Tag Archives: quick thoughts

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.

Tagged , ,

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.

Tagged , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , ,

Gaining fitness (and weight)

This week, for the first time in months, I’ve run frequently with no ill effects and feeling completely normal. My body finally got enough rest to heal all the way up.

I decided this week to train for Vancouver 2022 with Hal Higdon’s Marathon 3 plan, though this week I’ve mixed in extra work break jogs on the off days to try and hit a couple of Garmin badges for November. Thus I’ve actually run every day since Tuesday, and other than feeling a bit weary this morning I feel good.

I have also, despite a relatively modest diet and despite a lot of this and cross training, gained some weight. I’m back over 180 pounds again. However, I’m also feeling quite a bit stronger in general, especially on runs, so the strength training appears to be paying off. After my near-daily lifting prior to this week, I’ve scaled back to 2-3 days of lifting each week with days off from lifting after each of those workouts. I also chased each of those lifting workouts with 20-45 minutes of cross training on either the elliptical or the spin bike. And that doesn’t include any of the walking I do on breaks at work if I’m not running.

My main objective right now is to restore comfort with run training volume, so once I’m seriously training three days a week that feels easier to handle. I think the last few months, injury or not, it felt like a struggle to stay above water with some of my workouts. They didn’t used to feel that way, and now it’s no longer feeling that way. Sure, some of that was probably the extreme Vegas heat and that’s definitely gone now.

I think the difference maker this time is my strength training. It was fine earlier this year, but not as specific and challenging as it needed to be for what I’m trying to do. Refining it from the standard 4 set blocks I had done on machines and dumbbells to the progressions and 12-8 four setters I do now has pushed my limits forward. If the hamstring and groin problems had a silver lining, it was compelling me to focus on these and get strength training more specifically in line with my goals.

The overhead squat I adopted from Dan John’s writing has been a clear difference maker. In the weeks I’ve been doing it I’ve gone from struggling with just a couple small plates on a 25 lb Smith bar, to now being able to capably handle reps at 40-50 lbs with a 2 rep max at 80 lbs. The overhead’s had a positive impact on the maxes for all my other key exercises. Having previously maxed at about 120 lbs on the leg press machine, I suddenly was able to progress to bodyweight, and now I’m maxing 3 reps at 220 lbs. My lat pulldown had maxed at about 80 lbs and now I’m pulling reps at 110 lbs.

Most of all, I feel a clear improvement in overall strength when running. While aerobically I’m still struggling with the higher altitude and hills I’m usually running with, I’m not feeling like I need to regularly slow down or stop anymore (though granted some of that had to do with my ongoing injury issues).

Even today, after back to back to back running days, I don’t feel sore at all and am totally ready to run more miles. I’m only taking a couple of brief work break runs today, and tomorrow the plan is to run about 10K.

So, though I got away from this point, maybe the extra weight is not a problem right now. I’m not going out of my way to overeat or undereat, that weird thing we all should know how to do called auto-regulating. It may be contributing to the strength I’ve found I gained, as muscles rebuild and glycogen stores top off. This is where my body needs to be at right now, and as I progress if the weight needs to come down, it’ll come down. While I’ll continue tracking it daily, I’m not going to worry about my weight right now… especially with the food-rich holiday season approaching. I’m training through it anyway! So I’ll have a use for all the extra food.

More to come as training progresses through the coming weeks.

Tagged

Base Training (For Van 2022) Begins Today

Training for Vancouver 2022 actually has to begin this week, not because I need to do tempo runs and long runs (the serious marathon-specific work will begin at the start of the new year), but because I need to build the fitness to handle THAT program.

And right now, I’m not anywhere close. While training for the aborted Indy trip got me in a good degree of endurance shape, I obviously wasn’t close to marathon fit at the end (which is why I called it off), and because I obviously took it easy for a couple weeks to allow my body to heal up, I’ve now lost some of the run-specific fitness I had and need to rebuild.

During the interim between calling off Indy and now, I have done the following:

One: I aggressively strength trained, quite a bit more often than I usually had.

Typically I’d strength train 2-3 times per week, if that during serious run training. But since mid-October I’ve trained almost every day, only 4 days off from strength training since 10/17.

