After registering for the 2011 Chicago marathon I chose to follow the Nike provided (free) training plan to prepare myself for 26.2. The training plan appealed to me: it involved only four days of running, incorporated speedwork and relied heavily (of course) on the weekend long run. I trained, I pushed myself, I felt primed to conquer 26.2 miles. Race day came and I was shocked by how rough the final 6 miles felt. They included a lot of walking (in my defense it was hella hot) but I proudly finished in just over 4:30.
Ready for the next step and marathon challenge, in 2012 I was determined to break 4:30 and run a 4:10/4:15. I purchased a Runner’s World “break 4:15” training plan via Training Peaks. This plan involved more mileage with 5 days a week of running and less focus on speedwork. I followed the plan closely, but admittedly half assed some of the speed workouts; there weren’t many speed workouts included and they never seemed challenging. The final six miles were painful in an expected marathon way, but I barely walked. In fact, I took a couple short walk breaks mile 18-20 but broke through the Mile 20 wall and ran the remaining 6 miles. So you would expect a much better finishing time, right? More training, better weather. I completed the 2012 race in 4:28, a mere 5 minute improvement over 2011.
What gives? I felt like I trained harder? But my racing performance doesn’t correlate to the increase in training?
Obviously, I have thought about this in the past few weeks. I didn’t put the puzzle pieces together until last night during a demanding tempo run. I know, I am no Sherlock Holmes. I sacrificed speed for distance. I did 9 miles last night (honest, it took forever for my Garmin to pick up a signal and I was too impatient to wait). Of those 9 miles, I ran 5 around tempo pace.
It was rough, my heart rate was through the roof. In 2011 I ran a couple half marathons during the training season before the marathon: 1:55 and 1:56. This year, I ran a half marathon personal worst of 2:14 (realistically 2:10 cause I had to stop at the porta potty and wait in line). Big delta. Clearly, I need more emphasis on SPEED and to PUSH myself.
BC said it best when I chatted with him about my completed puzzle thoughts. “Long slow training makes a long slow racer.”
I want to trust my training, but I think my intuition is better. I’ve been taking it too easy. In the next couple weeks leading up to the Vegas marathon I will include more speed conditioning. Since I only have a few weeks I doubt it will produce any improvement, but now I understand how to modify my training plans for next year!
Do you ever combine plans? Switch it up and make your own? Any pointers on how you’ve successfully used a plan that didn’t burn you out and resulted in a positive race experience?