Tag Archives: marathon training

Improving the 21 Day Cycle, and using Workload Ratio to plan training

Since adopting the 21 Day Training Cycle in late July, I’ve made some adjustments.

First of all, it makes more sense to not run or aerobically train on the strength training day. The swolework is already fairly challenging, and my body has lately responded better to an easy day of strength training with no running/cardio every three days than it has from running or cardio every day.

Secondly, continuing my research on training monotony, I’ve noticed that monotony scores are helped by not having any other training on the strength days. Monotony has gone up as I’ve gotten back to regular training, and it indicates that aerobically training everyday would probably be unsustainable. With every three days being only strength training, the monotony stays closer to normal.

This also indicates it may be sensible to make an otherwise do-able 2nd day run shorter, in order to vary that week’s training stress and reduce overall training monotony.

Conversely, it’s often a good idea to make the 3rd day workout longer, or add a 2nd cardio session elsewhere in that 3rd day, to increase the variance between days and reduce overall monotony.

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The Working Class 21 Day Training Cycle

After a few weeks of training daily, lots of strength training, lots of 45-60 minute cross training sessions, several short treadmill runs and work break runs… I’m feeling pretty worn out, clearly needing a break from what I’ve been doing, but obviously not wanting to take a full training break after having just come back from a long training break following Vancouver 2022.

Motivated by Kevin Beck’s 21 day cyclic training approach, though obviously not wanting to mirror high volume that I’m obviously not running nor in the condition to run… I decided to borrow from both him and Budd Coates to create my own 21 day cycle.

The Working Class Runner 21 Day Training Cycle

In Running On Air, Coates built training schedules using a 3 day alternating easy-medium-hard workout pattern. Similar to this, I patterned this 21 day schedule around big workouts every 3 days, the surrounding days easy, and a relatively easy strength workout coupled with easy training on days after the toughest, longest workouts.

Long Run: However long your longest workout needs to be, that’s the long run. I’d like to get this to a minimum of 2 hours. But it can be 60 or 90 minutes if that’s longer than my midweeks.

Notice that there’s only long runs every three weeks, and on that week they happen on back to back weekends within six days of each other. Then there’s not another long run for 15 days.

This patterning combines a bunching of long workouts with an extended break from long runs for a couple weeks while focusing on more medium-long workouts and strength training.

60-90min workout: These can be regular 60+ minute runs, or quality workouts like intervals or tempo work, or any mix of the above. But they need to be runs and they need to be 60-90 minutes, the sweet spot for aerobic endurance fitness growth.

Initially, they should just be regular easy runs, and if you can’t go 60 minutes then go however reasonably long you can at first, until 60 becomes do-able.

easy: These are either very short runs, no more than 30 minutes, or can be easy aerobic cross training for 45 minutes or more.

If an easy day falls on the weekend, you can go long on cross training, 2+ hours. On weekdays, keep it to 60 minutes.

But even on weekends, easy runs cannot go longer than 30 minutes. This is meant to be an active break, and the runs are best done as recovery runs, perhaps light work on technique or hills.

strength + easy: Here in addition to easy runs or cross training, you do strength training, no more than 20-30 minutes. I have two designated 20 minute workouts I can rotate between.

On the 2nd week, with three strength workouts, I actually would split into three separate 15 minute workouts, to make sure I do every exercise once per week. But it’s no problem to just rotate through two separate workouts and have them flip flop in order every 3 weeks.

I would keep weekday cross training to 45 minutes rather than 60 minutes, to keep the workout at about an hour. On weekends (or any day with more free time) it’s okay to cross train a full 60 minutes if desired.

Again, keep any running to 30 minutes or less, and that remains true with the strength workout. This will make these training days a bit longer than the other easy days.

When races and life intervene: If on a given day or weekend you have a race and it doesn’t line up perfectly with planned workouts, go ahead and turn the 2 days before and after the race into easy days. Don’t strength train within 3 days before the race, but feel free to strength train the day after the race or beyond if you’re up to it.

If an event in your life comes up and it interferes with a workout, it’s no problem to skip it. If you want to try and do a workout off-schedule the day after (leaving only one easy day before the next workout or long run), keep it to 60 minutes max.

The next easy day, you are allowed to skip the run or cross training if desired. If the next big workout is a long run, you can also skip strength training and just make the next one. If it’s not, it’s optional whether or not to make up the strength training displaced by your postponed workout. However, if possible, you are also allowed to switch your strength training to the day of the event postponing your workout.

If you need to take multiple days off in a row: Just do it, and don’t worry about it for now. If it creates a problem, it would have created a problem on any training schedule. Usually, though, a couple or few missed days shouldn’t derail you badly. Just get back to the schedule when you can.


