August 14, 2013

Which training plan will get you the fastest marathon time?

Recently I received an email asking me about which training plans I used with which races/results. I think the point of the question is to figure out the answer to the title of this post: which training plan will get you the fastest marathon time?

On the overall scale of things, I got faster with more time and experience, but there were a few hiccups in there due to intestinal non-fortitude (my personal worst time at Rocket City) and weather (Nashville, why does it always have to be you?). Each training plan has its benefits and drawbacks. Right now I'm training with a coach, who is obviously much better with giving feedback and advice than any Excel file. He even ran with me to help me set a new half marathon PR, and that's not happening when you get your plans from a book or online. If you have a minute, check out this blog post that one of his other students wrote. At the end is my coach's advice. Gotta love the tough talk. 

I didn't include trail runs in my timeline because it's just not as easy of a comparison as road racing. Even though you can have hilly courses and some headwind during a road race, you will not likely have to hike, with arms pulling as much weight as your legs, for miles. All of the terrain changes make it really hard to make any across-the-board comparisons with trail racing, unless you're comparing the same course from one year to the next. 

Sidetracked much. 

Back to the point of this post.

My marathon/training plan timeline

11-5-11: Hal Higdon's Intermediate training plan. Savannah Marathon, 4:03. Plan was easy to follow and free. My legs cramped a lot during the race! More 20+-mile runs would have given me more confidence for race day. 

1-22-12: Hansons Marathon Method. Ocala Marathon, 4:01. Longest runs are 16 miles on tired legs. Legs recovered faster and didn't feel as fatigued during the race.

2-19-12: Hansons Marathon Method. IMS Arizona Marathon, 3:46. Great weather combined with a lot of downhill during the race. Tried running through water stops for the first time, and that saved a lot of time.

4-28-12: Hansons Marathon Method. Nashville RNR Marathon, 4:06. Brutally hot weather. Hilly course. Not a good day of running. Ready to take a running break for the season.

11-3-12: Run Less, Run Faster. Savannah Marathon, 3:40:02. It hurts to remember those two measly seconds that kept me from qualifying for Boston. Check out the race report because at least a few laughs came from that day (in between crying into my pillow). This training plan gave me a lot of confidence because of its very specific plan for various time goals, and with only three running days a week, I never got injured.

12-8-12: Run Less, Run Faster. Rocket City Marathon, 4:37. Going for BQ and instead had a big bust. Intestinal problems from carb loading with too many bagels made this race a no-go. Soon after this, I decided to take wheat, dairy, and processed sugar out of my diet.

2-9-13: Resolute Running with Coach Alex. Mississippi River Marathon, 3:40:12. Missed BQing again by 12 seconds even though I felt like I ran stronger than at Savannah. Course was long and headwind was strong.

2-17-13: Resolute Running with Coach Alex. Mercedes Marathon, 3:34:42. I was going to use this as a training run but ended up deciding to race when I couldn't get over the disappointment from the last race. Turns out that I respond well to hometown races. My training at the time was targeted at running slower for my 50K, but the killer group speedwork sessions did their job too.

And what about now? I'm continuing to train with Resolute Running, but I'm not sure if I'm going to shoot for a marathon PR again anytime soon. I'm pacing a friend in my next race (Savannah Marathon again), and I've pretty much decided to have fun at Boston if I'm able to get registered (not sure how hard it will be with all the folks returning from last year). I don't want worrying about splits to ruin my experience there because most likely, because of the expense of travel and planning it around family time, I won't be going back again anytime soon even if I do BQ again.

Right now, I'm really most interested in hitting new distances with trail running. The 50K is still a huge challenge, and a little voice on my shoulder keeps chirping about a 50 miler. And it's so tempting to try and go for it, but at the same time, I just don't know if I can dedicate that kind of trail time to it.

And complete side note, I have to gush about how much I love the members of our Life Time run club. When we pulled up to the gym tonight to start run club, the rain started to pitter patter, and we dodged lightning bolts on our way to the front door. Instead of calling it quits for the night, these bad mothers (and fathers, and neithers) took their buns up to the treadmills and worked them over. In a pretty massive club, we filled up ever single treadmill.

You know how some people run their butts off -- looks like the runner on the right ran his legs off.

They're so fast that every picture I have of them is a blur.

Excuse me, Mr. Blur, may I jot down your total mileage so we can win a contest?

As I've mentioned (a lot lately), we have until Labor Day to try and get more mileage than another Life Time club in another state, or we have to run in our boxers. You do not want to see me in the raggedy boxers around this piece, so I really want to win this contest. Although someone tonight told me they thought it would be more fun to lose and have a boxer run.

Would you love or hate a boxer run? It would be totally fine if I had cooler boxers to wear. Is it too disgusting to buy those at the thrift store?

Which training plan did you use for your fastest marathon/half/other distance? Would you use it again? 

Do you ever run in lightning? I have before but don't recommend it. I actually sometimes love running in the rain (minus lightning) but not if it's a really cold rain. It took me a while to get over the wet feet thing, but without that, rain running could be a small step away from glorious.