Elite Level Workouts: should you attempt?

I recently received an inquiry from someone using a plan of ours. His question was in regards to when he should do the infamous “Simulator” workout. For those who aren’t familiar with this workout, it’s essentially a 26.2 kilometer effort at race pace. With warmup and cool down, it would total about 22 miles for the morning. Over the last few years it’s become our big test effort to see if we were ready for our actual attempt in a few weeks. In any case, his question got me to asking my own questions. One, how many people read about a monster workout they read about in a blog or magazine article and just decided to rock it without truly knowing the ins and outs of the workout? Second, is it ok (I mean in a non segment sabotaging way) for the average to competitive runner to attempt these monster workouts?

It’s only fair to speak to the big Hanson workouts and I realize that many of you have no idea what I am talking about. With that, let me start with explaining these workouts.

2×6 Miles

This is the OG of Hanson’s workouts. When I came to the program in August of 2004, the 2×6 was the one I was warned about, the one everybody had marked on their calendars! Here’s a quick breakdown of what we would do:

3 mile warm up
6 miles @ goal MP minus 5-10 seconds
10 minutes (most of us jogged or prayed)
6 miles faster than the first attempt
3 miles cool down
Spend the rest of the day crying to your mama.

Total of 19 miles

This is a very tough workout, but it would certainly tell you if you were fit.

Now for the specifics. We would do this workout about 3 weeks out from the race. If you weren’t sure, this is a marathon segment workout. This would be our primary litmus test in a marathon segment. Going into this workout, there wouldn’t be a bunch of extra rest- maybe an extra day of recovery. We would typically only have an extra day of recovery afterwards, too. I have lost track, but I have done this workout close to 20 times since the fall of 2004. It never has gotten easier and as the Miles rack up, it seems to get harder every time.

So, should you do it? Well… it depends. For most people it does not make sense and I’ll explain why. The main reason is that essentially the 2×6 mile is an extended version of a workout that we give everyone in our classic programs- the 2×3 miles. This workout is the toughest of the strength workouts and is placed late in the training plan. In perspective, they are the same workout for different groups. The elites are running 120-140 miles, while the plans are about 50-60 miles at peak. So, percentage wise, the work is about the same. Personally, I don’t prescribe the 2×3 for most people more than twice and that’s only if they are really fit and a seasoned vet. Now, if a person is running more mileage, it’s a fair to adjust the 2×3 mile up a tick. Let’s say if you run 70-85 miles per week, that you are just fine to try a 2×4 mile. If at 85-100 a 2×5 mile workout and then anything over 100 miles per week you can give the 2×6 mile a shot.

The Simulator

2-3 mile warm up
26.2 kilometers at goal pace. Hopefully on a course you can simulate the race course on.
2-3 mile cool down

22-23 miles total.

A little history as to why we even do The Simulator. I know this because I took part in the first one. We did it before we sent a big crew of guys out to Boston in 2006. In northern Oakland County we have lots of hills and dirt roads. We had a stable full of fast runners, so we certainly didn’t need to look very far to find competition. So, Kevin and Keith designed a course that gave us a great look at how the course would feel and was 26.2 kilometers so that we could visualize each mile (except it was a K). It really was a situation where we could get a race feel and go through our routine without big travel or looking for a competition. We had 10 of the fastest guys in the country right there. Aso, it probably kept us under control. We all have a itch to dial the pace up a notch when actually in a race. This was a way to pull the reigns in a bit.

So, should you do it? To be honest, this is why I do say to run a half marathon 3-4 weeks out from your goal race BUT to not race it all out. I tell athletes to warm up, start the race at marathon pace and only pick it up after 10k. We also don’t have the athlete taper much. Maybe only a few miles because the day f the race will be more mileage than usual. We’ll also do an extra day easy before and after the race, but mileage will stay constant.

The pros of traveling to a race include allowing you to go through the entire routine of traveling and getting into an actual race situation. However, if you know you won’t be able to execute your race plan, it might be best to stay home. The other consideration is this, with our plans you are doing regular long tempo runs anyway. In the ODP we do a ton of marathon pace workouts, but aren’t doing 10 mile tempo runs every week. Throughout the course of the year we do, which allows us to spread them out more than we would for recreational runners. My point being, you get tons of practice at running 8, 9, 10 straight miles at your goal pace. You might not need to throw in an even longer one just to say you did it.

Deciding Factors

When doing these big workouts, there are two big factors that dictate if you should take into play when considering these big marquee workouts. The first is that you have to be able to do these workouts without taking a big dip in training. Adding an extra easy day, or two, at the same mileage you always run is fine. However, if you essentially have to have a mini taper to even attempt, I don’t think it makes sense. At the end of the day, a string of consistent workouts is going to yield much better results than crushing one workout. The second is how you can recover from this big workout. Some of this might just be experimenting because you might just not know until you try. However, if you try it and it completely wipes you out for the next three days, it might not be a good idea to try to keep doing that. My advice when doing these big workouts are to focus on the basics- rehydrate and refuel. After that, if you have to go right into work, wear good compression garments. Full tights would be best, half tights and socks would be fine. Here’s where an ice bath or a cryotherapy session might do wonders. At this point of the program, the majority of your fitness is there and we created a lot of extra damage that may warrant desperate measures. Another simple measure might be a big dose of antioxidants or tart cherry juice, BUT NOT anti inflammatories. You don’t want to be popping Advil to get through the next 3-5 days of discomfort. I am also ok with giving yourself an extra easy day, but at the same mileage your typically run.

At the end of the day, I think most people believe our schedules are hard enough. The need to do an elite level workout might be tempting, but consider the big picture. If it jeopardizes your ultimate goal then workout bragging rights isn’t worth it. Besides, in our case it’s the workouts that are in your programs that inspired the elite level workouts.

Thoughts on warming up for Boston

While I write this specific for the Boston Marathon, what I write here is really applicable to any marathon where you have a starting line that is not anywhere near your finish line. In October of 2016, I wrote the post Marathon Race Strategy: A few thoughts which gave race strategies for all pace ranges. The post also included a few thoughts on what I felt were important for warming up before a marathon. I recommend all of you reading that for what you should consider in a general marathon warm up.

However, Boston is different, because the starting line is 26 miles away from the finish line. Here’s a few unique challenges thrown into an already tough day

 

  • Getting bussed out
  •  Leaving our gear at the finish line
  • Waiting in an athlete village
  • Waiting in our corrals
  • Running from inland to coast

 

Getting to Start:

I think we are all mostly familiar with the idea of getting bussed out, so I won’t spend too much time on this. The main idea I’d like to express here is to leave as late as you can. You want to spend the least amount of time in Hopkinton as possible. If you know you are one of the last corrals in your wave, get on the bus that makes the most sense. Again, limit the time you spend in Hopkinton.

http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/participant-information/transportation-to-start-line.aspx

 

Leaving your gear at finish line:

This one was a surprise to me, as I am used to taking a bag with me and digging for it at the finish line. So, as you leave your nicer stuff at the finish line, make sure what you wear to Hopkinton are things you are willing to part with. The only problem with this, is that what we will discuss below. Waiting, more waiting, and waiting in the weather…

http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/participant-information/gear-check-and-baggage-policy.aspx

 

Waiting, more waiting, and waiting in the weather:

Since you’ll have time on your hands, what you wear to the start line can be significant. As I said, you want it too be clothing that you are willing to part with, but you also don’t want to be skimpy on the clothes. So dress in layers and adjust to what the weather is in hopkinton. In 2016, it was a perfect example of how different weather can be 26 miles from where you started. In Hopkinton, the temps were in the high 60’s to low 70’s, while the announcers at the finish line wore light winter jackets. Check what that weather is in Hopkinton and dress for the starting line before heading out.

