I’ve had a few weeks to reflect on using Hansons and this past season as a whole. I thought about what I liked, what worked, what didn’t, and what went wrong. I’ve come up with a few theories and ideas for moving forward. If you want to read my more “heartfelt” and “in the moment” post where I talked about how I benefited from Hansons, it’s here. It was really more of a post about my last tempo run turned sappy. If you would have asked me on that day, Hansons is all about sunshine and rainbows and unicorns and smiles. In reality, it’s certainly all of that, but add blood, sweat, and tears and it’s a
lot little more accurate.
At this point, Hansons is an ideal plan for me and my current ability level, especially when following the program modifications. I learned more during this training block than I ever have before, which is more valuable than any PR. I learned so much about running, but also about myself.
What I Liked
I learned that I love following a plan with structure. In the past, I’ve used other training plans, a coach, or created my own plans. I’ve always lacked some sort of structure. I never did the same thing each week for the whole training cycle. This plan is very regimented and very simple: you always have a speed workout, a tempo and a long run (or an easy run depending on the week) each week on very specific days. This made scheduling “life” around training much easier. I never felt like I had to consult my training before I made plans – I knew what each week would bring. I’d try like hell to steer clear of doing “life things” on speed and tempo days. But if something happened and I had something else going on, I knew well in advance that I needed to make other arrangements to accomodate the workout.
I found that prefer running long on Sunday. In the past, I always ran long on Saturdays because it’s what my friends did. I don’t know if it was the way the plan was structured or just how my body felt, but I felt better running long on Sunday. Changing the day of my long run meant running solo or with new friends. I was still able to meet Kathy and Mark for a few miles on Saturday when they were running long, so it was like the best of both worlds.
I liked that as I followed this structured schedule and became dedicated to it, I stopped making decisions that worked better for everyone else. I don’t mean that to sound selfish or harsh. I realized how often in past training cycles I altered the pace or timing of a run to meet up with running friends. That’s fine to do sometimes, but at some point you need to be able to do the work on your own, too.
I like to think following this plan helped me figure out the line between taking myself too seriously, and having fun with my friends. I learned that it’s important to have a healthy balance: you shouldn’t always run solo, but you shouldn’t always run with a group. When you race, most times you race alone so it’s good practice. I know that makes me sound selfish, but I spent two years chasing PRs and something had to change if I wanted to see a change in the time on the clock.
This could probably also be filed under “what I liked”, but whatever. I’m going to say it. I liked the speed, strength, and tempo run. It’s simple: they work.
The first ten weeks are devoted to building speed, so the workouts are run at 5K pace. Track workouts – this was nothing new. The progression, however, was new to me. In the past, I always jumped right to 800s or mile repeats and hoped for the best. Usually, I would do 3-4 track workouts in my whole entire training cycle. With Hansons, you start at the very beginning with 400s. Why do 400s in marathon training? Makes zero sense to me, so I never did it before (with the exception of my 2015 fall training cycle). With Hansons, your little 400s in week one turn into mile repeats by week eight. And – bonus – do you know what happened after actually working up to mile repeats? I ran a 5K PR – because I was ready for it.
By the time I got to week 11 and Hanson’s was telling me to switch to strength workouts, I was ready for the change of pace. Between the speed and the strength workouts, the strength workouts were my favorite. The focus was marathon pace minus 10 seconds per mile, and to hold that for just enough time that you were comfortably uncomfortable. The result? I felt unstoppable. The day I did my hardest workout from the strength set – 2×3 miles – I was on top of the world. I felt like I could do anything.
Let it also be known that workouts like “10 miles at marathon pace” still scares the absolute living shit out of me. I’m not saying this was ever easy, but ohmigosh. The feeling you get when you nail a workout like that. By yourself. On a Thursday afternoon in whatever the weather throws at you. YAS. You just know that you are capable of anything when you finish something like that. I’m not sure if you can sense it, but every item I’m listing as what “worked” for me all has something in common – confidence. I felt like I could DO this.
What Didn’t Work
This plan doesn’t address hill training. I made sure to try to choose rolling hills for my terrain for my long runs when possible, but I did use some flat trails for some of them occasionally to accommodate running with a group. I’d originally planned to do my easy days on roads with rolling hills, but as the weeks progressed, I wanted to do my easy runs on flat surfaces because my legs were tired. Sometimes, I was able to stick to the roads and incorporate a variety of terrain but most days I headed somewhere flat.
Most of my next training cycle is going to happen over the summer, when I have more flexibility in my schedule. The days are longer, and I’m not working since I’m a teacher. I’m able to go wherever I need to for my runs, so my goal is to try to stick to the track for my speed work, trails for strength workouts and tempo runs, and roads for my easy days. I’m not going to do hill repeats, but I will run hills. One day per week, I want to start running the hill by my house again – Honeysuckle Road. I’ve talked about that before, but I haven’t done it since the beginning of my fall training cycle. I haven’t done as a regular, weekly workout since 2014. This was an old picture from one of the last times I blogged about it:
What Went Wrong
I wasn’t sure why I didn’t have it at Boston (other than the heat, I truly didn’t feel amazing) and have spent some time considering what factors to attribute that performance to. I don’t know many people who ran the race they trained for that day, so I could blame it on the heat and move on. I want to learn from this experience, so I need to be honest and consider other factors.
