Tag Archives: Marathon

Why It’s A Good Idea For Ian Butler To Get Up At 4am To Marathon Train Instead of Running After Work

The Let’s Run Message Board is not a particularly healthy place for content, I’ll admit. But I’m on there last night reading, and someone started a thread about elite marathoner Ian Butler, who has a full time job as a school teacher but can run a 2:09 marathon, is training for the upcoming Chicago Marathon, and posted video of himself getting up at 4am to train in the dark.

Someone responded that they found little sense in Butler waking up so early to train when he could just train after work in the evening instead.

“I will never understand why some runners insist on running before the crack of dawn instead of in the afternoon or evening. School probably gets out around 3. There is plenty of time to do the workout later. It’s not Florida or Arizona so it won’t be that hot. Is getting to bed at 7 and waking up at 4 really a better option?”

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Checking In 8/29/2021 from Flagstaff

One more post from Flagstaff before I once again head back to the Vegas oven.

I’d like to say I had a relaxing afternoon after yesterday’s lengthy forest run, but in reality I went on a fruitless drive in some unusually heavy Flagstaff traffic for lunch, then went to their Planet Fitness for the first time to do some strength training and a bit of spin bike (which both felt good), then rested just a bit before taking a long walk Downtown to eat at a pizza place and then walk some of it off with the sunset before heading back and turning in early.

Garmin informs me that yesterday was my first 30,000+ step day since getting my first Garmin two years ago. It’s a testament to how much less active I’ve been since leaving Chicago, as I had plenty of 30,000 step days with my Fitbit in Chicago.

I also quickly dropped 2 pounds this weekend, in large part due to the Saturday workout(s) but I also didn’t eat particularly much yesterday for the volume of what I did. I felt fine and aside from a breakfast burrito and that pizza I didn’t feel like eating, so I didn’t. I’ve drank a lot of water in the interim.

While I’m wary of DOMS kicking in Monday, I don’t feel too bad this morning except for the typical soreness in my hamstring that’s been hanging around for several days. I still woke up far too early this morning, as I’ve done several times this week, and likely due to hunger after last night’s dinner digested and absorbed too quickly. But if it’s any consolation, this may prepare me for waking up early next weekend two hours ahead in Central Daylight Time for the half marathon.

I’m planning not to run at all today and tomorrow, and don’t plan to train too hard either of these days. Today in particular I obviously have some driving to do so I won’t be walking much at all. I may head to the gym today once I’m back in town for a bit of elliptical work. I might strength train again if I’m up to it.

Tomorrow was always intended as a full day off from training. If Tuesday’s got to be another shutdown day, that’s fine. Saturday was meant to be the final stop for training until the half next weekend. Now it’s about healing up and loading up for that event. Any training from now to then is about staying sharp, generating hormone production, and keeping fat oxidation consistently activated.


Flagstaff as a weekend long training stop works well for me for training sessions in the 90 minute to 2 hour range. The surrounding trails, paths, and roadways appear to best accommodate 6-12 mile workouts. I can see why the elites go out of town for their long(er) workouts, though I’m not ready to go out to rural roads for 20 milers, nor is this area the best place for my longest workouts. The roads and trails can give you enough real estate for medium/long runs, and the outskirts are just a bit too rocky and mountainous unless the extra challenge of the terrain is needed for some sort of secondary development. In my case this time it ended up being helpful since I was not in a position to go much farther than I ended up running.

Though it’s a tougher place for lodging, Big Bear Lake works much better for my longer workouts. The 11 miler I last ran there fit real well in its hilly lakeside neighborhoods, and there was still a lot of other useful real estate I could have ran through if the run were longer. I can easily fit a 16 miler through Boulder Bay and the heart of Big Bear before I even venture into the Moonridge area, and if I did it could easily give me 20 miles if I wanted. It’s also a shorter trip and easier to get to, even if lodging’s a problem and I have to stay in nearby Barstow.

Until it cools off in Vegas, these situations will be my best options for long runs on this training cycle. I have suitable routes in Vegas but until mornings get back to 70 degrees and below that’s not going to work for now. Either way, any additional training on the roads in Vegas and beyond will have to wait until after Labor Day weekend, and depending on how the half goes I may need to take more time after that before I’m recovered and ready to stretch out further.

