115-mile weeks and headed to the Olympic Trials
Iron Horse Race Director Zack Beavin gives us an inside look at his marathon preparation
I’ve said before that all of our race directors are just really stellar, and they’re all very different! At the end of February, Iron Horse Half Marathon Race Director Zack Beavin is competing in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. I decided to ask Zack a few questions leading up to what will perhaps be one of the biggest races of his life. He qualified at the 2018 Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis with a time of 2:18:26.
Zack has been running for approximately 17 years, beginning in Louisville’s Catholic Schools Athletic Association in third grade. Here are some of his thoughts on training, food, and more.
Abby Laub: How did your running progress?
Zack Beavin: In sixth grade, my love for the sport was really cemented by running the Louisville Triple Crown of Running and the KDF MiniMarathon where I ran a 1:31 half at age 11. That race was the spark that made me realize that I may be able to be successful in this sport.
AL: When did the realization occur to you that you had what it took to head to the Olympic Trials, and what has that journey looked like?
ZB: Competing in college, I always knew that the track 10K and cross country 8K/10K (my event focus) was too short for my strengths in the sport. Long runs have always been my favorite session of the week, and more than once I got in trouble with my coach for running 16-18 miles under 6-minute/mile pace. Even in college my head was at least partly oriented toward the Marathon Trials. I was chomping at the bit for years, but my college coach did a great job of keeping me grounded in collegiate competition and development while I was running for UK. While my heart was ready to tackle the roads, my development into a marathoner was definitely helped by focusing on the 5K/10K distance through college.
AL: When did you turn the corner?
ZB: After finishing my eligibility at UK in 2016, I started being coached by David Long, a 2:12 marathoner out of Louisville. When we first started working together, it was with the understanding that the the ultimate goal was to run an OTQ in the marathon for the 2020 trials. His marathon philosophy is shaped by the 70's and 80's when he was racing all the legendary names of the sport like Bill Rogers and Rod Dixon, where "if you weren't running 100 miles a week, then you weren't running." Compared to college training, I backed off the intensity and upped the sheer number of miles I was running. This volume, strength-based philosophy was the training approach I was looking for and has worked really well for me. Every marathon cycle we only tweaked a single training variable and each cycle was another layer of strength and experience under my belt. On my fourth crack at the distance I punched my ticket to the Trials by running 2:18:26 in Indianapolis.
AL: How many miles a week will you peak at in preparation?
ZB: I topped out at 115 miles this cycle, which was nestled in a six week block with 630 total miles. This is a little lower than marathon cycles past, but as I've gotten older and stronger, training is increasingly about doing the work to access lifetime fitness versus building new fitness.
AL: How many calories do you estimate that you eat, and what types of foods do you love during training?
ZB: I don't really keep track, but I would guess I eat somewhere in the 3,500-4,000 calories per day range. If I'm hungry, I eat. I'm not super particular on what I'm eating. I love all sorts of healthy foods and all sorts of unhealthy foods. When I'm running a lot I'm mostly just worried about getting enough calories in. My go-to pre-run and pre-race food is Brown Sugar Cinnamon PopTarts, though. They sit well with me and have never let me down.
AL: What do you love about the running community in Kentucky? And what can improve?
ZB: I love how tight-knit the running community is in Kentucky. I honestly have trouble going for a run in either Lexington or Louisville without seeing someone I know out on the roads. I love following the pursuits of runners all over the state like Will Rivera in E-town, friends in Louisville chasing their own road racing goals, or Matt Hoyes in Bardstown (not to mention many others).
One of the things I routinely find myself wishing is that Lexington had better urban running options. There are definitely great opportunities with the Legacy Trail and the upcoming Town Branch Trail, but we really lag behind other places in the number of places we have to run free of traffic.
AL: Where do you like to run, and what do you do to cross train? Or maybe this depends on the season?
ZB: I run all over Lexington for normal daily runs. I generally head out without a route in mind and just make a loop up as I go. For important long runs, I'll usually head to Louisville simply because there are better long run spots there. When I'm not super dialed in to an approaching marathon, I'm in the Daniel Boone National Forest all the time for trail running. For cross training I rely on trail runs (which varies the stimulus on your body from road running and works systems that road running doesn't) and hip/core strengthening with the Myrtl Routine.
AL: What is your marathon PR and your half marathon PR?
ZB: My marathon PR of 2:18:26 came at Indianapolis Monumental in 2018 and put me under the 2:19:00 qualifying time for the Marathon Trials. In 2019, I put more focus on the half marathon and lowered my best to 1:06:36, again at Indianapolis Monumental.
AL: Talk about Iron Horse 2020! Anything special we can all look forward to?
ZB: We’re excited to be hosting the 11th year of the race in conjunction with the Midway Fall Festival again! We took a risk by moving the date last year, but it ultimately seems to have a been a good move since it's a generally less busy time of year for everyone. As always you can look forward to a beautiful race course, great medals, and fantastic race photos from our stellar event photographers.
Use code JALAUB20 for $5 off either the half marathon or 12K on September 20th in beautiful Midway.
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