Tag Archives: marathon training

Danger Days – 2 Days Out

When participating in a Running Race of any length, there are a few “Danger Days”. Days in which certain activities or lack of them can have negative effects to Race Day performance. Today is 2 days away from the Pistol 50k on January 2nd.

2 days away from Race Day is dangerous because there’s volatile mixture of excitement and anxiety. This can lead to making some bad choices, or being unaware of being in an unwanted situation. It can result in unwanted soreness in the legs, which would peak on Race Day.

Training wise, running the last few days before a race, you only expose yourself to injury than gain any physical conditioning. However, running the week of race isn’t for the legs or lungs but for the brain. It acts like a sedative with the intent to reduce some of the anxiety and increase confidence.

In general, most training programs have something called “The Taper”. It is a deliberate reduction in mileage during the last stage of training. The idea is that it gives the body time to heal and strengthen without compromising conditioning. This way, on Race Day, you’ll be strong in the ways of The Force conditioning.

The side effect of this strategy is called “Taper Madness”, a psychological condition in which doubt begins to take over thinking. “How can I be ready for the race, if I’m running less?” or “Why even run? It is only __ miles”

The best countermeasure to Taper Madness, is to run. At 2 Days Out, you can’t “Go for Throttle Up” or “Pass the Milk, I’m eating this hill for breakfast”. It needs to be calm, smooth, relaxed, with just a small touch of speed tossed in for those faster twitch muscles.

Today, I’m planning on running a little to easy my nerves. I’m a little scared because I’ve been calmer than I anticipated I would be given the distance (50k/31miles) and the fact that I’m running it memory of James Rich #WarriorMode. Strange things have happened before.

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Warrior Mode Update

This was supposed to be the first part of a series of updates on the my training for the Pistol 50k (31 miles) which I am running on January 2nd 2016 in memory of my late Taekwondo instructor/mentor James Rich. However, some how time marched on (and on and on) and so it is now a single training recap.

I had wanted to start training a little earlier than I did, but sometimes life gets away from you. Or rather, it confuses you as it runs away FROM you. (The older you get the faster it seems to move.) Then when you stop to look around, you say “[expletive of choice]! Where did the time go?” That was me. I had wanted to “officially” start training on August 1st in anticipation that I would be representing my District in the blockbuster hit: Flying Monkey Marathon X, May the Hills Be Ever in Your Favor. Each year, the race has a different “theme” and the one for 2015 race was based on The Hunger Games series.

2015 Flying Monkey Marathon

The premise is that I would treat the Flying Monkey Marathon on 11/22/2015 as a training run. Ideally, I would run ANOTHER marathon maybe as another training run in early December. The Rocket City Marathon on Dec 12th was a great candidate because it was relatively close (Huntsville, AL) and it is a flat course. So after the undulating hills of the Flying Monkey (Nashville, TN) it would be a nice scenario to attempt a Sub-4hr marathon. However, there was a failure to launch for Rocket City and the elusive Sub-4hr attempt would have to wait.

Congratulations, it’s a Monkey!

The Flying Monkey marathon is very popular for those runners who like hills that hurt you. For the past couple of years they have used a weighted lottery to choose who be running. Apparently there are enough crazy people who want to run that they have to limit the number. While the actual weighing of criteria is an ancient Chinese secret, it is possible that someone who has run the Monkey multiple times (I had run Flying Monkey 5 times previous) could not get a spot. Fortunately for me, the lottery went in my favor and I was going to The Monkey Games.

Pneumonia Road Bump

In mid August, I started to feel sick, but it never lasted more than a day or two and the symptoms changed. There was overwhelming fatigue one time, a super sore throat another, neither of which was accompanied with a fever. Without having a fever or chest congestion, I thought it might be allergies. In early September, almost 2 weeks since my initial symptoms, when I still felt bad with new symptoms, I decided that I would go see the doctor. Turns out, whatever “it” was decided it would turn into pneumonia.

I have had pneumonia multiple times, and there are certain warning signs that throw up Red Flags that I am on my way to getting (or already have) pneumonia. However, none of the ailments presented themselves like they were supposed to, so only because they wouldn’t go away did I seek counsel on what was going on.

