Monday, August 22, 2011

Evolution of a Training Plan, Part One

Let’s be clear about this from the very first sentence:  I am not an expert or a coach.  I make my own training plans because I have (sort of) figured out what I like and what works for me, but most of what I do doesn’t really fall into the category of conventional running wisdom.  This is the story of my very first training plan and you would be a damn fool to follow any of it!

Once upon a time, about five years ago, I started running.  And pretty much as soon as I could run two consecutive miles, I decided to enter a race.  Running just for fun and weight loss didn’t really float my boat; I wanted to get out there and compete!  Without a finish line waiting for me, there was no real purpose in hitting the streets.  Trust me, I had no illusions of being fast or even good at running, I’m just a really goal-driven girl.

I ran my first “mile” (okay, it was really only about a half-mile, but at the time – before I mapped things on USATF, before I had a Nike+ and waaaaaaay before I owned a Garmin – I thought it was a mile.  It felt like ten miles, but that might have been the extra 30 pounds I was lugging around) on September 14, 2006.  I launched immediately into “running” five days a week.  I have to put it in quotes.  I have to.  Here’s the mental picture for you:  I was wearing a pair of sweatpants from Walmart, a free T-shirt from the ASPCA, sneakers from Payless Shoe Source and trudging along on the sidewalks staring at my feet and wondering if I could literally die from running so hard.  That deserves quote marks, you can’t deny it.

By early 2007, I had stepped things up a little, buying my first pair of running shoes and a few pieces of wicking clothing.  I could run two miles (which, as it turned out, wasn’t really two miles at all, but whatever) a few days a week and I was thinking about stretching it out to three miles, but I wasn’t sure if I could spend that much time away from the house in the mornings (even Big Boy was still pretty little back then).  In February, I started kicking around the idea of entering a race.  IronHubs and I decided to run the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K in May, but the ink had barely dried on the entry form before I wanted more.  By late March I was up to 3- and 4-mile runs and IronHubs felt the lure of the race as keenly as I did, so we decided to go straight for the big time:  The Bay to Breakers.

Did we have any idea at all what were doing?  No.  Not even a little bit.  Did that stop me?  Of course not!  Apparently, it did not occur to me to find a training plan on the internet, which seems pretty silly in retrospect, but I don’t think we even subscribed to Runner’s World yet, so what did I know?  In early April, I sat down at the computer and scratched out my very first training plan.

I was so excited about my plan, I blogged about it on Myspace (OMG, remember Myspace??  All I ever blogged about was running, go figure).  I apparently still have a profile there, because I just now logged in for the first time in almost three years so that I could share with you my scintillating blog post from April 5, 2007:

Setting Goals

Current mood:  Determined

A few months ago, these crazy words crossed my lips: "I'm going to run the Bay to Breakers this year." Seemed like a good idea at the time, I was pretty serious but vague about it. In February, I mentioned to my mom and my sister (who I usually WALK the B-2-B with) that I'm thinking about running this year. They both took me at my word and started talking about it like a done deal.

So, now it's six weeks until the big day and I've realized that I better get my butt cracking if I'm really going to do this. I've been running regularly since last September and do about four miles most days, but the B-2-B is over seven miles and it has a big ass hill in the middle of mile 2 - yikes!

This is the part of the story where you get a little peek at exactly how anal I can be: I sat down at the computer last night and made up a calendar of the days between now and May 20th and figured out exactly which days I'll run and how many miles I'll go and which course I'll take (because I have to get some hill training in there, too).

This is starting to seem like sort of a big deal now. I'm really gonna do it!

2008 Bay to Breakers Training Plan

Check me out, running 20 mile weeks back in the day. I don’t even do that now.

There are a few things that stand out to me about this training plan:

  • All the distances are preceded by the “~” symbol, so I must have figured out by that point that my distances weren’t even close to what I thought exact.
  • Damn, I ran a lot!  Mileage-wise and five-days-a-week-wise.
  • This was before I knew what cross-training was – check out all those days that just say “off.” 
  • Or tapering.  Seriously, I ran three days in a row before the race?
  • It’s so cute that the week starts with Sunday.  I made this plan in Publisher with a real calendar.
  • There is no mention whatsoever of the Susan G. Komen race, which was May 12th that year.  Thus beginning a long line of training plans that did not get followed in their entirety!
  • As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no rhyme or reason behind this plan.  The dominant theme seems to be “Don’t run the same distance two days in a row.”  Solid thinking.
  • There also doesn’t seem to be a real goal for this race, other than finishing.  I don’t remember aiming for a certain time, but –being me – I’m sure I had something in mind that didn’t make it onto paper.
  • I totally remember hanging this plan on the refrigerator and feeling like a real runner.  Crossing off the day’s workout still holds as much satisfaction for me today as it did back then.
  • I don’t recall spending any time at all doing post-race analysis of the plan.  I got to the finish line, so it must’ve been okay, right?

Bay to Breakers! 02

Coming soon:  Part Two – Learning to Plan my Work and Work my Plan


coach dion said...

Hi there

I am a coach and some people think I an an expert (boy are they wrong) but what you have said right there in that first sentence is so true: If some-one has asked me to help them with a program I alway start with finding out what time they have, and what they like doing. (unless you are Olympic).

PS I like your first plan, just get out and run with a couple of rest days great way to start. If you can run the miles why not?

misszippy said...

It's fun to see your evolution! And I'm sure you are in good company with the whole naive approach to training at the beginning. Love the three days of running leading up to the race (it's the more is more theory, right?)

Julie said...

You're going to "get your butt cracking" cracks my butt up :D

Jim ... 50after40 said...

That's cool to look back and see exactly how you've grown or regressed in some cases. That's funny "Damn, I ran a lot" some days I think some of us will look back and think we were crazy.

runningonwords said...

Ooh, I love origin stories! This is really interesting! For the record, my schedule has 5 running days the week of my half. I have no idea why.

Lancer!! said...

OK. Anything with Wal-Mart sweatpants in it is automatically funny. All by itself.

Cory Reese said...

Awesome! I look back at the training plan before my first marathon and wonder how I ever made it through.

Heather said...

I love this post, especially the whole overestimating your distances thing! The first time I ran around my country "block" I was convinced it was 8 miles. Nope, just 3. :)

MCM Mama said...

Love this, especially your theory behind setting up the plan. Obviously writing your own plans works for you. ;o)

Kara said...

I remember when I used to think 6 miles was a long run. :) I loved this post!

ratherthecouch said...

I remember MySpace!!! I think the only pics I ever posted were from the one and only full marathon I've run. One day I hope to redo that race. You're training plan was light years ahead of the mess that I "followed"!