Training week in review: 1 of 18

This week’s training theme:

Hard days hard, easy days easy

I’ve been reading various articles about the training patterns of some of the world’s best marathoners (Ethopians, Kenyans and Japanese). And one of the common threads that emerges is: run hard days hard, run easy days easy. I’ve taken that to heart, especially the part about running easy days easy. Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays are my recovery days, and I am making an effort (as it were) to run them very easy — low-to-mid 60%’s heart rate. It feels like I’m crawling, but I’m getting used to it. So that’s this week’s training theme.

On Thursday morning I did what I do every winter on the first extremely cold day of the year: I fell on my ass in our driveway. We had a windchill of 8 degrees. I was all bundled up and ready to go at 7:30 in the morning. I started down the driveway and instantly I felt my feet go out from under me and had the same mid-air thought I do every year when it happens, “I always forget about the black ice!”

Fortunately, I had two thick layers on and heavy gloves to help break my fall. I have colorful bruises on my right hand and elbow as a reminder. Otherwise, no injuries other than the ones to my ego. It’s too bad those bruises don’t last a year, because I know I’ll do the same thing next year.

So week 1 of my marathon training has concluded. And a successful week it was. I’m glad I spent the past couple of months building in certain kinds of runs around a weekly schedule that resembled what I’d be doing in training, as week 1 has felt like a natural extension of what I’ve been doing already, albeit slightly harder.

I am following Pete Pfitzinger’s 18 week, “70 miles and above” program from his book (with Scott Douglas), Advanced Marathoning. I plan to follow the schedule as laid out, although I’ve made a few modifications:

  1. Hills. Nowhere do “Pfitz” and Douglas schedule hill runs, although they concede that they are important. So I’ve made some of the longer easy runs (or shorter long runs) into hill runs. I’ll do these no more frequently than two or three times a month. I’ll also be doing a fair number of my long and marathon pace runs in Central Park, where I’ll be running up and down hills. Yonkers has some fantastic, lung-busting hills, including the one I live on.

  2. Long runs. The training schedules aren’t specific when it comes to long runs. There are different kinds of long runs (steady distance vs. progressive vs. “fast finish”). I’ll be running most of them as progressive runs, meaning I start out at a very easy pace and work my way up to marathon pace for the last miles.

    Here’s the biggest potential flaw I see in the book’s training schedule: The authors only have two dedicated marathon pace runs in the plan, and they’re quite long at 12 and 15 miles. The first one isn’t until halfway through the training program; the second one is a full month later. It’s a big leap to go from no marathon pace running to a 12 mile run at that speed. In my humble opinion, this is a recipe for failure, as well as a potential blow to confidence. What happens when you get to week 9 and realize you can’t hack running the pace you’ve been supposedly training for over less than half the marathon distance?

    So I’ll tack progressively more and more marathon pace miles onto my Sunday long runs (ending up at a long run with 9 miles at marathon pace), so I can work up to that first session dedicated to holding race pace over 12 miles knowing I have a fair shot at completing it comfortably. (I’m sure there was a much better way to write those last few sentences. But I’m totally exhausted!) More on long runs from Kevin Beck in Running Times and Greg Mcmillan.

  3. Races as tempo runs. I’ll be substituting half marathon races for a few of the longer (12 mile) tempo runs. I’m doing this not only because I enjoy racing, but also so I can gauge my fitness under real-world racing conditions throughout my training. The half marathon pace is also just about perfect for a tempo run.

A look back at the week:

  • Monday: 5.1 miles, recovery pace
  • Tuesday: 8.1 miles, easy pace with 10 x 100 meter “strideouts”
  • Wednesday, 12 miles, long run (steady) pace
  • Thursday, 6 miles, recovery pace (+ very fast trip down the driveway)
  • Friday, 10.5 mile hill run
  • Saturday, 6.2 miles, recovery pace
  • Sunday, 17.1 miles, progressive long run with last 3 miles at marathon pace

Total mileage: 65.0 miles

Paces this week:

  • Easy: 8:20 – 8:40
  • Long: 7:50 – 8:40
  • Hills: 9:00
  • Recovery: 9:45 – 10:00

This week’s quote:

Hills are speedwork in disguise.

— Frank Shorter

Coming up in training week two: More of the same!