Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I'm crying uncle. I haven't recovered as well as I hoped from my four-mile test run yesterday (swelling increased) and I can only imagine what 26.2 would do. It looks like the most direct path to 3:15:59 probably doesn't go through the marathon this weekend. I went 1 for 3 on goals this year (I did sub-70 10 miles, but didn't break 20 in the 5K or BQ in the marathon). I'm thinking of just establishing training goals for next year (like mileage, but trying not to become a slave to it) and let the race times take care of themselves. (Wait, I do have another crack at the 5K on New Years if I recover -- there I go again!)

What to do from here? Do I keep up the elliptical or just get lazy for a while? I'll probably do the former. I'm not sure what kind of training strategy do use after this. I'm considering either something complicated or something simple.

The complicated approach involves core exercises, cross-training, working on power/speed (through hills and intervals) and gunning to get faster before building up fatigue resistance. A lot of this stuff is in Matt Fitzgerald's "Brain Training for Runner's." While I think his justification is weak and informercialish (to invent a word), the recommendations make some sense to me. He starts with speed/power and builds to more race pace specific quality training a la Renato Canova. He recommends doubling several days a week with running and cross-training, which is something I've thought of doing before to bump up the volume without the injury risk. He also recommends core conditioning, which is something I believe I sorely need. (This speaks for itself.)

The simple approach involves just running -- a lot. Run home and to work twice a week (total 42 miles), a long run on the weekend (14-18), and a fill in run or two (5-10) to get to about 70 miles (preferably in 6 days). Something like Mo - off, Tu- 5 am/10.5 pm, We - 10.5 am, Th - 10.5 pm, Fr - 10.5 am, Sa - 5 am, Su - 18 for 70 miles. I like to talk big when I can't even run 10 miles right now! I felt like I improved a lot this summer even though it didn't materialize in any big PRs (I PR'd the half at the end of a big week, but it was equivalent to the 10 mile time). In restrospect, I think it was mainly the mileage and doing 4 10+ mile days per week rather than three. I've done the pm then am thing before and together it's almost like another long run. I'd be getting three pseudo long runs a week (if I survived).

An advantage of the run a lot approach is avoiding the headache of 4 out of 10 commutes a week. I'd save maybe $8 in gas, but the self-righteousness I'd earn would be priceless. The dollars per mile is pretty close on shoes versus gas in the car -- about $0.20 per mile. I figure I probably break even in car service and depreciation costs versus medical co-pays and future knee replacement :-)


Mindi said...

Greg, sorry to hear that the injury became "real." Boy does that stink.

I think your plan should be a combination: do core work and run a lot. I would probably skip the plyometrics and hills until you are completely recovered from your injuries or you are just asking for more. I would still run on hilly routes, but hold off on the hill repeats until you feel very strong.

I give a BIG nod to the core work too. Every time I start slacking on it, I start getting aches and pains. And when I am religious about it, I can handle a lot more training stress...not to mention the overall benefits of rock hard abs. :)

Speaking of which though, I have been slacking for 4 weeks on it though and am a bit "softer" than usual. :(

As far as lots of running goes, I have had good luck with the Pftizinger/Douglas schedules in advanced marathoning. You may also want to consider getting a coach if it is economically feasible.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Greg said...

Thanks for the note. What you say makes sense and is kind of the way I'm leaning.

I've done Pfitz a couple of times. I did the 18/55 plan by the letter a while ago and this last marathon (marine corps) was a scaled down 18/70 program (peaked at 66) until I improvised a little at the end.

I've considered getting a coach, but it would have to be someone I trusted. Plus I'm not sure I'm easily coached. I'm a bit of a skeptic :) On the cost, what do they typically cost? (Just curious.)

Mindi said...

I hear you on the coach thing. I have no idea what they cost, but I know a lot of the coaches around here locally and personally I think I am more knowledgeable than some of them with regard to marathoning! But I know some people have had success with online coaches (tinman, etc.). You should ask Tuscaloosa who he is using - He sounds happy with Will (whoever he is).