I’ve experimented with a couple of different 5 day splits of all the exercises I need to do, including some new ones. I’ve actually made substantial strength and appearance progress since stepping up with this strength training.

Obviously, once I start running again this will probably scale way back. But I’ve used the time to build some strength, especially with lower body exercises.

Two: I got back on the spin bike and rode it regularly.

I quit using the spin bike for a while on the premise it was hindering my training.

Once I was no longer training for a race, it was no longer hindering my training. Plus I wanted to use it as it was less demanding than the elliptical, I didn’t need to go aerobically hard at this stage, and honestly I like riding the spin bike.

In fact, after deciding not to continue with Indy, that same day I got on the spin bike and logged over a couple of easy hours. That was despite pain in my right leg after a 10K run (part of the reason I called it off).

Since then I’ve ridden the spin bike several times each week for about 45-60 minutes each. I had used the elliptical a few more times following mid-October, but I’ve mostly phased out the elliptical for now.

Three: I’ve done more plyo drills and training.

I took a few pages from other track sports and adopted some of their training methods to help better round my fitness.

While throwing the discus is a hairy proposition, many of its technique and training principles are useful for not just posture but building full body strength. I’ve been working on the throwing technique (with and without a discus or other weighted object) because of the postural strength and coordinated body control it demands.

Also, Strength coach Dan John (a former thrower) swears by the results from the overhead squat in his Contrarian Guide To The Discus, and says it’s a lift that does not allow you to have weak links. So I decided to start practicing the overhead squat on the Smith rack at the gym.

Though it’s been (as advertised) a struggle, I’m now getting the hang of the overhead squat, am up to four sets of 3 reps each at 25 and 50 pounds, and can finish them all with proper form without immediately feeling sore in my legs. Those first couple of workouts with the overhead squat felt pretty brutal on my quads.

Once I begin Vancouver training I need to be careful about not doing the overheads the day before key run workouts, but I will want to keep doing the overhead squat regularly.

The actual discus technique? We’ll see. I’ve found it interesting enough that I don’t want to discard it. But throwing the discus isn’t easy, and I have to be careful when throwing it about putting anyone in danger. The discus throw technique itself without the disc is a workout on its own. But it’s also a tangential workout that takes some degree of energy to complete. I could just focus on running and regular strength training (… with the overhead squats, of course).

Four: I ran a race for the first time in a long while.

I previously went over this, but running a 5K on Halloween weekend allowed me to focus on running through a sustained strong effort, and it went well. I have another 5K on Thanksgiving and a 10K in mid-December. These will also be glorified tempo runs rather than all-to-the-wall race efforts.

Five: I otherwise took it easy on running to allow my hamstrings to heal.

I did some work break running in preparation for the 5K, but in the two weeks between my last Indy workout and the 5K I maybe ran 7 miles. After the 5K, I was very careful about any running for the following week while letting my hamstrings heal.

The left one feels fine and the right one still very slightly aches, though they do feel markedly better. I probably can begin running regularly again this week. The spin bike workouts and all my usual walking have helped keep them engaged in the interim.


Starting this week, I’m going to practice the Easy Interval Method I haven’t really been able to implement since discovering it this summer.

Basically, you run nothing but 200/400/1000 meter intervals with equidistant rest intervals, though none of the repeats are any harder than maybe 5K/10K pace. The 400’s are run more like half marathon pace and the 1000’s are run around marathon pace.

Plus, after each repeat, you come to a full walking stop before jogging out your rest interval. Easy intervals are much lower key and sustainable than your typical interval workouts, and according to Klaas Lok the approach works. Runners are much more easily able to stick with it.

At most I’d do about 5-6 days a week of these, and for now I’ll touch and go the workouts. I’ll pencil one in for each non-rest-day (I’m still scheduling regular rest days), and if I’m just too tired on a given day I’ll probably skip or reduce that workout.

The goal through mid-December, aside from building fitness for the next 5K and 10K, is to determine how many days of training I can comfortably handle, before settling into a training pattern for December and subsequent Vancouver training.

This pre-marathon training plan also includes a 10K test every two weeks. This can be a race, but given where I’m at right now I’d rather just run these on my own as time trials.