As a result of my diagnosis, I went on antibiotics and took a 9 day hiatus from both running and Taekwondo. Training suspended.

Damn the 10% Rule, Full Speed Ahead

By the last few weeks of September, I was healthy again and ready to “restart” my training. At this time, I was already 6 weeks behind on my training for Flying Monkey, but I still had enough time for The Pistol. I decided that I need to take some big leaps in training to try to “catch up” or rather “not be too far behind” in my training.

There is a Rule of Thumb in running called “The 10% Rule”. It suggests that you should increase the length of your workouts (overall mileage, long runs, speed workouts, etc.) by 10% from week to week. The premise is that this progression helps the body transition to the rigors of the longer runs (or faster workouts) better without exposing one to injury. It is also one reason a marathon training program lasts 16+ weeks or more. Build the mileage up step by step, mile by mile.

With 8 weeks before the Flying Monkey and my longest run of my training a whopping 10 miles, I had to push the limit a little. Disclaimer: As a seasoned runner, I have a good feel for what I can and cannot do when it comes to running. This won’t work for everyone.

I started with a 13.5 mile long run at 8 weeks out. This was followed with a 13.3 mile run the following week. Then at 6 weeks out I made the big jump with a 23.4 mile run. Normal training program has a “Recovery Week” after a very long run, so my run at 5 weeks out was supposed to be around 16 miles, but I only ran 2 because I had some problems and I didn’t want to be that far from home.  So I took 5 weeks out as basically a Rest Week.

4 weeks out was a 18.6 mile run. However, the next weekend, which was Halloween, I was just too busy for a long run and recorded 0.0 miles for my long run. This trend continued and I didn’t have anymore long runs before race day. I was able to get a handful of 4-5 mile runs in during the week. Also, I was going to Taekwondo class multiple times a week, so it’s not like I was sedentary.

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Flying Monkey Marathon (Nashville, TN)

Monkey, Monkey, Monkey!

On November 22nd, I ran Flying Monkey in just under 5 hours. As I mentioned above, this was a training run, so I wasn’t trying to run for a certain time. I haven’t written the Race Report for Flying Monkey yet, but I’ll go more into details there.

The Flying Monkey was 6 weeks out (that Magical Week) from The Pistol. I didn’t come away from Flying Monkey unscathed and my chiropractor put me back on the right path the Monday after.  The next weekend I took as a Rest Week (5 weeks out). It was Thanksgiving and we were out of town. I almost decided to run a 10k but decided it would be better to rest than to race. Tough decision to make but never underestimate the power of a rest day.

It Beginning To Look Like Race Day

With it now being December, just 1 month left before Race Day, I took another Rest Week. Also at the beginning of December, I tested (and passed) for my Second Degree Black Belt and didn’t want to be distracted from what I needed I to do to earn it.

Me and Mr. Church at awards night with my brand new 2nd degree Black Belt
Me and Mr. Church at awards night with my brand new 2nd degree Black Belt

The next weekend, 3 weeks out – Dec 12 (when I had wanted to run another marathon), I ran 24.3 miles. I decided I would run from my house to Eddie’s Health Shoppe (about 8.3 miles away) where I would meet up with the Knoxville Marathon Training Group and run with them (6 miles) and then run home (around 10 miles based on the route). It ended up being kind of fun. I ran a little faster than normal going to the training group as I didn’t want to be late. Then ran closer to my 10k pace because I ran/talked with another running for 3 miles, but then was slower for the last half of the run.

Since the pattern of a 20+ mile run followed by a rest week seemed to work fairly well this training cycle, I decided that at the 2 week out point, I take another rest week.

So it is 1 week before the Pistol 50k. The rain that we have been having has moved on and I’ll get one more long run (about 12 miles or so) in before Race Day. I’m also going to try to get in 2 mid-week runs of about 4 miles. This helps with the nerves during Race Week when the looming race is only days away and the anxiety of the unknown envelopes me.

It’s time now to get into #WarriorMode !