So this 21 day cycle is the training template I’ve settled on going forward. Barring any random lumps in my schedule, I can follow this cycle without an issue through summer into fall racing season.

During summer, I’ll cross train on the easy days to avoid running in the heat, and then as the weather cools I’ll switch to shorter 2 mile runs up and down a nearby hilly trail during lunch. On weekend easy days I have a 2.2 mile circuit near home I can run for that, or I could just do a 2 miler on the treadmill, or cross train. However, the plan is to cease cross training once it cools off, until after Vancouver Round 4.

I have races planned for the fall, and that puts some lumps in the schedule. But the cycle should get me race ready, and it won’t be a big deal to put it aside for a few weeks to focus on frequent races. In fact, that will be right around time to transition from indoor treadmill/cross training to running outdoors regularly once again. So once the races are done, I’ll just begin doing runs outside.

Right now, the workout runs will all start at around 45-60 moderate minutes on the treadmill as that’s where I’m at right now with run fitness (the long runs will basically be like the other workouts). Once I get the workout runs to 60 minutes I’ll begin stretching out the weekend long runs beyond that, another mile or two every time out, until it gets to about 12 miles.

I’ll stick with that through racing season, then stretch it out once I’m training outdoors again and get it to 20 miles during training for Vancouver Round 4.

Also after race season, the 60 minute treadmill runs will become 90 minute outdoor workouts: The easy 8 milers I used to run in Summerlin, some interval sessions, some 8 milers with fast finishes or tempo segments. These will all be done outdoors (barring extreme weather or similar circumstances, in which case I’ll do 60 minutes on the treadmill if I must).


The goal with this was to refine everything I’ve been working on into a sustainable routine of training, demanding enough to build my fitness but not so demanding it burns me out.

Along with this cycle, I’ve also been focusing on adjustments for training monotony, but that’s another post for down the road….

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Final Descent Into Vancouver 2022

23 days until Vancouver 2022.

I have finally settled into a 3 day weekly training pattern, all brutal workouts on the treadmill. I ran 100 minute workouts on Tuesday and Thursday in a fairly humid Planet Fitness gym. These modified workouts come out to 9+ miles, and meant I was returning home shortly before 8pm, right around when I typically head to bed.

Given that, and given my trouble sleeping after these workouts (after last night’s workout I got maybe 6 hours sleep last night despite heading to bed at 9pm), I’ve decided that while I still want to aim for 10 miles on these days, the treadmill workouts no longer need to be this long.

On non-training weekdays I’ve been taking one or two work break runs during the day, which has helped quite a bit with recovery and feels much better overall than taking those days completely off. Because of this, I didn’t actually end my run streak, which is now at 39 days and counting.

What I can now do is take one or two work break runs, most likely a 2 mile lunch break run. Then after work, even if a bit tired from that lunch jog, I go to the gym and knock out an 8 mile workout, which I’ve done quite a bit in the parks during cooler weather. It might be cooler next week and allow for this, but I can easily do these on the treadmill at the gym if it’s warm.

I had aimed for 10 miles and the 100 minute workouts because Runalyze metrics noted you experience a long run specific training benefit at 9+ miles (marathon shape’s long run effect does begin measuring at 13K, 8.07 miles, but the impact on marathon shape in the 8-9 mile range is near zero). So I initially wanted to try and nail some midweek 10 milers to boost that. However, the marathon shape benefit from these long, brutal single sessions was also negligible, though measurable.

So I saw much more benefit in shortening the midweeks back to 8 and boosting the mileage total plus shaking out with work break runs earlier in the day to get 10 miles on the day, even if it doesn’t count in metrics as a 10 mile run (The miles still count in the metric in different fashion). This, along with making those evening workouts shorter and easier, also allows me to leave the gym by 7pm and get home at a better hour, perhaps making sleep a bit easier as well.

During yesterday’s brutal 100 minute session I went ahead and made it an Easy Interval workout, a warmup followed by six 1000m intervals at goal marathon pace (which effort-wise on the warm indoor treadmill converts and requires an effort closer to lactate threshold), each followed by a 1000m jog cooldown with walk breaks.

This not only got me running some faster interval work, but some much needed practice physically running goal pace, which should be easier at sea level in cooler weather after practicing it in short bursts in these more difficult, higher altitude conditions.

Pretty much the last workouts that will specifically benefit my marathon effort will be the midweek of April 21-22. Anything after that simply serves to maintain existing fitness and avoid fitness loss, while engaging energy and hormone pathways enough that I don’t lose sleep from lack of exercise. I’ve never had any problems with “taper madness”. By the time the taper arrives, I usually find the lack of volume welcoming.