As I mentioned, you want to be at the village for the least amount of time. Being there longer just gives you more time to be antsy, pace around, and let your nerves get the best of you. Get there only when you need to, try to find a place to stay dry and comfortable, and get off your feet. Stay on whatever nutrition and hydration schedule you’ve set up for yourself.
My Boston Warm Up Protocol

  1. Use the bathroom right before leaving athlete village
  2. Take whatever you need to the starting line
    1. Water bottle
    2. A gel/calories
    3. Clothes you are going to leave/toss
  3. It seems like the faster you are in your wave, the longer you have to be in the corral. Make use of this time accordingly
    1. Sub 3:30 runners use the 0.7 miles from the Athlete Village as your warm up jog.
    2. Over 3:30 runners, walk the distance. This will be fine to loosen your legs up.
  4. Once in your corral
    1. Focus on yourself, visualize your first four miles and how that will set the tone for the race
    2. You will be limited on space, but want to stay loose. Consider doing simple movements that don’t take up a lot of room. Maybe 5-10 minutes before the gun goes off, do something like 10-15 squats, march in place, and shake your arms up. This won’t be perfect, but it will start priming the pump and tell the body that it’s about time to go to work.
    3. Have your first gel in that 5-15 minutes before the start.
  5. Once you cross that line, just stay calm. You’ll have a lot of people thinking that they are going to catch the race leaders. Keep to your plan and enjoy the moment, but don’t get caught up in the nonsense. Even with the first few miles downhill, you might not feel super great. We weren’t able to do a perfect warm up and you might feel sluggish. Stay calm and let the race come to you.

Boston has many unique challenges, but that’s part of what makes it Boston! Keep things simple and you can conquer the pre race warm up. It might not be perfect, but it will get the job done! Good luck to everyone running Boston!

 

Marathon Training Bundles

A lot of times, runners like our training schedules, but don’t want to full-on coaching. What we’ve come up with is a bundle package to give you all the tools you need, without the need to get coaching. Currently, we offer 20+ marathon training plans with the bundle option. I’ll add more marathon plans as I create them.

What makes the bundle your perfect solution to marathon training?

  • Your choice of marathon schedule that best fits your needs ($30 value)
    • 20+ marathon programs
    • broken into Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Elite
  • Placement in Luke’s coaching roster by level of training
  • “Team” message board
  • Access to training resource library ($14.95/month value)
    • videos
    • podcasts
    • important blog posts
    • calculators
    • meal plans
  • Access to the HCS Coaching closed Facebook group ($10/month value)

Get all of the above for $75/bundle (valued at $105 + access to coaches (priceless!))

Check out all the training plan options HERE and let HCS take your training to the next level!

 

2017 Summer Camp!

At the time I’m writing this, we are less than three weeks from the Boston Marathon. Where has the first quarter of 2017 gone? Before we know it, our downtime from our spring marathons will be nothing but a fond memory and we’ll have to start getting ready for our fall marathon!

If you are using the Hansons Marathon Method, or are just interested in a fun (but educational) getaway, then I encourage you to consider the Hanson’s Coaching Fall Marathon Kick-Off Camp. The camp will be held in Rochester, Michigan- the home of Hanson’s Coaching Services and the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.

What you get:

  • Go beyond the book and learn directly from HCS Head Coach, Luke Humphrey, as well as meet our other coaching staff.
  • Meet and greet Hanson’s-Brooks ODP runners (many whom are our coaches)
  • Nearly every meal taken care of (expect your dinner on Thursday night)
  • Hanson’s Coaching Schwag bag
  • Dozens of training clinics including
  • Strength for runners session
  • Customizing your training
  • Marathon physiology
  • Nutrition
  • Go for runs and do some workouts where the nation’s best marathoners have
  • Transportation to and from Detroit Metro Airport
  • Discount on lodging at the beautiful Royal Park Hotel. This is where all clinics will be held and you can hit either the Paint Creek or the Clinton River Trail from the front door. (Or hit up downtown Rochester)

TENTATIVE CAMP ITINERARY

Thursday

Athletes arrive mid afternoon. HCS will pick up groups from airport.
Optional group run/ Hanson’s Thursday night group run at Royal Oak?
Dinner (athlete’s responsibility)

Friday

  • 7:00 AM- Leave from hotel. Drive to Stony Creek Metropark
  • 7:30 Group Dynamic Warm Up/1-2 miles warm up
  • 8:00-9:30: Progression Run/cool down
  • 10:30- 12:00: Lecture (Food provided in conference room)
  • Marathon Philosophy/Understanding cumulative fatigue
  • 12:00-1:00- wrap up/free time
  • 1:00-3:00: Lecture/lunch in conference room
  • Marathon Physiology
  • Metabolic Efficiency
  • Training Components and physiological impact
  • 3:30-4:30: Strength for runners with Nikki
  • 5:30-6:30: Lecture: Avoiding early training pitfalls
  • 7:00: Group dinner @ Antonios pizza
  • Recovery strategies/periodization
  • Meet and greet

Saturday

  • 7:45-9:15 AM: Easy run from hotel (Paint Creek Trail)
  • 9:45-11:00: Lecture: Goal Setting/Realistic expectations, new runner vs. veteran
  • Breakfast provided
  • 11:15-:00:
    • Understanding what kind of runner you are
    • Modifying to fit/stay in philosophy
  • 1:15-3:00:
    • General Nutrition
    • Supplements
    • Taper week/race day nutrition
  • (Lunch in conference room)
  • 12:00- modifying schedules/staying within the philosophy
  • 12:15-1:00- understanding the taper
  • 1:15-3:00- Supplemental training, what why and how to add.
  • Self Running analysis
  • Gadgets/testing?
  • 3:00-5:00- Free time (nap?)
  • 5:00-6:45-Lecture
  • Keeping logs
  • Analyzing training
  • Long term planning
  • 7:00- Dinner- Rochester Mills Brewery
  • Developing mental strength
  • Approaching your race
  • Meet and greet

Sunday

  • 7:30 AM: Leave Hotel for run
  • 8:00 AM-10:00: Group Run at Lake Orion (Long Run)
  • 10:00-11:00: Brunch @ CJ’s or Lockharts
  • Meet and greet
  • 12:30- Leave for airport

 

 

 

Having a coach without the full time coaching price tag.

