Tag Archives: pfitzinger

When Faster Isn’t Better

16 Feb

As I mentioned last time, there are a few things I am focusing on during this 12-week training cycle for the Goodlife Toronto Marathon. Today, let’s talk about #2 – less speed, more marathon pace.

I’ve decided to follow the Pfitzinger 12/55 plan from Advanced Marathoning – 12 weeks long, peaking at 55 miles, for those not well versed in PfitzSpeak. One of the main things that drew me to this plan was the focus on marathon pace (MP) miles during the long runs. The 12/55 also has very little true speed work in it; I’d say 75% of the quality miles are in the marathon pace – tempo pace range. The VO2 max work is all specified to be run at 5K pace and no faster, and the intervals are on the longish side – generally 1000m-1600m.

This is a vast difference from the training I have followed in the past, and something that I hope in turn makes a vast difference come race day.

Previously, I was doing nothing but slow, time on your feet style long runs with one speed workout per week. The workouts would alternate between a tempo, long interval, and short interval workout. We would do a tempo run maybe once a month; all the other workouts were legit, gut-busting speed workouts. This started at the very beginning of the training cycle, so anywhere from 18-22 weeks out depending on when your goal race was (so, no periodization principles being applied). We were also encouraged to run them as fast as possible – and maybe that was the real problem. On any given week, I was running workouts at speeds much faster than 5K pace, and then the rest of the time, I was slogging along at a 10-10:30 minute pace.

The short intervals also gave me a ton of problems with my hamstrings. I blame this on poor form and not enough of a warm-up to properly execute the fast stuff. My body just seems to break down once I push down into the 6:1x territory, but I also think that a 10 minute warm-up prior to running intervals isn’t sufficient for me. My muscles frequently felt stiff and tight and I would always end up with a minor tear in one, if not both, of my hamstrings.

I would then continue to run through the hamstring issues because again, we were encouraged to do so. Taking rest days meant you weren’t fully committed, that you were weak. If you felt like you were injured, you still run – just go slower. 6 days a week or GTFO.  Every training cycle turned into 12-16 weeks of injury mitigation.  I never felt 100%.

If I thought the speed work was doing anything for me, I would put some time and energy into figuring out how to do it without getting injured. And when I decide to focus on the 5K (spoiler alert: I kind of want to do that this summer), I will. Longer warm-ups, targeting specific paces for the intervals rather than essentially racing them all out, etc. I’ll play around with all of that. But after doing a lot of reading, I just don’t think those are the right workouts to be doing for marathon prep.

The final thing that drove the principle of specificity through my thick skull was this post that kept popping up in my Twitter feed about a month ago. An interesting read for many reasons, but the one thing that really stuck with me was the idea that workouts with paces closest to your goal race pace are the most important. It seems completely obvious that a 5K specialist would be wasting their time running a lot of marathon pace workouts, so why has it been so hard for me to understand that running a lot of 5K (or faster) pace workouts isn’t going to help me run a good marathon?

I realize that it may take a few cycles before I see the results that I want. I am still hopeful that even after a short cycle, the combination of MP miles and long runs with reduced stopping will prevent the epic crash and burn that has been the trademark of my marathoning as of late.

Wineglass Marathon Training: Month 1

4 Jul

Happy 4th of July, everyone!  This wonderful day off from work has given me a chance to stop neglecting ye olde blog.

The first month of training for Wineglass is in the books and I actually haven’t messed it up too bad.  I’ll probably update more frequently as the training gets more interesting; the first month was essentially base building with the addition of some speed work.

Speaking of, let me bring you up to speed on what I’ve got planned for the 18 weeks leading up to Wineglass.

The Plan

I bounced back and forth between Pfitzinger’s 18/55, Hal Higdon’s Advanced 1, and my old running group’s coach’s plan (something seems weird about that grammatically but I haven’t had coffee yet, so go with it, ok?).  I know a ton of people have had great results from the Pfitz plans and I enjoyed reading the book, but for right now, it’s not a great fit for my lifestyle.  I plan on using his guidance for pacing different types of runs, but my actual plan is more of a mesh of Higdon’s advanced and my old coach’s plan.

Y'know, just some light recreational reading.

Y’know, just some light recreational reading.

Nothing earth shattering here – it breaks out like this:

M: Base run | Tu: Speed | W: Base run | Th: Base Run | F: Base Run | Sat: Long run | Sun: rest

The first month was about getting my base runs up from 30-45 minutes to 45-60 minutes (or, 3-5 miles to 5-7 miles) and I am pretty much there.  I will try to start increasing them as the cycle continues (as my overall goal aside from this race is to get to a 90 minute base run, or ~10 miles by next year), understanding that I can always drop back to a 45-60.  I also have some plan MP (marathon pace) runs on Fridays, similar to Higdon’s plan.  The idea there is that if I can do ’em, great!  If not, just keep the pace easy.  Flexibility is really key for me – I need to give myself permission to tune in to what my body is telling me and not push it too hard on one run just for the sake of that one run.  Running a good marathon in the fall doesn’t come down to any one particular run – it’s the cumulative training.  Staying injury free is the most important thing to me.

The estimated weekly mileage builds like this:

32 / 34 / 28 / 37
40 / 35 / 44 / 47
41 / 50 / 55 / 48
59 /43 / 63 / 57

Then taper.  Then BQ.  Right?  Right.

There are some scary numbers in there but I’m excited.  If you want to check out the entire plan, you can do so here.

