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favorite/recommended training plans for marathon

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Nick Morris
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Post  Julie Wed Oct 15, 2014 12:14 pm

Looking for ideas for my spring marathon for a training plan. I've done the Pfitz 55/18 plans and usually end up with my left knee injury. This will be marathon #17 so you'd think I would know what I was doing but really I don't. I have a good base with all my ultra training this summer so looking for any ideas for what to do between now and early January and then plans, pros and cons and what I should be on guard for. Should I just take the Pfitz plan or an advanced Hal plan and then just back off as soon as my knee starts talking or any other ideas? I don't know if I should have a time goal for this marathon or if it's still too close to having the babies. With my daughter, though, when she was how old the babies will be in May, I was 2 min off from PR and probably could have PR'd if I hadn't started out too fast so I won't lie that the thought of working my tail off all winter to attempt to PR hasn't crossed my mind. I do have winter training issues, though and everyone is predicting a terrible winter this year. I have a treadmill now, though so I could tough out some runs on it.
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Post  ounce Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:25 pm

I couldn't recommend a plan for you, Julie.  But I could recommend some themes.

Between now and the time you start a training cycle, I would protect the knee and protect the base by running for endurance.  Also do some core work and yoga.  Balancing your muscles is really important, IMHO.

Take some of the best and worst from your past plans and make something up.  I've taken Hal's 3 days a week running plan and changed it around so many different ways that Hal might become nauseous looking at it.  But he's not doing the running, I am, so I have to make it fit me, my goals, and my life.

In my opinion and for my running (and I run slower than you), the biggest running myth was don't run long runs at marathon pace, except for maybe the last 25% of the long run distance.  So don't be afraid of changing things for YOU.

Good luck.
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Post  Michele "1L" Keane Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:13 pm

I must admit that I found Pfitz's plan tough, but I'm lucky now and have a plan here set up by our group coach.  However, I would look at Hal's plans since the mileage isn't as high.  I have done his Advanced 2 plan since I like speedwork and I modified it bit to fit my needs.
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Post  Mark B Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:53 pm

I had good luck using a slight modification of Hal's Intermediate 2 training plan. It's a decent amount of miles without too much emphasis on intensity, which could set your knee off it it's on edge.

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Post  mountandog Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:58 pm

why do you think the Pfitz plan caused the knee injury?  If you can identify a theme then you can modify it to avoid the stress points.
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Post  mul21 Wed Oct 15, 2014 10:14 pm

I'm with Michael.  Can you give us an idea of what you think may aggravate the knee? Mileage? Speed work? anything else?
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Post  Mike MacLellan Thu Oct 16, 2014 7:32 am

Michael/Jim beat me to it...  

To build a plan, you have to know what works for you.  Has your success come more from high mileage plans or from high intensity ones?  Which do you respond better to?  Which is lower risk?  

Joe Friel (cycling/tri coach, owns TrainingPeaks, etc.) has some pretty good advice on marathons.  At our level, things like top-end speed aren't crucial for marathon success.*  What's important - and often limiting - is aerobic and muscular endurance.  If that's the case for you, a plan that addresses these two during your build/peak/specific phase will be successful.  

*Of course, having some speedwork to build the foundation for marathon-specific workouts is nice, improves economy, etc.; however, the old adage that VO2max is the end-all is slowly being replaced by the idea that your vVO2max (velocity at VO2max) is more important as an indicator not only of fitness but also economy, and thus is more closely correlated with marathon finishing times.
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Post  Nick Morris Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:17 pm

All great responses...

My training plan has evolved over the years. I had started with a Hal program, but eventually made it my own adaptation with more mileage and speedwork. Basically, I think it comes down to doing what you know works for you and then adding a few things in as a trial to see if it works. If so, then I would add it into the next program.
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Post  Julie Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:40 pm

Thanks all, I think the Pfitz program had too many miles and not enough days off between by the time I got my mid-week long run and weekend long run. Although he's not my only problem because I've had knee problems off and on since I've started running no matter what I've done. I don't think speedwork is my only problem because I don't really do it that often and even when I haven't done it, I've still had problems. Before I started following training programs, I'd just run 6 miles most weekdays at a moderate/comfortable/conversational pace with my group and then follow one of Hal's plans for the weekend long run mileage. Then I became convinced that was a bad idea but truly I had my best times during the times I just ran with my friends and then followed another plan for the weekend runs. Maybe that's what I should go back to. I do think 55 miles/week is too much for me, maybe always it's just too much for my knees. 40-some seems pretty comfortable, though. I could find my old training logs and see if I could pin-point where in training I broke down, too, if that would be useful.

