Have you ever experienced a “false start” to your marathon training?
This is what happened to me. I had actually started my training on the first week of December, using Pete Pfitzinger’s 18 weeks low mileage plan (please find it in his book Advanced Marathoning 2nd edition). But come Christmas and everything unravelled.
I have underestimated the power of the silly season (as we call it here) to stop everything in its tracks. All of my energy were dedicated to wrapping up work and making Christmas treats! Having a new kitchen toy to play with, the amazing Thermomix really didn’t help (more about that in another post!). I was cooking and baking like a madwoman. The funny part, really, is the fact that we don’t actually celebrate Christmas.
I stopped running for an entire week *gasp*
Looking back, there were a few reasons:
1. Poor organization: I may have decided long time ago to use Pfitzinger’s plan as a basis for my training. But I have done zilch to get organized. For instance, I have not transferred the plan onto my calendar. Then again, I wasn’t really using any form of calendar (not even on my iPhone) as I was a student then, and the only thing I had to remember were my classes, and for that I relied on my memory and, to some extent, my classmates. I had the plan up on the fridge, but it was written in a strange way (the days were arranged on a vertical bar as opposed on a horizontal bar) and therefore I did not have a sense of the load of workouts I had ahead of me, particularly those that clash with the busy days leading to the holidays. So, I got caught off guard with work load and my other personal commitments. I let myself be snowed under, so to speak!
2. Wrong priorities: I guess I didn’t have my priorities right. I knew the Pfitzinger plan, which called for 4-5 runs a week, would require me to set aside at least 1.5 hours every morning as the shortest runs even are over 10 km. The problem: I would prioritize work or baking, then would go to bed late and would wake up too late for a 1.5 hour run. I would always push the workouts back to the afternoon. Another problem: I dislike afternoon runs. Being summer over here, running in the late afternoon means you have to cope with the heat and you have to cope with some form of gut distress (I do have a slow digestion). I knew I prefer morning runs, but can’t get myself to wake up early enough for one. Instead of thinking “Oh, don’t have time for a 14km lactate threshold workout” I should have just hit the road and squeeze in whatever I can in the time that I have. And if I don’t get to do my run in the afternoon (because it was too warm, no time, and one hundred and one other excuses), I would procrastinate my running “Oh, I’ll catch up on my training tomorrow”. The rest is history.
3. Overestimating my abilities: The book isn’t called Advanced Marathoning for nothing. Why on the earth did I think I could just pick a plan out of the book and expect everything to just run smoothly? My body and mind were obviously not ready for grueling 4-5 runs a week, with the shortest distance at 8km (first week only). In fact, I think my brain short circuited when I was trying to process the difficult lingo used in the training plan (lactate threshold run, VO2 max run, with so and so repeats or so and so at marathon/half marathon/so and so pace).
To give you a better idea, let me give you a ‘taste’ of the Pfitzinger plan:
That’s just the first week. The plan is very technical in nature and I should have known better than to tackle on something so complicated, it has given my brain a hard workout even before I stepped out of the door. I kept giving myself negative talk because I am convinced of two things: 1) it’s hard and 2) it’s hard. There were plenty of mental bumps just in the first week and I think it was natural for my body and mind to shut down (to running).
Clearly, I needed a different plan. This is when I stumbled across the December issue of Runner’s World: The marathon issue! The universe is trying to tell me something. This is what I found:
A 16-week plan! Get it? I had already lost two weeks, which has leaves me with exactly 16 weeks left to train. Is this a sign or what? And if you take a closer look at the plan, while it does demand you to run 5 times a week, but the individual runs are much more forgiving. The easy runs measure 5-8 km, while the long runs are up to 35km (which should adequately prep me mentally and physically for the full distance). And by the way, how awesome is it to have a plan spelled out in metric! It does say that it is for intermediate runners, who log 40 km a week. That’s my weekly mileage on a good week. Which means I don’t consistently log as much. It takes me quite an effort to keep up a 40km weekly base. Therefore, it would be interesting to see if I can keep up such mileage and even go up to 72km a week at the peak of this training leading up to the big day.
Runner’s World has an array of training plans that you can find here.