Did I go out too fast? Was it really just the heat? Was it the duration of the Hanson’s taper? Was it the races I incorporated throughout my training? Was I fighting off a cold? I blogged that in the beginning of marathon week, I had a weird spot in my throat that felt sore but it went away by the middle of the week. The morning of the race, I woke up with a headache but just chalked it up to nerves. If the outcome of my race had anything to do with illness, there isn’t much more I could have done. I was diligent about sleeping, taking vitamins and walked around with a Clorox wipe in hand the whole week.
Part of what went wrong was absolutely my pacing. Technically, I trained for a 7:03. If you go back and look at my tempo runs, my average for the tempo miles was always just under seven minute pace. I would bet if I went back and averaged them all out from the entire cycle, they would average out to be 6:57. In Kentucky, when I started at a more appropriate pace, I ran a 6:57 pace for the marathon. I think part of what happened in Boston had to do with my excitement over my training, resulting in me going out just a touch too fast. If the weather had been a bit better and I felt 100% (assuming I just didn’t feel great in general), it’s possible I would have gotten closer to a PR that day. But I didn’t train for sub-3, and all of the stars are going to have to align for that to happen even when I do train for it.
I was talking to Megan on our run this weekend and we discussed all of these factors. She’s brutally honest with me, has broken three hours many times, qualified for the Olympic Trials, and has been a coach. Neither of us think I raced too much during this cycle, but she believes the timing of my final race was my biggest error. While I had a great day at the Kutztown Fool’s Run, she thinks it was too close to Boston. She didn’t think my taper was too short, but did think the final race was a big part of what went wrong in Boston, and I agree.
So putting aside the heat and the possibility that maybe I wasn’t feeling 100%, the timing of my races and my pacing on race day were my biggest issues. Moving forward, the lesson here is to run the pace I trained for from the beginning, and to stop adding tune up races to my schedule about a month out.
Every weekly update I did throughout my spring training began with my marathon goal and my training paces. I began to consider what I want that to look like for fall. I realize the reality of the races I chose: a hot race in October (Southernmost in Key West) and a hilly one in November (Madison, WI) may not be conducive to running a PR or sub-3. I’m not going to let those factors dictate my goal for the race or scare me away. I will take the conditions of those races into consideration as I train for them – add races this summer to practice racing in the heat, add hills to get ready for hillier courses, etc – but I’m not going to back down. If there’s one thing I learned as I’m conquering this 50 state goal: there’s always going to be weird weather and a hill you didn’t know about if you’re choosing to run in unfamiliar territory. I’m not being cocky and saying I’m not scared of it. I’m acknowledging that there may be some challenges on race day and I’m willing to give it my all anyway.
I’m going to be modifying the schedule the same way I did before to make sure I peak in the 80s again. I’d like to see if I can peak closer to 90, but I’m taking things one day at a time. One mile at a time. The only area I never messed with last time around was the sacred Wednesday rest day. The program modifications chapter does, in fact, state that you can add easy miles on your rest day if you’re trying to run more volume. I don’t want to run 7 days/week for 18 weeks, but I’m considering it for every other week in this round of training. I planning very short distances (2-4 miles) at recovery pace to see how my body responds.
Training for Key West begins the week of June 6th. Here’s a sneak peek of what my weekly workout post will look like… 🙂
Marathon Goal – 2:57 (that looks really really scary on here)
Marathon Pace/Tempo Runs – 6:45/mile
Recovery Runs – 8:45/mile
Aerobic A/Easy – 7:45/mile
Aerobic B/Easy – 8:25/mile
Long Run: 7:23
I was debating between 2:55 and 3:00 for my goal. Using Hanson’s online pace calculator, the improvement calculator, and the Hanson’s community page on Facebook, I came up with the 2:57. Luke Humphrey himself voiced his opinion and said 2:57 should be what I should aim for. This would be something like a 2.5% improvement in my current marathon time. The improvement calculator explains it like this: “Highly trained athletes should look for improvements in the 2-4% range, while newer runners can often expect slightly higher rates of initial improvements.” I believe 2.5% improvement is a reasonable goal.
I improved my marathon PR by almost five minutes this past spring. Running a 2:57 would be another five minute improvement. However, I hadn’t touched that time since 2014 and had been hovering in the 3:12 range on my best days over the past two years, so it was almost like a 10 minute improvement. I don’t think shaving 10 minutes off of a 3:02 is a wise goal, and five minutes is still extremely aggressive. My expectation is to train at 2:57 pace and hope to come in under three hours. At any rate, it’s certainly going to make it an interesting summer!