The goal this weekend is to finally, by hook or by crook, get to 20 miles on the long run, as well as pace the treadmill workout to loosely match the timing and demands of the course’s first four hours. While obviously I won’t run the full 26.3 miles (Vancouver is a slightly long marathon course), the timing of my slower easy pace will follow a written schedule where I’ll not only slightly change the speed and incline at defined points, but also take fuel and fluid at points where I expect to cross aid stations.

The paces were converted per my last post, to account for the air conditioned room temperature and my gym altitude versus the high end temperature expected in Vancouver along with the sea level altitude (… okay, actually about 33 meters, which is the average altitude for the rolling course). I will vary the incline between 0 and 3.0% (the incline along Camosun Street), though downhills obviously can’t be simulated on a gym treadmill so those sections will just be done slower with a conscious forward lean to simulate downhill running pressure on my legs.

From experience with the paces… yes, this workout’s going to be hard, though it should all be do-able. The interval workouts and other faster sessions should help bridge the gap on this.

Marathon shape right now is still just coasting at 44%, largely because the metric takes a 26 week sample and most early weeks (pre-marathon-training) were very light on mileage. As the next few higher mileage weeks replace these 10-20 mile weeks, and I bank a couple of 17-20 mile long runs, that number will go up and I expect it to hit 70-72% at about 10 days out from Vancouver. For comparison, Vancouver 2019 training peaked at 68% (extreme cold weather and the flu derailed much of that), and Chicago 2018 peaked at 71% (great shape but hiccups blew me up). However, my VO2max is such that at 100% it would estimate a sub-4 hour marathon. So my 4:15-4:30 goal should still be in reach at 70%.


If this approach works out great, and Vancouver goes great… this opens the door to summer training, and the possibility of a 2nd marathon this year.

I had previously intended to just strength train, cross train, and do shorter workouts throughout the hot Vegas summer. But this template creates the possibility that I can stay stretched out with my long run and aerobic endurance.

I’m inclined to just run shorter races and maybe a half marathon in the fall (I haven’t run a half since 2019). Most good-fit races would require travel, which would get expensive, and with pricey marathon travel plans I have in mind for 2023 I’m somewhat averse to spending a bunch for a December marathon. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, the marathon I’m currently planning to run is now a bit over 3 weeks away. I don’t like getting excited before I’m physically there and it’s clear it’s about to happen. So right now I’m just focused on continuing to work on training and getting ready.

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Vancouver 2022 Training Midpoint, Rambling About Recovery and Training Volume

Today my sister, brother in law, soon to be sister in law, and I ran out an over-long 12K that was more like 13K. I had considered racing this full out (and not knowing the course was long I’m glad I didn’t), but eventually settled on running this as a marathon-effort run. I had no trouble maintaining the necessary run power over the entire run, and even went a bit harder/faster in the last mile.

After taking it easy on long runs the last couple weeks ahead of this (longer than) 12K, focused instead on maintaining longer midweek runs, I’m now focused solely on Vancouver 2022. I spent the last few weeks looking at how I responded to different combinations of midweek runs, weekend running, long runs against other runs vs rest days, running daily, etc.

Speaking of that last bit, I generally avoid run streaking, having made a point to take more rest days. But after March started, I decided to run every day, doing easier recovery running instead of days off, and seeing how I handled that. The answer: At this point, I actually handle everyday running fairly well, and I’ve run somewhat better doing work break runs or shorter runs instead of a full day off from running.

It actually started because after taking a full day off following my last 16 miler two weeks ago, I could not get to sleep. This was despite having slept much better in the last couple months since starting this training cycle.

As has happened before, my body had gotten so used to daily activity that if I finished a day without exercise I basically had energy “stored up” and I could not easily get to sleep. My body expected to end the day having some sort of exertion to recover from. Without it, my hormones basically sensed no real need to get to sleep.

I had to make sure then to get some sort of demanding exercise every day, even if as simple as going on a long walk or going on my work break walks.

The easy way to ensure this exercise was done was to do some bit of running everyday. It started as an experiment, thinking if I was having a hard time or hurting at any point I would just not run that next day. But that next day hasn’t ever come. Even after tougher, longer runs, I’ve been able to at least take work break runs, and those have gotten easier, faster, stronger.

Runalyze advises me that my rolling estimated VO2max has improved somewhat, and my individual workout VO2max estimates have been quite strong, a product of not just running faster/stronger but with a lower average heart rate and along rolling terrain to boot.

I did have a tough time with a long workout last Sunday, which I cut short after an hour and filled in with an extended walk, followed by strength training. I felt rather good the next day, and after filling that day with work break runs the following longer Tuesday run went quite great.