If you have read HMM and thought about the idea of coaching, but aren’t sure you are ready for that kind of investment, then the Facebook Training Room is for you. We know you have specific training questions about your own training. We also know that you have the book and don’t necessarily need a new training plan. However, do you really need to hire a personal coach for the few questions you might have along the way? No, and that’s why I have created the Hanson’s Coaching Training Room.

The HCS Training Room is a closed Facebook group designed for a couple purposes. First, build community among the athletes who trust us with their training. In an online world this helps us put names to faces and learn more about what needs you have as a runner. The second is that we know the plan works- many of you believe that too. However, taking a general plan and tweaking it to fit your specific needs requires a little more than a FAQ page. With this group you have direct access to me, Luke, and I can help you with your specific questions.

The Training Room is perfect for those who don’t have a coach, want to test the waters of having coaches, or just want be around those who are coached individually by HCS. We take your running serious and we know you do too. The HCS Training Room is here to help you maximize your training based on YOU!

Sign up for the Training Room for a sweet low rate of $9.97/month. With that you’ll get:

  • Access to Luke with your specific training questions
  • Access to all of our training resources- calculators and videos
  • Facebook lives/webinars
  • Discounts on any of our other 40+ training plans or custom training plans
  • A great group of runners using HCS and the Marathon Method to offer up support and advice.

SIGN UP TODAY

When do I know I’m ready?

Recently, an athlete in one of our groups asked a great question, “When do I know that I’m ready to reach my race goal?” I got to thinking about it and I realized a couple things. The first is that, we don’t particularly talk about that much. Sure, you can consult your favorite search engine and find pages of blog posts regarding the workouts we should do. We can read countless paragraphs from our favorite coaches about the importance of choosing the right goal pace to train for. However, when it comes down to it, how do we know when we are really ready to hit that goal pace. That is what I want to discuss in this post.

A few things we are assuming:

  • That you have been following the majority of whatever your training plan has laid out for you- say 90% + of the schedule
  • That you are generally healthy, not nursing an injury that could easily become a source of unplanned time off.
  • This is a planned race and not a situation where you were training for a half marathon and then switching over to a full marathon with 6 weeks to go (or something to that effect).

I put these caveats in here because if you are experiencing one of these scenarios then you really should work with a coach who knows you better than just some internet talking head (me). However, if you are generally healthy and have hit the majority of your training then I can give you an idea of when you, “just know.”

First thing first!

I’ve kinda given you part of the answer already. If you have struggled with training, mainly being consistent, then reaching your goal race pace may be a stretch. This I have learned the hard way. I have had nagging little things where I’ve scaled back on easy days just so I can hit workouts. Ultimately, what I did was simply make sure I was fresh for workouts all the time and I never came close to that feeling of cumulative fatigue. When it got hard in a race I just hadn’t put myself in a situation in training where I dealt with that feeling and it overwhelmed me.

That got me to thinking, I have had some complete disasters when I was crushing every workout and running all the mileage on my schedule.

When did I really have my breakthroughs?

So after thinking about all of my real breakthroughs, I put together a list of precursors leading up to breakthrough races.

Don’t force it

One, I didn’t force workouts. That’s not to say that all the workouts were easy. It’s also not saying that I didn’t have a complete “what the hell was that” workouts either. Basically, I stayed pretty even keeled. I didn’t let my high’s get too high and I didn’t dwell on the lows.

Be confident

Second, I never got to the point where the race pace completely scared me. Was I still a little intimidated? Of course! However, I wasn’t like, I don’t even know how I am going to run 10 miles at this pace. For instance, I got to point where I thought, “Ok, I can run at least 20 miles at this pace. I’m 100% confident in that. Now, the last 6 are going to be tough, but we will deal with that when we get there.” Let’s use a 10 mile tempo run as an example. We all know that these are occurring at the toughest point in the schedule. The mileage is at the highest. The workouts are the biggest volume, and we’ve got a ton of fatigue in our legs.

If you go through that 10 mile tempo and are noticeably concentrating on what you are doing, but not forcing yourself into goal pace, then I would say that you are pretty darn close to where you want to be.

If you are really grinding and even trying to go faster than goal pace, then I am more concerned. That’s why I put less stock in long slow runs. We know you can run a long ways slowly. Can you do it fast and not miss training before and after that day?

Hard stuff = yes it is!

Third, much like the workouts, I approached the same way- this is going to be hard. It’s going to take my complete focus to accomplish this. Whenever I was over confident, I blew it. Whenever workouts were easy I got over confident and maybe didn’t put as much into the details as I should have. However, whenever I knew I was fit, but completely convinced myself that this was going to be the hardest thing I had ever done, I was much more successful. Maybe that was just mindset, but it made me focus on all the details because I felt if I made mistakes, I was going to have to make it up somewhere. Those were slim margins for error. That’s really not to scare you, but rather, recognize the task you are about to undertake. It deserves respect and most definitely, our full attention.

All about the routine

Lastly, I was not obsessed with the outcome. I never obsessed with running a certain time. I thought about it, for sure. However, I focused more on the process of training and learning to train at a new level much more than training for the certain pace. When I was all about the outcome, I put way too much pressure on myself. If I didn’t hit that pace I was a failure and all that work was for naught. In reality, the hard work we are doing will carry over if things don’t workout immediately. When I was truly proud of running a great race based on race plan execution, the times typically came with that. When I freaked out because I few splits were off in a workout, that carried over to the race and typically ended in extreme disappointment.

To wrap this up

So that’s really about it. I was able to keep a steady approach to training. I didn’t crush everything, but I didn’t have to force myself to hit a workout every single time out. I was able to have consistent training. I wasn’t skipping easy days just so I would be able to do a workout. My big workouts were tough (10 mile tempos, 2×3’s for example) but I found myself settling into the right paces- which is not the same thing as saying it was easy. They were tough, but not forced. I recognized that what I wanted to do would be very hard, but not impossible. All of those things combined really brought me a sense of quiet confidence. This actually helped me relax. It let me focus on the process of training at a level I hadn’t before. I was able to race with racing on my mind, not a set time. More times than not, when I was in this “zone,” the time I was looking for was usually there waiting for me at the finish line.

Getting what you need from workouts

PlayPlay

We recently talked about adapting to training where we really focused on how long it takes to adapt to a workload. Along with that, I discussed the problem with getting too fit too fast. Now, to supplement those ideas, I’d like to discuss two more parts to this whole idea. The first is getting the desired effect out of a specific workout. The second is avoiding the idea that every workout is the most important.

Easy Days

There are a couple problems with easy days that I tend to see across the board. The first is that, the runner will fail to see their importance for overall development. For instance, I just got an email from a runner who was going to take part of one schedule, a 50 mile per week schedule, and then take parts of a bigger schedule, a 75 mile per week program. Can you guess what parts he was going to take from each schedule? Correct, he wanted to take the shorter easy runs from the lower mileage program and then add the bigger workouts from the higher mileage program. The problem is that, at the lower mileage, he would throw off the ratio of hard work versus recovery work. It’s an easy mistake to make because we all would naturally assume that if we can tolerate more work we should. However, if you can’t handle the foundational work of easy running first, the harder work will only bring you down. If you struggle with the idea that easy mileage is junk mileage, then you limit how high the ceiling can be.

