Tag Archives: Training

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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Back On (The) Track

I’m sore this morning, but not from stuff I spent the previous week recovering from.

Saturday I went track hunting, as Vegas doesn’t have particularly many open tracks to run on. High schools here keep their facilities locked and key. The most popular Vegas track from before, UNLV’s track, is closed until spring not just for maintenance and repairs but because, with the football team having new facilities, they don’t need to use it before next spring.

However, one other public track in the area is in Northtown at the Pearson Center, and when I went to visit Saturday morning the track was open and free to use, with a couple people running interval workouts. The track isn’t particularly old and the surface quality is decent. I walked on and after a brief track warmup worked for about 45 minutes on various jumping and running drills before leaving.

Obviously, my right hamstring feels better, as neither ham gave any sign of distress during any of the running, bounding and jumps I did.

I didn’t go super hard, as I had no water with me and the sun was out. Despite several rest periods I still burned more calories than I do on a typical 45 minute elliptical session, despite not running more than about half a mile and only being out there less than an hour.

After a week of no running, I’ll resume running and probably tinker with work break runs as desired. I want to focus more on the plyo and jump drills, but I probably need to do these every few days to allow recovery. Plus, I’m booked to run a 5K next weekend, so I’ll want to be somewhat fresh for that.

In the meantime, I should now have the space and energy to work on the easy intervals I haven’t really been able to consistently do. I have still been working the elliptical and spin bike at the gym (yes, I’ve gradually gotten back to the spin bike with good results), and as previously mentioned have been able to strength train almost every day with good results.

Even though I didn’t run much on the track yesterday I’d definitely like running intervals there. It’s a bit out of the way between home and work, so I don’t think I could go there every day there unless I wanted to shake up my routine so I could drive out there at 6-7am every morning… which I’m not in a hurry to do, and if just doing running and drills there’s a number of other places I can do that.

Still going to lay low with training through next week with that 5K next Saturday, but I’m looking to get back to normal running again.

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Checking In 10/22/2021

This week I’ve strength trained almost every day, spreading the exercises I’d have split over two workouts across five, along with leg and ab exercises I’d have previously done occasionally or weekly.

Some of these exercises are modified Rapid Fire Sets. I start at the lightest weight possible, do 8 reps and then after a 15-30 second rest move the weight up one step until it’s too tough to finish a set (aka to failure). Then I do 12 reps at half the failure weight, and move on.

Some of these exercises are standard 4 set blocks, the first and last set 12 reps at a light weight, and the 2nd and 3rd sets at twice that weight.

If the exercise is done on a machine where the weight can be quickly adjusted, I do Rapid Fire Sets. If I have to do the exercise any other way, I do a standard 4 set block.

I plan on three exercises. If I finish them all before 20 minutes are up, I pivot to light weight sets of 12 reps of seated cable rows, an exercise I do need to focus on. I do up to 4 sets, until I reach 20 minutes. (If for some reason every single cable row machine in the gym is being used, I have other needed exercises for which I can do easy sets instead. But I have yet to encounter this since starting this plan.)

I threw together a 5 day plan before I started, but (while I’m still finishing that 5 day plan) I have since adjusted the 5 day plan to better spread out the exercises, and will follow that plan once I cycle back to day 1.

It’s not such a big deal that the current v1 plan is not as organized, as the primary goal was to start this almost-daily training and see how my body responded. In fact, it’s better to have multiple muscle-group exercises clumped together in one workout or on back to back days and see what my body tolerates. Then, once I start v2 and those exercises are more spread out, I know my body can bounce back from that, or can push harder on key days since there’s more recovery time and less to do per day.

The smart strength trainers can agree that the details of the plan you follow is not as important as you actually following a plan that allows you to consistently train. That said, I have certain development goals in mind, and these exercises all fit what I can do and things I need to work on.

As I iron out the plan, I’ll eventually show the layout and why I do what when I do it. But so far, so good.

In addition to this, I’ve been riding the elliptical for 30-45 minutes after workouts, maintaining aerobic fitness while my leg issues heal up. While my right hamstring has a bit of lingering soreness, overall I feel strong in my lower body. I’m giving myself all week to not worry about running, though I may take a work break run today and ride the spin bike tonight to see how it feels today and tomorrow.

I have a couple of casual 5K races coming up this next month, which will help me see where I’m at. At least after all the issues this year I am sure I’ll finish these, and can maybe even race one or two of them.

