Saturday, August 13, 2011

Marathon Training Begins. Again.

This week marks the first of my 18-week training plan for the Rocket City Marathon on December 10th, and I wanted to jot down a few things for posterity and future reflection.

Training Plan

After some failed attempts at qualifying for Boston last year I've decided to stray from my Hal Higdon comfort zone and, at the urging of other, faster runners, give Pete Pfitzinger at try. No, I don't feel like Hal let me down - his Advanced II plan was challenging and took my fitness to a level I'd never seen before. But after a couple of cycles it became routine and I felt like I'd plateaued.

Last weekend I spent a considerable amount of time reviewing Advanced Marathoning, soaking in Pfitzy's philosophies, figuring paces and preparing my calendar. I really llike the rounded approach to training the book covers. It wasn't just a collection of training plans, but addressed in depth the elements of training, nutrition and hydration, and balancing training and recovery. It's that last part - balancing training and recovery - that I feel sets his plan apart from Hal's. I'm used to running 6-7 days per week, but that won't be the case under Pfitz. Each week includes two rest or cross-training days, and my expectation is to do one of each depending on how I'm feeling.

Without going into too much depth, here are a couple of things I've taken notice of:

  • Unlike Hal Higdon's plans, there are no training days dedicated solely to intervals or hills. Instead, speed work is integrated into general aerobic runs in the form of 100m strides or longer intervals within VO2max runs. I like this very much.
  • There's a time to push the limits and a time to recover. Sure, Hal did this too, but it feels more pronounced in this plan. The book stresses the importance of the hard/easy principle - one or more hard days followed by one or more easy days.
  • Each type of run in under Pfitz' plan is discussed in precise relationship to pace or heart rate. Currently I'm trying to execute each workout according to pace; however, I hope to switch over to heart rate once I get my VO2max tested at PT Solutions in Montgomery. I'm just waiting on the machine to return from Atlanta.

Injury Challenges

There are both good and bad developments on this front. The strained adductor I struggled with last training cycle is almost 100% healed. I can feel it a little on some hard weight training days, but diligent stretching has done wonders. Another minor issue I recently dealt with that seems to have faded away is some discomfort in my left knee. It never really bothered me while running, but there was a noticeable pain when I tried to stretch my hamstring. This, too, has subsided over the past few weeks.

What's ugly is what I believe to be plantar fasciitis of my right foot. I'm not exactly sure what brought it on, but I have a lot of discomfort in my arch just forward of my heel. Mostly it aches throughout the day, but every so often when I least expect it there's a searing flash of pain that's enough to make me stop whatever it is I'm doing and grit my teeth. I've been trying everything under the sun to help it along, but so far no luck. Icing, footwear with more support, rolling it on an iced bottle, wearing a night splint to keep it stretched out, icing, Ibuprofen and, of course, more icing are part of my routine now. What's that you say? Oh, yes, I've tried that, too. The only thing I haven't done is see an actual doctor. A podiatrist friend said I could run through the injury, assuming what I had was PF. I've choosen to believe him. Everything I've read says this will be with me 6-8 months, so I figure my only choice is to manage it as best I can.


The only major change in equipment this training cycle is footwear. Last year this time I was running in nothing but minimalist shoes, like the Saucony Kinvara and Saucony Fastwitch. I don't know what, if any, affect they had on my foot issue, but right now they're on the shelf along with some new Newton Gravity trainers in favor of shoes with more support. I've been running in some old favorites, Adidas AdiZero Mana, and recently added the Mizuno Elixir 6 performance stability trainers to the rotation. The latter, with ample arch support, seem to be helping so far.


My downfall at previous marathons was leg cramping. It was so severe I could barely walk, let alone run. I tried to combat it with better hydration, but sucking down Gatorade at aid stations just prolonged the cramping a little and disagreed with my stomach. Since then I've done some research and believe my problem to be insufficient electrolyte replacement, primarily in the form of sodium. I'm a heavy sweater, and without it my body doesn't know what to do with all the water in my stomach. Enter Succeed S! Caps, which I've been using with good results the past few months and look forward to testing over the coming weeks.

So, that's it for now. With any luck I'll complete this training cycle without incident and lasso the elusive BQ I've been trying to catch. That said, at present I'm thinking this may be my only marathon this season. If I don't qualify for Boston I may shelve the pursuit until the next age bracket. Marathon training consumes too much of my life and I want the flexibility to enter more half marathons and maybe even take on an ultra. Everything's up in the air right now, though.


  1. Glad you made the leap from Hal to Pfitzinger also. While I actually like Hal's speed work better, I really like the multiple long runs per week in the Pfitzinger program - sounds like you are doing the 18/55 program? The 18/70 is pushing my limits on time and energy available, but I think it's going to be worth it. However, I'm not sure it's the type of program I can do twice, maybe three times, per year, especially since I rely on the summer months with its less rigorous morning schedule (i.e., the kids don't have to get ready for school) to fit in the Tuesday 15 milers.
    Best of luck this training season, hope the PF sorts itself out.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Greg. Yes, I'm doing the 18/55 plan. I think I could handle the 18/70, but wanted to leave some room in my life for other activities, like swimming and hiking. Besides, I have faith that the intensity of this plan will be more than adequate.