The second problem I see is with the paces I prescribe. Let’s say we give you a schedule and you have an easy 5 miles at your easy to moderate pace, which is 8:00 pace to 9:30 pace per mile. Early on, runners will tend to be on the faster side of the spectrum, and I do it too. We are fresh, workouts are light and spread out, so it’s easy to get going and not have any repercussions. However, once we get into the schedule more, those paces slow down because we are simply more fatigued. I don’t how many times runners have freaked out about easy runs slowing down once the heavy training has kicked in. I’m here to tell you that it is ok! A common theme across the training pace spectrum is that faster is not better. If it is the day after a hard workout and your legs are sore, it’s ok to be on that slower side of the pace spectrum. For easy days, it’s not necessarily about the pace of the run, but being able to get work in while allowing your body to recover from the intensity that it’s endured the day, or two, before. It’s called relative rest. Your easy runs are more about time on your feet, than hammering at the top end of your easy pace range. Don’t get caught up in matching your easy run paces for every run.

Long Runs

Long Runs are really an extension of easy runs, except for the pure amount of time we are running. Pace wise, we are using nearly the same range. Now, like with all training, how we apply that stimulus will differ as our ability and experience changes.

Many times you will see that people are either pushing the pace on long runs or firm believers in the Long Slow Distance (LSD) camp.

The truth is that there is room for both camps.

Our number one goal is to build endurance. So if you are a beginner, just coming back, early in your segment, or just plain tired, then need for a fast long run isn’t there. For beginners it should be a time to learn how to go out in an appropriate pace and avoid the crash and burn effect. There certainly is some trial and error here, but the idea is to learn from those early mistakes. Also for beginners, every progressive long run they complete is probably the furthest they have ever run, so they simply need to gain confidence in being able to cover ground.

As for those early in a segment or coming back from a layoff, a slower long run is a great way to increase workload and increase fitness without putting too much stress on your currently fragile system. By that I simply mean, you are gradually introducing hard work back into your routine and want to avoid the “too much too soon” syndrome. Beyond that, I think most runners would agree, the duration of the long run is more than enough and running too fast might not even be possible.

We talked before about adapting to training and how the stimulus will need to change over time if we want to keep adapting. Now, the simple answer would be to increase the distance, and that certainly is an option. Many runners will gradually increase their weekly mileage over time, in combination with being generally faster, so upticks in long run mileage is perfectly acceptable. However, that will still only address the are of general endurance. Over time we can change the stimulus without changing the distance.

The faster long run:

The idea here is to purposely run your glycogen low by not eating prior to, or during, your long run. The idea is that you force the body to go into a state where it has to rely on fat as the primary energy source, which will ultimately make your body better at burning fat. For what we really care about, racing faster, is that we can run farther at a faster clip, with less reliance on glycogen.

Now, there’s is a time and a place for this. I personally feel that this is an early segment long run. The reason being, is that this is when the long runs are shorter but still long enough to deplete your glycogen stores. It can be a fairly stressful run at 10-12 miles for people, let alone 16 miles. Also, pace isn’t as important early on and these runs are more about time on your feet, not pace averaged. This is a perfect excuse to enjoy a weekend long run without any thought to pace. Finally, doing these early in the segment will allow your later segment long runs to go better and have you more prepared in case we wish to shake those up a little bit.

Long run with fartlek

I don’t give these a ton, but I do give these in certain situations. The first is when a person is only doing two SOS days a week, like with our “alternator plans” or when they are more spaced out, like our 9 day cycle plans. This is an old Boston Track Club long run where within the long run, you would do some sort of fartlek at marathon pace. I will typically do something like 8×2 minutes on (with 2 minutes off) or 6×3 minutes (with 2-3 minutes off) in the middle of a long run. It is a good way to help runners accumulate more time practicing marathon pace without the monotony of another tempo run. It also helps take them to a very high aerobic level, but below lactate threshold, where they can stimulate the adaptations needed to increase fat burning and maximizing aerobic adaptations.

It is a great way to increase not only general endurance, but also specific endurance (stamina).

I might give this a couple times to athletes in the middle to beginning of the last stages of peak training. So, if they are using a 16 week program, it makes sense to do this between 12 and 6 weeks out from the race.

Fast Finish long run

This is a great long run to really teach your body what it’s like to run fast at the end of a long week. This is also a mid to late segment situation.

This is a very specific race specific workout (and tough), so it doesn’t make sense early in a training segment.

I also wouldn’t do it as one of your last 1-2 long runs, either. It’s a really good one for when you are in the meat and potatoes of your segment. The other nice thing is that you don’t have to do this a lot, once or twice in a segment is good. If you couple that with the fartlek, you have a couple of nice long run variations to add to your arsenal.

The structure is pretty simple. I like these to be a gradual pick up in pace so that you are truly practicing race day strategy. The first few miles are nice and easy. From there you gradually pick the pace up so that by ⅔ of the way in to your long run, you are at the top end of your moderate range. Then, when you get to the last 2-3 miles of your long run, you ratchet the pace up once more time to reach marathon goal pace. It’s a pretty tough finish, but it will teach you how to be mentally tough and that you can run fast even when you are tired.

Long Moderate Distance (LMD)

This is a natural progression from the LSD model. Most beginners are in the LSD mode as they just need to focus on general endurance. As that improves, they naturally run faster and this is the next logical step. Before attempting any of the other long run variations, I’d get comfortable with the LMD model.

This will again, be a new stress that will put a little more pressure on the body to burn fat better.

You’ll also be able to gain more confidence in the ability to run faster, not just farther.

The key for all that we’ve talked about with long runs is recovery and replenishment. We talk about that extensively in other places, but I have to reiterate that immediate recovery. Regardless of whether you supplemented or not during the long run with gels, you have taken your stores to critical levels. Beginning the process of replenishing these levels will allow for the adaptations we want to take place and will allow the body to bounce back quicker to do the next workout. Remember, it’s not always the work itself you did, but how you recovered from the work you just did.

Tempo Runs

While long runs are pretty fool proof, you just go out and run for a long time, the tempo run can get tricky. The goal with the marathon pace tempo is three-fold. The first, to learn how your actual race pace feels at increasingly longer distances. The second, is to maximize the running economy, fat metabolism, and aerobic capabilities. The third is to gain confidence at race pace. This last one is always big for me. A lot of people focus on the long run as their source of confidence, but all that tells you is that you can run pretty far, pretty slow. A tempo run, however, shows you that you can run pretty far at pace, all during the middle of the week. To me, it’s a much better confidence booster.

For the beginner, there tends to be a couple ways that we can’t quite get the max benefits. The first is when the runner is low mileage and just now attempting to run a tempo. Sometimes these folks are short easy runs are faster than what their goal marathon pace is. So there is the tendency to run the shorter marathon tempos at an even faster pace, since this is supposed to be a workout! The logic is definitely there, however the real problem is that the person’s general endurance is not there. I don’t get too worked up about this early on, because I know that when the mileage kicks in, the paces have a tendency to work themselves out. However, I think patience is key on tempo runs and I would stress these runners to slow down on the tempo runs and try to learn what that pace feels like. Otherwise, we do run the risk of getting hurt. The advanced runner can run these early runs quick as well, but it’s typically because the early attempts are fairly short. To you, I say the same thing- slow it down.

