Friday, December 17, 2010

Training Conundrums

Preliminary warning: Cute photos have nothing to do with the subject matter of this post!

First, I want to thank anyone who has given training advice to me here. Any and all suggestions are always welcome (honesty and disagreement is OK)! Feel free to leave as many as you like in that little box labeled "comments" below.

Obviously, by the title of this post, I still am undecided about how to best train for Boston. In a way, I think that's good. It shows that I don't want to blindly go into a marathon. However, it's also bad because I really would like not to be still weighing my options at this point.

Boston is 17 weeks away. That may seem like a long time to some people, but the more you look at training plans for Marathons, the more you see a pattern of 16, 18 or 22 weeks. Some are even 6 months or a year.
Why so long? The "experts" in the field create phases within training that include endurance building, peaking, sharpening and tapering (and maybe I missed some others!). Sure, you can run a marathon without all these phases, but my goal isn't just to finish. It will be almost a year since my last (and first) marathon and it might be another year until the next. (But I hope NOT). Putting it simply, I will put as much of myself into this race as I can. It is a PR goal race.

As of Sunday, I started Pfitz's (Pfitzinger & Scott) 18 week plan that tops at 70 MPW, (aka 18/70). The total mileage for this first week is 54, which is actually a cutback from what I ran (not on a plan) the week before. I have toyed with the idea of just adding 5 miles to each week, starting next week. Not sure this is a great idea, but would maybe be just the right boost. 

I have another issue with Pfitz, something I consider more important than the mileage. His plan schedules races as part of the training. It's never seemed wise (to me) to truly race while training for another key race. (Kara Goucher can do it, though, and it looks like she will with the PF Chang RnR half and Boston). My body needs time to recover from racing and I usually take a few days off even after a hard 10K.

I don't want to feel pressured to run a long run the day following a race. Pfitz schedules it. *This is where I should insert that I am still reading his book.* It appears he might advise you to run the races as Lactate Threshold runs instead of "true races". If so, that's better; but, I still wouldn't spend money to go do an organized Lactate Threshold run. I'd do it for free on my home turf.

Another option I have considered is following one of Jack Daniels plans. Unfortunately I couldn't tell you which one, because I have only recently bought the book, and am confused as to which level of plan I should use. Ha! :/  His plans are based more on experience, and not so much on mileage. I have about 2 1/2 years of running experience (not counting goofing around on and off before that). Where does that put me? I don't know.  I like that there appears to be some flexibility in his plan. There are scheduled workouts for each week, but the rest of the mileage is flexible. I can't even tell you how many speedwork days there are each week! One problem is that the plan(s) start 22 weeks from the race. Oops. I missed that window!

Then there's  RunnersWorld's SmartCoach, which is considered to be lame by some. But when you start playing with 55 mile weeks starting, and throw in some race times and goal paces that get harder, it doesn't look so easy. The max with that plan is actually a bit higher than Pfitz. The increases of mileage are steeper. I have considered using the mileage plan and changing the speedwork from one to to two days with progressive long runs & MP runs on alternating weeks...Or something like that. And maybe a few 22 milers instead of 20. This plan is for 16 weeks.

Then there's the plan that someone emailed me this week, which is also interesting!

As you can see...I am still not settled in what I am doing. I sure hope by next week to have a better plan- or at least get comfortable with Pfitz!

This might be the most boring post I have ever made. Ha! If you are still with me at this point you deserve some dessert:


  1. I think you wrote a blog, but I got distracted by some cute pictures! Wish I had some great advice, but I don't...

  2. It is 1 a.m here...just got home and checked this really quick and glad I did. I'm interested in what you're doing so I found this post to be very Unboring...I read every word. I have just received the pfitz book in the mail along with the Jack Daniels one. I don't know how I feel about the racing thing either. I'm also interested in hearing more about plans that don't necessarily have such high mileage. I know that some runners swear by running high miles per week like even up to 90 and 100 but I just feel like anything over 60 is kind of pushing it for me and I start finding myself falling apart. I don't know. But I do knot that I'm looking forward to seeing what you decide.

  3. in the times i've used pfiz, i've never done the "tune up" races. nothing ever fit with my schedule, so i just didn't stress out about it, ran the mileage and moved on.

    but, i missed this entire week of running, so i'm completely off track with any training plan, AND i just got a reassignment at work, which means that my schedule is completely different and i'm terrified that i won't be able to run the same mileage as i usually do. i'm considering buying the book, run less run faster...cause i do love my crosstraining and i might need a break from pfitz....

    glad that you are taking your training so seriously, and i hope you get squared away with something that feels right to you.

  4. Boy, so many options.

    I learned three things:
    Jack Daniels is not only a whisky.
    SmartCoach (the only training plan I've ever used for halfs) is lame to some.
    Your kids are adorable.

    I know, I'm not helpful. This conversation about Boston and a marathon all in the same sentence is so out of my league. You are going to make the right choice and do great, I just know it.

  5. And that's why I make up my own plan and use the books and online plans for ideas!

    Is that the elk burger chili? Looks like it was delicious!

    And the graham cracker house... I see a future architect in your family!

  6. Love the gingerbread house! Jack came home with one the other day - but it wasn't quite as decorative as that one! I did get some old chewy licorice out of it, though - my favorite!

  7. So, you do more miles in a week than I currently do in a month, so that said, I tend to run listening to my body. I try to get over the mileage of the race coming up, but I don't know how that works with a marathon. I guess I'm fixin' to find out, as I'm about 80% on the Vernonia race, and I will have a "tune-up race" during that cycle as the Shamrock Run is 4 weeks before. And I want to do well on both, even if the marathon would be a "see how this feels" run.
    Also, your boys are cuties, and I will have to keep my girls away from them...

