Stay the course…
Don’t change horses midstream…
Dance with the one that brought you…
On October 3rd, 2010, I ran the fastest 26.2 miles of my life. My 3:19:19 at the Smuttynose Marathon qualified me for Boston 2011 and at least got me in the registration door for Boston 2012 (though ultimately I fell 33 seconds short of having my application accepted). To get there I followed Pfitzingers 12/55 (12 weeks, peaking at 55 miles per week) plan out of his book, Advanced Marathoning. Every subsequent marathon that I have run I have tried to follow one of Pfitzinger’s plans, be it the 12/55, the 12/70 or, most recently, the 18/55. When people have asked for advice on how they can improve their marathon times, I’ve directed them to the book. It really works.
But something happened to me last summer – call it burn out or fatigue, my body needed a break. I just wasn’t listening. I kept thinking that if I just continued to push myself, I’d break out of my funk. Marathon after marathon, I set out to follow the Pfitz plan.
But I would miss a workout.
And then another.
My next three marathons came in at 3:26, 3:43 and my one and only DNF. By the time training for New York City ’11 rolled around, I decided I was just going to run for fun. I just couldn’t bring myself to hitting every run set out in the Pfitz plan. 5 to 6 days a week of running is not easy, especially when you’re in full burnout mode.
After New York, my running became even more haphazard. I convinced myself I wanted to get back to Boston, so I searched for a fast, Spring marathon. I set my eyes on Sugarloaf.
A little over 6 weeks ago, I began the Pfitz 18/55 plan. I had to drag myself through the workouts from the very start.
By sage buddy Mike suggested that I spend 6 weeks rebuilding my base and then follow the 12/55 plan. As wise as his advice was, I was happier with the concept that I wouldn’t be required to run 4 – 5 times a week than the idea of pushing off the start of my training.
My wheels were spinning.
Then, about a week and a half ago, Mike inadvertently passed along another golden nugget my way. He suggested that I take a look at the Furman FIRST program – essentially it is a Run Less, Run Faster program. The key to the program is that there are only 3 runs per week – a speed workout, a tempo run and a long run. Running is not allowed on any other day. Cross-training on two other days is recommended. Every run is based on one’s 1oK race pace. I was particularly intrigued by the concept that long run needed to be run at 55 – 75 seconds slower than 10K pace – read that again – that’s a good 30 – 75 seconds faster than every other program I’ve followed.
Now, I know one is not supposed to change horses midstream and should dance with the one that brought ya, but I have also come to realize that the Pfitz program just wasn’t doing it for me anymore – I had just been unwilling to accept that. I still believe in the Pfitz program and I still would recommend it to anybody who has the commitment and drive to run 5 days a week. I’ve just come to a place where I realize that my body needs the cross-training but it can’t take the constant pounding 7 days a week.
The turning point for me was this last Saturday when I struggled through my run but felt a spark at the end. That’s when I decided that I still had the desire to re-qualify for Boston. At the end of the run I went back and read over the FIRST program again. The more I read, the more excited I got.
I know I am jumping in late on the program – it is a 16 week program and there are now less than 12 week until Sugarloaf, but for the first time in a long time, I believe!
On Tuesday I had my first speed workout – 10 x 400 meter intervals at 10K pace minus 55-60 seconds. I hit every interval at under 6:00 pace, the last one at better than 5:45 pace. Yesterday I put in 1000 yards in the pool. This morning I have a 5-mile tempo run at 10K + 15-20 seconds pace. The first real test will come this weekend when I put in my first long run of the program – 14 miles at just under 8:00 pace.
We’ll see how I feel after that run, but for right now, at this moment, I believe again…
…I have my plan…
…and I’m glad to be changing horses.