Hi Everyone! I’m back. Sorry for being a little MIA on my blog and yours over the past few days. Professional and social responsibilities outside my control (think swine flu and balcony BBQs) have stolen all my blogging time recently. To be honest, I have been cheating on my recovery too and running a lot more miles than I’m supposed to (can you say 50 miles last week just on a whim!) So yeah, there’s definitely not enough hours in the day for deep running thoughts when that happens. Thanks anyway for all the comments/questions on the previous posts. I will answer all of your questions and catch up with blogs when I’m done with my real-life emergencies…Now back to the topic at hand.
In the last post, I discussed the value of tempo runs and interval workouts for marathon training. In this post, I’d like to discuss how I incorporate each of these speedwork components into my own training plan.
Although I like to credit myself for being a brilliant coach in devising the perfect marathon plan for me, the bulk of the work was really done by Pete Pfitzinger since most of what I’ve learned about marathon training is derived from his work. In general, I divide a sixteen week marathon training program into four four-week cycles. Although the framework of each cycle is constructed on the same four individual elements – speedwork, long runs, general aerobic runs, and recovery runs, I try to accentuate different aspects of training in the different cycles. For example, in the base building phase, I try to improve my endurance, which means longer general aerobic and long runs with shorter and less intense speedwork sessions. In the strength building phase, I will replace interval workouts with short hill repeats. At the same time, I keep my long runs at 16-18 miles and run my general aerobic runs over hilly terrain. In the race preparation phase, I run long hard tempo runs (12,14,16 miles) and longer but easier long runs (22, 24 miles). Here, the general aerobic runs are kept easy and slow, almost at a recovery effort to allow sufficient rest between all the tough, hard workouts. I like to schedule races to simulate marathon effort during this phase of training as well. Finally, the last cycle is spent mostly tapering, with one final long tempo run at marathon pace or close to it, and the longest long run of the training cycle in back-to-back weeks before the final drop in mileage leading to the goal marathon.
To specifically address the issue of speedwork during training, I usually schedule one workout a week devoted entirely to speed. Within each four week cycle then, the breakdown is 2 tempo runs, 1 interval run/hill repeats, and 1 race week (where the speed session is replaced by a road race). The distance of my tempo runs have ranged from 4 miles to 14 miles dependent on the cycle and how far along I am in my training. Although I schedule goal paces for each tempo run, I try to go through each tempo run to keep a fast but relaxed effort for as long as possible. I have found that this technique works better for the later tempo runs than for the earlier ones because I tend to freak out and start too fast in the first few sessions. It is only with training and experience that I come to be more confident in knowing that I can maintain a certain tempo pace for a longer distance that allows me to be calm and relaxed when I start. It is intriguing though how the cycle repeats itself no matter how many times I’ve gone through the peaks and valleys of training.
As for running intervals, which I on average will do once or twice per four week cycle, I usually try to do 800m or 1600m repeats at a fast and aggressive pace. Although I start out only being able to do 2 1600s or 4 800s, by the last cycle, I’m usually able to carry though 4 1600s and 8-10 800s. I like running 1600s because it approximates a mile effort and allows me to practice how I should run the last mile of a marathon. As I’m running, I imagine myself gliding effortlessly through the track like a well-oiled machine, matching my breathing to my turnover and stride. I have to concentrate hard to not race all out in these workouts while at the same time moving fast enough and avoiding the pitfalls of bad form like overstriding or leading too far forward or too far back as I run. It’s a sucky workout for sure, but I always find myself running with better form the next day.
So that’s my rundown of how I incorporate speed into my marathon training. If you want a more detailed description of how to optimize your training plan, check out this Pfitzinger post, or alternatively, if you are in the market for something a little less conventional, check out this article from the Running Times.
As for me, I’ve got some last minute training to be done for a half-marathon this weekend. It’ll be my last race for least a few weeks so I’m hoping to turn in a good performance. If I have time, I’ll try to fit in one more Q&A before I close this chapter. If not, the next time you hear from me will be a race report. Either way, you’ll hear from me again before too long.