  8. it seems to me this post is less a means of seeking help from others but more of a means in seeing your own help in words (rather than your head).

    As a 3:33 marathoner who can now see a 3:20 in the immediate future and a sub 3 somewhat further in the future you said two things I have read and experienced.

    One - Whatever you do put the miles in. My next marathon I want to average 63 miles per week in the 16 weeks prior with peaks of 70 and lows of 55. (my last cycle saw a peak of 63 with avg of 52)

    Two - I am a proponent of doing races as tuneups for a goal PR race. I won't go out of my way to cut mileage back before a tuneup race. For me tuneup races up the intensity of my training that I can't achieve on my own - i think this is known as the specificity principle

  9. Cute pics! My youngest has been wanting to make a gingerbread house, I will have to do that over break.

    Wow, with the running, it's seems like you have a lot to consider. I'm sure it will all fall into place, better than you could have ever planned it ;)

  10. Hey you! so, several people have commented about the beats per minute thing on my iPod post. Yes, I think I'm going to do Newport. Might wait a couple weeks still before making a final decision but you've kind of got me convinced it is a good idea! :) Excited to try racing with music for the first time. Do you race with music? I definitely need to figure out what kind of ear buds work best and get something to put my iPod in so I'm not just sticking it down my bra. :)

  11. I wish I could eat like that again, no napkin, just going for it. haha. I think my hubs wouldn't be too impressed though. As for training, I think playing with the Pfitz's sounds like a good approach. Listen to what your body can handle each week.

  12. I'm not much of a planner when it comes to training. I usually just ramp up the miles and start throwing in tempo runs as I train. So won't be very helpful in critiquing any plans. However, there are a lot of experienced coaches you can contact online that can help you, I think. It would probably cost you, but to enrich your experience, that might be worth it to you. It doesn't hurt to try. I think has a list of good ultra coaches (some should be great marathon runners) that might be interesting to email/ contact. Good luck with your training!

  13. When I started "really" running this year, I had no idea there was so much to learn and I had even done HS track...but I was a long and triple jumper, so that doesn't count! :)

    You are too funny with your "Lactate Threshold" races! ha! That could get very expensive to train to race!

  14. Cute boy! Also, very impressed with the big wod "conundrum". I would not have been able to use that word in one of my posts because I would have had to google how to spell it which would have taken entirely too much time (more time than writing this nothingness paragraph) and I just don't have time for that-ha!

    Good luck with the training decisions! I subbed a 22 and a 24 for two of the 20 milers my last plan which helped at least from the confidence standpoint.

    Pfitz-I understand the theory behind the long runs after the races if the GOAL A race is the marathon and the others are part of training (meaning no puking allowed). I'm still trapped in the belief that every race I pay for needs to be a PR attempt.

    I just bought the Jack Daniels book. I haven't started it yet. Excited to see what you choose!!!

  15. LOVE THE PICTURES. Adorable!! I feel your pain, I am still trying to figure out mine too. So many pro's to all of the plans you mentioned. Girl, you run a lot of MPW...I am jealous! Keep me updated with what you is going to be here before we know it!

  16. Every race is a PR attempt for me. I'm just that way. My husband and I get competitive that way and it's fun for us but I know it's not like that for everyone and I get it!
    I think you can find the best calendar for Boston training for yourself and there is wiggle room with each plan. The one that got me a 3:27 in NY had BIG mileage and a lot of speed work, very little junk mileage and not too many hills. That plan came from a coach. I'm going to use that one(provided I can RUN)and add LOTS and lots of hills.
    Can't wait to hear what you decide to do!

    CUTE pictures, I love messy eaters, they are my best friends :) !

  17. I am here to give advice! .... because I have soooooo much experience.

    Don't follow the Jack Daniels plan that I thought you were going to follow. You see yesterday/Saturday I was on the Captain Morgan plan. After Saturday's pre-training with the Captain all day long, I laced up my shoes Sunday for my 5 mile run. I was certain for those first 2.5 miles that the key to being an excellent runner is to indulge in copious amounts of spiced rum. But then on the 2nd half, slightly uphill return home, I realized I was wrong.

    So, in conclusion .... my advice is to maybe not drink like a fish before a run.

    Okay, this doesn't really help at all, but you never know. Maybe somebody else will see Jack Daniels and also think you were talking about booze! ;-) Then I will be of service to him. I say him because Jack Daniels seems like a dude drink. But then so does the Captain. OMG, am I still drunk???

  18. lol!? Fruit fly. I will not run with Captain Morgan. Those days are done!! I think Kim was pretty sure that JD was just for coke too =D

  19. Oh my gosh look at that kid!!!! Holy cow that is fabulously cutely awesome. =D

    Here's my input based simply on feel and whim as I have absolutely ZERO training knowledge:

    Pfitz races during training - meh.

    Jack Daniels - Can you jump in where you are & not worry about the first couple of weeks you've missed?

    My gosh that gingerbread house is DA BOMB!

    RW Smartcoach: No opinion

    Plan someone emailed you: Sounds interesting! Go with that one. =D

    WOW!!!! Look at that house!!!! Holy cow!

  20. Just wanted you to know that my husband is thoroughly appalled that I didn't (don't) know who Jack Daniels is. I got a lecture after I told him about my post!

  21. hope you are getting it figured out, it can be so tough to find a plan that fits perfect (which is why I wrote my own for Boston this year). I have done Pfitz a number of times though and really like his plans a lot. I actually like racing during training and you don't have to do races on all the weekends he has them. Sometimes I would replace it with 10 miles at goal pace, or something like that. Anyways if you have any other questions I have used his plan and adapted it multiple times :)


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