Thursday, October 22, 2009

Time for a Marathon Debrief

At this point, the Long Beach Marathon is legend. I look back fondly at my journey through the streets of Long Beach and laugh at all the trials and tribulations. That means that I'm probably ready to take an honest view of what worked and what didn't.

What Worked
(1) Long runs. Many of them. All in all, I put in 2 20 milers and 4 other runs over 16 miles. And dozens of runs over 10 miles. This time I had the confidence that the distance would not be a problem.
(2) Multiple dress rehearsals. I put in three runs that I would classify as full dress rehearsals. Wore the clothes that I wore on Marathon day. Down to the same socks and shoes. Practiced everything (except drinking on the run).
(3) Fuels and electrolytes: No cramping this time. So the gels and Endurolytes worked. Also, my last dress rehearsal let me know I needed more electrolytes than one capsule every 30 minutes.
(4) Miles. And more miles. Long slow ones. 750 of them. While they didn't make me fast, they gave me the confidence that despite my lat marathon experience, 26.2 miles was within my grasp.
(5) Fueling strategy. I said this before. Breaking this race into a series of 3 mile runs was key.

What Didn't
(1) 24 week training plan. Too long. Somewhere around week 16 or so I was ready for it to be over.
(2) Pfitzinger. Just too much for this new runner in an old body. About the same time I was burning out, I was also breaking down. Spent the last 5 or 6 weeks continually tired. I thought that having two rest days a week would be good, but the grind of the medium long runs during the week got to me.

When I look at the list above, there is only one thing that really stands out. 24 weeks of Pfitzinger. Just too many miles for too long for me. Interestingly, I didn't break down physically (well, except for two weeks of the creeping grunge), but mentally I was toast.

What's Changing
Albert Enstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And he seemed like a pretty bright guy. So it's time to make a few adjustments.
The big change is that I'm going to go back to Hal Higdon. I had good results with his plans in the past. I'll start with his Advanced-I Marathon Plan. The big differences are 18 weeks, and only one day a week off. With Higdon, recovery occurs using short runs (3 - 4 miles) instead of the extra day off and long recovery runs.

Then, somewhere around the midpoint, I do a reality check and see how I feel. If I still feel good, I'll continue down the path. If not, I'll step back to his Intermediate-II Marathon Plan. One of my FB/Twitter friends followed this course for Chicago and whacked about an hour off her marathon time.

For now, it's back to recovery (3 easy miles last night).


  1. I thikn 24 weeks IS long. That's what we did for TNT too. Pfitzer? I was just gonna ask you about that!!

  2. I read a recent blog from someone wanting to know anothers great plan of success on the recent Chicago marathon. The response was - "what plan?"

    I go back and forth on the importance of one plan over another. I have stuck with some, others, not so much.

    Whatever motivates you the best to achieve, without completely beating you up prior to your event/race is what is best for you. It sounds like you are definitly finding out what works for you.

  3. It's so funny how quickly we move on to the next race. BS and I laugh because one experienced runner once told me, "You can't move on to the next race until you've forgotten the last one." To me, that's the following week. I like you're reflections though and I definitely think I've improved with the fueling issue at every race but still haven't gotten it down!
    24 weeks does sound too long...

  4. I'm a big believer in Hal Higdon's programs. Not only have I PRed several times following his advice, but I seem to always run injury-free. Can't say the same with other training programs I've tried.

  5. I like Hal's plans and I agree that 24 weeks is a LONG time! but you did it and now you know what works for you!

  6. 24 weeks is very long. I like Hal's training plan-I have used it, or used it as a guise and modified to my work schedule!

  7. There was a really interesting feature in Runner's World last month (or the month before) about training for a marathon w/o as many long runs, but by upping the intensity of the shorter runs. I haven't tried it, but it made (logical) sense anyway.

    I like Hal too.

  8. Sounds like a good plan, Glenn. Most of the Jack Daniels plans are 24 weeks as well, but the first 6 are solely base building. For my next marathon, I just used my 10K training as my base building phase (since I was running 60+ mile weeks) and went right into the 18 week quality part.

    It's going well. I'm in week 1 and I'm injured ;).

  9. That's really helpful, Glenn, to hear about what helped you have a better experience. Hal used to write for one of the newspapers I worked for (he lives nearby). It's funny because at the time I didn't appreciate what an icon he is.

  10. i feel those "not's". 24-weeks is too long! i came down with marathon a.d.d. too, you know you are not alone. :) brian may claim that the first 6 weeks are base building on jack daniels' (which it is...) but it still makes it tough. why can't we train for these things in like, 3 weeks?

  11. This is a really good idea for us newbie wannabe marathoners. :)

    24 weeks does sound like a really long time, but it's awesome you MADE IT! Woo hoo!

    Oh, and I mentioned you on my blog today, if you want to check it out. Happy Friday!

  12. sounds like a good evaluation of your training. I can't imagine training for 6 months (!!!) for one race. I go crazy with 12 week schedules. looks like you have a good plan in the works. :)

  13. Glenn, your explanations of the HRM and LTT and all of that was spot on and very comprehensible. THANK YOU for taking the time to I'll slow down for now and not push as hard on the tempo...and look for a HRM! Thanks again, I continue to learn so much from blogging!