Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On the Training Train: the Plan

My training plan for the Akron Marathon is complete. I won't bore you with the minutiae of day-to-day numbers, mostly because I don't know how to post a table to show you my schedule. Instead, I'll take the next couple days to bore you with my training philosophy.

Ghost of Races' Past
My goal, as I will state over and over again until you get it through your thick, little skulls, is to finish in fewer than four hours. My best is 4:22 and the best I've done at Akron is 4:26 in 2007, my first ever marathon.

Akron is tough. It's hilly. The crowd support is great throughout most of the race, which can make the lonely areas stand out in stark contrast. But I know the course.

Specifically, I know the part of the course where I fall apart. Right before the halfway mark is a steep downhill on Howard Street that leads into the Cuyahoga River Valley, onto the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, and through Sand Run Park. If I were to use keyboard symbols to draw this section, it would look like this: \_~-^.

The tendency is to accelerate down the hill and then forget to pull back your pace once the course flattens, which tires you out as you start the slow climb out of the valley. These six to seven miles, where spectators are sparsest, test your mettle.

Case in point: Last year, I hit the half at 1:54:27 (8:44 per mile, on pace for a 3:48 finish), logged my first 10-minute mile at Mile 15, and started to slow down progressively through Sand Run until cramps attacked my legs on Revere Road. My pace dropped to 11, 12 and 13-minute miles. I finished at 4:30 with a 10:20 pace. This year, I will not make the same mistakes.

Out with the Old, In with the New
I create my own training schedule, based on other popular plans, books and articles I've read, and my own experiences. This year, I approach my training with three marathons under my belt and lessons aplenty.

Looking back to my previous training plans, a few potential shortfalls stand out.

First, I will blame FIRST, which some might call heresy. The lure of the three days of running per week is overwhelming, but the problem is that you'll be undertrained if you don't do the recommended cross training. Yes, it may be shocking to learn that if you don't follow the plan, it won't work. I don't do the cross training, and it shows. I based my new schedule on the Hal Higdon plans. This year, I will run four or five days a week, and I won't worry about the cross training I don't do.

Second, my highest weekly mileage last year was 34 miles, with two 20-milers, not counting the Summer Solstice Challenge, which I ran a full month before I was in condition to do so. This year, my weekly mileage will peak at 43 miles, with two 20-milers, plus the 30-mile edition of the Summer Un-Solstice Challenge, which will fall between the two 20-milers.

These two principles, I hope, will build the strength my legs need to deal with Akron's hills. I will not do any specific hill training because all my runs except for those on the track are chock full of hills, as I train in Akron and on parts of the marathon course itself.

In addition to the changes in mileage, I have also revised my speed work. Last year, I adhered to Yasso 800s only. While the consistent track sessions helped me, the lack of variety in my workouts has been detrimental. This year, I will alternate weeks between 800-meter intervals (working up to Bart Yasso's recommended 10 repeats) and 400-meter intervals (working up to 12 repeats as according to this Running Times article, which I alluded to here before it was online).

I believe the 400s will be important in my quest to break 50 minutes in the 10-K, while improving VO2 max -- whatever that is.

Tune in tomorrow for more of the same because I just cut half of this post and pasted it into a new blog window so as to save you from excessive eye strain. See how nice I am?


Ian said...

Actually, I'm leaning away from the FIRST plan too, because like you I don't do the cross training. My wife however has proved that it works very well if you put in the x-training. It just makes her all the more annoying.

Sun Runner said...

I like Hal Higdon very much. His Intermediate II marathon plan worked very, very well for me, as you might have guessed.

Can't wait for tomorrow's installment (I'm not kidding).

X-Country2 said...

Sounds like you have a pretty good plan. Good luck!

Jess said...

I really like the plan you've got laid out. I agree that FIRST just wouldn't work for me because I'm not the best at cross training.

Lauren said...

I love the keyboard symbols to illustrate elevation changes. I might have to try those out sometime. Please continue tomorrow as I'm in the process of developing my marathon training plan and could use all the input I can get.

Vava said...

I'm not ready for the FIRST plan, though I have been pretty decent at swimming a couple of times per week as cross training. I just don't think my body will take all the hard interval and tempo miles. Instead I am also devising my own hybrid plan on the road to popping my marathon cherry. Good luck with your trainind - I think you'll rock that race!

Mike said...

I've use a modified Higdon plan for both of my marathons, but I strongly feel the Intermediate II plan was far superior because you do half the distance of your long run the day prior.

In other words, if you have a 20-miler on Sunday, you run 10 on Saturday. Rest or an easy day before your long runs makes your long runs easier, but I think it makes your marathon harder.

tfh said...

I'm betting that higher mileage peak is going to make a big difference. Also, I tried but never managed in my marathon training to make it up to 10 yasso 800s. Just too excruciating.

Spike said...

would you mind doing the entire course in keyboard symbols, and does each keyboard symbol equal a mile…I need to know. I’ve used Hal’s in the past and felt the plan really had me prepared for the marathon, I’ve never felt my legs weren’t prepared for those last six miles, but I also got spanked by cramps (and nobody really knows why that happens, so maybe it was that I just wasn’t as prepared as I thought).

Reluctant Runner said...

Viper, I'll be very interested to follow your quest for a sub 4 hr marathon. Someday I hope to do the same thing (I ran my one and only marathon in 4:36). Right now I'm working on a 1-day a week training plan and shockingly, it's not helping my speed.

Best of luck to you!