Back home, injury problems aside, the heat aside, my biggest hurdle to running in Vegas has been two things:

One: Both my injury issues in the last couple years have one correlative factor: I was running on the treadmill with some frequency. Even though this last issue emerged while outdoors, I had recently done my longest treadmill run to date the weekend before. I’m starting to think that I need to minimize or avoid treadmill workouts.

I have used it in the past without issues, but I had used it for shorter durations, in cycles here and there rather than throughout training, and for specific non-long-run reasons, like ingraining longer race tempo. I can consider this whole hamstring saga a lesson (re)learned, and stop using the treadmill.

My growth on the elliptical has shown me that I can get quality medium/long easy aerobic sessions through that without having to run, and that I should save outdoor running for quick recovery sessions, focused tempo/speedwork sessions, and of course long runs. Basically, if I operated on a modified FIRST sort of plan, doing all other aerobic training on the elliptical between quality and long run sessions, that would suit me best at this point.

As for my work break runs, provided they run and feel like quick-burst recovery sessions, they’re fine. Lately, they have been more of a challenge, and I’m better off walking when they feel like that. Instead of doing them compulsively, I’ve been doing more instances of one break run in the morning, maybe an afternoon run or a lunch break session if I’m feeling good, but otherwise just walking on breaks instead. The circulation flows, the calories get burned, and I don’t overstress myself.

In fact, because my stress and heart rate variability has stayed low when I walk in the mornings instead of run, when I eat light or not at all in the morning… perhaps I should just walk off all these work breaks for now, at least until it finally cools down for autumn/fall. I’m getting home with my body battery long since completely tapped everyday, and perhaps that’s a factor in my issues lately. Now that I’m using the elliptical effectively, mileage is no longer as big a deal as it was beforehand. I’m not one to label running as junk mileage, but if the work break runs are not serving me the way they need to, then they’re junk mileage and I need to walk instead.

Two: Aside from the Vegas heat, smoke from California wildfires combined with typical smog has made the Vegas air quality very bad. I should not be running in that for more than a few minutes, and it’s deterred me from any forays back into morning running (the heat is still too high to even consider post-work runs). Maybe given my hamstring issues that’s been a blessing in disguise, but the bad air has stuck around a while and could be some time before the air’s consistently suitable for any outdoor running.

Flagstaff and Big Bear have been nice, among other reasons, in that the air quality’s been much better overall (I’ve consistently dodged their wildfire smoke issues; Big Bear in particular had downwind fire smoke this weekend). Yes, the air’s thinner in high altitude, but for the most part that hasn’t been a problem for me (do I have handed down Denisovan genes? I don’t know, but altitude mostly hasn’t been a problem for me on runs unless I’m climbing a steep grade). It’s allowed me to run without the air quality problems in Vegas.

I’m no fool and realize this is going to remain a problem in future years. I should be able to do some long training in Vegas in the final few weeks before Indy, but going forward training for summer marathons in Vegas will remain a potentially unworkable problem.

That said, I have plans for 2022 that may render that moot. I don’t plan to leave Vegas, but I have other training goals and I may not run a marathon in 2022. The current Coronavirus situation certainly will continue making that hard in at least early 2022, but it won’t matter either way. I’ll have more on this as I finish up with Indy, recover, and move ahead from there.

In any case, I have errands to run and a lot of driving to do, so that’s enough for now. More on all of this to come.

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Developing the Trickling Marathon Training Plan

Without getting too deep into my methodology… every few days I schedule one or more days off from training, whether I’m just base training or actively training for a goal race (as I’m doing right now). On these days the only exercise I do is walk and use the spin bike. Otherwise, I avoid exercise and definitely avoid training.

In the past I trained with few to no days off, and in fact leading up to Chicago in 2018 I ran 70 straight days… with no ill effects in either case. My only knockout injuries have occurred randomly during down periods in training.

But, never minding the first digit in my age is now a 4, I recognize the balance between training enough (and hard enough) to generate fitness adaptions… and taking enough time away from training to allow those adaptions to manifest through recovery and supercompensation.