I had to say the mid-week medium long run hurt me, though, because I think it also really has helped my endurance. Running 10 miles midweek and then a long run on the weekend definitely made me stronger, it seems to be a very delicate balance for me between getting stronger and staying uninjured/healthy.
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Post  Jim Lentz Thu Oct 16, 2014 3:57 pm

How much slower than your projected marathon pace have you been running you long and semi-long runs?
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Post  Julie Thu Oct 16, 2014 4:09 pm

Not much, semi long runs probably same or faster than MP, and then long runs up to a minute slower.
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Post  JohnP Thu Oct 16, 2014 8:40 pm

Julie, try to find time going forward to do hip and leg strengthening exercises this time, it could really help you. Of course it's not a guarantee but it's written about so much, it could help. Do some squats, lunges, and other hip strengthening exercises. I know they have really helped me a lot but of course it's no guarantee that it will always. Even twice a week would be pretty good but three times would be even better.

http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-treatment/do-weak-hips-cause-pronation?page=single

http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-prevention-recovery/weak-hips-lower-leg-injuries-appear-linked?page=single

http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/the-relationship-between-hip-strength-and-running-injuries-the-latest-research/

http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/injury-prevention/weak-in-the-knees-strengthen-your-hips_22950

http://physicaltherapy.about.com/od/humananatomy/a/Hip-Weakness-and-Knee-Pain.htm

http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/overuse-running-injuries-weakened-hip-muscles-common-cause

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Post  mul21 Thu Oct 16, 2014 9:38 pm

Ok, so we have a few things to work off of here and can maybe combine some of them to get something that will hit all the points you like and keep you healthy too.

On the positive side we have:
-Easy runs during the week, Hal plan on weekends
-Sorta long during the week helping with endurance
-Ideal peak mileage at 45-50

On the negative side of the ledger:
-Too fast on shorter runs (my opinion anyway)
-Over 50 miles ends in injuries
-Not enough days off

With these things taken into consideration, here's a rough suggestion that you can adapt based on how many days a week you want to run.  I would use your previous success of easy 6 milers during the week and the Hal plan on the weekends, but modify it just a bit by adding in a mid week long run of 10-12 miles about every 3 weeks or so, but compensate by cutting a day out of the program that week and maybe use that day for the exercises John suggested.  So on weeks 1 and 2, you might run TWTh and get your 6 miles in, then do another easy/pace run Saturday and your long run Sunday, then in week 3, just run TW, with Wednesday being the longer run with recovery for 2 days before the weekend runs.

Just a thought to get in some longer runs but not overdo it at the same time.
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Post  Julie Fri Oct 17, 2014 8:54 am

JohnP wrote:Julie, try to find time going forward to do hip and leg strengthening exercises this time, it could really help you. Of course it's not a guarantee but it's written about so much, it could help. Do some squats, lunges, and other hip strengthening exercises. I know they have really helped me a lot but of course it's no guarantee that it will always. Even twice a week would be pretty good but three times would be even better.

http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-treatment/do-weak-hips-cause-pronation?page=single

http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-prevention-recovery/weak-hips-lower-leg-injuries-appear-linked?page=single

http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/the-relationship-between-hip-strength-and-running-injuries-the-latest-research/

http://running.competitor.com/2014/07/injury-prevention/weak-in-the-knees-strengthen-your-hips_22950

http://physicaltherapy.about.com/od/humananatomy/a/Hip-Weakness-and-Knee-Pain.htm

http://www.momsteam.com/health-safety/overuse-running-injuries-weakened-hip-muscles-common-cause


John, thanks so much! I think you're right, I need to get back to hip exercises. I am really terrible about doing any exercise other than running. I'm good about keeping my running time and then as soon as I'm in the door, there are a million other things to do so I hate to sit on the floor and do an exercise but I need to make this a priority. I'll talk to my PT friend about it tomorrow, too, assuming she's running.

mul21 wrote:Ok, so we have a few things to work off of here and can maybe combine some of them to get something that will hit all the points you like and keep you healthy too.

On the positive side we have:
-Easy runs during the week, Hal plan on weekends
-Sorta long during the week helping with endurance
-Ideal peak mileage at 45-50

On the negative side of the ledger:
-Too fast on shorter runs (my opinion anyway)
-Over 50 miles ends in injuries
-Not enough days off

With these things taken into consideration, here's a rough suggestion that you can adapt based on how many days a week you want to run.  I would use your previous success of easy 6 milers during the week and the Hal plan on the weekends, but modify it just a bit by adding in a mid week long run of 10-12 miles about every 3 weeks or so, but compensate by cutting a day out of the program that week and maybe use that day for the exercises John suggested.  So on weeks 1 and 2, you might run TWTh and get your 6 miles in, then do another easy/pace run Saturday and your long run Sunday, then in week 3, just run TW, with Wednesday being the longer run with recovery for 2 days before the weekend runs.

Just a thought to get in some longer runs but not overdo it at the same time.

