Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

well, sort of....

I've been frustrated with my marathon times for quite awhile now. I haven't made any improvement on my PR in over 4 years. I've not been able to even get below that nice round number of 4:00 except for once, in Des Moines under ideal temperature conditions. At the risk of sounding whiny, many of my long runs have been sub par if not outright disastrous. Granted I spent part of 2007 and 2008 on the disabled roster. I'm not getting any younger (but am far from old!). I've continued to run 5 days a week for most of the time and have added 3 to 4 gyms sessions to the equation as well for the last couple of years. So much of run I read in the running literature would suggest that possibly I'm over training; not giving my body the time it needs to repair and rebuild. I'm too stubborn to believe this line of reasoning, but I've recently begun to come to grips with it.

At the end of 2009 I ran a 10K personal best of 49:52 which would predict the ability to run a marathon in under 4 hours (3:54). At the beginning of this year I pulled off a surprising half marathon personal best of 1:45:11. This would predict a marathon time of 3:41. My PR at the marathon is 3:40:52 set way back in 2006. I haven't come anywhere close to that this year, in fact in Albuquerque I added a full 60 minutes to that time. Frustrating to say the least.

That old adage that goes - if you always do what you've always done, you are going to get what you've always gotten - comes to mind. Ever since I've began running I used the same basic approach - 5 days a week with little variety in pacing, very little speed work, etc, etc. So for my next marathon I've decided to take a different approach. I'm trying the FIRST program.

There are two key runs during the week that are run with some significant speed and one long run on the weekend. There seem to be more "long" miles than I normally use in a marathon buildup but they are mostly run at a slower pace. The plan also calls for cross training hard on 2 other days.

Setting the paces has been somewhat of an problem for me. Many of the pace suggestions are based on the 10K pace less some time. I'm not used to running that fast mid-week (or ever, really) but it definitely keeps things interesting.

Yesterday's workout called for 2 mile warm up, 3 x 1 mile, and 1 mile cool down. The pace for the mile repeats was 10K - 35 to 40 seconds, so somewhere between 7:20 to 7:40. I took the warm up easy at 10:00 pace. My first mile seemed interminably long. I snuck a peak at each quarter mile marker, but my math skills while moving aren't the sharpest. I smacked out that first mile in 7:16 - too fast. The plan called for only 1 minute rest between repeats. At the end of the minute my heart rate was still elevated but I took off non the less, returning the way I'd just come.

This repeat was very slightly uphill (yes, that means the first was slightly downhill). I had to take a couple of short walk breaks along the way and barely managed an 8:09 mile. Not good. After this one I gave myself longer to get the heart rate back down a bit before heading back again.

The third repeat was again aided by the slight downhill which gave me a 7:32, beautifully paced mile. The cool down felt good, for sure.

Just over 12 weeks to Austin with lots more speed and variety to go. Let's see how it all works out. I'm happy to be at least trying something different.


Wes said...

Yes. I was gonna say... You were recovering from an injury for a while there. I'm a firm believer in mixing it up! Try new stuff. Don't stagnate. It's all part of the learning process, and besides, its fun :-)

Good luck! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Joe said...

Very cool! This will be a very interesting experiment, then! Look forward to seeing how it goes, then how it happens in February.

The Austin course doesn't seem to be terribly challenging, from what I can tell. The Illinois Marathon course is super flat. You could take two shots at it this spring??

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Lisa!!


Danny said...

I'm a big fan of FIRST. The title of the book is "run less, run faster". but it's actually a tough program - in the sense that each run is a real workout.(i found the tempo runs the most challenging.)
i really believe it works though. definitely did for me.
good luck, and i can't wait to see what happens!

David said...

Darrell, I used the FIRST plan for several years and can attest to its merits. The 3-4 days a week is better than 5-6 when you get older. I like the recovery time. It makes me fresher for those challenging FIRST workouts. In fact, I added 20% to the long run mileage.
Actually, I think the FIRST over-trained me because when I switched plans (doing even less, moreso by skipping runs) I PRed back to back.