Training, better late than never

This post was originally laying out, in general, my training regiment that I would use for the Fall Marathon season. That changed with my diagnosis of pneumonia earlier this month. I haven’t ran since 8/13, a week before the first signs of sickness manifested. I haven’t really worked out for 9 days, which was Taekwondo the night before I went to the doctor.

Now that I think the pneumonia is almost 100% gone, I am hoping to jump back into my normally scheduled life on the weekend of Sept 12/13 which will be 10 weeks before Flying Monkey. I’ve lost a good chunk of training time, but I will have to be diligent about training.

The basic skeleton of my training will follow something like this:
Mondays – Utility Day:  Tempo Pace, Taekwondo, and/or Soccer Coaching or Rest Day
Tuesdays – Speed Work
Wednesdays – Tempo Pace /Taekwondo or Rest Day
Thursdays – Hills, Hills, Hills
Fridays – Easy Pace/Taekwondo or Rest Day
Saturdays – Long Run or Tempo Pace depending on schedule
Sundays – Long Run or Tempo Pace depending on schedule

Long Run distances will fluctuate from week to week from 12 – 20 miles. I’ll miss one whole weekend as we will be gone on vacation. I would like to have one long run where I run 20+ miles which I was thinking would be in early October, but I might have to push it back to late October.

After Flying Monkey (11/22), I’ll continue the weekly schedule, with maybe one long run of 24+ in preparation for the Pistol 50k (1/2/16). December, of course, is tricky because of all holiday activities and food, especially the food.


Snidley Whiplash

Training Cycles Go Round and Round

I’m hereby officially “In Training”

I have tossed in my hat in the weighted lottery for the Flying Monkey Marathon (11/22/15). If for some reason I do not picked in the lottery, my back-up plan is to run Chickamauga Marathon on 11/14/2015. It’s close enough that I can make a day-trip out of it, like back in 2012.

Historically, I tend to run November marathons, (Richmond, Chickamauga, Flying Monkey), mostly because of the how the training schedule works out. When I have ran September Marathons (Darlington, Quad Cities), my long runs were in the peak summer heat and were difficult to say the least. For November Marathons, I use around August 1st  as the official date, it’s about 16 weeks, give or take. I have found, through trial and error, that  a 12 week training schedule works best for me. So I “trick” myself with anything over 12 weeks and call it a “base” period.

Since I’m also running The Pistol 50k in January, this means that I have an additional training schedule after my November marathon. I was hoping Rocket City would be a part of the plan, but I can easily make my own marathon event, if need be.

That Was My Plan…

Snidley WhiplashThere are tons o’ plans out there on the internet. Some are very simple and some complicated. There is no One Plan To Rule Them All. Nor are any of these training plans etched in stone. Each training plan has common key workouts essential to have the proper training for race day, but they are yarned together differently. “Train only 4 days a week” or “No Long Runs over 20 miles” or  “It’s all about the Pace”. Your best bet is to ask a running coach on what is best for you.

The November marathon will be #25, and I have learned a few about my training schedules along the way.

1) They are not etched in stone. [Very important, second time I’ve mentioned it] There is no way to run every single training session, unless that is your only job and you don’t get injured or sick.

2) At the starting line,  I won’t have all the training I want because of #1. Usually, it is better to arrive to Race Day under trained (too a point) than over trained. [A wise professor of Kinesiology told me that one time when I was super stressed out]

3) Experience helps bridge some gaps in training, but even seasoned veterans can make rash, foolish mistakes.  I have the experience to know how to adjust my schedule to account for missed training runs, but I am still susceptible to getting caught up in the energy of Race Day and try to run a PR with laughable training.

4) 16 weeks is too long of a schedule as it is psychologically draining on me. 8 weeks isn’t quite long enough unless I’m just interested in finishing rather than going for a particular time. 12 weeks, as Goldilocks endorses, is “Just Right.” When the 12 week training aligns with a race course that doesn’t look like a heart monitor (of a living person) then I have a shot a sub-4 finish.