Wow, good summary and I think good idea. I do like my 6 milers with my friends but the mid-week long runs did help, maybe giving an extra day off on those weeks would be a big help. Thanks for your ideas!
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Post  Michele "1L" Keane Fri Oct 17, 2014 11:15 am

Jim nailed it I believe, and I think running only 5 days per week is a great suggestion (if you ever read my blog, you will see that I only run 5 days per week myself).  The only change that I might make is to have one of those weekly runs at a faster pace (Hal tempo style) on the off wks when you do not have a weekend pace run.  

I can tell you that the hip/glute exercises have helped me tremendously and I also now do some upper body stuff as well.  All of these exercises can be done at home, and I'm betting you could get the kids involved as well and they would think it was fun especially your daughter (shoes name escapes me right now, sorry).  My daughter used to love to do squats and lunges with me when she was in 1st/2nd grade and show off.  It was always fun.  

Anyway, given your recent pregnancy and the fact that as women much of our "lower body" gets a bit "overused" in childbirth, we tend to have lots of weak spots (mine besides my glutes are my abductors).  These exercises helped balance everything out.  My other exercise for that knee would be to do your own form or leg extensions (quad strengthening).  Back before I would go to the gym, I actually bought this 5 lb weight that velcros around my ankle.  you then sit on the edge of a bed or chair and do leg raises.  I find that this strengthening of my quad also helps to align my knee and anytime my knee is a bit sore, I go back to doing these and voila - no knee soreness.
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Post  mountandog Fri Oct 17, 2014 11:33 am

I like Jim's ideas too.  A couple of additional thoughts:

1) run your mid-week 10-12 miler at a slower pace.  Maybe MP+30.  I think you're running those too fast.  You could also considering running your LSD run at MP+90.  I find that's a bit too slow for me, but from a physiological perspective its not too slow.
2) if you feel good and the injuries are not cropping up maybe do a mid week longer run 2 out of three weeks.  In other words, add another one.  But not until you've gone 6 weeks with just two of them.  Hopefully that's clear.
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Post  Mike MacLellan Fri Oct 17, 2014 2:31 pm

I agree with Michael that you're running "too fast."  My long runs typically start at MP+120 and drop to MP+90, maybe MP+60 while I near my peak.  Easy runs are MP+60 to MP+90.  Recovery runs are MP+120.  I think slowing down will help you get over that 50mpw hump, too.
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Post  Michele "1L" Keane Fri Oct 17, 2014 2:37 pm

One thing to remember is that yes, you have to run slow to run fasts, but when you are already slower (Julie and I are not 3 hr marathoners), then sticking to the 60 sec over is easier and better.
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Post  Mike MacLellan Fri Oct 17, 2014 2:41 pm

I did think about that, but I still think it's worth a shot to stick to slower paces, especially when in the earlier phases of a cycle.  Seems like, if nothing else, it'd be great injury prevention as you allow the joints to adjust.
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Post  Julie Fri Oct 17, 2014 6:14 pm

I'm not even a 4 hr marathoner (my PR was 4:11 and I'm not planning to see that again this spring). So if you add 2 minutes I'm practically walking and then you get into "who wants to spend 5 or 6 hrs on a Sat morning run-walking" kind of situation.
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Post  mountandog Fri Oct 17, 2014 7:12 pm

Julie wrote:I'm not even a 4 hr marathoner (my PR was 4:11 and I'm not planning to see that again this spring). So if you add 2 minutes I'm practically walking and then you get into "who wants to spend 5 or 6 hrs on a Sat morning run-walking" kind of situation.
I understand.  but if you start breaking down a bit, slow it down a bit.
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Post  nkrichards Sat Oct 18, 2014 5:09 pm

This was a great read...sorry I wasn't online to follow along.

All great suggestions...the only comment I will add is that I agree with the advice to work on things in addition to just running. I added a short (less than an hour) core/strength workout three days a week to my routine when I prepared for my last marathon. My mileage did increase very slightly but my time dropped significantly and I'm convinced that the core/strength work was the reason.
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Post  Julie Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:52 am

Thank you! Yes I know I need to do something other than running. Why it is so hard for me to fit it in is not all the kids' fault, either because I wasn't the best at cross training pre-kid, either.
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Post  Schuey Fri Oct 24, 2014 3:12 pm

Well I have to say Pfitz plans have treated me well in the past. Currently I'm being personally coached by Brad Hudson. Which is similar but different in some/many aspects than the plans in his book, concept wise similar. He is really into developing strength and he's style is not for the fainted heart. I believe it has taken me the last 4 months to really adjust to his training which should make all my upcoming races Interesting
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Post  mountandog Fri Oct 24, 2014 8:45 pm

Schuey wrote:Well I have to say Pfitz plans have treated me well in the past. Currently I'm being personally coached by Brad Hudson. Which is similar but different in some/many aspects than the plans in his book, concept wise similar. He is really into developing strength and he's style is not for the fainted heart. I believe it has taken me the last 4 months to really adjust to his training which should make all my upcoming races Interesting
do you actually meet/talk with him, or is it primarily online stuff?  Curious how it works with him.
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