Category Archives: Running

Checking In 1/10/2022

Two weeks into marathon training, after 5 days of running each week, and after two of the 4 longest runs I’ve taken in the last year, I actually don’t feel particularly sore, or particularly tired.

I certainly do feel somewhat tired and a bit sore after running 11 miles yesterday. But I don’t feel the same sort of wrecked I used to feel after most long runs in the past. If today wasn’t a planned rest day from running, I could certainly go run several miles today and could likely run again tomorrow.

This is despite getting poor sleep last night (the first true bout of insomnia I’ve had in a long while, not getting to bed until shortly before midnight). I actually feel alright mentally, energy wise, and chances are good I can go to the gym for tonight’s planned strength session.

I’m doing several things differently and I imagine they’re helping.

  • Going by feel, I pulled almost completely back on all strength and cross training. Previously I’d been hitting the gym every weeknight and working out for over an hour, plus some weekends. Last week I took multiple nights off, and the extra break from training probably helped my energy for the longer weekend runs.
  • Form wise, I’ve gotten way more consistent with two things that have helped my running efficiency: I’m focusing weight through the forefoot on steps (though the whole foot does contact the ground as normal), and am focused more on landing and pushing back in lieu of any effort or strain to reach forward. According to Garmin/Stryd/Runalyze, my pace and effort were remarkably consistent mile over mile at the end of yesterday’s long run.
  • I’m now actively keeping my effort on midweek runs as calm and easy as possible. I’ve avoided the hillier routes on workweek runs, and found a route for weekend runs that has much less elevation shifting and more flat sections. Most of my prior running was along rolling hills, and I imagine that was taking a toll at a time in training where I need to build endurance first before I challenge myself with these tougher elevation shifts.
  • Though I’ve always generally tried to stay in an aerobic zone, I’m now actively keeping my heart rate below 80% of max as much as I can. At the end of long runs there’s not too much you can do, but I keep it as low as possible as long as possible while making sure to stay efficient.
  • I keep my running power (per Stryd) between 80-85% of critical power, not as demanding as race pace but also not too easy. Runalyze metrics have shown me that runs that are too easy sap my VO2max over time, and experience has shown me that going easier than 80-85%CP doesn’t feel markedly better in the present or the future than just making sure I give that 80-85%CP effort. Since this is a relative metric, my pace does change on uphill or downhill inclines accordingly.
  • The above two items put together means I don’t focus much on pace. The only time during any easy run that I think about pace is when my Garmin watch goes off at the end of each mile, showing me the duration of that mile. But I don’t pay it much mind beyond the general idea of whatever pace it shows me.
  • If I can get an easy midweek run done on my lunch break, I do it. But generally I try to do these runs before or after work. I just walk on work breaks.
  • I’ve cut cross training down to just one spin bike or elliptical session on Mondays after work.
  • After a lot of experimentation, I do two strength sessions each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and follow each one with my yoga session.

The biggest surprise as I’ve ramped up mileage is how not-beat-up I feel after each week. The back to back runs on the weekend I figured would kick me around, but I’ve finished the long run feeling tired but mobile, and today I feel a bit sore but okay. Even feeling tired, I’m not sure how much of that is last night’s unusually short sleep. I feel like I could run today if I needed to (but today is a rest day).

So far, so good. I’m sticking with the plan, and it’s working.

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Bent Up And Motivated: First Look at My Runalyze Data (2016-2021)

I’d like to think I spent the last 2+ yeras hibernating from serious training, brifely coming out of the cave for some hard, extended training here and there, but eventually finding my way bcak to the cave for a while.

First, I had to change careers again in late 2019 after deciding to move back to Vegas.

Then, all that COVID mess started in March 2020, and there wasn’t any practical need to train for most of the year.

Then there was no Vancouver Marathon in 2021, so I just ran a lot on work breaks after starting my new job.

