Sunday, January 1, 2012

My Top Secret Marathon Training Plan

I had initially planned on doing the Running Fit Martian Marathon in April.

This of course, meant bumping up my training now, (which I have) and lots of potential winter training.

I loved the idea of not traveling, staying in my own bed, and just rolling out to the expo  plus love the folks at running fit. But now that the Ann Arbor Marathon has been unveiled, I’m going to have to do the Martian half on my way to Ann Arbor on June 17th.  I am very excited to run the same path I very well may have taken during a drunken walk home 23 years ago when I was a booze guzzling grotesquely lush of a freshman at U of Michigan.  And then if all goes well doing the New York marathon in November to benefit covenant house. 

So, today being January 1st, I woke up at 7 am, completed a 14 mile run, and then signed up for the Ann Arbor Marathon. Registration just opened today, It was kind of neat to sign up on the first possible day, (I want a two Digit Bib number Damn it!) and  I am sure that the first four hours of my 2012 will perhaps be of the most productive of the whole year, and that it will all look lazy and slothlike from here.

So, it’s time to study my training plan.

And here’s my secret about training plans.  Ready?

Besides a few key long run dates circled on my calendar, I don’t look at them and don’t use them.

Sure, I have been very much interested in learning about them and have spent hours investigating, studying them and googling them and reading articles explaining them.  I am cursed with obsessions, so did all I could to even smell their aroma from the page, see their aura, feel the sins of their past lives, and send them Christmas cards.  But I do not follow them. 

My belief, right or wrong, is that training plans are made by those who don’t necessarily understand me. Most training plans I look at, I can circle the injury on my calendar that would happen should I follow them.  They are made by those who are genetically superior to me.  

So, training plans. Forget them. Learn their basis, and make sure your plans incorporate some sort of sensible approach, but don’t’ get hung up on following them. We get so worried that if we don’t’ follow the training plan we will falter.  Don’t’ let the training plan be your guide, let the feedback you get from your body be your guide.  Are you able to finish your long runs, and does your movement resemble something close to running at the end and not some cramped-leg Gollum shuffle?  Okay, then you are doing well.  And while I have and do believe in writing down your training and reviewing them during your taper, right up to the morning of the marathon (with “I kicked ass” workouts circled) the paper doesn’t run for you.  Nobody gets to the start with a perfectly followed training plan, but many never make it to the start because they injured themselves due to blind adherence to what their training plans called for each day.

This is why I don’t follow a plan, but just highlight a few key workouts during the month, and let the rest slide in.  For example, I might say I want to a two 14 mile runs, and then a 16 mile run this month. In between, I want to do a couple set of mile intervals, two or three longer pace runs, maybe a 8-10 miler near marathon pace, as well as some 4 to 8 mile recovery runs to keep a healthy weekly mileage.  As long as I am doing the long runs, and some speed and hill/strength work, I’m golden.  My legs will tell me how to run, not the book.

 I do think we should read about and learn about as many training plans as possible, don’t get me wrong. Learn everything you can, and then forget it all, in other words.

“Use the force, Luke. Let go.”

Its kinda my answer to everything.

We should learn all that we can about the rationale and theory behind every program, so we can learn all that it takes to finish a marathon effectively.

For example, I read about the rational behind the Galloway method, and the purpose in running to the length of the marathon before the race, and the role of walking breaks. Both of these I have incorporated at times, and used the walking breaks to complete a marathon during a semi-injured time that otherwise I probably would not have.  And I have also looked at the rational of the local group, the Hansens, who have you topping out at at 16 mile run, but doing so on ‘tired’ legs, so, that the 16 feel more like running the last 16 of a race rather than the first 16 of a fresh run.  They also do more speedwork. Hard to argue with many of the Hanson finishers. You will see them at major events -  yellow jerseys, tall and skinny,  and fast as a mudderbucker. Home grown from main street Michigan.  But no way in hell can I follow their plans. They are more like a one week running camp I visit to blast my legs, but then have to crawl back home from and spend a week on my arse to recover.

These are just a couple, I have scoured Hal Higdons and runner’s worlds and running times, and Pfitzinger Douglas.

And while there are different approaches, they all have plenty of basics in common and include all the components of endurance, speed and strength.  Some of these components, when applied to your individual strengths and weaknesses, need to be modified.

This is where the ‘experiment of one’ fits in.  For example, I have always had plenty of speed, and my times at shorter distances race predict a faster time than my marathons were showing. In other words, I was fast enough, but  what I needed was the endurance to not fizzle out at the end, to have some strength in my legs to fight the fatigue.

To gain further endurance and strength, I added hills, did more long runs than most marathon programs asked, and actually cut back and mellowed on my speed work because the recovery time stopped me from focusing on the runs that attacked my deficits. I would love to do mile intervals once a week, but then I wouldn’t be able to do a long run or mid range run as efficiently, and my calves wouldn’t be able to attack the hill workouts which yes, are speed and strength anyways.

This is ‘just me’, once again, but I cant believe there aren’t a ton of folks who would do better with less. I love love love the feeling of a hard run, and sometimes that’s the joy of recovery, to get the endorphin rush of a long, fast one - but pushing myself isn’t the problem, its over pushing and wearing things down without resting that is the biggest risk. Especially as 40 is pretty far back in the rear view mirror.

So, in summary, my magic training plan for running an incredible marathon is:.

  1. Schedule my last, pinnacle long run 3 weeks out from marathon day -  a 22-23 mile run with the last 7 or 8 at marathon pace.

2. Build up to this last long run by doing long runs every ten to 14 days, doing some lengths twice, (the  second one with some significant marathon pace runs thrown in)

  1. Throw in a healthy, but non-injurying dose of some speed work (mile intervals and 10k tempo runs) and some strength work of hills along the way.

I’ll never win an event, chances are will always dance on the fringes of Boston qualifying times , but my guess is, the more marathons people do and learn their body, the less they need to follow plans but instead will instinctively know when they need to throw in a certain kind of workout.

1 comment:

Crossfit said...

Nice posts, an informative one. Thanks for sharing this to us, it gives us more ideas and information. Congratulations for a great job well done and looking forward always for more updates.

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