points to address issues I saw (And to explain) the facts listed above:


  •  I should’ve given myself more like 6 months to “get my road legs back” instead of trying to force the process to happen in a span of only 2-3 months! Racing 4 marathons in 10 months and mixing in a summer of mountain running is just too much too soon for a top performance. Now I think a lot of other runners who mix road and mountain-trails can pull it off in a faster timespan (esp if you are newer to the sport or stilling working those PRs down). I knew the timeframe was tight going it in, but (like in 2014 when I raced 8 ultras in a year), I was greedy and I “wanted it all!” Well, I paid the price with some lackluster performances (Comrades probably being my worst race all year and Houston being a close second).


  • My whole #AnySurfaceAnyDistance motto took a hard hit because I wasn’t patient and because I wanted to go too quickly from the roads to the mountains and back to the roads (the impending Olympic Trials deadline and my dreams of racing and training in the big mountains all summer did not help!). I feel like my marathons early in 2015 were better performances than my later marathons because I was coming off of more runnable/speedy ultras like my TNF50 San Fran. Champs win from December of 2014. Coming off Speedgoat and UTMB (and injury) took longer to get my “road legs” back.


  • When I ran my marathon PR of 2:16:52 I was averaging over 120-miles a week for 2 months straight…I was doing weekly track and road sessions at sub 5-min mile pace and coming off a half marathon PR of 1:04:32. It was all about flat track/road speed and high mileage! However, I still consider Boston 2015 as best marathon performance overall (despite the slower time of 2:19:12) because of the nasty 10-mph headwind we had. Usually 16th place at Boston is an OTQ type of performance!


  • To run a fast marathon again in 2 years (and I do want to qualify for the 2020 US Olympic Trials!) I’ll need more speed and running economy workouts at faster paces as well (high altitude and winter training conditions need to be avoided for that). Instead of waiting until the last year before the Olympic Trials marathon I’ll try as soon as the window opens so I’ll have more time to prepare!


  • In the future, I’m going to focus on getting “back to the basics” of building a huge aerobic base with solid mileage, big training weeks and more space in the perdiozation of races/training blocks.


  • Right now though, I’m going 100% full fledged into Mountain-Ultra Trail Running and I’d like to finish my first 100-miler this year on the big-stage! To take my racing performance up a notch in the sport I think I’ll actually have to get back to those 120-mile+ Training weeks as those are what make my legs really strong (main limiting factor in ultra running for me). Nothing grinds my gears more than a failure:

[A short film by Matt Trappe on my UTMB experience…presented by: HOKA ONE ONE and STRAVA ]:



As a pro runner I have no excuse not to put in 15-18 hour training weeks (instead of the 14-15 hour ones I’ve only done). I guess in the back of my mind I’ve always been overly cautious to trying to avoid an over-use injury and overtraining that might hurt my endocrine system. I want to be a lifelong runner, and I want to have an ultra competitive career for at least 5 more years (a rather long time frame considering the high attrition rate this sport seems to have with other pros burning out and getting injured left and right) so I do need to pace myself though. But unlike in the past (2014) when I did 8 ultras in a year (and podiumed in all but one) while only training 70-80 miles a week… things are more competitive now! I need to step up my game! Specificity in training is key.


Back to the trails…err snow! This one was captured by Lloyd Beltcher while on a promotional photoshoot in Huangshan China for China Mountain Trails.

Next up I’m racing the Black Canyon 100km on Feb. 13th with a goal of trying to earn a golden ticket entry into Western States. Now this could be a really bad idea, considering it is only 4 weeks after the Houston Marathon and ironically it is going EXACTLY AGAINST what I just preached above…but I really would like to gain entry into Western States ASAP and this is one of the only ways. You can follow along this journey as I post 100% of my training and racing on Strava.com

Thanks for the support and hope your running is going well!



#AnySurfaceAnyDistance #SageRunning

@SageCanaday (Instagram and Twitter)

www.SageRunning.com (our coaching website for training plans, our book etc.).

AND NOW Tea time! (thanks to sponsor Flora Health) for giving me ultra healthy goodies that allow me to recover so fast:

Flora Green Tea with Flora Health Flaxseeds in my waffles!

Flora Green Tea with Flora Health Flaxseeds in my waffles! Omega-3s are good.


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About the Author ()

2-time Olympic Trials Qualifier, Mountain runner, Author of "Running For The Hansons," trail runner, videos for Vo2max Productioins, LLC.