Along with all this, I’ll still be strength training, still walking during work breaks, and still riding the spin bike while reading for circulation on scheduled rest days. I’ll still be doing plyo (and perhaps discus) training around training days, and how aggressive these are will depend on how many easy interval workouts I have per week. Strength training will typically happen before rest days.

I built in a sizable tyraining gap around the December 10K, where I can not only re-double strength training efforts for a bit but also assess how much I can do once I begin training for Vancouver around New Year’s.


So today and beyond I’ll begin running easy intervals, and look forward to seeing what develops from there.

Tagged , ,

Am I Still A Marathoner?

Since withdrawing from Indy I have to consider the reality that I have not run a marathon in about 2.5 years, and that my most recent effort to prepare for one has (for whatever reasons incidental or as a direct result) failed.

I can’t help but ask, when it comes to the marathon, do I even still know what I’m talking about? Have I ever?

I try to be circumspect, to realize that Corona had a substantial role in the time away (there were no marathons for about a year, and many of the ones happening since have been limited), and that this recent effort was not only an unduly difficult task in the Vegas heat, but also one I mitigated and eventually ended out of a persistent abundance of caution. Every time I ran into pain problems beyond mere soreness, it was not that I couldn’t run. I just decided it was best not to.

However, people come to this site in part for advice on preparing for races like the marathon. What does it say when I myself have not and, for whatever reasons appear that I cannot?

Even if I retain confidence in myself, context aside, I have to be realistic about how all this looks. I know for sure my principles are by and large sound. I know I can train for and run marathons to a higher ability. I know this even though I went to train this summer and it all fell flat after never really getting going.

All that said, and I’ve alluded to this in past posts, I’m not sure if and when I’ll run the next marathon. I cannot imagine I won’t ever run one again. As I’ve also mentioned, there’s at least three I want to run once (or once more) before all is said and done.

I also understand the amount of work it takes to train for one, and how any other training ambitions or goals have to take a back seat when you do. It’s very hard to compromise marathon training to allow for other things, and still be at all ready to run one. If anything would keep me away, it’s knowing what I’d need to do to be ready for one, and not being sure if I’m willing to go that deep.

I’ve thought about generally training to run long, for example maintaining year-round the fitness to run 16 miles and also race a 10K or so as desired. And then if I do decide to run a marathon, I’m not terribly far off from being ready for it. That going forward is probably better for me than planning to run a marathon and then having to build up to it over months, as people tend to do.

I’ll admit I have penciled in Vancouver for May 2022. But that said, I mentioned I have other sports and races I want to work on, and will mainly focus on those for now. If they don’t pan out, then great I can pivot and focus on Vancouver. If they do, I can make a judgment call from there. I may be able to do both, even if I’m focusing on other sports, if at least generally conditioned to run long. Or I could just say forget it for now, to one or the other.

I don’t think any of the prior writing I’ve done on marathons is wrong. Those training methods aren’t wrong or bad or not effective. I also retain full faith I can train effectively for marathons. I just want to do some other stuff for a while, and it’ll for now take a back seat.

Tagged , ,

So, about those overhead squats

As advertised, the overhead squat is pretty tough.

At the gym, I started swolework with the overhead on the Smith rack, and started with a set of 3 reps at just the 25 lb bar. I progressed up to 45 lbs and after 3 tough reps realized that was about as high as I could expect to go yesterday. I unracked and moved on.

Dan John, like many strength coaches, sets a benchmark that you should be able to do the exercise with your bodyweight in pounds. I am clearly a far cry from my bodyweight, though granted I don’t bench or deadlift by bodyweight either (I did leg press it earlier this week though!). I’m strength training more seriously now, and we’ll see how much time it takes for me to progress and get within range of all that.

Since I follow a 5 day sequence of strength workouts (with days off interspersed every few days), one idea is to do the whole sequence, then for a 6th workout do the benchmark lifts as a test: Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat, and each time through the sequence see where I’m at. I would end up doing the test roughly every 8-10 days.

More to come. I’ll take it slow for now, and weave the overhead squats in with the workouts.

Tagged , ,