Parker Stinson and Dathan Ritzenhein training at celestial seasonings
photo: 101 Degrees West

Marathon Training: The Final Hard Week

Parker Stinson and Dathan Ritzenhein training at celestial seasonings

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Parker Stinson ran a PR of 2:10:53 to finish 11th at the October 13 Chicago Marathon. He details every mile, cross-training workout, therapy session and struggle during his last hard week of training, from September 22–September 28, 2019, three weeks out from the Chicago Marathon.

Sunday, September 22:

Location: Boulder, Colorado. Elevation 5,300ft.

About a week ago Dathan Ritzenhein, who has coached me for the past year, texted me randomly and said, “Hey, I am thinking about coming out to Boulder from Saturday 9/21 to Friday to help you with the two big workouts coming up.” I was super stoked to hear this because, to be honest, I was starting to lose some focus and excitement about my training and Chicago. It had been a long, tedious marathon cycle for me and having Dathan come out to Boulder was just the spark I needed to get my fire going again.

Parker Stinson and Dathan Ritzenhein
photo: courtesy Parker Stinson

AM: 24 miler, fast and progressive. 

Workout: 14 miles in trainers working into a moderate pace. 2–3 minutes rest to change into racing flats, then the remaining 10 miles at marathon-pace feel. Drink fluids and gels throughout. We’re training the stomach during this workout as well, so Dathan has me taking in almost as much fuel as I am planning for race day.

We started this long run from Tom Watson parking lot on the North East side of Boulder across from Coot Lake and the Boulder Reservoir. We knew we wanted to keep it as flat as possible because Chicago is flat and fast and it is time to start simulating the race day conditions. We headed across the dirt paths around the reservoir and connected to a number of paved and dirt roads, looping back to Tom Watson and my car to change into my racing flats at 13.5-14 miles.

Felt so smooth and easy the first 12–14 miles. I felt like I could have run 30 miles today at that point if I had to.

From there we did a fast 3 mile half-dirt, half-road loop that I do for a lot of my workouts. We did this just a little over 3 times to get the 10 miles at a fast pace we needed.

After the change into my racing shoes I got way more serious and ran a great pace the last 10 miles. Happy with the pace, and the effort was hard, definitely took a lot of focus because I would go through some patches of feeling really easy and comfortable and then start struggling all of a sudden.

Parker Stinson long run Boulder
photo: courtesy Parker Stinson

Great workout! Taking in all the carbs was a bit of a challenge but it obviously worked well because I felt good closing out the 24 miles in sub-5 minute/mile pace. Was great having Dathan out here for support.

24 miles in 2:14:15 = 5:35 average pace.
Miles 1–14: 6:36, 6:16, 6:05, 5:52, 6:06, 6:01, 5:59, 5:50, 5:45, 5:47, 5:39, 5:44, 5:44, 5:36.
2-3 minute break to change into racing shoes.
Miles 15–24: 5:06, 5:13, 5:08, 5:08, 5:13, 5:07, 5:00, 5:11, 5:04, 4:53.
Average Heart Rate: 157. Max Heart Rate: 183.


PM: 35 minute massage with massage therapist Marcus Allen Hille.

Good session, happy to get in to see him right away because a few spots flared up during the long run. My sacrum attachment and / or glute max area got very sore towards the end of workout.

Daily Total: 24 miles

Monday, September 23:

 AM: 20 minute aqua jog + 25 minutes of core / strength work.

Felt good to move around in the pool and not put any pounding on the body. The body is doing well overall, hip area felt fine in the pool and has been slowly getting better most of the day—but can still have some bad patches. Gym work focused mainly around functional stretching and movement as well as some core / stability work to help the SI joint area.

PM: 70 minutes physical therapy with Kurt Roeser

Great PT appointment. I walked in with that glute max area flared up and a bit worried about what was going on and left with it actually feeling better. Especially happy because Kurt said this was nothing to worry about, and he usually doesn’t say something like that. We did some dry needling in the area and some massage / movement.  He also gave me a few glute max activation and isolation exercises to do for the next few days.