5) It is unrealistic for me to fit the mid-week, mid-distance (6-10 miles) run into my schedule. The windows for me to run are few, so I make concessions on the types of runs I use. Most often, I swap the Easier Pace runs with shorter Tempo Runs.

6) Cross train if possible, it helps in my non-existent flexibility and trains the other muscles that running doesn’t use as much. I do Tae Kwon Do, Soccer, some Ultimate Frisbee when I can work it in, and slinging my kids around.

7) Never under estimate the power of a Rest Day. There are days, when you just aren’t going to feel like running. Some of those days, you just push through. Some of those days is your body saying, “Dude, come on… relax, don’t do it.” Rest Days are built into the schedule for a reason, they are a buffer against injury.

I haven’t noodled out the training that I will be using this fall. Given that I’m in the “Base” period, I can train “casually”, and have a few more days before I have something set in stone. I mean, set on paper.

Runners, Start your training…

Training has begun for the Fall Marathon season. This year, I am planning on running the brand new Darlington Marathon and if I can win at the weighted lottery, (my Fave) the Flying Monkey Marathon.

The Darlington Marathon happens to fall smack dab on my Birthday… that’s September 31st for all of those who have to ask and in a very kind gesture, was offered by the race director a free entry.

I went out on a limb and asked if I could get the #42 bib since I would running the marathon on my 42nd birthday and they said “Yes”. So way cool there!

So one of the selling points of the Darlington Marathon is that you get to finish On The Track of Darlington Raceway (@TooToughToTame). Just like the Knoxville Marathon (@chknoxmarathon) where you get to finish on the 50 yard line in Neyland Stadium, at Darlington you get to finish the race in a place that you’d normally would be unable to as a member of the general public.

Given that Darlington Raceway is a NASCAR venue, I wondered who was the #42 driver in NASCAR. Turns out it is Juan Pablo Montoya (@jpmontoya). So in 2013, both myself and Juan Pablo Montoya will be crossing the finish line ON the Darlington Speedway with the number 42.


Long Run Flipside

Strange things can occur on the long run. This past Sunday, I had something of a time altering experience in which I am driven to write about this small happening rather than finishing up the post that I have dedicated to 6 weeks of my training.

Since Running is not everyone’s special interest, I am going to toss up the Visual now and include a couple of definitions. Hopefully, you non-runners who have made it this far won’t fall asleep.

Long Run Stats

I was supposed to only run 18 miles during this run, but I miscalculated when I should have turned around, I ran a BONUS 0.75 miles. I am really only looking at the run up to the 18 mile point. The table shows each mile split (i.e. when I hit my stopwatch – tried to do it at mile intervals), how fast I ran each one of those splits, and how much time it took me overall.

The first 9 miles took me 85 minutes to run (Yellow Square)… that’s 1 hour 25 minutes. That means, on average for the first 9 miles, it took me 9 minutes and 26 seconds to run a mile.

But something happened around mile 11, and something in a good way. The second 9 miles took me 78.38 minutes (Green Square)… that’s 1 hour 18 minutes and 23 seconds. An average mile in 8 minutes 43 seconds. In the industry, that’s called a Negative Split. And it’s a sizeable one too!

You might say it could be the course, but the course I ran was pretty much out-and-back, meaning that I was running across the same terrain. The first half was about as hilly/flat as the second half.

This run was 5 weeks out from the Chickamauga Marathon, but it suggests that were I able to keep my performance up for another 8 miles that I could finish in under 4 hours (my highest goal for the marathon distance). Who knows what it really means when it comes to Race Day (November 10th 2012), but it bodes well.

You non-runners can wake up now…

What’s Pace Got To Do With It?

“A lot of people run a race to see who is fastest. I run to see who has the most guts, who can punish himself into exhausting pace, and then at the end, punish himself even more. Nobody is going to win a 5,000 meter race after running an easy 2 miles. Not with me. If I loose forcing the pace all the way, well, at least I can live with myself.” – Steve Prefontaine

Pace, like most things in this universe, is relative. What is a fast pace for me, is a comfortable pace to my runner friends who can WIN marathons or an exhausting pace for some of my fellow mid-pack runner friends. Also, depending on where you are in training, a certain pace is untouchable without the proper training. So what does pace have to do with it? For finishing in a certain time… everything!

