I finally had time to sit down and do a review of The Plan. With the marathon now over a week in the past, it is probably a good time to reflect on what led up to the race.
The Plan, for those that don’t remember, was based off of the book Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger. Jeff clued me into the book and based on his recommendation I purchased the book (Kindle format) on Amazon. The book is divided into two sections, the first section is theory on training and the second section is devoted to the various plans. I found the first half of the book fantastic, but I honestly think you have to had done a marathon or two for it to make any sense.
I ended up picking the 12/70 plan which was 12 weeks long peaking at 70 miles per week of running. Prior to starting the plan, these numbers were daunting, but now I realize how well the plan works. Here are some of the things I learned from this planned.
My biggest concerns with the plan was that I was getting a late start and only doing the 12/70 plan instead of the 18 week 18/70 plan. This was simply due to procrastination on my part and not starting when I should have. In the end though, the 12 week plan fit me best. By the end of 12 weeks, I was ready to be done with *only* running and ready to start biking and swimming more.
So, without further ado, here is what I learned:
Volume is key. Basically, if you run a lot, you are going to be comfortable running far. This definitely took some adjusting to and the first couple of weeks were brutal. However, midway through, running long simply became the norm. Over the 12 week period I logged 82 runs for 753 miles which averages out to over 9 miles per run. Like I said, crazy to think about, but it is amazing how the body adapts to it. 753 miles is half of my total 2011 running mileage and I somehow managed to cover it in 12 weeks.
Probably the biggest key to being able to cover the amped up volume is to go slow. The first part of the Advanced Marathoning plan is to figure out your paces. My goal race paces was 6:59 min-miles. This gave me the following training paces:
As you can see, most of my paces are at least a full minute/mile slower than race pace; if not slower.
So, out of the 82 runs, I did 40 of them at an 8:00+ min/mile pace and 19 of those at over a 9:00 min/mile pace. At times, especially during the end, it was hard to run slow and I would find myself forcing myself to slow down. It was really important to keep in mind that there is lots of running to do and not to blow it on a single run by letting my ego get the best of me. Run slow to run fast. Who would have thought?
Wait. Didn’t I just say to go slow? Yes, I did. But going fast – when scheduled – is just as important. There were usually two days a week that incorporated speed work in some aspect. There were three types of speed workouts: intervals, tempo, and race pace. Interval workouts varied from 600m to 1600m repeats and were done at 5k/VO2 Max pace. I did all of my interval workouts at a local college campus using my Garmin’s workout feature to measure the distance rather than running on the track (I hate the track). Doing the workouts on the campus incorporated a few hills (albeit small hills) and windy conditions into the intervals to make them more realistic.
Tempo workouts were a medium distance run (9-13 miles) with a portion of the run (normally 4-7 miles) done at half marathon pace which was about 6:45 min/mile for me. These were probably the worst and hurt the entire time. Usually I would finally settle into the temp pace right as it was time to start cooling down.
Finally, and in my opinion, the most important speed work was race pace work. Race pace work was done about every other week as part of the weekly long run. For example, instead of just doing an 18 mile long run which I would normally do at a constant speed, I would do a 3 mile warmup up building to race pace and then hold my 7:00 min/mile race pace for 12 miles before cooling down. These were really tough runs, but they really boasted my confidence for race day.
Take Care of Yourself
With all this volume, you are going to be sore. So foam roll, use The Stick, stretch, etc. Do whatever it is that you need to do to make sure you are prepared for your next run. For me, this involved a lot of compression sleeve wearing and relaxing with my feet up at the end of the day. I recovered after all my long workouts with chocolate milk (or a milk shake) and pickle juice. I continued to swim 3 days a week mainly as way of working out the kinks of running.
This also meant joining the Hoka Revolution. Laugh all you want, but these shoes are amazing. I did about half of my runs in the Hokas (I have the Bondi B’s) and they made a huge difference. I would start with sore legs, run 5-10 miles in the Hokas and feel completely refreshed afterwards. It is amazing. Do not mock them until you have tried them.
The final thing that made this training plan a success really had nothing to do with the training plan itself. It had to do with training with someone else. While Jeff and I were over 1,000 miles apart, we were following very similar plans (Jeff was doing the 18/70 plan; 18 weeks, 70 mile peak). Regardless, we were in nearly constant communication after each workout comparing our progress. Not only did this help keep me honest but it also reassured me when I was dragging. After a hard week when I was feeling defeated, a quick talk/text with Jeff would find that he was struggling with the same workouts so I knew that what I was feeling was completely normal and just part of the process.
Overall, I would call the plan a total success. Yes, I missed qualifying for Boston, but had my goal simply been to run a 3:05 and there was no mystical quality (qualifying) to the 3:05:00, I would have been over the top ecstatic. Missing the BQ dampers that feeling a bit, but all in all, the race was a huge success.
If you are looking to take your marathon racing to the next level, I can’t recommend this book and plan enough.