Few Things I’m Working On (Nov 2023)

It’s been a little while. I’ve kept my work close to the vest, just auto-regulating my training and lifestyle while working on different approaches.

  • Many tired mornings, I’ve opted for long morning walks near work instead of going for coffee. As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a long cross town commute that I’d rather not take during rush hour. So I make the commute early and either train or have coffee closer to work until it’s time for work. Lately I’ve just driven to work, parked, and then walked easy around the quiet office complex until around time for me to walk into the office. This not only has a modest training effect but also better prepared my body for all the walking I do on Vancouver trips than before.
  • Speaking of Vancouver, I took a couple trips this month to run a couple 10Ks I had interest in. I ran Granville Island on Canadian Thanksgiving (10/9) and the Great Trek at the UBC campus (10/28). I wasn’t at all specifically trained to race 10K so these were fun runs. I basically just jogged out Granville Island and the Great Trek was a long fitness test.

I really liked the Granville Island race, which goes around scenic False Creek (a misnomer as it’s basically a small bay). Though I probably won’t do it next year, I’ll certainly do it again.

I had been intrigued at the idea of eventually doing the full Great Trek: They hold a half marathon at 8:30, the 10K at 10:30, and a 5K at noon. They not only allow you to do all three but give out separate medals to people who do. (Of course, I only did the 10K this year)

However, while UBC is a nice campus, most of the Great Trek route isn’t that interesting. Most of it was just roadway through a lot of bland forest and open space. And their half marathon course is basically just the 10K course twice, so if one go-around feels like a boring grind, doing three would get pretty bad. And then to do the whole Trek you’d have to do a 5K after (which granted is a separate course). While running 37K is an accomplishment, doing it in a bunch of loops isn’t worth the effort to me as much as just doing a scenic marathon somewhere else. So, maybe not this one again.

For finishing the Run Van Grand Slam (I ran the First Half in February, the marathon in May, and these two races)… they gave you a plastic water bottle. They had mentioned giving Grand Slammers a medal, but I guess they changed their minds! Maybe too many people were eligible? I don’t know.

  • My Garmin Forerunner 945’s hinges broke in early October while removing it from my wrist. I was using an aftermarket fabric wristband, which means you have to pull the watch off like a wristband and the band width can only be adjusted while off your wrist. Unfortunately one day, pulling it off created too much torque on the hinges and they gave out.

So, I quickly replaced it with a new FR955 Solar (the 945 was starting to crap out in various ways and wasn’t a great watch for Garmin anyway).

The 955 tracks a bunch of extra metrics the 945 did not, like heart rate variability and training readiness. This 1-100 score every morning is based on your training load, your sleep, your aforementioned HRV, and Garmin’s stress score. Though certainly more useful for planning than the old Garmin Body Battery, the latter is still tracked for some reason.

Also, HRV itself is a superior metric to (still useful) resting heart rate, since RHR can be good and low when you need rest, whereas your HRV being low (higher is better) tells the actual story.

I expected the Solar recapture to be more useful than it’s actually been. Though Garmin claims it actively recharges the watch, I haven’t noticed an actual battery increase from extended inactive sun exposure. I’ve found its capability closer to the power recapture on a hybrid car, supplemental power that is then used in lieu of the battery and thus extending the latter.

  • I’ve let the Readiness score effectively dictate how much or how little training I’ve done each day. When the score’s lower, I’ve taken it easier than planned. After two back to back workouts last weekend, my score was so low over the next three days that I went ahead and took those days easy (just walking and yoga). I’ve found following its lead has helped a lot with keeping my overall training monotony low, a good sign. Workouts have also been consistently improving when I’ve done them thanks to the advised rest.
  • I mentioned yoga. I decided to seriously experiment with the Garmin Yoga routines, mostly the easier-to-intermediate ones I can do in the 20-30 minute range. I tried some of the longer intermediate ones, but once you introduce poses like the one-legged Warrior Three it’s a bit too much 20 minutes into a demanding yoga routine. I can do most of the poses with reasonable difficulty. The hardest ones I can manage right now are a sequence with the Boat, and the Wheel.

I had actually done yoga almost every weekday afternoon I’ve been home for the last three weeks (weekends off, and none during the Vancouver trips). I noticed in the last week my plantar fascia in the right foot started bothering me here and there, and just this weekend my left shoulder started squawking. So that’s my signal to dial the yoga back for a bit.

  • Now within the 26 week window Runalyze Marathon Shape window for Vancouver 2024, I started comparing different marathon plans with my own ideas. I created a low-frills Excel workbook template to show the marathon shape for a plan by inputting the daily mileage and my estimated VO2max to get a score. With this, I reviewed about two dozen plans.

For the weeks prior to the plan (since Shape calculates 26 weeks of training), I put in a reasonable amount of base mileage loosely matching the plan format (30-35 mpw).

I also put in a composite mileage total for any aerobic cross training (usually around 4-5 mph) to account for its role in marathon fitness.

I also capped any midweek speed/tempo workouts at 10 miles in a day regardless of what’s scheduled, as that’s the most I could reasonably do before I have to finish and go to work.

I found that most conventional plans, as well as the plans I’ve read and written about, would only get someone in my fitness range (36-38 EVO2max) about 80% marathon ready. At that shape, you can certainly complete the race. But forget about hitting a calculated goal time, and the last few miles will probably be a miserable experience. Many writers will just say that misery is just part of the marathon. As with many of their outdated ideas, I would beg to differ.

Some of the plans were dismissed due to having clear deficiencies (e.g. Coates’ Running On Air, whose long runs were capped at 3 hours and too short… even shorter than the Hansons plans, which I did leave on my list), or being unreasonably demanding for someone at my fitness level (e.g. Pfitzinger, which would certainly get you over 100% Shape but the midweek workouts are simply too long to get done). I did leave plans in even if their training monotony would clearly be too high (e.g. Hansons), which would lead me to personally disqualify it if I were personally picking a plan from this list.

There will be a longer write-up later, but: Most plans scored at least 80%. A small handful scored above 90%, with a couple actually making it above 100%. Among the few that didn’t make 80% and scored in the 70’s were: Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 (his newer long novice-intermediate plan that integrates cross training… FWIW his intermediate 1 plan got to 82%), IronFit (whose workouts are time based, and thus limit the amount of needed mileage I could complete… plus the 3 week taper is rather aggressive, reducing it further), and all of the Hansons plans (obviously the 16 mile max long run reduces the Shape score quite a bit, as at 36-38 EVO2 the expected average weekly long run is 17 miles).

Galloway’s run walk plans with their long 26-28 mile long runs got to 92%. The midweek runs being rather short killed it from getting 100%, but then again when you’re going 26-28 miles every 3 weeks, the midweeks probably have to be short!

The two 100% unicorns: One is a reasonable adaption of Tom Osler’s Conditioning For Distance Runners template, which starts low mileage and just builds easy mileage over the duration, and peaking the long run at 22-25 miles (I stopped at 22), with no stepback weeks other than reducing the long run 25% during final sharpening. I even broke template and made the final two weeks lower volume. It still finished a bit over 100%.

The other… I will keep a surprise for now, in large part because I’ve never reviewed this author’s plan, and he’s not well known nor is his book and training method known much at all. The book’s not hard to find on Amazon; in fact, I think (here’s a clue) the book is currently available on Kindle Unlimited, so with Unlimited you could read it for free right now. I’ll write about it in a bit, before the end of the year.

That’s all for now. I’ll have more in a bit.

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