Most of us have delusions of grandeur, mainly because races these days make us put what our “expected time” will be on the race form. I’d LOVE to do some statistical analysis on the expected vs. actual time difference. Of course, I’d want some good variables for proper analysis (ooooo, a subject for a new blog post -YAY!). Sorry… SQUIRREL… back to the pace stuff:

Delusions of Grandeur… we “think” that we can run a race in a certain time and even put it down on our entry form. I know that I put down, by default, a PR time on the race form. After all, why not dream a fast dream. Seriously. As if, I have any clue what I am going to run weeks and weeks from now. I’ve even been there, on race day, before the gun goes off thinking that I could run the race in a certain time, but the reality was going to be much, much different.

So for my upcoming Publix Georgia Marathon (thanks to 26.2 Quest!) on March 18th, I’m pretty sure I put down 4 hours and 4 minutes to finish the marathon. A PR time of 3 minutes and change at a pace of 9:18 min/mile. I’ve included some pace calculators here… most just give you what the average pace for a certain distance and time.

Cool Running Pace Calculator

McMillian Running Pace Calculator

Marathon Guide Pace Calculator

Runner’s World Pace Calculator

My fave, is the McMillian calculator… this one gives you paces for various distances which is very handy for training. One great myth of distance runners is that we run the same pace, usually perceived to be something fast, every time we go out and run. Hardly, because there are different “types” of workouts with different “paces”. The McMillian calculator makes the math easy for you and lays out the pace range for certain types of workouts. By using these different pace ranges for the different workouts, you are unifying your training for the ultimate goal… the marathon finishing time.

However, there are some obstacles. Unless you are some ‘Robin Hood’ type runner, you aren’t going to be able to hit the pace accurately each and every time. Hills, turns, fatigue, traffic and the occasional lost person asking for directions are things that we encounter while we run that keeps us from hitting our pace each and every mile.

Another thing that I have noticed about trying to train and keeping a certain pace is that the fastest and slowest paces are the hardest to keep in check. The fast pace is obvious why it is hard to keep. We get tired. Running fast is hard. The slower pace, however, is more difficult to understand because why would it be harder to run slower. Slower doesn’t equate one-to-one with Easier.

Take my 9:18 pace for example. My most recent 5k race (1.1.12) was at a 7:50 pace. This is actually 13 seconds FASTER per mile then the recommended 8:03 pace (but I am not worried) for that distance. For my long distance runs, however, my pace should be between 9:49 and 10:49 which is pretty comfortable, but I can tell you that if I run ALONE, I will tend to have a pace that is around 8:50 or 9:00.

Whenever I can, I try to run with people who run at a slower pace, so that I can discipline myself to run that slower pace. I benefit from the camaraderie and the disciplined pace. Running isn’t all about trying to run as fast as you can, each and every run. It’s a symphony of organized runs which harmonize together for a grand finale on Race Day.

Here are my suggested paces to finish a marathon in 4 hours and 4 minutes:

Recommend Workout Paces







The Program

I think I have my final product, ready for unveiling. It’s basic in structure, I’ve put most of the fundamental training workouts, although I have left out a key workout – I’ll reveal later, and laid it out so that it fits with my current schedule hopefully without leaving me injured or running at weird time of the day.

I put the anchor workout, the Long Run, on Saturdays. The placement serves two purposes: first, it gives a concrete event for the family on Saturday mornings to provide structure and second, it allows me to use the Knoxville Track Club’s Long Distance Races as part of my training without having to take any “extra” time away from the family. The other workouts are scheduled to fit with my work schedule, so that I can do them at lunchtime.



Mondays are my Tempo Runs, Wednesdays are the Strenuous Runs (Hills, Speed and Track workouts), Thursdays and Fridays are Easy Runs. This leave Tuesdays and Sundays as Rest Days. Probably the workout that gets the most response, usually in the realm of “What The…”, is the ‘Easy’ workout out. For most, an ‘Easy’ run workout would be walking the distance or even sitting on the couch imaging walking the distance. Nope, an ‘Easy’ workout has it’s own unique goal.

