My little vacation from training is coming to an end, with training for the Des Moines Half Marathon set to start next month. I can hardly believe that it will be my 6th half marathon! Do you have any idea how crazy that is to me? Nuts. Anyway, at this point in my running career, I actually have some experience to look back on when I’m trying to decide on a training plan. For my first half marathon, I used a Hal Higdon plan (more on that here) and highly recommend it for your first race of any distance really. It was easy to follow and hit the biggest thing I needed the first time around – learning to cover the miles. For my second half marathon, the Des Moines Half Marathon in 2014, I used an Another Mother Runner plan that incorporated more miles (more on that one here) and then transitioned into an easy plan for the back to back training for the Rebel Challenge. For the Lincoln Half Marathon, I used a different Another Mother Runner plan that included hill work, tempo runs and speed work in ways I’d never done before. Every time I’ve trained, I stepped up the intensity of the training bit by bit and feel like every time, I’ve come out of the training as a stronger runner, no matter my race time.
I always like to look back at the training cycle I just completed and think about my goals for the new training cycle. Coming out of Lincoln training, I feel like I can definitely handle a training plan with hill work, speed work and tempo runs, so I want to keep those in the mix for Des Moines in 2015. I have the benefit of having run Des Moines last year, so I know a lot about what the terrain will be like (flat!) and can train for it appropriately. I also know that odds are good that it will be cooler on race day than it is for the bulk of my training, or at least it shouldn’t be warmer, which is what screwed me up in Lincoln. I know that the course gets a little narrow towards the end and I’ll need to work on keeping up my mental muscle through that point so I don’t get frustrated and fall behind. Running a race you’ve run before has a lot of benefits. 🙂
I’ll be starting my training next month and will be using a sort of a modified version of the Hanson’s Method plan. Last month, one of my goals was to finish reading the Hanson’s Half Marathon Method book and I highly recommend it if you want to learn more about the hows and whys of training. It discusses the purposes of the various kinds of training runs, like tempo runs and speed work and hill work, and the phases of a training plan that get you ready for race day. I really enjoyed learning about the science of training. I’ll be incorporating a lot of those concepts, in terms of a base phase, a speed phase, a strength phase and a taper phase, into my new training plan (which I’ll update on the training page this weekend). The book also talks a lot about cumulative fatigue and that the way to be a better/stronger runner is to run more miles. The more miles you run each week, the better your body adapts to it and the better your muscles are at handling doing the hard work at the end of a race. The Hanson training plans specifically recommend running 6 days a week, rather than swapping out 2-3 of those runs for cross training like most of the other training plans I’ve used in the past. I was on board with that idea, because I tend to stay fairly injury free outside of my own clumsiness (knock on wood) and because I know I tend to take it easy on cross training, which probably doesn’t add much to my training. I also liked the idea of cumulative fatigue because I definitely tend to struggle in the last 5K of a half marathon and particularly know that’ll be an issue in Des Moines because that is where the course got a little narrow for me last year. I was on board with all of that until I saw the kind of mileage his training plans included – more miles in week one than I ran in peak weeks of any prior training plan. Yikes! That seems like a recipe for injury, trying to jump things up that much for this little working mama (not to mention the impossibility of finding time for that kind of mileage when you’re a working mom who runs 11-12 minute miles on a good day).
Thus, I will not be following the Hanson plan exactly. Instead, I’ll incorporate some of those principles into my new plan. I’m looking at 16-17 weeks of training, because I know there are 2-3 weeks where I’ll be traveling or working and won’t be able to train normally (I just repeat the week before/after that in the training plan during those weeks and do as much as I can). I’ll spend the first 4 weeks rebuilding my base, with 5-6 days of running but nothing fancy. Then I’ll progress to the “speed” phase, with 6 days of running a week including 1 long run, 1 speed workout and 1 tempo run. I felt like the tempo runs did a lot for my mental stamina in my Lincoln training and this time around, I’d like to work on doing those on the road instead of just the treadmill so I learn to self-regulate my pace a bit better. The last section before the taper with be the “strength” phase, with longer intervals of sustained paces, longer tempo runs and again 6 days of running a week.
Importantly, I’m planning on doing two 11 and two 12 mile runs this time, because I really consistently struggle in those last few miles. I’m also going to incorporate more “race pace” simulations so I can train my body to know what it feels like and to know that it can in fact sustain my target “race pace.” I’m going to run more miles all around, with the last “strength” phase at around 30 miles each week, which is more than I’ve done before. With a gradual increase, my body should be able to handle this but I’ll definitely be paying attention to how I’m feeling as well as continuing my strength training, yoga and foam rolling.
How do you decide on a training plan for a new race? How do you account for weeks that you know are going to be rough in terms of getting the training in?