The upside to the coach is they can help you modify your schedule for injuries, etc. as we tend to be more bullheaded and just push right on through.

Anonymous said...


All right, here's my two cents, for better, for worse:

I think, first off, you made the absolutely right move backing off this marathon. You want to be in shape to go for it, and it just sounds like you weren't mentally there, which--if sustained over a longish period--usually indicates you're body ain't there either.

I think Canova is spot on with his use of doubles as a way to increase volume, as well as the use of tempo and short intervals during build-up. People think you shouldn't do "fast" work during base; to my mind, this is erroneous. You want to make sure you don't put yourself in oxygen debt during these early workouts. So, to me, monofartleks and short hills are the ways to go on this.

However, one thing I'd recommend is that you look to making sure your big days are hard, and your easy days easy. That might mean two big days of doubles (primary workouts VO2-paced and LT) and a long run. The other days, just simple and slow. And good call on the day off, by the way. Likewise, I'm not sure if you know this already, but be sure to give yourself recovery weeks every third or fourth--usually 75% of volume.

Core work, yes, absolutely, though I'd hold off any real plyometric work. You gotta be real strong to do it well, and if you mess up, you can really fuck yourself up. That said, one thing I think that I'd add to the basic core work are single leg exercises: single leg squats, single leg cable pulls, lunges. Again, nothing to really eat into your running (I did too much of this last training cycle and didn't recover properly), but enough to keep you strong and ward off injury.

For me, Will is $25 a month, and he's very smart. That said, he does not work with marathoners, but more middle distance work, which is fine with me because I have decent speed. However, I also felt like I needed a coach now because I simply could not mentally dig myself out of the hole I was in. Will gave me that outlet. There are some other people--not sure how you lean--that can be dispassionate about their injuries and work through them. I suppose it's simply where you're at in your training.

Hope this helps. Fire away with any other questions...

Greg said...

Thanks, Joseph. I have to clarify one thing. I was mentally into the marathon until my injury took me out of it. I have positive "vibes" about that course since I set a 13 minute PR there last year after a disappointing marine corps marathon. I was really looking forward to redeeming myself again.

Two big days with VO2 on one and tempo on the other and a long run sounds a lot like the Benji Durden plan I did in the spring. Would you double the big days or the recovery days? One thing I couldn't figure out how to do with Benji's program was increase the volume. It was just pretty monotone week-to-week and since it was set by time, unless you got faster, you ran the same mileage week after week. I felt like I got stale. I did Pfitz during the summer and thought I got stronger, but a little slower (7:08 pace half versus 6:59 pace 10M in the spring). I switched back to Benji about 4 weeks out and suddenly got much faster (as judged by heart rate vs pace and 800m interval times) the next two weeks but then lost speed the two weeks leading up to the marathon.

I hear you on the cutback weeks. This has been something I've never been disciplined enough to do. I always feel like I'm giving back hard earned gains even though I should know better.

Thanks for the advice.

Anonymous said...


Double the hard days, first. And if you want to double one or two other days, then make those easier base days. But to my mind, on 70 mpw, you shouldn't really be doublining more than 3 times per week if you're mileage is breaking up right, especially if you're a marathoner. However, it's all about being fresh for the workouts--that's where you'll make the most gains.

Per running for time at the same volume, I'm not so sure I agree. I like the Rubio plan where you have 10-12 weeks at a simple basic base and then the last 10-12 weeks are event specific training. So for the marathon, you're at your max volume in the last 10 weeks. For the 5k-10k, you'd drop your overall volume by about %10 in event specific work.

I think Pfitz is really good for the marathon in that he emphasizes longer, somewhat high-end aerobic work. Durden's plan will make give you more "speed", but for the marathon, your largest gains will come from aerobic power, not speed, especially if you're a 3 hour dude.

Anyhow, hope this helps. And by no means am I an expert, so take this for what it's worth.

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