I spent all summer whining about how I lost my base and I wanted it back. Success. I topped out at 75 miles per week and sort of survived! My main goal wasn’t necessarily a marathon PR (although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hopeful), but I just wanted to feel like the old me – physically and mentally. I got closer to my PR than I’d been all year at Hartford and built my base back up. The result was a very full race season and feeling like I got my legs back, despite the anticlimactic ending it had at Indianapolis. I’m going to take a little recovery period now. I’m following my trusty old Pfitzy’s five week marathon recovery plan before I begin again.
I mentioned before that since I’ve gotten some of my base back, I want to sustain the same sort of weekly volume and ramp up the intensity during the spring. I’ve always passed over Hansons because its “only a 16 mile long run”. Until I started following Colby and her journey to her fall marathon. Each week, she posted updates on what she was doing. And each week, I grew more and more intrigued. The speed work. The tempo runs. The overall weekly mileage. Am I missing something here? I thought the absence of a long run meant this was the slacker training plan. Every week, her cray cray training updates proved me so wrong.
I stopped into Barnes and Nobles after work one day. I needed instant gratification, and I also needed a hard copy of “the book”. While I love the Kindle app on my iPad, I need a hard copy of my running books. I geek out over that stuff and read them with a highlighter – like I’m going to take a test or something. I flipped right to “the plan” and right to the weekly mileage totals. 63 mile peak week? Hmm. I just worked so hard to get above that 70 mile mark. But the more I read, the more I liked. There were so many aspects of this program that I was already talking about trying to incorporate. But 16 miles? I made a little pros/cons list.
At this point, I was already giving serious consideration to the Advanced Plan. When I got to Chapter 5, it talked about program modifications. That’s where it really got my attention. The very first topic it covered? Increasing weekly mileage. Okay, Luke, Keith and Kevin. I’m listening.
“…the faster a runner wants to complete the marathon, the more training he or she will have to put in (to a point).”
I always say if you want to get faster, run more miles. It’s the one thing that has always helped me. I didn’t PR this fall, but I regained a lot of what I lost early in the year. I wanted to keep my peak weeks in the 70 mile range, but the Hansons advanced plan seemed to peak around 63 miles. I say “around” 63 miles, because they give you some distance options for warming up and cooling down with the “Something of Substance (SOS)” workouts. The program modifications chapter discusses how to add more miles and how to account for those who run faster paces. Okay, I’m almost on board. But what about that 16 miler? Are you really telling me that the Hansons elite athletes run 2:14 marathons on a 16 miler? I’m just not buying it.
Their other theory is that a 16 mile long run generally falls in the 2-2:30 range for a wide range of runners. They go through a whole bunch of sciencey VO2 max anerobic aerobic threshold muscle fibers glycogen depletion my head hurts from science terminology thingys, but I got the gist of what they were saying. You only reap workout benefits for a certain amount of time before it either has no benefit or can be harmful. I get it and I buy into it. Here’s where I got confused: At my prescribed Hansons marathon pace, I would be able to cover 20 miles in 2:30. I regularly would cover that in 2:30 during other training blocks. So do I increase the long run to 20 miles? At the end of the book, they offer a sample elite program for someone who regularly runs 100+ miles per week and peaks in the 130s. No, I am not crazy enough to consider that particular plan
yet, but I did look at the long run distances. They did 20 milers, but they were broken into AM and PM runs (AM run was 14 miles, PM run was 6 miles). So clearly, I should not be doing what someone who is running 130 miles per week is doing if I want this plan to work.
I did a little research on this. I read book reviews, I read forum posts about people who followed this plan, but rarely did anyone talk about how they tweaked the long run to fit their weekly volume needs. I flipped back to the beginning of the book to re-read some of the concepts and found this chart that I somehow glossed over the first time through:
I’m not going to be shooting for a 21 miler because I want to follow this program as closely as possible while adding on just a bit of extra volume. I’m thinking is my long run will peak at 18 miles, since that ends up being around 25% of my weekly volume in my highest volume weeks. This will be very interesting and different for me. Personally, I love the mental benefit of a 3 hour long run. In my last training build, a 3 hour run was equivalent to a 23 miler.
I’ve run 38 marathons. I’ve run marathons with one 20 miler in the build, and with countless 20 milers in the build. I’ve run marathons with marathons in the build. But I’ve also run marathons where I topped out between 15-18 miles – usually, those were instances where I was nursing an injury. Before my first marathon, all I did was one 18 mile run. I am confident that I’ll have the fitness to finish the race by successfully executing this plan. Will it be enough for a PR? I don’t know, but I’m all about changing it up and I like the structure of a training plan. I always have.
The real selling point for me is that I said myself that I need to do more speed work, and I want to do it twice per week. I struggled with that during this build and didn’t do many marathon paced miles. It’s something I want to incorporate moving forward, and that’s what initially drew me to this plan. With the SOS workouts, you get a speed (or in the later weeks, “strength”) day and a tempo day. If you do the maximum prescribed warm up and cool down, the tempo runs end up being 16 miles. Hello, hatred for the mid-week long run. We are about to really go head to head this time – and during the winter months, no less.
I’m going to go through my five week recovery period as planned. If my calf is cooperating, this is the route I am going to take. Especially knowing what happened at the end of the cycle with Colby’s race. She broke a six year PR and qualified for Boston. If you don’t follow her, you should! But it wasn’t the time on the clock that was the overall selling point. At the end of her training block and right before the marathon, we had a conversation about her plan and something she said really stuck with me:
“I mean it when I say that no matter how my marathon goes, I have definitely become a stronger, faster, more confident runner. In my head I really feel like I’ve won.”
That. Just that.
Have you ever tried (or considered) the Hansons method? What’s your go-to training plan?