Daily total: 0 miles, 20 minutes pool, 25 minute core

Dathan Ritzenhein biking with Parker Stinson running
photo: 101 Degrees West

Tuesday, September 24:

AM: 3 mile warm up + 4 x 200 hills + 6 mile cooldown

Workout: Moderately easy pace for the 3-mile warm up (6:54/mile=marathon pace + 2 minutes/mile). 4 X 200m steep dirt hill @ 5–5:15 minute pace with 80–90 seconds easy jog back down. 6:45 pace for the 6-mile cooldown.

Felt better than I expected today. I had a tough time sleeping because of allergies all night. I actually woke up thinking I was sick, but then felt good on this run so must just be allergies.

Dathan biked along with me for everything. It was nice to talk with him and start getting more focused on Chicago. Felt smooth and powerful on the 200 hills, great to work some faster/harder repeats after such a grinding workout on Sunday.

PM: 5 mile easy run

6:58 pace for my easy run. Felt better than expected and kept my average heart rate at 130 to make sure I am getting recovered. My problem areas from a few days ago continue to keep doing better—which is great.

I jumped in the car right after my run and helped Nomad Track Club runners Ashley Stinson, Molly Grabill, and Cally Macumber with their workout. Just tried to keep them running the right pace and working together. They had a great workout today. Excited for their upcoming fall seasons.

Daily Total: 14.5 miles

Wednesday, September 25:

AM: 10 miles easy (with a bad cold)

Oooof! Turns out those weren’t allergies after all. I could barely sleep at all last night, ended up going to the grocery store at 5:00 a.m. to get cold medicine. Took some medicine and then tried to go back to sleep. Woke back up at 10:00 a.m. and felt much better after getting some rest.

After having some coffee I wandered out the door eventually and just figured I would try to go as far as I could this morning; somewhere between 6-10 miles. I ended up feeling much better than expected after a few miles in and I went 10 miles @ 6:58 pace which is a good pace for me on a recovery day. Average heart rate: 144.

Dathan Ritzenhein and Parker Stinson warming up
photo: 101 Degrees West

PM: 4 miles easy + 4 x 100 m stride.

Cold got worse after the run and I felt really tired on this one. Ran 7:16 average pace and was only hitting 4:30-5 minute pace on my strides—which is slower than normal for me.

Just trying to drink a lot of pedialyte and hoping to sleep better tonight. I let Dathan know that I am not doing to well but we are still going to go ahead with the workout tomorrow. He leaves town the next day so we can’t really move it to another day, and honestly I think he wants me to do a workout with a bit more adversity since a lot of my workouts have been going so well lately.

Took an ice bath before bed.

Daily total: 14.5 miles

Thursday, September 26:

AM: 3 mile warm up + 10K @ race pace / 1.5 miles easy / 10K @ race pace + 3 mile cool down.

Workout: Marathon-pace specificity training: 10K holding steady, marathon pace, 1.5 miles recovery running at steady cruise pace, another 10K at marathon pace.

We met at 8:15 a.m. at the Celestial Seasonings headquarters in Gunbarrel, north east of Boulder.

Celestial Seasonings Running Loop

They have a 1-K flat loop on private roads with little traffic, circling the grounds and a prairie dog village. We set up a drinks table and Dathan fixed the junker mountain bike he was riding, then we did the warm up on a pretty, soft-surface trail through some woods and around Twin Lakes. I changed into my racing flats, did some dynamic drills and hit the workout hard. I ran the first 10K doing counterclockwise loops, then reversed during the final 10K, which felt harder for some reason, probably because of where on the loop we had to run into the slight wind.

Dathan Ritzenhein and Parker Stinson training
photo: 101 Degrees West

I was totally blown away by this workout. The times I was hitting were basically Dathan and I’s hopes before I got sick. I could barely sleep again last night and my teeth even hurt from the sinus pressure. We went into the workout just saying let it come to me and make that the important thing is just that I get in the work today.

This is one of the few “flashy” workouts Dathan has let me do in this marathon cycle and I am feeling really excited for Chicago now. What this workout means to me is that I don’t need to have a magical day in Chicago to break 2:11. I just need to have a good situation and feel solid on the day to get it done if I can do this workout while feeling as sick as I was.