Then I actually got to train for a marathon in summer 2021, but then my lower body decided to implode about midway through, and I never quite got bcak on track before deciding to abandon ship on that in mid-October.


Now, after a couple years of sustained regular cross training, progress in mostly regular strength training, after having to learn a few more things about running to help stay injury-free and avoid past burnout mistakes… here we are at the doorstep to 2022, and just in time for that I discovered a neat run-data-tracking website called Runalyze.

After porting all my Garmin data over and seeing what they showed me, I was suitably impressed and paid for a Premium membership.

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Switching up the Vancouver 2022 Plan, Just In Time

While test driving the FIRST training plan as well as my other training in these preliminary weeks, it’s become clear to me I need to focus differently with Vancouver 2022 training and I need to change plans now while it’s early enough to do so.

First off, I realize I’m low on running volume, averaging less than 20 miles of weekly running plus significant cross training each week. Doing FIRST isn’t fully going to address that. Jonathan Savage has mentioned FIRST works better as a plan for someone fully trained to the marathon distance. If I maintained my fitness after Vancouver, FIRST would be a great plan.

But right now, I need to add consistent running volume and get comfortable running a lot again. Even though I handle long runs just fine, my heart rate’s been jumping high into zone 3 on the back end of these runs, and if I’m fit I should be able to stay at zone 2 through most of such a run. This indicates I need to add easy volume.

I also weigh more than I did in prior training cycles, and I realize one reason the extra weight has stayed on lately is because I’m not endurance training at the volume of past cycles. All that easy volume in the past (plus all that everyday walking in Chicago) kept much of the fat off. Losing about 5-10 pounds of fat would improve my current pace and projected time a great deal, even if somehow I gained no other fitness.

Running easy and frequently would not only improve neuromuscular fitness and aerobic comfort with longer runs, but would also ensure some of this extra fat gets burned off.

While my hamstring feels mostly better with some random light soreness here and there, that’s not as much a concern in a plan with frequent, mostly easy running.


So for the next two weeks (as, incidentally, this past Sunday marked 18 weeks from Vancouver), I’m test driving a modified version of Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 plan. As long as my body picks up the 5 days a week of running with little trouble, I likely will go with that plan this time around. It turns out what Higdon’s plans offer is what I need at the present time.

The base plan has you run Tuesday-Thursday, then a moderate or pace run Saturday followed by the Sunday long run. You cross train easy on Monday and rest on Friday.

I’m not concerned with Higdon’s plan asking for 26 miles right out the gate in week 1 then stepping up from there. Again, I’ve been running long up to 8 miles and doing a lot of cross training, plus have run hard in multiple recent races. I roughly have the fitness to run 20-25 miles a week right now. Easy running at 3-8 miles hasn’t been a problem, and in fact my longer runs have been run harder than desired. Since most of the scheduled runs are easy, it’ll actually be a relief.

Presuming the early week runs feel fine, I also plan to replace the Thursday easy run with a speed or tempo workout, somewhat matching Higdon’s Advanced plans (whose total volume was simply too high for where I’m at now). Higdon’s speed workouts aren’t super arduous, built around sets of 800 repeats, or 400 meter hill repeats, or his form of tempo runs which are just easy runs with a brief 10K-pace segment. The total mileage of these workouts match the original easy mileage on the intermediate plan, and they always come before a rest day.

I also have a couple of races on my schedule, a 10K next month and a 12K in March. Higdon’s plan as written only accounts for a single mid-plan race. So I strategically swapped some training weeks so the race weeks are easy (with no speedwork), no key long runs end up omitted, and the following midweek is also lighter. This does clump some heavier weeks together, but the race weeks means those weeks are in turn lighter and create a stepback week in each case. Each Saturday race is followed by a medium-long easy run on Sunday, which matches the lighter weeks I swapped into those race weeks.

