Thursday, September 8, 2011

Evolution of a Training Plan, Part Three

Where I finally wrap things up!  If you’re interested, you can also check out Part One, The Newbie Years and Part Two, When Things went from Bad to Worse.  Part Three is still a work in progress, but I feel good about this one having a happy ending!  Insert standard clause about not being a coach or an expert, blah blah blah.  If I’ve learned anything over the last five years of running and racing, it’s that we are all an experiment of one.  If something you read here seems helpful, yay!  Otherwise, feel free to ignore or mock it.

The seeds for my current training plan were planted way back in January, when I read the article “Way of the Renegades” in Runner’s World.  On the one hand, I choked at how the author referred to peaking  with 70+ mile weeks as a “less is more” plan.  Sounds like just plain “more” to me, a girl whose biggest week ever was 32 miles.  But on the other hand, some of the thinking behind the plan really resonated with me – train on tired legs at marathon pace to simulate the final grueling miles of the race.  After years of robotically plugging in numbers on SmartCoach with limited success, I felt really excited to try something new.

Of course, then my year of running turned into a year of learning how to run with my new and improved form, which kept my mileage low, low, low.  (Seriously low.  It’s September and I’ve just now reached 300 miles for the year.)  So when marathon training plan-making time rolled around, I didn’t have near the base mileage I needed to work the Hanson plan.  No matter, I was ready to make up my own Frankenstein plan, pulling from things that have worked for me in the past and incorporating new ideas to shake up my training.

CIM Training Plan 001The Plan posted in all its glory on the refrigerator.

A few notes about the plan:

  • The way it looks is totally important!  Bright colors and fun fonts honestly make a difference to me, dorky as that sounds.
  • I always title and sub-title my training plans.  This one, in case you can’t read it, says “P {hearts} the CIM…sub-4! sub-4! sub-4!”  Keeping my goals right there on paper to see every day works for me.
  • The Boston magnet is there for good luck.  I’m sure after reading about my previous marathons, you’re thinking to yourself, “Really, P?  You think you’ve got a BQ in you?”  Yes.  Yes, I do.
  • Each week is built on the same routine.  Of course there are variations here and there for races (mine or somebody else in the family), but for the most part, Monday = Easy 2, Tuesday = Speedwork, etc.
  • Every workout has a purpose.  I think this is my favorite aspect of this plan.  I really love having a goal, so reaching for a specific pace or purpose on every single run completely satisfies that “checking things off the to-do list” part of my nature.  Monday’s goal is to run easy, so I don’t even wear my Garmin and I go as slow as I want-to-slash-can while maintaining decent form.  Tuesday’s speedwork goals are very specific and I chose paces that are challenging but reachable.  Thursday’s run is a “middle distance” marathon pace run, meant to hone in on running MP on fresh legs, which is weirdly hard to do!  When I feel good, I want to fly, but I make myself rein it in, just like the early miles of the marathon where you’re tempted to bank time, but need to keep it steady at goal pace.  Of course, then I go too slow, so I have to remind myself to pick it up a little.  Hitting MP on the nose is more of a mental challenge than a physical one, to be honest.  Saturday’s long run is also at marathon pace, so I can really learn exactly what that pace feels like and just click into it automatically come race day.
  • The workouts are in their order for a purpose, too.  Wednesday is a rest day because my “real” life (whatever that is!) is crazy busy and fitting in a workout actually makes me feel stressed out.  Sad, I know.  Thursday and Friday are good workouts, but not necessarily long ones, leaving me fresh and ready for a long run on Saturday.  Then Sunday’s bike and Monday’s easy run gear me up for running hard on Tuesday’s speedwork.

While making this plan, I found myself adhering to a few “core values” that really shaped the final product.  Most importantly, I was emotionally attached to the plan.  This was an element sorely lacking in other plans I’ve used and I truly think it makes a difference.  When you don’t know or don’t care why you’re running a certain distance or a certain pace, it leaves you lacking the confidence and commitment that are crucial on race day.

Somewhat related to the emotional attachment was the fact that I thought a lot about what would make me happy while training.  Silly, right?  But if I’m not happy with my training then why the heck would I do it?!?  Routines make me happy, so I set up regular weekly workouts.  Spanking my speedwork times makes me super happy, so I set goals that I’m pretty darn sure I can hit. The colors and fonts on the plan are part of my “train happy” idea, too.  I run marathons because I like them!

Just as important (though sadly, more serious.  Whatever.) was the principle of training like I’m going to race.  So many plans have had me running marathon pace plus a minute or more for my long runs and I have always felt that all this did was prepare me to run slow on race day.  I know the conventional wisdom is that you’re training for time on your feet.  But even though I understand that, I don’t agree with it for my own training.  I’m a creature of habit and after weeks of running at a certain pace, I get “stuck” there.  I’m counting on that working in my favor this time around.

So, there you have it.  How to make a training plan in three easy steps, though you can totally skip Step Two and not hurt my feelings.  I’ll let you know how it all worked out for me in a mere 87 days!

In the meantime, have you entered my HALO bars giveaway?  What are you waiting for?  Go now!

9 comments: said...

My thought was actually "I can't wait to hear about her awesome Boston run next year," but maybe that's just me. I know you can BQ!

The Jesse said...

this is a great post! i think you've got a BQ in you too.

i think i am very emotionally attached to my training plan too and that in being so it has really helped me reach my goals and even go farther than i thought i could.

JenWa098 said...

Having a BQ in you is better than B.O. on you. (My sweat is like spring rain...ha ha)

I love that you put the part about running slow seems to make you "run slow".

I am the same way. I began tempo runs for my 2nd "plan" and suddenly my EZ day became a lot faster. I cannot run an 11 minute mile anymore which is what the training plans all call for so I came up with my "own".

Now a slow run is about 9:45/9:50 and my tempo is 9:10. As I progress I am sure that will change again (hopefully sub 9). It feels nice to have someone with experience validate what I have been feeling even if I can't get my paces quite right and my form resembles "a chicken flailing about".

Rose @ Eat, Drink, and Be Meiri said...

Wait, you're running CIM? ME TOO!

coach dion said...

Hi there

As you know by now there is no magic program, and as Runners World says you should be running 70+ Miles a week, but not all of us can handle that sort of milage.

a) Our bodies will break down.
b) We just don't have the time.
c) We want to enjoy our running.

So what about you? Well I like your plan, it has it all a plan needs. (Your 5km time says you can run a faster marathon than just 4 hours, but to run close to 3h45 I think you would need a lot milage in the week) Now you aren't going to be running 6 times a week (twice some days) and killing yourself.

So for you would I look at changing anything in the plan?
Just one thing: I would take a rest week!!! To me it looks like you are training hard for 10 weeks in your lead up to the marathon. So I would have a rest week the week after the Rock and Roll Half, so we can start training again on fresh legs.

Good luck

Lancer!! said...

I can't comment on your training plan, since you have far more experience at it than I do, but Smart Coach is working for me, so far [knock on wood]. I saw an ad for it in Runner's World, so I had to try it: the free version is OK. I just noticed that the last week have Sept., all the way through December, has me running five (5) days a week, rather than the four days I've been doing. Yikes!

Good luck on your training, and all your events! B-)


Heather said...

Your plan looks like a great one - happy training!

ajh said...

It sounds like you put tons of thought into this and it will work for you. I am beginning to play with some things with thoughts of changing my training.

Marisa @ The Pace of my Life said...

your plan looks great and I agree when I start slowing my pace way down, I feel like I am slower across the board.