Remember that I said earlier that training programs are plan of the ‘WORK’ a person should do to have the endurance and fitness to complete a marathon, hopefully at some desired level. That is, we hope to finish with a specific time or maybe just finish at all. To figure out if the training program is working, sometime has to be observed and/or measured. Most runners will use Heart Rate or Pace as a measure of how they are doing in their training. For super geeky runners, they’ll use a variety of gadgets to measure both, at the same time. Elite Runners can even be fitted like lab rats (in a lab) to have even more bodily functions measured, such as the amount of oxygen needed.

The premise is that the more you run, the easier it gets. The easier it gets, the more fit (maybe) you are. A 1 mile run at the beginning might make us heave lunch onto the ground, but as we workout more and more, the one mile run becomes easier and we keep our lunch. We can look at a heart rate monitor that our heart rate at the beginning was higher then after some training. Also, the time that it takes to reach a heart rate where we don’t hear the pounding in our head is reduced. Therefore, if we can reach a certain level of fitness then we should be able to complete the race in a certain time and the training program helps map out what we need to do. This requires at least the basic or entry level heart rate monitor and we are able to measure our heart rate, in real time, and can make immediate changes to the level of effort in our workout.

The other way to measure our level of fitness is pace, or how fast did I complete that distance. Like the 1 mile example above, the more that we train, the faster – at least in theory – we can run the mile at the same pace. By running the same routes, we can estimate a level of fitness based on perceive effort in conjunction with the amount of time that it takes. This method doesn’t give us immediate feedback (unless we have a GPS on us) and we have to rely on perceived effort which can either be a stepping stone or a stumbling block to our workout. This is the methodology that I use for measuring the level of success of my workouts. I do have a heart rate monitor that I could use, but I am not a huge gadget person when it comes to my running.

Okay, so what is missing from my training program? Drum roll please… It’s the mid-distance runs. These are runs that are usually between 6-8 miles and are run in between a Tempo and Easy pace. Since the max that I can do at lunchtime, my more reliable workout time, is 5 miles I had to make a decision to either (1) use vacation time to cover the extra time required for the additional distance if ran on a work day, (2) Run the distance at night, which cuts into family time or (3) Not run that far. I chose #3. Now there is a (4) option which I am beginning to entertain the possibility of doing it and that is to do a “two-fer” or a “Two-A-Day”. That is, I could run, say 4 miles at 5am before the Morning Routine, and then run again at lunchtime which I would be able to get in the 6-8 miles in one day, for that workout. I used this technique in 2008 to get my “High Mileage” training days completed.

Now, I know the runners out there are still not satisfied because I have not shared a crucial element. I wrote about it earlier in the post… my pace. The next blog will be about my target paces for this training plan.

I had to enter in my estimate for my finish time when I register. Since that is the driving force for my training program, I’ll share that next post. I’ll also, free of charge, highlight the target paces, not only for race day, but also all for all the workouts. Yes, even an Easy workout has a range of where your pace “should” fall. And let me tell you, sometimes trying to get an Easy workout at the prescribed pace is hard!


Here’s a PDF version of the whole training program, my plan is to periodically upload it with updates with my actual workouts.

The Training Program is Schroender’s Cat

Despite what is written out for a training program on day Number 1, it is still a black box. Much like poor Schroeder’s Cat who is might be alive or might be dead (but for certain is not both), the Training Program might work or not work but that’s about the extent of the similarities that I am going to draw with training programs and quantum mechanics for now.

A training program, unlike the question of poor Schroender’s Cat, is not a reductio ad absurdum, it is something dynamic that has been thought out by someone at some level at some point in time and probably has some real life data to back the reasoning. There’s a good probability that it will work, if followed. But following a training program is so much harder to do and even if two people follow the same program results could vary.

If a training program is a predetermined written plan of what to run and when, how Terry can it be… ‘dynamic’. Easy, add a human. A training program becomes dynamic when a runner commits to running that program. That is, a runner takes something factual and makes it actual and we’ve seen that when humans interact with things, all bets are off!