As for strength and cross training, since I already strength train in brief workouts 2-5 times per week, I’ll continue strength training 3 times a week, probably with the midweek runs in the morning and strength training after work in the evening. Obviously I’m not going to chase any barbell PR’s and will lift conservatively in these strength workouts. The only lower body training will be overhead squats on Tuesdays, and I’ll keep the weight light on these.

I also got comfortable with my recent yoga routine, and will keep doing that at the gym on weekday evenings. I’ve noticed subtle improvements in running and general movement since starting this, so I want to keep it up. My routine though it has a copuple of challenges (Scorpion Pose, anyone? Cow Face?) isn’t terribly arduous so I do it in part as a post-workout stretch.

If I still decide to chase Garmin badges I might do some brief easy spin bike sessions at the gym on weeknights with the swolework and yoga, but we’ll see.

For the easy and long runs, unless I am just so beat-up tired that I just need to shuffle through them, I’m going to follow a Pfitzinger rule and run them as progressive easy runs, starting at 20% longer than marathon pace (e.g. my goal pace per mile times 1.2) and eventually finishing at 10% longer (goal pace times 1.1). Incidentally my current average pace is around 12-15% longer than goal pace, and I’ve run some long runs at a somewhat fast (and ultimately painful) 5%. In my experience 20% is usually rather easy, and 10% while sometimes challenging is easily reachable.

I feel pretty good about my capacity to handle this modified training plan. I’ll be heavily dialing back on the cross training, which should make available more energy to focus on the running. I will as a hedge swap out any midweek easy run for cross training if absolutely necessary, though I’m aiming to do all these runs.

I believe that if I accomplish this then I won’t fall into the trap of ‘run slow, race slow’ that can happen from marathon training. That plus the quality training of the Thursday workouts, the scattered Saturday pace runs, and of course my races should all help prepare me to run a decent, achievable marathon.

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Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning, and the nuts and bolts of Hal Higdon’s Marathon plans

I luckily picked up and am now reading a copy of Pete Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning this week at a substantial now-or-never discount (the book usually costs a relatively steep $27.95+tax). Even though I’m nowhere near the fitness to do one of his high volume maniacal marathon training plans, the book itself is more about the finer points of marathon training in general, and is still quite useful.

He goes into detail about the effect of hard workouts and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) on quality workouts during marathon training. Obviously, you want to avoid going into speed/tempo workouts (especially long workouts) still sore or tired from the last hard workout.

He made an interesting point in agreement with Jack T. Daniels about how back to back hard workouts can take advantage of DOMS typically not setting in until 2 days after a hard workout. The idea is that (presuming you have the legs to do back to back hard workouts) you do the 2nd hard session the day after, and the soreness will not yet have set in.

One common example he cites is how college athletes will run a race on Saturday, and then do their long run on Sunday. Or how during a race week they will do their speed and tempo workouts back to back early in the week, like Tuesday and Wednesday, to allow for 2+ easy days before a Saturday race. In fact, if you own Daniels Running Formula, you’ll see that some of his sub-marathon plans book back to back quality workouts during some phases of training.

This immediately reminded me of Hal Higdon‘s Intermediate Marathon plans, where he has you run back to back pace and long runs on the weekends, plus back-to-back-to-back short/medium easy runs during the week. I suddenly realized, however unintentionally, that Pfitzinger was explaining in detail why Higdon’s Intermediate schedule was such an effective plan.

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Discussing the 1-1-2 Marathon Training Template and Who It’s Good For

Many marathon coaches and writers have similar, converging ideas. It’s impossible for every training plan to be unique, and it’s not that anyone’s necessarily stealing from anyone else. With so many minds, coaches, runners… many are eventually going to find similar approaches and follow very similar schedules.

I just ran into one such case, where Hal Higdon recently created a new marathon training schedule (Marathon 3), and its three day weekly structure is very similar to the FIRST Marathon training approach.