The bottom line is that the harder you make the early part of the training, the earlier you get into cumulative fatigue and run the risk of actual overtraining.

Now, you may experience the opposite. You may struggle early to hit your goal marathon pace. This may be true when someone is trying to make a big jump to another level. The faster you get, the tougher those adjustments become. A beginner may not even notice a 10 sec/mile adjustment as they are improving pretty rapidly, whereas an advanced runner may notice every little increase in pace. The faster you get, the less variance you have across the board in pace. The point is, if you do struggle early on, don’t give up. Your fitness on day one isn’t going to be the same level your fitness is at during the last month. If it is, we have messed up pretty bad. Let the pace come down naturally. If a number of weeks go by and you still simply can’t get the pace down, well then it might simply be a nudge to adjust your pace back a little bit.

Strength

At 10 seconds faster per mile than goal marathon pace, the initial thought a lot of times is that these will be easy. So the runner will be 15-20 seconds fast, sustain that for a rep and then start the decline to a botched workout. These are deceivingly tough, due to the higher volume, short rest, and the gradually increasing lactate levels in the blood.

When fatigue hits on these, you become well aware!

For beginners, yes, there is probably some grey area physiologically with these. However, we are still getting higher blood lactate levels in the blood, which will allow you to clear blood lactate levels much better. You will also be just below your lactate threshold, which will ultimately allow you to tolerate higher and higher levels of lactate in the future. The end goal is an increase in lactate threshold, which will mean you can run faster farther before fatigue sets in. And if you are sparing carbohydrate/glycogen, which is where lactate comes from, you are setting yourself up to be a lean mean aerobic machine.

The problem arises when you crank these too fast.

When you do that, you simply overload the body prematurely and the workout becomes survival, not training. Remember, we build fitness from the bottom up, which also means we push threshold up from the bottom, not pulling from the top. Think about it this way- we can do a lot more work when we are just under the threshold than we can when we put ourselves over the threshold right away. That’s where speed comes in.

Speed

Last but not least, and I know we have speed in the beginning of the segment. To be honest, the speed is where the mistakes are made and being at the beginning of the schedule, can really dictate how the rest of the training will go. In the traditional sense, like for 5k and 10k development, speed is more about developing top end speed and VO2max. Now, I’ll be honest, if you are a beginner, you’ll see an increase in VO2max by the culmination of everything else we are doing. For advanced runners, we aren’t looking at increasing your VO2max from 60 ml/kf/min to 62 ml/kg/min.

That’s not going to make a whole heck of a lot of difference in your marathon.

In other words, the speed we are doing is speed relative to the event training for. For the vast majority of people, this means at 10k pace. What’s the benefit in that? Well, we’ve talked about it before, but doing speedwork really fast early in a segment can cause something called acidosis, or the changing of pH in the blood. This can actually stunt the aerobic development. However this occurs at paces faster than 5k pace. On the flip side, we want some speed, but putting it at the end of a marathon segment doesn’t make much sense, either. The compromise is to back of the paces, and put it early in the marathon training block.

Side note: This is also why we don’t like marathon after marathon because you ultimately never hit any truly fast paces in training if you do.

Don’t worry, if we don’t get in 5k paces, we are still getting plenty of benefit at 10k pace. For one, our muscle fiber recruitment will improve. We can first, recruit fast twitch and intermediate fibers that may not have been used in a while. Once we “wake them up” we can start teaching them to look like what we really want- slow twitch aerobic powerhouses. And, even if we can’t change them too much, we still recruited them which will be a nice back up to when your slow twitch do gradually tire out in the late stages of the marathon. Also, at 10k pace, we really teach our body how to buffer lactate and tolerate pretty high levels. So again, this is really a little bit of precursor work to when we do strength workouts. It’s also preparing our bodies to handle much longer runs and much longer runs at faster paces through the neurological improvements and the muscle fiber recruitment improvements. The key is that going faster isn’t going to improve this.

If we shock the body too much too soon, we will stunt the very aerobic development we are trying to improve.

Being patient here will be the key to a successful segment. It is truly the foundation to being able to effectively handle all the other work we will do later on.

The last note I want to make about speed, is that the tougher we make the speed, the tougher we make the tempo, which makes the long run tougher. If we do this too much too soon, we put ourselves on a trajectory we simply cannot maintain for 18 weeks. This is the number one reason people fail at this program. Part of that is the Cumulative Fatigue and the idea that it’s not a single workout that does us in. It’s cheating the speed down a little bit, followed by a tempo that felt so good early one, followed by a long run where I just had to stay at the top end of my prescribed paces. We tend to maximize the paces we can early because they are easier, but fail to look at what effect that has on the next workout, the next week, the next month, or how we’ll be coping when we get to the 6-8 week out mark and you hate my guts! In short everything you do, doesn’t affect just today.

Every day should be an opportunity to look at your plan and think, what do I need to get done today. Nothing more, nothing less. Repeat.

Wrap Up

Knowing the purpose of what you are doing, as well as making a few mistakes along the way, are great learning points. Just don’t keep making the same mistake over and over. One thing I have found that has worked well is to program your workouts into your GPS. Yes, it takes a little bit of time, but it can keep you on point. I remember someone saying to me, “but the beeping is so annoying!” That’s the point- if you are learning how to control your pace, there’s nothing better to teach you pace than an annoying beeping noise that will only go away if you hit the pace.

I have found this to be very successful in the long term.

Another thing is rewarding yourself, but the only way you can get it is to hit your paces for a week, or two weeks. I don’t find this as effective because I would probably just buy it anyway! The point is to get creative. Make it a game, how close I can come to pace. Whatever works for you. It is work, but over time, you become a natural and those annoying beeps will only be a figment of your imagination. Anyway, these are the lessons I’ have learned the hard way over my first 85,000 miles of running and observing for my first 12 years coaching.

Adapting to training

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When you look at our schedules in either Hansons Marathon Method or Half Marathon Method, the schedules are 18 weeks. Looking at other schedules, I’ve seen anything from 18 through 32 weeks! I personally have schedules that range from 12 to 20 weeks for our longer race distances. Why the big variations across programs? Well, there’s a lot of reasoning and the answer will probably change as you grow as a runner. With this I hope to describe to you some of the reasoning, but why having a training program that’s too long is just as detrimental of having one that is too short.

Adapting to training

Adapting to training

How long does it take to adapt to training?

I knew you were going to ask that! The extremely general answer would be that the newer you are to running, the faster the improvements occur. Like with most things in life, our learning curves are steep and running is no different.

How fast you adapt to training

First off, let’s approach the questions regarding the schedules in the book. The primary differences between the beginner and the advanced schedule and the beginner schedule in the book is the first few weeks. In the beginner program we don’t do any Something of Substance (SOS) days for the first few weeks. With the Advanced schedule, we jump right into SOS days after the first week. We know that it takes 4-6 weeks to fully adapt to a training stress. When I say training stress, I am referring to one of the variables of FITT.