What I’m doing with the Indy training plan is something that for now I’ll call a Trickling 18 Week Plan. At some point I’ll diagram this all out in detail but in general I’ll describe it:

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Next Up: The 2021 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (11/6/21)

Now official: I plan to run the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 6, 2021.

I wanted to run a marathon before the end of the year, before training for Vancouver in 2022. This will be it, for a few reasons.

I also wanted to take the plunge on a personally unprecedented task: Training for a marathon through the brutal Vegas summer.

After a summer and a half (I did move back in mid-summer 2019), I learned from experience that during summer the only time of day you can do a serious run workout is early in the morning before temperatures top 90-95°F. You also can’t go particularly long once the sun is up, so longer runs beyond an hour ought to begin before the sunrise (which to be fair was true in Chicago summer weather as well).

But I also previously went on walks outside during work breaks on hot summer afternoons, lasting anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes. Recently these became shorter runs, and since I keep these easy they probably won’t be much more demanding than those previous 100-110°F walks. Either way, I know what being out in this heat feels like, and am confident I can still go on short 7-10 minute work break runs to add to my volume, keep my body active, and get extra form practice.

I had considered various marathons between September and December, but Indy landed in the right spot timing wise. November allows for peak training (e.g. 20 mile run days) to take place after the weather has cooled off a bit. It’s not so late that recovery could possibly impact Vancouver training, which should begin at the end of the year. Plus, with food holidays like Thanksgiving and Xmas shortly after Indy, the extra food can help with recovery.

Also, Indy’s race day weather should be rather mild by November, in the 50-60°F range which should make Indiana’s somewhat high humidity feel good rather than terrible.

Colleagues in Chicago have run Indy with mostly amicable feedback. It’s an accessible marathon with a reasonable topography. There is a hilly section around the middle of the race but the terrain is overwise mostly flat with mild undulations. Vegas’ slanted valley topography should make that course feel easy. It’s not exactly a “starter marathon” but it’s an easier marathon to do well in before you train for a tougher marathon.

I didn’t want my first marathon back to be Vancouver in May 2022, in case my comeback training cycle didn’t go well or I made any major training mistakes (There is also a chance that circumstances could prevent me from running Vancouver AGAIN). I could apply any lessons from this cycle to training for Vancouver. Having trouble with Indy wouldn’t exactly break my heart, though obviously I intend to do well.

What’s the training plan for this race?

Mission one is base building. This is not just about adding weekly mileage but template building.

I currently plan to follow a variation of the Higdon Novice 2 Plan, doing the weekday runs in the morning while doing my work break jogs afterward. The latter will add about 15-20 miles per week to the base training volume, and for now I don’t plan to do those break runs on the weekend.

In short, the Higdon Novice 2 plan has you run Tuesday-Thursday, then do your long run Saturday and an hour of cross training on Sunday. Monday and Friday are days off. The Wednesday run is longer than the Tues/Thu runs, though shorter than the long run, and every other week the Wednesday run is done at marathon pace instead of easy pace like all the others. Obviously, the extra work break runs would be done as easy as needed and would rarely go longer than a mile each. Higdon recommends strength training Tuesday and Thursday if you already strength train, and I certainly will.

The weather and needing time to prepare for work is the key reason to keep weekday runs easy while technically not training Monday and Friday (obviously I’ll still be doing work break jogs those days and logging some miles). The later Wednesday runs reach 8 miles and could be a challenge, though the plan for Wednesday and Saturday was already to get up before sunrise (I already typically rise around 5am) and log some time before the sun is up.

Higdon Novice Marathon is an easy plan to follow if indeed you’re a novice. Though I’m certainly more advanced, I wanted the freedom to add the extra work break runs to my training volume without overtraining.

The key here with the break runs is heat acclimation. Smaller 10 minute doses of running in extreme heat will acclimate me to heat without much distress, which will help with the longer morning runs down the road, and certainly will help with racing the marathon on race day regardless of the conditions.

So right now I’m following a shell schedule version of the plan, gradually adding morning run workouts matching the schedule of the actual training plan, though at a lesser volume. The goal before July is to get accustomed to the schedule so that when I start the actual plan it’s not a big jump or change.