Kilometers: 3:05, 3:06, 3:08, 3:07, 3:07, 3:02, 3:07, 3:01, 3:08, 3:07 – 10k : 31:01;
4:59/mile average pace
1.5 miles recovery @ 6:25 pace
Kilometers: 3:03, 3:06, 3:02, 3:05, 3:00, 3:04, 3:02, 3:02, 3:05, 3:00 – 10k : 30:31;
4:54/mile average pace
Average heart rate: 162. Max heart rate: 180.

Daily Total: 20 miles

Parker Stinson being coached by Dathan Ritzenhein
photo: 101 Degrees West

Friday, September 27

AM: 4 miles easy

Easy 7:07 average pace for the run. Overall my body and energy was pretty good, but my right shin is pretty ache and sore. This has been bothering me on and off since April this year and although it never seems to turn into anything it always stresses me out, worrying that it could take a turn for the worse.

Midday: 30 minute treatment with holistic chiropractor Richard Hansen at High Altitude Spine & Sport.

Richie did not seem too worried about the shin. I’ll plan on icing it tonight and seeing Kurt again tomorrow so he can work on it a bunch. I just need to get through a few more days here in Boulder and then it will be back to Michigan and Dathan’s AlterG treadmill to heal me right up.

PM: 5 miles on the treadmill with Lever device

Lacking an AlterG here, I ran with the Lever (a device that hooks up to a treadmill and takes body weight off to reduce the pounding) at a 7:00 minute average pace. I felt great overall but my shin, which ached basically all day, seemed to get worse as the run went on. I was planning on running more like 7–8 miles but the shin is pissed off and I want to be smart.

Training has gone great for Chicago and I don’t want to get greedy this close to the race: going to listen to my body.

Daily Total: 9 miles

Saturday, September 28

PM: 14 miles easy

I waited until evening to give my body as much rest as possible. 6:54 average pace. I made sure to wear a bunch of clothes on this run so I would feel uncomfortable. I did this for two reasons: One, so I didn’t feel too good and run too fast, and, two, to distract me so that I wouldn’t be paying as much attention to my shin.

The shin did solid, much better than yesterday. I had some bad patches in there but it warmed up nicely—unlike last night—and most of the discomfort was in the muscle areas and the outside of the shin instead of the lower inside area that was bothering me last night.  Happy that I waited around all day to give myself the best chance to feel healthy.

90-minute Physical Therapy appointment with Kurt Roeser

Great session with Kurt. We worked on the hips and glutes a bit but focused a ton of attention on the shin and things around that area to help it. He dry-needled a few spots as well. Kurt was happy with what he saw but also wanted me to pay attention to the lower medial spot because he didn’t like that area being the focal point.  Before the 25k champs and other times during this marathon cycle this lower medial spot has flared up bad and we have been able to manage.  Just need to keep doing what has worked in the past: lots of ice, compression socks, and running on soft surface as much as possible.

Daily Total: 14 miles

Dathan Ritzenhein and Parker Stinson
photo: 101 Degrees West

Week totals:

96 miles in 6 days

90 minutes strength work

20 minutes cross training

3 hours and 45 minutes of massage/ PT treatment

Post-race postscript from Parker:

The last two weeks of training just went okay in my opinion. In the past when I have gone to down to sea level to freshen up and get focused with Dathan it has been a great tool.  Although I still think it was a great idea—as my shin pain did improve with the alterG and treatment with Dathan’s team—I found myself losing some confidence as I wasn’t quite feeling like myself. We continued to still train relatively hard in workouts while the volume fell to mid 80 miles per week.  I hit all the workouts that Dathan wanted, but they just weren’t coming as easily to me as I expected and I was starting to feel vulnerable going into the last week of Chicago. 

Perhaps this ended up being a blessing because, while I remained optimistic that this was all just a part of the plan and that I would feel amazing on race day, it forced me to start processing the idea that I would just feel ok on race day and that I was going to have to be ready to find a way to get the job done regardless. I used most of my taper time thinking about all the great workouts I had done for months now and knew that even if I hadn’t been feeling as good I was hoping that I had to remember that all the training was still there inside of me ready to be used when I needed it. 

I saw a quote by Gwen Jorgensen that I have grown to like over the last year, “Feelings don’t dictate outcomes.”  This was something I definitely found myself processing all the way through the taper and up to even about the half marathon during the Chicago race.

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