F- Frequency (How often we are exercising)

I- Intensity (The intensity of exercise)

T- Time (The amount of time we are exercising per session)

T- Type (The type of exercise we are engaging in)

In general we know three things about training adaptation. The first is that it is individual, so we either have to work directly with each individual athlete or make some generalizations. The second is that the first generalization is that it takes roughly 10 days to experience full benefit from a single workout. This in general, as things like neuromuscular aspects of training can be experienced in a couple days, but that’s for another day. Finally, we know that in general it takes 4-6 weeks of exposure to a specific training stress to maximize the effect of that training stress.

Beginners

For the Beginner plan we are making several of assumptions at the start. These are that 1) you are running low mileage 2) Are running less than 6 days per week, 3) That you aren’t running very long per session, and 4) that you aren’t running any workouts. As we look back at FITT, we see that our assumptions involve three of the four variables in increasing fitness. Gaining fitness through training adaptation is a balance between stress and recovery. Let’s say you are attempting to start a beginning plan and are just running easy a few days per week.

For most people, that is a recipe for injury and/or overtraining.

You start the program and it calls for 5 days per week with a long run and a workout (or two) in the first week. If we were to do that, we have now altered three current variables in your training. For most people, that is a recipe for injury and/or overtraining. Making it through a training program of this nature typically ends up being more about survival than gaining fitness.

Now, if you look at our schedule with the same person, we are still adding a new stress, but we limit it to frequency and time. The intensity is left the same and the type of exercise is really a controlled variable for us. By taking that one variable away (for now), provides the beginner to establish a base fitness over the next month and in all actuality, improve their base fitness. Then from there, they have established the foundation to take the next step in training.

Now, what does this have to do with how fast we adapt to training? For the beginner, fitness will actually come pretty fast in terms of physiological fitness- VO2max, endurance, etc will all increase rapidly. Where we typically have problems is structural, like with bones and tendons. Think of it this way, when you started running (or someone you know), what was the first real thing they complained about hurting? Chances are, it was shin splints, or knee pain. It wasn’t that their lung capacity stopped them from exercise. Or another way to look at it, why not focus first on the two variables that beginners will get most bang from your buck from? Focus on foundation first and the rest comes easier. So, by focusing on these variables first (frequency and time), we set the stage for the body to gain fitness without breaking down and setting the stage for other adaptations to take place.

So, as you look at the beginner training plan, you essentially have 4 weeks of building base, fitness, followed by about 6 weeks of speed, then 6 weeks of strength, wrapped up with a roughly 2 week taper. Now, does that mean you will maximize your fitness in 18 weeks? Absolutely not. We will maximize your current fitness level. Also, looking at it from a practical standpoint, putting your emphasis on one goal race for 4 ½ months is an awful long time. In short, 18 weeks is a good blend of science and practicality to for a marathon training segment.

I should note one last thing about the FITT principle. If you exercise three days a week, you will certainly gain fitness across a period time. Now, if you can safely exercise five times per week, you certainly make those same gains in a shorter amount of time. That’s why you will see some variations in plans, because at some point we are assuming that gains in fitness will take longer to come by if the exposure to the training stress is less.

Advanced

For the advanced marathon plan there are also some assumptions to be made. The first is that you have experience in the marathon. Secondly, you have been running consistently leading up to the beginning of the plan. Third, that your mileage is higher than someone who is starting the beginner plan.

With that, the immediate difference is in the second week of the program. Since we aren’t going to adjust frequency, time, or duration very much, then we can adjust the intensity. Now, one could argue that we should shorten the training segment down, which is an argument I would listen to. Since this is a general program, we can go into another generalization of training adaptation (Iied!) and that is the idea that over time, a runner needs more stress to elicit a response. Think of it this way. When you first began running, a 3 mile run might have been your primary goal- maybe to run a 5k without stopping. Now, if you were running that same 3 mile run at the same pace, is it hard or is it much easier?

For most of you it is a cakewalk, meaning you need more of a stress to elicit an adaptation in training.

With this, we have two options, either make the speed work faster or simply do more of it. With this, you might naturally be faster since your last marathon segment- meaning have run faster races of shorter distances. Your workouts will already be naturally a little faster, but we don’t necessarily know that. The one thing we can account for is the length of the speed segment. We can add more weeks to that part of the segment to elicit that increased training response. Along with that, since going too fast early in a training segment can be detrimental to the rest of the segment (dig too much of a fatigue hole), it makes more sense to not adjust the pace more, but to control the number of weeks. Once past the speed portion of the training the segment looks much the same as the beginner and the reasoning is that this is already the higher mileage and really a grinding several weeks, so there is no need to make even more difficult.

A note about tempo runs for both schedules: As you probably noticed, I didn’t discuss tempo runs for either schedule. The reason is twofold. The first is that we are gradually ratcheting up throughout the schedule so we are regularly adjusting the duration while keeping the frequency and the intensity the same. Now, the effort might feel different, but the intensity should be the same. The second is that just that- I don’t necessarily want these to get harder, in terms of pace. When we start a training plan we usually have a goal in mind. Let’s say that goal is 4 hours. So, you run your tempo runs at that goal pace. I don’t want to get to the point where you feel comfortable at a pace and then decide, you know 4 hours is easily doable, so let’s ratchet it up to 3:45. By the time you get to the 9 and 10 mile tempo runs, you’ve changed your goal pace to 3:30. Now this might or might not be doable, but ask yourself this-

If my original goal was 4 hours, do I want to risk overestimating my ability from the tempo runs, only to crash and burn at 20 miles and limp in with a 4:15?

I would rather have you develop a laser focus on what that original goal pace feels like and develop confidence in your ability to nail that goal while setting yourself up for success.

Consistency/Ease of Maintenance

The first is that consistent training makes it “easier” to reach peak fitness.

To tie this into the idea into having shorter schedules and more spaced out workouts, but still being in top fitness, I have to bring out two last generalizations of training adaptation. The first is that consistent training makes it “easier” to reach peak fitness. The second is the rule of “ease of maintenance.” This is the idea that you had the goal of breaking 20:00 in the 5k and you trained all summer. By the end of summer you poured your heart and soul into months of training and ran 19:50. Then you maintained a pretty high level of base fitness, did a few workouts and then ran 19:45 at the Turkey Trot in November. Now you’re left eating a drumstick, wondering how the heck you pulled that off! The point is, that it is much harder to reach a new level of fitness (and perform at that level) than it is to maintain it.  The second part of that is once you establish that new level and just keep training at a decent level you make the time and work needed to reach that new level of fitness less. That’s why I say with consistent and moderate training levels you are never more than a couple months away from a PR in any race distance. Put it this way, say you slacked off before your first training segment and were at about 50% of peak fitness. You needed every day of that 18 weeks to reach 100% peak fitness. Afterwards you took your recovery, started running and kept your mileage higher and did maintenance workouts weekly. Then you decide to run another marathon. This time you are starting at 70% of your peak fitness (even though your peak fitness is higher than the first go round). We don’t need to force a long segment because we are already closer to peak fitness than we were the first time.

