Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Making My Own Training Plan

I don't know if any of you have been following the drama around the Newport Marathon, but the inability of Rhode Island to get its act together has pretty much derailed our plans to have that be our fall race. Long story short, the race director currently holding our registration fees wasn't permitted for the race and is hoping to put together a random course in the same general area. Michael and I talked about it, and even if we don't get refunds, we're ready to walk away, instead of paying even more to travel to a made-up event. I was looking forward to a very scenic course, I don't want it to be replaced by some random neighborhoods!

However, since our 50 States goal means we're shooting for six races a year, we wanted to find a new fall race to do. I studied the calendar, and I think we've found an ideal one. (I don't mean to vague-blog, Michael and I have not totally finalized our choice yet!)

One of the criterion for my search was finding a race a bit later in the season to allow a bit of a rest after Missoula, while still giving enough time for a more complete training cycle before the fall race. My plan right now is to focus on lots of easy base-building through July, so that hopefully I work off it for another PR in the fall.

Once this timing seemed to be secured, my next choice was to try to decide which training plan to use. I've talked a bit about how I'm going back to basics and using Hal Higdon again (i.e. getting over the fact that I feel like a weak runner for using a "beginner" type style, since it really helps me run faster).

I had originally thought I might do a complete Hal Higdon training plan for the fall, but, while I'm enjoying all the easy runs, I do miss speed work. I figure if I feel like this when recovering from races, it will probably only be amplified when I'm fresh and ready to do some work.

This created a bit of dilemma for me then - which training plan did I want to use instead? I've tried Runner's World SmartCoach (which I think should be renamed DumbCoach), Hanson's (which gave me horrible overtraining syndrome), and RLRF (which worked with modifications, but did lead to injury). I bought Pfitz's book, but I prefer a little more balance during the work week, which I would not get with 10-12 mile weekday runs.

These are the major training plans I know of, so after a lot of deliberation, I've decided to try something different and make my own training plan. At first I thought I couldn't do it, but then I realized I've learned so much about what I like, don't like, what leads to injury, what makes me happy overall, etc., that I should actually put my big girl pants on and put that knowledge to good use.

My first step was to lay out the things I really enjoy and wanted to include: strength training, swimming, and tempo runs. (I love long runs, but those are a given, so that's the reason I omitted them from this list.) My second step was to eliminate what didn't work for me or what I hated: frequent track workouts, runs over eight miles on weekdays, and running long runs at a fast pace.

I found I really liked doing the lifting and swimming prescribed by RLRF, so I kept that piece of it. I've also found tempo runs to be the most enjoyable speed work, since they're a "comfortably" hard pace, and I don't get flashbacks to middle school track and wanting to die.

I know it probably sounds insane (or like I'm dumb) to say I don't like frequent track workouts, but I find they're really hard on my body, and I'm pretty sure they led to injury during RLRF. I knew I needed something similar, so I've decided to incorporate hill workouts instead. I've been experimenting with them for a few weeks, and they totally kick my butt and get my HR up really high, but I don't feel destroyed afterwards. I know this isn't a 1:1 relationship, but again, this training plan is my grand experiment, so why not give it a shot?

Running mid-week long-ish runs are a standard part of marathon training, but I find running more than eight miles on a weekday just makes me cranky and irritated, so I've capped my runs at that. Maybe this will stunt my times a bit, but I'd rather have that balance than a few minutes off my finishing time.

Another major thing I wanted to incorporate was a willingness to modify the training plan for races. I've avoided short distance races for a long time since they aren't called for specifically in my plans, which I realize is the dumbest thing ever, so I want to add in a few this cycle, though I haven't chosen them yet. Maybe this whole process will make me less anal. (OK, probably not, but we can hope!)

I realized when I was finalizing this on paper, "my" training plan really is just a modified version of Hal Higdon, but considering his plan worked the best for me (when you account for staying healthy, as well as time), I guess this shouldn't have surprised me.

That being said - I have no real life experience creating my own training plan. Considering the marathon is such a beast, I would love to get your guys' input on what I've put together. I'm completely open to constructive criticism! I'm sure I overlooked something and I want to give myself my best shot. You can find the training plan here.

I haven't included all the details yet, including my running paces. I plan to do the long runs 90 seconds slower than my MP, whatever I decide that is, based on how I do at Missoula. I really like the swim plan I'm using now (two swims a week to build up to swimming 1500 yards continuously), but I'm not sure what I want to do for the fall. I plan on using NROLFW for my weights, though I'm not sure what stage I will be doing, so I've left those blanks as well.

Again, I welcome any feedback you might have!

Just please don't be this lady.


  1. While I don't know much about training plans either, it sounds like you really took everything into consideration and have set a good plan for yourself. And the best thing is that if you find that it's not working, you can always tweak it a bit! I can only imagine how aggravating the Newport situation is, but hopefully you find a good replacement race :)

    1. Yes, the drama around Newport is so crazy - I never expected a race to be de facto cancelled because of such wacky circumstances. It's going to be weird not feeling like I have to be so slavish about training, but hopefully it will lead to good results!

  2. I've never run a marathon but I usually end up making my own half-marathon training plans and they end up similar to your. Running 5 days with speed and hill workouts, long runs at an easy pace, strength training etc and its worked well for me. I've stayed injury free and have steadily improved.

    1. I'm glad to hear this combination worked well for you too! I know each individual piece works for me, so I hope combining them still works out well.

  3. making your own training plan is tough! i agree on the mid-week longer runs. it's hard to fit them in if you have a real job or any hobbies IMO. i try to throw in a few 10/11-milers throughout training but generally stick in the 8-9 range for those.

    1. You always seem to do a great job on your blog pulling your training together! I think if I were faster I'd be willing to bump it up, but 8 or 9 miles takes a long time at my pace.