More to come.

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Checking In 10/15/2021

Yesterday I took a spur of moment work break run in the afternoon that felt okay. Then at the gym I did a full Phillips warmup, before a brief session on the elliptical and then some strength training to finish.

I wasn’t tired like Wednesday, but I did have a shorter session at the gym than usual. I ate a decent meal and, while it took some time to get to sleep, I did sleep reasonably well and feel alright today.

The gym to some extent has been a training lifesaver. Even with no treadmill much of the time, the elliptical and other cross training has provided a ton of aerobic volume.

At some point I’ll debrief on how training this summer went. Safe to say, it’s by and large been a disappointment. Never minding injury issues, I’ve been very limited in what marathon-specific training I can do, and even if I hadn’t been hurt or otherwise set back I’m not sure I could have done much more than run long.

I’ve noticed accounts from many other Vegas runners training for marathons that they’ve had a very hard time doing much more than that, even when getting up early to beat the sunrise on weekends. A lot of us were struggling with marathon training in the heat this year, and if anyone’s going to go forward with it next summer we’d all need a new edict.

Honestly, though, the final answer may just be that training through the summer for a fall marathon isn’t practical in Vegas. It’s fairly hard in most places because even without extreme heat there’s a lot of humidity. But the extreme heat here made it prohibitively difficult too often.

Even if all else was ideal I’d have still had to leave town for several of my long runs. I probably couldn’t do that every summer and I know most in Vegas simply can’t.

The flip side is that the relatively mild Vegas winter is almost perfect for training through winter for a spring marathon, whereas in other places snow and ice make it rather difficult. If I want to do Vancouver next spring, training for that would be a lot easier, and a more complete set of workouts.

I’ll have a much better idea of how I feel about the latter by the end of this year. Meanwhile, I’m in the final stage before Indy, and I still have work to do on a long run this weekend. We’ll see if I do it Saturday or Sunday (the pull of relaxing on my birthday Saturday is rather strong, but I also don’t want to put the long run at risk by pushing it back).

I have a game plan for this long run, and will probably do it close to home, plus I realize it might be a better fit to do it Sunday even though it’s a bit risky to put it off. If it all works out, though, I’ll like where I’m at with Indy a lot better than I do right now.

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The Bill Phillips Body For Life Inspired 10 Minute Warmup

A bit over 20 years ago, I bought the famous Bill Phillips book Body For Life. I won’t go too much into the premise of the book, its historical context at the time or its many flaws (including in-book product promotion). At the time, I found the template for fitness and diet interesting, so I bought it and followed the plan.

The book’s training method had you aggressively strength-train several days a week and follow some simple diet principles. For “cardio”, it had you do 20 minutes of effort-based high intensity intervals, which you can do in any aerobic-based way you desired, three days per week. I always used the treadmill. Back then I wasn’t the focused runner I am now, nor was I active beyond walking or cycling to commute, but I had enough fitness to run hard for some distance.

In short, the Cardio:

  • You start at a 5 out of 10 effort, whatever you feel that means
  • After two minutes you increase to 6 out of 10.
  • Each minute thereafter you again increase effort by 1, until you do a minute at 9 out of 10.
  • Then you scale back to 6 out of 10 for a minute, once again ramping each minute until at 9 out of 10, then falling back to 6 and repeating the process.
  • Once you get to 9 out of 10 for the 4th time, instead of dropping back to 6 you increase to 10 out of 10 and hold that for a full minute.
  • Then drop back to 5 and cool off for the final couple of minutes at 5 out of 10 to end the workout.

This workout always kicked me around, but I was always able to get it done. It was the only running I did, and you did it every 2-3 days so I had plenty of time to recover before the next one. I followed the Body For Life plan for a little while and then left it behind, probably in part because I lost gym access around that time.

In any case, this interval sequence resided in the back of my mind pretty much all this time. I still have the book but haven’t cracked it in a long while. The strength workouts I’ve forgotten as they’ve long since been replaced by far superior approaches.

But during recovery from my injury problems, as I started using the treadmill again, this approach came to mind as a warmup. It’s very similar to the 10 minute progressive treadmill warmup Lifetime Fitness taught me during my VO2max testing a while back. In that warmup, you jog for 2 minutes, and speed up by 0.4mph each 2 minutes before ending at a speed that is somewhat fast for you.