That is why you see the schedules I offer on Final Surge have a wide variance in weekly mileage, spacing of workouts, and number of weeks. The more experienced you become, the more you learn about your own needs and abilities. I tried to take those into account across the board. That way, you can still follow the philosophy that the classic Beginner and Advanced schedules provide, but grow with the system as you do.

Next time, I want to talk about a couple other components to this topic, but this has already gotten pretty long! These additions would be:

  • What happens when you try to rush the process
  • What happens you treat every single workouts like it’s the most important
  • What individual characteristics would affect your ability to adapt to training

Speed (Not on track). Why I tell my athletes to not hit the track during marathon speed.

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If you purchase a schedule from us via our partners at Final Surge, you’ll notice the title of this post as a notation in the speed work days. While I hint at it very little in the book, it was brought to my attention that I never really give a full explanation. So, let’s set the record straight as to Speed (not on track)

Kevin and Keith Hanson

Kevin and Keith Hanson

The vast majority of Hansons Marathon Method comes from my experience with The Godfather’s, Kevin and Keith Hanson. I simply noted what I had observed through their coaching of these specific programs to the masses and the philosophy to individuals. You see, every year, starting in April or May (whenever the snow is completely gone) the brothers start a community speed workout day (Tuesdays) at Dodge Park. It’s great, as it is about a mile dirt path that allows complete viewing and easy cone placement. The speedwork then switches over to follow the marathon program for The Detroit Marathon beginning in mid June. So, here, not doing it on a track easily allows larger groups of people to participate.

 

FIRST REASON

Now, admittedly, the first reason was purely about logistics and nothing particular about physiology, there are specific reasons as to why I personally prescribe it that way. The main reason is that in the classic schedules, you are doing speed work every week for several weeks in a row. If you aren’t used to doing speed work on a track regularly, then it can be a setup for developing injury. All the torque of the turns on that left leg has stopped more than one runner. Speed itself is a risk factor for injury, so let’s minimize it by taking the constant turns out of play.

Think twice before heading to the track during marathon buildup

Think twice before heading to the track during marathon buildup

SECOND REASON

The second reason is that I know you. I know that when I say 10k pace, you’ll cheat it down to 5k pace. That’s easy to do on a track. If you have to do it on the roads, 10k pace is usually hard enough to nail. So, in a sense, getting you off the track is a built in speed governor. In combination with above, I can drastically reduce your injury potential while giving you plenty of hard work.

THIRD REASON

The third reason is that while I want to maintain balance I want you to develop that marathon mindset from the beginning. On the track, you can zone out to a degree. Here, I can force you to be aware of your surroundings. You’ll have to pay more attention to what you are doing, the terrain you are running, and how you are approaching what’s ahead of you.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

Shovel winter track

Shovel winter track

The last reason is purely practical as well. Over the years I found that the majority of my runners either wake up and head straight out the door or head out right after work. Much of the time that means that a track is more than a warm up jog away. this way a runner can program their gps and just go do the workout without feeling like they are missing something by not being on the track. It also takes into account the winter variable.

Unless you are willing to shovel off lane one in January or February, this makes it a lot easier to just go out and get a workout in.

 

 

 

 

WRAP UP!

To wrap this up, it’s not imperative that you avoid the track, I would just prefer not to make it a weekly habit during marathon training. Remember, the speed we are working on is relative to the distance we are racing. Unless you are racing marathon after marathon, we would dedicate specific segments to shorter and faster races that would allow you rip some fast work on the track. That friends, are the simple reasons why I say Speed (not on track).

Updated thoughts on heart rate

Heart Rate Training - Hansons Coaching

Heart Rate Training – Hansons Coaching

If you’ve read much of anything that I have put out into the internet universe, you’ll know that my position on heart rate training is one of,

“when they start handing out BQs based on heart rate, I will start training people by heart rate.”

I actually stole that line from a conversation I had with Keith at one point. It still rings true to this day! However, the topic is still brought up, along with new fads- eh hem- power meters, lactate threshold detectors, and activity monitors.

What I mean by that is people already use GPS devices as if it’s the holy grail

It comes down to one of those things where I didn’t like using heart rate because to me it was just another variable in making training more complicated. What I mean by that is people already use GPS devices as if it’s the holy grail. Being a slave to another parameter is just another way to limit yourself in a workout. I don’t want them to now be limited in a workout because of their heart rate monitors telling them they are working to hard.

I’ve written a blog post previously on my stance on relying on heart rate that includes the reasons why I’m not a fan for day to day training. You can find that here.

Many of you still use heart rate, and I’m not going to fight anyone on it anymore. What I am going to do is give you my thoughts on what I would observe and how I would practically approach using heart rate in your training.

Heart Rate Training - Hansons Coaching

Heart Rate Training – Hansons Coaching

A great approach to blending gps/hr/learning feel. I came across a great piece referencing legendary Coach Bobby McGee and his use of blending these variables. You can find the piece in The Runners Edge. Essentially, what he does is allows athletes to go by heart rate in the early buildup of their training. There are a couple nice things about this. For instance, think about when you start training for a fall marathon- it’s in the peak of summer, right! You’re just starting training and it’s hot, humid, and difficult to get a bearing on pace. Coach McGee would have runners run a pretty short run (2-3 miles) at goal marathon pace and see what the corresponding heart rate was. He would then set early season workouts to that heart rate, but begin increasing the length of the workouts By monitoring your heart rate you can go by effort and keep yourself in check (see our 5 early pitfalls of training post)

The trick is to not look at it during your run.

The key with what Coach says is that you transition away from focusing on heart rate. As you get into your meat and taters section of training, you go to what matters most-pace. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon tracking your heart rate completely. The trick is to not look at it during your run. Instead, when you log your data, just observe. Track how you ran for workouts, especially under similar conditions, and the corresponding heart rate. The goal would be that the distance would increase while the pace stayed the same and the heart rate decreased. The key though, is that HR wasn’t looked at until AFTER the workout was over. I think one thing to keep in mind too would to try and keep variables similar- like do your workouts that you are comparing on similar loops. Ideally, the weather would be similar to what you will be racing in the closer you approach the race, as well.

Using Heart Rate to determine over training

Besides monitoring effort during a workout, runners use heart rate to determine if they are recovering, or overtraining. The idea is that one, resting heart rate will lower with fitness and increase with over training. The second is that an athlete who is getting fit will have lower heart rates at the same intensity, while an overtrained athlete may have a higher heart rate at the same intensity.

In the first scenario, that appears to be more and more a myth. Most studies appear to show now differences in resting heart rate between fit and overtrained people. What does seem to be of value is a person’s sleeping heart rate. And with all of the new technology out there, this is probably easier to monitor than ever before. If you monitor your sleep, keep an eye on this parameter. An increasing sleeping HR over a period of time may be a good indicator of your training status.

The second observation point is with training heart rates. Most people think that as they gain fitness, their heart rate for a given workout will decrease. While some studies have shown this, others have not. Using this method to dictate if your fitness is on track just isn’t that clear and might not be a reliable observation.

