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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?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I'm very impressed! You are way too far ahead of me for me to have any recommendation, but I have total confidence that you will get the info you need and make a great decision!! -Marsha
    1951 days ago
    I am like everyone else, reluctant to give advice to someone who knows waaaaaay more than me and to boot is very good at offering advice to other runners tweaking their plans.

    But I am venturing an opinon.
    If I were you I would not do option #3, no HR increases until after Donna
    Of #1 and #2, I would do #2 and add an extra rest day as my first choice, or I would do #1 as is for my second choice.
    1952 days ago
    How are you going to run Donna? What heart rate are you going to maintain for that race? Knowing the answer to these questions would help determine your training for the upcoming month.

    You are doing FANTASTIC!
    1955 days ago
    I'm definitely not experienced enough to give advice, but you have been making smart decisions this whole time, so I'd go with whatever advice you'd give to someone else lol!
    1955 days ago
    i don't feel qualified to offer advice, but i don't really understand why you would want to raise your heart rate at this point ... isn't the point of this the low heart rate? and running daily?

    1955 days ago
    I don't have any recommendations either, but I did want to say that I LOVE reading your blogs. Whenever I have a running question I come look through your stuff and almost always find what I'm looking for!
    1955 days ago
    I have no idea what you should do! So far you've made all the right choices, so I'm sure you will continue to do so.
    1955 days ago
    I cannot recommend anything, but I can say that you have been doing wonderfully!!
    1955 days ago
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