Another example is that, even though fundamentally they employ different approaches, IronFit and Hal Higdon in their marathon plans each gravitate to what I call a 3 and 2 schedule, where the week starts with three consecutive workouts, and after a day off the week concludes with back to back workouts ending with the long run, followed by a day off.

Those are examples of plans I’ve covered. However, many many other plans I have read and analyzed but not discussed here follow a four day a week approach I will call a 1-1-2 template. In large part, I haven’t discussed them because each of them follow the template in very similar fashion.

The 1-1-2 Template:

Whether it begins Monday, or Tuesday (with Monday off), the first workout of the week is a shorter/medium distance run, or a speed interval workout (400 meter repeats, 800m repeats, or similar).

After the following day is taken off, the 2nd workout on Wednesday/Thursday is a medium distance run, often a tempo or marathon pace run.

After that workout’s following day is taken off, a Friday/Saturday easy run of short/medium distance is followed the day after by the long run. Some may do the whole long run easy, some may insert a marathon pace segment in the run or at the end of the run. But that ends the week’s training.

Tom Holland, Dr. Jim, Jeff Gaudette’s Runners Connect, are some quick examples of writers/coaches who follow this basic template. They can vary in what strength training or cross training they ask you to do between workouts, as well as exactly what kind of workouts you do on the running days.

As a quick hit to the Who’s It Good For concept, and recognizing these plans are different between one another, I still think some general groups may or may not want to consider a plan with this structure:

Who Does This Not Work For?

Run streakers. Obviously you would not be running every day in these plans, and typically these plans ask for so much volume or intensity in the midweek workouts that running short/easy on the rest days is counterproductive. You may as well pick a plan not following this template.

High volume runners. The reasonable ceiling for weekly mileage on plans like these is about 50 miles per week, and that’s presuming you log double digit mileage on the weekday workouts as well as consistently get near that 20 mile mark on the long run.

You could double workout on the training days, but the main workouts are typically somewhat tough, and that could inhibit recovery.

Like the run streakers, you probably want a plan with more frequent, consecutive midweek runs.

Runners who don’t like speed or tempo work. On all these plans I’ve always seen some volume of at least marathon-pace work or tempo running, if not full speed interval workouts. If you’d rather not do any speedwork, Hal Higdon’s Intermediate plans are typically devoid of any speed or tempo running outside of marathon pace runs. If you just want to run easy, you probably need more frequent run workouts than 4 days a week anyway.

Who Does This Work For?

Runners who need breaks. There is a built in day off after three of the four key workouts. If you’ve burned out or worn down from plans with back to back to back runs, a plan like this could help you immensely, possibly more than FIRST or Higdon’s Marathon 3 (since they tend to ask for a lot of extra cross training outside of the workouts).

Runners who have other interests outside of training. The extra days off also give you more space for the rest of your life than most plans do. Some people need the days off to recover between workouts more than others, and plans like this are more accommodating than the other plans I’ve discussed before, while still providing suffient training volume and intensity to get you ready for the marathon.

Runners who struggle with tempo work. The thing with tempo workouts in this format compared to other day-off-rich training plans is that the day off before AND after the midweek speed/tempo sessions better allows you to load up for and recover from these workouts. Some people have a real hard time with executing tempo workouts, and much of that is having to do a workout the day before and/or after, leaving little time for recovery.

This schedule typically assures you have rest time before and after the tempo workouts, maximizing your energy on the workout itself and facilitating your recovery afterward before you tackle the back to back workouts to end the week.


The large number of 1-1-2 plans would be a redundant exercise to cover. But hopefully the above can help you determine if these styles of plans are worth pursuing, or if you’re better off moving along whenever you see them.

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Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 training plan: Who’s It Good For?

You’ll notice I’ve never written a What’s It Good For feature on the somewhat famous Hal Higdon marathon training plans.