But know that a training program is dynamic at the beginning is a good thing. When we miss a training run, it does not mean that it is the end of the World. Unless it is, literally, The End of the World, a missed run or a reduced mileage will not make trying to run the race futile. Why we missed that run is WAY more important and might be an indicator of something that needs to be addressed more seriously then missing a mid-week 5 mile run. It could be an injury, sickness or a psychological issue that is causing us to feel negative about our performance and those ARE issues that need to be addressed sooner, rather than later!

Change comes with the territory. If you are able to follow a training program from start to finish without missing any workouts, that is so totally awesome. I have learned that, I’m guessing here, probably 99.999999% of all runners training for a marathon have to change their training program to some degree.

So what do you do if you have to change your program for some reason? The answer to that is easy, just ask. There are TONS of experienced runners that are extremely helpful and have probably been in that situation more than once who can offer suggestions on what to do. The bonus is that these runners have gone through the same situation under their own trial and error making them more than willing to share what worked and definitely what didn’t.

I can’t say it enough that you learn SO much more from a less than stellar, or just down right horrible, experience than with a good one. Let me be clear, good experience are essential, but we LEARN so much more from bad experience which, in turn, increases our good ones.

My next post, probably on Monday Dec 5th, will have my Georgia Marathon training program, and I’ll pick it apart.


I love it when a TRAINING plan comes together

For the few days when I wasn’t sure if I was going to run Atlanta or run Cincinnatti, I was contemplating the training program on a number of levels mostly on a theoretical level. Then to add some intellectual fuel to the fire, I had a fellow runner whom I’ve helped coach in the past introduce me to a friend of hers who is in need of training advice right now. And thus the inspiration to compose this post was born in the neurons of my mind. Ironically, her training program is for the Flying Pig Marathon (the other marathon on my short list) in May! Cue Twilight Zone Intro theme…

So what about the training program. What is it good for? What is it not good for? Can you do with out one? Which training program is best? Can you miss a day? The answer is “Yes, No, Maybe So… (Can you repeat the question)” and I am going to explore the training program on a somewhat shallow level. I’m not really wanting, at this time, to get into an in depth philosophical debate on things like VO2 levels or frequency of 20+ mile runs.

That was MY plan (cue evil laughter)

Just like a plane doesn’t take off with a flight plan, a runner should have a some form of training program. It provides the basic structure a runner should follow in order to be at some level of training on race day. Ideally, we’d like to have some sort of goal on the level of training, but in the beginning of a running career, being too specific is a disaster waiting to happen. So we find a plan, or have someone lead us to one, to follow that we think will work. The core of it being: I am here at point “A” with physical condition “X” and I would like to be at Point “B” with physical condition “Y” at time “T”.

A training program is not something set in stone but more like a guideline or a best case scenario. I’m guessing here, but for most, the training program is as much as a “Work in Progress” as the actual training. Life happens and that causes us to tweak it, usually pretty frequently.

Training programs can be very simple and straightforward to highly technical with the need for some electronic gadget attached to the body. In the end, a runner does what scientist call “Work”, which is the running part and it “teaches” the body, if we things correctly, how to handle the rigors of running. Some training programs concentrate on different ways of measuring the “Work” being done on the body and this will result in feedback on how things are progressing (or regressing). I’m thinking I will touch on some of the different ways of measuring “Work” in an upcoming blog post, but for now it is just about “The Plan”

The experienced runner may not use one particular training program but rather create their own hybrid program consisting of the core components shared by almost all training plans. Of course, the danger in making your own is that it becomes so complicated or so bloated with technical mumbo jumbo that it is ineffective and gives you a big fat DNF (Did Not Finish). But I bang on the pulpit that you will learn so much more about yourself from a DNF then any completed race. (Ooooo, a post about DNF… more ideas for future articles are being birthed).


My original idea to write about the Training Plan, since I was in the process of making my own, has started to morph into something larger. I’m now to at least 2 other blog posts about training programs (changes and components) but there may be more… who knows my own training plan for the Georgia Marathon might end up being a post by itself.