This week was week 1 of my 18 week marathon training plan. Although the race is actually 20 weeks away, two weeks are eaten up by a 8 night trip to Belize (boo hoo huh?) and the taper/race week of the Long Beach Half (October 7), so I started early. Although it might seem a little crazy to be training for a February 3 race, I’m pretty set on massively improving my marathon time (i.e. possibly qualifying for Boston) and I know I need some time to do that.
After asking around the Twittersphere and here on my blog for advice on which plan to use to get me my coveted BQ, the same coach’s name kept coming up. Pete Ptfitzinger (I still have to google his name every time to make sure I spelled it right), a former Olympic marathoner co-authored a book called Advanced Marathoning which not only has several training plans to choose from, but also explains the methodology behind the training. After purchasing the book several weeks ago, I read it and settled on the 18 week, 55 miles per week peak plan (referred to as the 18/55 plan).
This Time It’s Different
The first time I trained for a marathon, I joined a running group called The Vavi Running Club. The membership included two group workouts per week (Tuesday speed work and Saturday long run) as well as a training plan. There were two plans to chose from – beginner/intermediate or advanced. Since it was my first marathon, I went for the former plan. Although Tuesdays oftentimes incorporated tempo or speed work, it wasn’t very consistent and I opted to run slower and talk to my friends many of the times. My long runs were basic and started with low mileage and worked up to one 21 mile long run. I saw some dramatic improvements in my running abilities while training for this race (I was also doing P90X for the first 90 days of my marathon training program), but this was mostly because I was just a beginner and had a bit of room to grow.
The second time I trained for a marathon, I was also training for my first Half Ironman. However, I still had time goals and I wanted to break 3:50. My main tactic for getting there was Yasso 800s. I worked my way up from 4 800 intervals at my desired marathon goal time (3:50 goal marathon meant 3 minute 50 second 800 intervals) all the way to 10 of them. In total I ran about 3-4 times a week since I was also training for the Ironman, one of these runs being a very short brick following my long ride. I was successful in my pursuit of a 3:50 marathon and then I moved on to bigger goals – the half and full Ironman!
This time, I’m just training for a marathon. I put my cycling jerseys and shorts away in a drawer I don’t use and my swim cap remains dry. I’ve never ran more than 4 days a week in preparation for a half or full marathon since I’m always doing something else. That’s going to change. My main focus for as long as it takes me to qualify for Boston, is running.
Pfitzinger’s plan is focused and intense. Although I chose the lowest mileage plan, it is still a feat to complete the workouts. Here are some highlights of the plan I chose:
- Running 5 days a week, peaking at 55 miles in one week.
- 4 mesocycles, each with it’s own purpose
- More emphasis on tempo runs than speed work
- Inclusion of general aerobic runs with 100 meter strides incorporated
- Recovery runs that are run VERY slowly (check your ego at the door)
- Several long runs that include a significant portion of the run at marathon goal pace and are followed by two easy or recovery days.
- About a month and half before the race, the inclusion of tune-up races of distances 8-15k on Saturday followed by a long run on Sunday (not sure if this is going to be feasible since there aren’t many races that distance in the timeframe I need and they are all on Sundays!)
I really like this plan because my fall schedule is very busy with trips and weddings and it’s much easier to get all 5 of my scheduled workouts in even if I will be away for the weekend. I also really like it because it takes the guess work out for me. The plan is designed to make anyone a faster runner and it is reassuring knowing that if I follow the plan as is, I will get there. When I trained for the Ironman and created my own plan, I often questioned if I was giving myself enough rest or pushing myself hard enough. Now I will push myself hard on those hard days knowing that I have a rest or easy recovery run the next day.
I’m in week one and I can tell that this plan is going to be a challenge. Since I “only” run 5 days a week, many of the runs are quite long, even the tempo and general aerobic runs during the week. In fact, the only runs that are 5-6 miles are recovery runs. Already this week I’ve run 26 miles over the course of the first four days, including an 8 mile hill repeat workout on Tuesday and a 9 mile run on Thursday. Saturday I have a 13 mile run with 8 miles at marathon race pace. Yowza!
Strength, Core and Flexibility
Although Pfitzinger doesn’t specifically include cross training, strength training or stretching on his plans, he dedicates an entire chapter of his book to the importance of each of these things. The two days a week that aren’t included in running simply say “rest or cross-train.” My plan is to include one yoga session a week and one full body strength training session per week. I’d also like to incorporate P90X Ab Ripper one additional day a week. Easier said than done (well easier than training for an Ironman at least!), but those are my goals. When I wrote up Pfitzinger’s plan into Excel, I added in a day each week for each of these things. In addition, I want to make sure I’m stretching and foam rolling several times a week.
I’m really happy I found a plan that I believe in and am excited to follow. I know it’s going to take some work and there will be some really tough days, but it will all be worth it!
What do you think is the most important element of a training plan?