The Running Group

I talked before about the running group I joined last year.  It was a great group and I know I became a stronger runner from being in the group, but originally, I didn’t have plans to join up with them again this year.  It had nothing to do with any of the people or the coaches, it was more of a scheduling issue – the times and locations of the practices are not very convenient for me.  I figured I could do speed work and long runs on my own, and that I’d get through it ok without them.

Then I went to the track.

I decided to run some 800s as an easy way to get back in to track work.  I pushed, but never to the point of real discomfort.  I downloaded my splits after the workout, and realized I just ran a bunch of 800s at about 5k pace.  WHOOPS!  I saw the coach of the running group at the Swamp Rat 10k that weekend; he came over to say hi and I think the first words out of my mouth were “I want to come back can I come back please.”

At the track.

At the track.

I’m really happy to be back with the group; having fast people to chase on the track, and trying to not get caught by other fast people is really the psychological impetus I need to really push myself.  I definitely think this was the right call and will help me immensely come October.

What’s Gone Down Already

So, as I said at the start, I’m one month into training and all is going fairly well.  I’ve been consistently logging workouts on DailyMile if you’d like to super creep my training.  I’ll pop in here to update if anything super amazing or super terrible happens.  For now, here’s a breakdown of the past month:

Week of 6/3:  32 total miles, one shitty track workout, 10mi long run

Week of 6/10: 35 total miles, 11ish mile long run

Week of 6/17: 27 total miles, one awesome track workout

Week of 6/24: 39 total miles, one decent track workout, 14mi long run

This week should be around 40 miles as well, then next week is a small cutback/taper for the Boilermaker!  I’m very excited for this race and hopeful I can pull out a PR.  If not, I will attempt to PR in beer consumption at the finish line.  Then it’s back to the grind!  Onward and upward.

Time vs. Distance

11 Apr

When I first started running, it was solely on a treadmill. Going outside seemed really intimidating – where do I go? What if I can’t get home? Hit by a car? Lost in the woods? Forget how to put one foot in front of the other?

Ok, so maybe I could’ve used a Xanax or 20. That aside, I really liked the feedback I got from the ‘mill. The ability to dial in a pace, to stay at that pace, see how far I had gone. The numeric feedback was huge for me.

Eventually I decided I should put on my big girl pants and actually get outdoors – upstate New York gets so few nice days during the year, so it seemed like a total shame to be running inside during the summer. Also, quite a few co-workers ragged on me (good-naturedly, of course) and I started to feel like a wimp. I bought myself a Nike+ sportkit and headed out. Again, the numeric feedback was key – I still remember the first time I ran 5 miles and how I felt like a total boss. I think it’s pretty common for runners to humblebrag about the number of miles they’ve run – haven’t we all posted the obligatory pic of our Garmin at some point in time?

My first 20-miler ever.  If I didn't take a picture of it, it didn't really happen?

My first 20-miler ever. If I didn’t take a picture of it, it didn’t really happen?


I had never really considered that there could be another way (run without some fancy piece of technology?! NOT EVEN POSSIBLE GUYZ, NOBODY RAN PRIOR TO THE INVENTION OF THE SPORTSWATCH), until last summer when I decided to train with a local running group for my fall marathon.

The group is led by an amazing runner – he holds a 2:15 marathon PR, and is currently running world class age-graded master’s times – who has a “strange” take on training: running for time, not distance.

I say strange because it was just a totally foreign concept to me. Our training was laid out in terms of a time range for base runs (I was 30-45mins), a time-based long run, and time-based intervals. Instead of a 10x800m or a 400m-800m-1200m-1600m ladder workout, we’d run 6x4mins, or 3 sets of 5mins-7mins-3mins.

It was hard for me. I’m big on benchmarking myself, and tracking progress (yes, I possibly am still in need of that Xanax). The time-based structure made it hard for me to do that, at least for the speedwork portion of the plan. Also, I had previously approached long runs with a philosophy of “let’s roll and get it over with as fast as possible.” That doesn’t really work when you’re going to be out there for 3 hours, regardless of whether you’re running 6min/miles or 10min/miles.

I thought I hated it, that it didn’t work well for me, and that I wanted to switch back to a distance based plan. This is what I did in preparation for the Shamrock Marathon. But as I sat there earlier this week trying to loosely plan a base-building phase, I found myself thinking in terms of “I’d like to build to 45-60mins a day, and get my long run around 1:45-2hours before starting marathon training.”

— Timeout to address planning a base-building phase. I am seriously OCD.  I like structure. You’re just going to have to learn to love this about me. —

This made me take pause … as a person who has always been motivated by numbers, why was I subconsciously planning my training like this? I spent the past week thinking about it. I realized that time-based training does a really nice job of taking the pressure off of pace. If I’m going to be out there for 45 minutes, it’s 45 minutes – doesn’t matter how fast or slow each mile is. I think that really helps me relax on easy runs and keep them, well, easy. It also helps during speedwork – if you’re having an off day but you still push as hard as you can, you’ll still reap training rewards for that effort. It’s harder to compare yourself to past performances but maybe that’s a good thing – all other factors do not remain equal from one workout to another.

I also realized that I ran my fastest race to-date off of a summer of training this way. Coincidence? Possibly. I’m sure there are other factors like, oh, doing consistent speedwork in any way, shape, or form. But it certainly didn’t hurt anything, either.

I’m still not sure what fall races I want to commit to, so I certainly am not ready to commit to a training plan.  I had originally wanted to try Pfitz 18/55 but now I’m starting to reconsider.

Anyone else out there use a time-based approach to training?  Had success with it?  Tell me stories.