I realized that’s quite similar to how I did the Body For Life intervals. For 5/10 I would start at a 3.0mph walk. Then my 6 would be a fast 4.0mph walk. My 7 would be a 5.0mph slow jog. My 8 would be a 6.0mph steady run. My 9 would be a 7.0mph hard run. And the 10 out of 10 would be a nearly all-out (… well, at the time) 8.0mph run.

While the top intervals were harder than anything in the Lifetime warmup, the bottom intervals were of course much easier on me and allowed me to recover. The Lifetime warmup was harder to do because it required 10 straight minutes of progressively harder running (though, at least it was done after the fastest interval).

I realized doing an adjusted 10 minute version of the old Phillips workout as a warmup would be an easier and possibly more effective warmup, since I’d hit a faster top speed with a shorter duration, then have a walking period to cool off before re-trying.

I tried it recently and it not only felt better as expected, but I found it did a much better job getting my body ready to run at a higher intensity. So now that’s what I do as a warmup before any key indoor workouts (and you’ll notice I adjusted from the above paces a bit).

  1. I start at a 3.0mph walk for 1 minute.
  2. Increase to a 4.0mph power walk for 1 minute.
  3. Increase to a 5.0mph very easy jog for 1 minute. If too easy (e.g. I’m running into the front of the treadmill), I increase to 5.3mph, a more typical jog/recovery pace for me.
  4. Increase to 6.0mph steady run for 1 minute. If feeling comfortable after a few seconds I’ll often increase to 6.2mph.
  5. Increase to a brisk, somewhat demanding 7.0mph for 1 minute. If feeling comfortable after a few seconds I’ll often increase to 7.3mph.
  6. Drop back down to 3.0mph for 1 minute, and repeat the sequence.
  7. After the 10th minute, shut it down and go dynamic-stretch before the workout.

Since many of my treadmill sessions cruised around 5.5-6.5 mph, this whole sequence made that range feel very sustainable over a long period of time, suitably warming me up for a workout like that.

I not only do this warmup before treadmill runs but also do it before other cross training sessions, to ensure I’m at and can reach a suitable heart rate training range for a maximum training stimulus and benefit.

If I run near my gym, I could also do this warmup in the gym, then go outside and run. Sure, it can be awkward walking out of the gym 15 minutes after arriving, then back in the gym 45-75 minutes later.

I could also, with some discipline and adjustment, do the warmup outdoors by feel. That makes some sense after all, since the workout was originally intended to be done by effort rather than set parameters. I had an outdoor run yesterday that didn’t go great and had to be cut short. While not certain, perhaps it could have gone better had I thought to do an outdoor warmup like this.

You could follow the above sequence, with your own pace and parameters. Whatever a 5 out of 10 feels like or a 9 out of 10 feels like is up to you to determine (notice I don’t ever go to 10 out of 10, by the way; I stop at 9).

You could walk for 4 minutes and run just for 1. You could start at an easy run and just have it be all running. You could do it all on a spin bike or a rowing machine or elliptical. It’s up to you.

But I found this to be a great 10 minute aerobic warmup sequence, and it might work for you as well.

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An Elite Runner’s Job Isn’t Just Their Running

Sometimes people discuss the number of hours per week an elite sponsored runner trains, which is often in the 10-15 hours per week range. Inevitably someone brings up the argument that the sponsored elite runner’s job must be a nice job, only having to work 10-15 hours per week.

Let’s never mind the clearly exhausting effort that 10-15 hours can require, and how it’s obviously not the same as someone sitting at a desk 10-15 hours a week let alone 40.

Let’s also never mind any promotional or media work the athlete has to do as part of their written commitment, or any required travel.

Don’t forget that part of your training includes your diet, your recovery, and how you manage the rest of your life. If any of this falls short, it adversely affects the quality and results from your training.

So in effect, an elite sponsored athlete, facing high expectations with their race results, also is working when they are recovering. That is effectively part of their job: Eating right to fuel recovery as well as future workouts, getting the needed rest to recover from the last workout and prepare for the next, etc. All of these tasks are in effect part of their responsibility to their running because they are necessary to get the needed results when they do run.

So no, an elite runner’s job isn’t just the 10-15 hours a week they run. It’s also the hours of meal prep and consumption, the hours where a point is made to stay off their feet and rest even if they want to go out and do something, eating food they’d rather not eat because it’s healthy and essential to their recovery, etc.

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