Monday, August 17, 2015

Marathon Ramblings Volume II Following a Training Program vs. Flying by the Seat of My Pants

I have about two weeks of training to update you on, but I think I will save that for my next post. Because I  want to address other issues first.  I wanted to talk about my fear of following a 16 week marathon training cycle....

A little back story first.... I have 17 marathons under my belt, and I have only followed a training program for the first marathon.   To top it off my first 16 marathons were run without the aid of a GPS watch..... Imagine that!!

For my first marathon I followed a 16 week program that I found from  a Running Times magazine.  I had just wanted to finish the distance, and I got the job done.

My second marathon was a complete fluke.  I had been training for the Army 10 miler and I had planned on just finishing the Venice Marathon three weeks after that race.  My longest training run had been an 18 miler, but I had done a ton of speed work and some longish tempo runs.

Because of this fluke, I really set some big goals for my third marathon.   I made an attempt to break 3:20....  
Again I didn't really follow a set training program.  I had been working with a mentor/coach, and I went into the Padua Marathon over trained and not well rested at all.  I had raced two half marathons in the months leading up to the race. I had been doing a lot of speed work, and to top it off I did a 24 mile training run, three weeks before the marathon.  I ended up running a 3:40 and I it was a humbling experience.

The following year I left the Army to return to civilian life, and it was hard to find  a network of like minded runners.  I lost some of my competitive drive and edge for a few years.  (Growing pains)...

I ran the Los Angeles Marathon in 2001 and finished in 3:54:26.  After that I took a break from the marathon distance.  I had moved to Phoenix, Arizona and then to Las Vegas, Nevada, and I just couldn't get used to the heat.

I consider myself from the "old school", when I first moved to Las Vegas in 2003, I would map out my runs using a Thomas Guide.  I quickly realized that major city roads were one mile apart.  I would keep track of my mile splits using a regular running watch with a split timer.
Who remembers this?

I had decided to start training for marathons again,  but I was happy to just finish the distance. 26.2 miles is a long way to run.

I was content to run 3-5 mile short runs during the week, and when it was marathon training season I would add a 15, 16, 18, & 20 mile training run in before the race.  I had worked as a server and I was on my feet constantly.  I also cross trained doing martial arts.  I think all of that time on my feet helped because I was able to get away with running a marathon on running only about 25- 30 miles a week.

I honestly thought that my faster marathon days were behind me....

In 2007 I found my training partner Debi, She helped me get used to running long in the desert, and by making me realize that mid week 10 milers can actually happen.   With her help I was able to lower my marathon time down from the 3:50's to the 3:30's.  I had a couple of great competitive marathons, but still I wasn't following a set training program.

Once I began having children, my running dreams/goals  took a backseat for a couple of years.  When I had my 2nd child in February 2013, I knew that I would not be ready for a marathon that year,  Last year I decided to give the marathon distance a shot, but I did a piss poor job of getting the long runs in.  I hope that this year will be different.

I found another training program that was a possible choice for me to use.

FIRST Marathon Method

Run only 3 times a week...
What's the catch?

You want me to run how fast?

All of that speed work looks insane!!  Last year I loosely followed Hal Higdon's Advanced Half Marathon Training program twice for 12 weeks,  and I wasn't running workouts that intense!!  I would be happy to take about half of that interval training out and swap it out for hill workout/hill running.   The workouts don't look so bad, but those paces aren't realistic for me.  My 10k pace is about 7:00 minutes per mile.  I would have to run my 400m repeats at 6 minute per mile pace (90 seconds)..  I would also be doing my short Tempo runs at 10k pace..... Nope. Nope. Nope...

I'm 37 years old, I just don't recover from speed work/hard intervals like I used to.

I think my problem with the marathon in my endurance.   I don't need to worry about speed, I need to worry about pacing, and conserving my energy for the 2nd half of the race.

I don't think I have ever negative splitted a marathon.....

My Fears
My biggest fear is getting injured while following a rigid training schedule.   I don't want to beat my body into submission. But, I know that I am going to have to build my mileage up gradually...

My next fear is that running will suddenly feel like a chore...That following a fixed schedule will take some of the fun out of running....

My last fear, is the fear of failing....Been there and done that, so I will try to get over myself quickly...

So I have about one more week to get my sh*t together and commit to a training program.  Hoover Dam I'm coming for you!!

Thanks for letting me whine about training....


  1. I've gotten injured trying to follow a plan. It's often too rigid for me.

  2. Not to mention all of the conflicting information on how "fast" we should be running our easy runs. I have about three gears Race pace, Medium speed, and easy.

    Heart rate training is all the rage now. But, I'm not buying into the hype yet. I don't think I can handle more data to analyse.

  3. The closer my race gets, the bigger the fear of failing. The upside is that I know I am doing what my plan asks of me, and then it's up to me to try to trust the training. My biggest hurdle is my own brain psyching me out, so I'm trying really hard to run by feel and hope that makes the difference this time around.

    I kind of like a schedule, but I can see how lots of people would find it too restrictive. I'd be terrified by that FIRST plan!

    1. You have been crushing your mileage lately. I can't wait to see how much you will blow your marathon PR out of the water!

  4. The paces for the FIRST plan seem insane. Have you thought about following the FIRST plan, but running the workouts at more realistic paces? You could then supplement the plan with some easy runs throughout the week based on how you are feeling. That would give you the structure of following a plan plus the ability to add/drop mileage based on how you are feeling each week. Might be helpful for keeping injuries at bay as well as keeping running fun since only half of your weekly runs are actually scheduled workouts.

    But remember, I haven't run a marathon before, so maybe I'm not the best person to give advice.

    1. You know your reasoning sounds good. I think I would be able to tinker with the first program, more so than the others.... I like the option of cross training (light running) on my off days, and then maybe adjusting the volume of the intervals.

  5. Speed training and hills really helped me prepare for a marathon, but those paces would just wipe me out.

    I've also been okay doing about 25-30 miles and topping out about 35 miles. I finished the distance and achieved my goals. I attribute it to the hills and strength training.

  6. You ran the LA marathon doing 25-30 mile weeks? You had a great race that day. I'm think I'm just trying to find the magical marathon sweet spot. Not too much mileage to sacrifice family time/or leave me broken.

  7. Yup. I topped off at 40 mpw once during that cycle, but it was only because I did both long runs within the same 7 days. I had 4 days of running with one day of running swapped out for cross training. I was really good about doing all my training runs (I also paid a running coach). It was a truncated training cycle, but I had a pretty good base going in.

  8. As you know, I have commitment problems with plans. I figure as long as I get in a 18 and 20 miler with some sort of progression up to it, I'm good. I rarely run any more than 35-40 mpw at peak (sometimes it's more like 30).