Part of that is they’re by and large recognized as a reliable starter-plan for runners unfamiliar with serious training for a race, or just seeking a straight-forward training plan. It’s often one of the first plans most aspiring runners find and turn to when they want to train for a race. It’s a more old school, traditional approach to run training, fairly straight forward and reliable.

So the audience for these plans is pretty clear. Why write a whole What’s It Good For piece on Higdon’s plans when many reading have already (most likely) gone to and possibly followed his plans before reading? There’s little confusion about whether or not these plans work for someone, and someone reading is typically looking for a different approach.


Now, that said, I’ve come back to Higdon’s work time and again. His writing helped me get back into running years ago and helped me build my ability to run for distance. In fact, for all the What’s It Good Fors I’ve written, if someone on the street asked me for advice on running regularly or doing races for the first time, I’d most likely send them to Hal’s website as a starting point. His basic advice and plans consistently work.

So while figuring out my intended training for the 2022 Vancouver Marathon, I also looked up Hal’s old marathon plans. Incidentally, I wanted more intel on how he’d schedule strength training (because obviously I want to continue strength training through Van training), and his incumbent marathon plans didn’t specifically discuss strength training.

I ran a search to see if I could find reference thereto on his website, and it led me to a plan of his I hadn’t found before: Marathon 3. This is a newer hybrid plan for recreational “gap” runners: Not quite a traditional intermediate marathoner, not really a novice.

The Marathon 3 program fits conveniently between Novice 2 and Intermediate 1, but its main feature (and appeal) is that it offers only three days of running and an extra dose of cross training for those of us who need a bit more rest between our running workouts.

Hal Higdon.

That said, I think more advanced runners may find value in the plan as well, especially if they’ve been burned out or injured on higher volume plans.

Marathon 3 (which I’ll also call M-3) looks decidedly different in schedule-pattern from Higdon’s other plans, which traditionally follow a 3 and 2 weekly cycle: Three early week workouts, rest, then a two workout block of a moderate effort run followed immediately by the long run and a rest/cross day. This one has no scheduled back to back runs.

So you know what? I think Higdon’s Marathon 3 is not only different enough from his other training plans to warrant a write-up, but the fact that it was a bit out of digital sight and I had to find it by accident tells me it’s worth linking and showing to readers.

Plus, you’ll get some insight into my thoughts on Higdon’s principles, and when/how they work well.

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Vancouver Strikes Back, 2022.

Run Van made the decision to open up 2022 Vancouver Marathon registration, offered me an early invite, and it did not take me much thought or deliberation to jump back in. I will be running the Vancouver Marathon on May 1, 2022.

I had actually in fact deferred my airfare and hotel, from my planned October Vancouver trip that couldn’t happen, to late April and early May as if I was already going to the marathon. So this isn’t exactly a sudden change of heart of any sort. This was penciled in, and now I’m tracing it over in pen. Plus, now I don’t have to find money to book the travel, because it’s already booked!

I do have plans to run other events and will still do those. I had plans to train for other stuff in 2022 and will still train for those.

If the Failed Indy Experiment of 2021 showed me anything it’s how I can cross train in lieu of running out a full schedule of marathon training. I gradually build a long run to the needed distance, work on tempo and speed training once a week or so, run when it’s most useful, but otherwise cross train for the bulk of my base aerobic work. Why take a pounding on treadmills or pavement when I can get the job done on an elliptical or spin bike?

The other training (and yes, at some point I’ll go into what all this is) can sit in for any speedwork I’d have otherwise done in dedicated marathon training, when applicable. Since some of it isn’t running, it can at times provide a break from run training.

I’m not terribly worried about injuries. At this point, I think I can trace this summer’s problems back to using the treadmill, and I’ll just stop using it for extended running from here on out. If I restrict my use to under 30 minutes and carefully manage pace, and if I don’t use it too often, it works when it works.

As I did before, I will “trickle in” training starting this month with built in rest days, slowly ramping up to a marathon training schedule that should be in swing by the start of next year. Let’s see how this goes.

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