A common mistake in marathon training is to fixate on the long run, without paying mind to the aerobic quality of the midweek runs. Often a runner will kill themselves on a brutal long run, at the expense of subsequent midweek workouts that get ditched for rest days and recovery from a long run that was overextended.

It would often be a better idea to run at least into the 2 hour range at an easy effort, and if it’s getting to be too much then cut the long run itself short, then chase it with some easy low-impact effort like walking, or if available cross training, to comfortably extend your body aerobically and neuromuscularly. You may not get the full impact of the desired long run, but you still derive some long distance endurance impact from continuing your “workout” in some lower-impact aerobic capacity. It can help set the table for a subsequent long run attempt at the desired longer distance.

But this digresses a bit from another important point, that by stopping short of substantial damage or exhaustion from a long run that’s beyond your capabilities you avoid derailing your ability to complete quality midweek workouts that are just as if not more important to your training for the goal race distance. Your endurance for the long run in no small part depends on the volume and quality of your midweek workouts. And if you’re falling short on those long runs, then the solution lies in improving your ability to nail longer, endurance specific midweek workouts.

This is not to say turn your midweek workouts into 2-3 hour long runs. Unless you have all the time in the world and can comfortably handle that (a la the late Ed Whitlock or the still alive Jonathan Savage aka Fellrnr), this is not practical. However, observing the optimal midweek endurance workout length of 60-90 minutes, you can still substantially improve your endurance by summiting the peak of this endurance bell curve in your midweek runs.

But if you go too hard in your long runs when your body’s telling you you’re not ready and need to stop, this becomes difficult to consistently do.

Yes, eventually a marathoner’s got to power through and max out the long run. But base building remains a valuable phase and component of marathon training. And if struggling to get through 16 miles, you’re often best off becoming more consistent at completing 7-10 miles during midweek. I struggled with my last couple long runs because my ability to complete 8 in midweek still needed improvement.

Now, all of that said, recovery remains important. And one of my issues was that I was cramming too many 8 milers together without providing space for recovery. I either wasn’t doing enough midweek quality volume, or I was doing too much at once. This coupled with my issue of not being active enough on rest days meant that, while I usually shouldn’t run 8 miles the day after an 8 miler or long run, it’s still a good idea to run at least 2-4, whether broken up as work break runs or as a shorter, maybe fast-finish 3-4 miler after work. This way, I’m still building quality endurance volume, even if it’s not a full 8 miles or 90 minutes.

So now I think I have a good weekly training template in place. Of course I want to do a long run on the weekend… probably Sunday, as I find when I try to do it Saturday morning I’m often somewhat tired and could use an easy training day with my day off before attempting a long run. Of course, I want to do multiple 90 minute midweek runs if possible. But instead of doing a bunch back to back, or just doing one between a bunch of shorter running, I can pencil in Tuesday for a 90 minute run, bookend Monday and Friday with work break runs totaling 2-4 miles as recovery days, and then let Wednesday and Thursday be “swing days” where I can go easy (4ish miles) or a full 8 miles if I’m feeling great. If Wednesday is easy, then Thursday will be a full 90 minutes. If I feel feisty and go 90 minutes back to back Tuesday and Wednesday, I can go easy Thursday and Friday, or if it turned out I’m feeling really great in peak training I can go 90 minutes on Thursday too and just take Friday and Saturday easy.

Saturday can be a shorter, easy run, and strength training as needed. Sunday can be the long run day, with Monday once again being an easy day to facilitate active recovery. Plus, as I previously mentioned, I wanted to avoid heavy fatigue on both weekend days from training, and an easy Saturday will minimize fatigue will providing enough training stimulus to avoid sleep problems.

This should make a 16+ miler on long run days more do-able, easing any midweek fatigue as well as buffering Saturday as an easy day to set it up. Fatigue made the last one real difficult (and admittedly it was an impulse decision to run that last one on Saturday).


So now we enter the long final descent into Vancouver 2022, and it’s time for some consistent serious training. Plus, I now have a 12 day run streak, and like Chicago 2018 I think I’ll try and take it all the way into race day.

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John Hadd, A Long Run, and Simplified Marathon Training

After cutting last week’s long run short at 13, bonked and exhausted, it was clear I had been training too much in some way. The mileage wasn’t necessarily the problem.

My midweek runs are now extended to about 8 easy miles along a hilly route several times during the week, and each of these feel reasonably comfortable, even tired at the end of a workday, even with walking up to 3 miles during work breaks throughout the day in addition to the runs after work.

Lately I’ve repeatedly come back to the work of John Hadd (RIP), an old running coach who in the early 2000’s dropped into the old Let’s Run message boards and dropped a ton of wisdom on keys to successful marathon training. This lengthy collection of posts have since been compiled into its own website, and PDF/Word copies of the posts are also floating around the internet.

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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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