(As always, this could change based on evolving needs and fitness development. But the plan is to build to this schedule going into July.)


So the plan is set, and now it’s time for the long ramp to Indy in November.

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The 80/20 Running marathon plan: What’s It Good For?

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Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running (2014)

Matt Fitzgerald’s written a lot of books, and a lot of them are good books. He’s one of this generation’s great minds when it comes to endurance training.

He is also one of the champions of 80/20 Endurance Training, the approach found by Dr. Stephen Seiler to be the most efficient mix of easy and hard training. In a nutshell, 80% of your training is done at easy intensity and 20% is done at harder intensity.

Fitzgerald’s aptly titled 2014 book 80/20 Running is an extended research guide on how he and everyone determined that 80/20 training was the optimal blend of easy and tough workouts.

And as you’d expect, the book includes a set of training plans broken out by difficulty for every major racing distance, from the 5K and 10K, to the Half Marathon and the full Marathon. So I’d like to take a look at the Marathon training plans.

As usual, I’m not writing this as a review of the book… though I will freely admit that I love the book and, however dated it might be, I highly recommend you read it if you’re a serious distance runner. Triathletes will get just as much from his more recent 80/20 Triathlon, which adapts the principles to training for the three-discipline endurance sport.

And I will offer this important caveat: Fitzgerald makes it clear that he believes you should take the listed workouts in his book combined with 80/20 principles and create your own training plans based on your needs. So to review this training plan is fundamentally undercut by the fact that they are merely written as templates or samples, something to follow if you just for some reason cannot or won’t make a training plan of your own.

However, given the plans do mirror many of Fitzgerald’s general principles regarding scheduling workout and training progression, I’ll go ahead and review the marathon training plan anyway.

Do note that the training plan, not to my knowledge available in the public domain, would either way require that you have the book 80/20 Running. The workouts are listed only by title, and the finer points are outlined elsewhere in the book. So, you need the book to follow the plan.

The Nuts and Bolts:

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Adjusting the Hanson Marathon Method for tune-up races

sunset men sunrise jogging

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like many coaches, I don’t think it’s a good idea to fundamentally alter training plans.

By this I mean:

  • Substantially extending or reducing the length of assigned training runs, especially the long run
  • Adding or subtracting multiple speed or tempo workouts to the schedule
  • Changing the order of assigned workouts and rest days
  • Adding races to a defined schedule, beyond any provided in the schedule… unless the plan specifically allows for adding tune-up races.

The Hanson Marathon Method is a plan that specifically asks you not to run any races during training. The schedule is fairly demanding and the Hansons’ writing on the plan specifically discourages any racing while training through one of their plans.

It’s one thing to realize before starting a training plan that you want to race during the training schedule. You can decide to pivot and follow a different plan that’s more permissive towards tune-up races.

But what if you dive into the Hanson plan and discover a few weeks in that you really want to run a race during training? Obviously it’s rarely ever a good idea to ditch a training plan for another in mid-stream. However, the Hanson plan basically forbids tune up races.

Presuming you really want to run another race during training and you don’t just want to jog it out… or the distance is shorter/longer than the planned long run for that week, and you want to remain committed to the Hanson plan, is there anything you can do to adjust the plan and stay on track?

Yes, there is. Here is what you need to do:

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Are you sure you want to run a marathon? Let’s talk about the Beginner and the Marathon.

female and male runners on a marathon

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

A lot of new and novice runners get hooked with the desire to run a marathon. While admirable, a marathon is not a 5K, 10K or half marathon, and unlike those races this is probably biting off a lot more than one really wants to chew.

As an experienced runner, I didn’t dare attempt a marathon until I had been running seriously for a few years, and had already completed many races ranging in distance from the 5K to the Half Marathon.

For me, the marathon was far and away a much bigger physical challenge than even the half marathon. This is no surprise to most experienced runners, and even knowing that going in… the shock to my system was substantial and new.

To detail why the marathon is so much harder, let me go into some of the basic science behind how the body generates energy for running, how it impacts marathon training, and why it may present a beginner too steep a challenge training for a marathon:

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