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. 2015 BOSTON MARATHON ENTRY | February 10, 2016
  2. ULTRA RUNNING NEWS FROM AROUND THE GLOBE | ian campbell adventures | May 16, 2016
  1. Sage, great post mate! Ever since we first met, and I have had the opportunity to follow your training, I have been impressed by how honest you are with sharing your successes, and what you may see as your “failures.” What you set out to achieve in 2015 is beyond comprehension for a mid pack runner, while the principles that you discuss so eloquently apply to us all. Thank you for the sharing the lessons that you have learned in 2015, that can help us all become the best version of ourselves.
    Looking forward to a great year for you, and excited to be working on more projects together. Wishing you success at the Black Canyon 100K next weekend! Cheers

  2. Coach Dion says:

    The only thing you are not talking about is rest… I feel that with big hard training comes the need for proper rest!
    I would have you take a good break before the build up to that fast marathon!

    Good luck

  3. Dwight Rabe says:

    Hi Sage,
    First, good luck to you in the BC100! I hope it’s fun and that you do well.

    In your training, do you think being able to run higher volume and the intensity you’re at will enable you to be the life long runner which is your bigger goal? Ryan Hall’s recent retirement is lingering with me as I’m typing. I don’t know with certainty, but with trying to run OTQ times for the marathon, is volume really the silver bullet?

    I’m curious because in my own training I have a job that doesn’t allow me to run more than 40 miles a week, and I work crazy shifts so I’m forced to make my miles more high quality to gain benefit from training.

    We really enjoy your content and following your races. We wish you all the best this year!

  4. Steve says:

    Sage, not that you need it and you are coaching your own athletes now, but would you ever consider having a coach again? Lots of elite athletes still use a coach during the year but I guess there are plenty that self-coach as well. Might be a good ‘training talk’ topic!

  5. Cinthia says:

    Hi, Sage: Sucks about the 12 seconds but you’re handling it like a pro, which I appreciate. And selfish as it might sound, watching your video about the CIM made me feel so much better about bonking in my first ultra last summer. It’s nice to know that even top-notch runners made mistakes.
    Cheers and good luck at Black Canyon.

  6. Pat says:

    If the OTQ window’s now closed, why are you racing Houston this year? You have nothing to gain until the 2020 trials qualifying window opens up.

    Don’t repeat 2015’s mistakes by going into an ultra over-worked. Save your legs and train with specificity for what I believe could be a killer WS performance!

  7. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks! Houston was on the last day of the window..so if I hit the time there it would have counted. But yeah, racing the trials 4 weeks later would have been a horrible idea anyway! Thanks for your support…on to WS!

  8. SageCanaday says:

    Thanks so much!! We all learn from the tough races!

  9. SageCanaday says:

    Thanks so much for your support, Terry!

  10. SageCanaday says:

    Resting now! Thanks so much for the support!

  11. SageCanaday says:

    Depends on one’s talent level and balancing intensity v. volume. So big gains can be made at higher intensity and lower volume. Generally to peak in the marathon more volume is better though. I only know a handful of guys who ran run a sub 2:19 marathon off of less than 90-miles a week and I’m certainly not one of them! Best of luck with your training!

  12. SageCanaday says:

    Sandi is helping me more now! For sure, I agree with what you said…coaching oneself you get too biased.

  13. Rafael says:

    Hi Sage, despite the fact that you didn’t achieve what you really wanted, it is a great performance! I am wondering whether you feel like high mileage is absolutely necessary, Doesn’t lower mileage give you an advantage of being able to run higher quality workouts? I remember that your book about Hanson’s project left me with impression that because of high mileage you couldn’t perform really well and most importantly you didn’t seem to be a happy runner.

  14. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks for your support! It’s always a tough balance between mileage and intensity. Sometimes you can over-do both at the same time and overtrain!…but it’s all relative. At Hansons I overtrained before Boston 2009 with 130mpw. Then the next year i ran a PR off of 120 miles a week. For my marathons in 2015 i was only doing about 100-120 tops and too many hilly ultras with less speed work on the track (probably my mistake).

  15. Michael Angel says:

    Sage! You’re an inspiration to all us weekend warriors. Handling disappointment is a cross we all have to bear (bare?) and the fact that you’re so open and honest with it is really generous of you. Thanks for letting us all in on your challenges. Keep up the great work at VO2max productions. You and Sandi are an amazing team. Knock’em dead next year and I’ll be cheering for you in 2020.

  16. SageCanaday says:

    Hey thanks so much for your support, Michael!

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