Thoughts on Training Options
Monday, January 14, 2013
I have been enjoying my "maintenance" running in the weeks between the California Marathon on 2 December and 26.2 with Donna on 17 February. My focus in these weeks has been on improving my aerobic base and strengthening my musculo-skeletal infrastructure through low-heart rate running 6 days a weeks.
By setting a heart rate alarm at 125 (68% of my maximum heart rate), I ensure that all of my running is done at a recovery pace that is richly aerobic. This slower pace allows for very quick recovery, which in turn has allowed me to run 6 days a week. My goal has been to gradually increase my weekly running volume so that I can handle a training plan requiring 50 - 60 hours a week once I resume marathon training after 26.2 with Donna.
The first week after CIM, I ran 30 minutes a day, Tuesday - Saturday and 1 hour on Sunday. Week 2, I ran 45 minutes daily, Tues - Sat and 90 minutes on Sunday. Week 3, one hour day, 2 hours on Sunday. Week 4, one hour a day, 2.5 hours on Sunday. Etc.
The almost daily running has had interesting effects. Even though the total weekly miles (especially at first) were less than the weekly volume I have been running, my legs felt the loss of my second weekly rest day at first. I found myself sleeping more. But as long as I got plenty of rest, I could handle it. After about 3 weeks, I stopped feeling as sleepy. I could also tell during the runs that my legs were becoming noticeably more fatigue resistant. The longer runs were challenging without a rest day on Saturday, but manageable.
The other noticeable effect of the more frequent running was mental. There was a little bit of mental push back about week 3 to going out every day. But that didn't last long. The fact that the runs have all been slow enough to be enjoyable really made it much easier to be consistent. And consistency builds those willpower and motivation "muscles."
I had signed up for a local Half Marathon on 13 January, the end of week 6 of my current cycle. I did not plan to taper for it nor to train specifically for it, but I did make a few adjustments to the running I did during week 6 to help me transition to race mode.
First, I added a second recovery day, Saturday, the day before the race. I ran one hour each on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but only 30 minutes on Friday. I did, on the other hand, increase my pace this week. Tuesday was my regular low-heart rate run, but on Wednesday and Thursday, I increased the heart rate alarm to 135 (73%) and on Friday, I used :40/:10 intervals to run at HM pace for that 30 minutes.
These changes were instructive. First, it was obvious that even the slight increase in pace on Wednesday and Thursday (I was about 45 seconds faster per mile) was noticeably more tiring to do on a daily basis. I'm glad I cut Friday back to 30 minutes for the race pace I ran. I was able to recover by Sunday. At any rate, I'm more convinced than ever of the benefits of slow running if you take advantage of the ability it gives you to run a lot more and of the added risks of running high volume at fast speeds.
I also believe that my much stronger, more fatigue resistant legs were a big part of my PR on Sunday (taking 10 minutes off my previous best Half time). My legs did not get tired during the race. I ran at a steady pace that was below my lactate threshold. I was not tired after the race. My legs feel as usual today (next day).
I have another month before 26.2 with Donna and the start of my next training cycle. I'm considering how best to spend that month. My options are to continue with the same maintenance plan, that is daily one hour runs Tues -Saturday and a long run on Sunday that increases by 30 minutes every week. That would build up to a 4.5 hour long run two weeks before the race and allow a cut back week in the week before the race.
OR I could increase the daily runs to 75 minutes, keeping the same plan for the long runs.
OR I could keep the 60 minute daily runs but increase the heart rate alarm to 130 (70%) or 135 (73%) or even just increase the heart rate step by step each week, which would mean building up to 140 (76%) two weeks before the race. In any case, the long run would remain at 125 or 128.
So what say you all? Which approach would you recommend?