Heart Rate Training - Hansons Coaching

Heart Rate Training – Hansons Coaching

A couple great sources:

Latest Buzzword: Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the variance in beats of the heart. So, someone with a low HRV might have a heartbeat that goes Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 3 Beat. Someone with a high HRV might go Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 Beat 1 2 3 4 Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 3 Beat 1 2 and on and on. They don’t have a heartbeat that is like clockwork. I remember in a physiology lab and the student freaked out. They thought I had a messed up heart!

A trend downwards can indicate the approach to becoming overtrained.

The idea though is that a person with a high HRV is very fit and people will use it to monitor their recovery or if they are gaining fitness. This isn’t a measure that is a one and done type of process. In fact, it’s something that you really need a lot of data points to find anything useful with. You’d really monitor several times a week and graph the trends. In general, a trend upwards is good. A trend downwards can indicate the approach to becoming overtrained. The only problem is, that these trends don’t always indicate one or the other.

Here’s (Info-graph / Article ).

Monitoring your HRV has been shown to dictate what kind of training will suit you better…

To me it’s simply an observation point that you use to piece together what your entire training looks like and then use all those pieces to help forge a decision in your training. Some information I did find interesting. Monitoring your HRV has been shown to dictate what kind of training will suit you better (high volume or high intensity) A person with a high HRV may be better suited for high intensity training, while a low HRV person may respond well to a high volume training program.

HOWEVER, nothing was said about how much they improved and in what distance. What I mean is, will that work for a 5k through a marathon training plan or just shorter racing distances. Also, does it work with new runners through elite runners, as this study just looked at recreational runners. (Article). It is all interesting, but I think there’s a long way to go. And again, I think it’s something you look at over a long period of time and use it as one piece of information, not the only information.

In the end though, they still only hand out BQ’s based on running a certain pace and not keeping your heart rate in a certain zone.

Measuring your HRV is getting easier and easier as a quick app store search reveals several different applications. I recommend in bed right when you get up. If you monitor your sleep, you might already have that data. To me, that’s even better. While I am still not a heart rate using coach, I am slowly believing there’s a place for both worlds to exist. In the end though, they still only hand out BQ’s based on running a certain pace and not keeping your heart rate in a certain zone.

My observations from fall marathon training 2016.

This year I have taken a much bigger effort to connect with the thousands of people that have used the Hansons Marathon Method over the last few years. Not because I was unsure if it would work, but rather to make sure I was doing a good job of communicating the main idea of the philosophy: cumulative fatigue.  What I learned was well, it is a mixed bag. Some of it is I think people buy the book but just follow the program and wonder why it’s so hard. This is a small group, but there isn’t much more I can personally do if they don’t want to explore why we do what we do. Then there’s the group who do everything by the book (literally) and see success. Then there’s the group that I need to do better job of coaching. With that, my aim is to pull out all the stops with the idea of cumulative fatigue.

Hansons Cumulative Fatigue

The result of a successful marathon!

What is cumulative fatigue?

Our goal with marathon training and half marathon training is to build a certain amount of cumulative fatigue that develops the strength and preparedness for the marathon.

What exactly is the definition of cumulative fatigue?

Here’s my version of the idea: When fatigue is coming from the culmination of training and not from one specific aspect. The athlete is fatigued, but still able to run strong, and not dip past the point of no return. The end result is that the runner becomes very strong, fit, and able to withstand the physical and mental demands of the marathon distance.

So, what do we do to achieve this end result? To me it’s really about 4 components for the marathon. Balance, Moderate to High Mileage, Consistency, and Active recovery.

Hansons Cumulative Fatigue

Trust the process!

What are the components of CF?

As you can see in figure 1, there are four “pillars” I use in reaching a person to reaching cumulative fatigue. We’ve talked about these a lot, so I’ll just link to those discussions.

What I will say here though is that these components all work as part of the entire system.

When you pull one piece out it’s like a giant Jenga tower spilling all over the dining room table.

Then what? You’re just left to pick up the prices and start over.

For instance, let me share with you a common scenario I will see in our Facebook groups. A person starts the program but doesn’t completely by into part of the program. Seemingly, it always has something to do with the idea of a 16 mile long run (insert shocked voice). I feel like one of two things happen. The most popular is that the person doesn’t really think that 16 miles is long enough and make their long runs the typical 20+ miles in a 40 to 50 mile week. However, in order to have enough energy, the rest of the week suffers somehow. A skipped workout here and a shortened tempo run there. Before long, the original training plan is a shadow of its former self, but the runner still feels like they are “following the method.” The second is that the runner believes too much in the 16 mile long run and develop a belief that the program is centered around the long run. They feel like even if they skimp on the rest of the training the 16 miler is all they need.

The bottom line is that the 16 miler alone won’t get the job done. Like any training, or cumulative fatigue component, it’s the sum of parts that makes it successful.

Past discussion on CF

Hansons Cumulative Fatigue

Know the difference between Over training and CF

What is the difference between CF and just overtraining?

This is an area where many of you need help fully understanding and I need a better job teaching. I will admit that it’s a very thin line between the two technical stages of training we are discussing. That’s functional overreaching and non functional overreaching.

Common symptoms:

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO:

When you are in a functional overreaching, you will be tired but your performances in workouts will not suffer.

When you start feeling like crap and your performances are getting worse, you have likely crossed that line into functional overreaching.

Now, there’s always a caveat to these things. Let’s say you were running too fast to begin with and through training hard you’ve slowed down to what you were supposed to be running? If so, I don’t think it’s non functional, rather a correction. Where you will get into trouble is if you continue to try to hit the paces that were too fast. Rather, settle into the proper paces and let your fitness and body come back around. You’ll still feel tired, but as long as performance is stable, you’re ok.

How do I reach CF without going too far?

And here we go. The meat and taters, if you will. There’s a number of things we should do 1) before we even begin training and 2) during the early stages of a training plan that will help immensely with our goal of cumulative fatigue and not over training. From there, we can discuss the things we need to do during training that will help safeguard us while in the hardest sections of the training.

Before we even start:

  1. At least have a discussion about what your goal is or should be. Many of the folks using the plan for the first time are people who have at least raced before, so choosing a goal makes it a bit easier for them. For those who have no clue as to what they should run should consult a coach or respected runners who will give them a no BS answer. If you recall a discussion we had about Strava data, we should that something like 60-70% of people are running a 4-5 hour marathon and training about 30 miles per week. An hour difference is a big gap, but it at least gives you a starting point to evaluate yourself. A brand new runner who is building from scratch will probably be looking more at the 4.5-5 hour range. A newer runner with a little bit of running underneath them might be looking at the 4-4.5 hour range.
  2. Look at your schedule outside of running. Do you know of vacations and other gatherings that you know will make training difficult? Big business trips on the horizon? A baby on the way (I don’t think my daughter slept more than an hour or two a night for the first 6 months of her life). I know there’s a lot of unexpected events that pop up, but at least plan for what you know is going to occur. Preparing for these things in advance will not only help you set a more reasonable training goal, but also allow you to absorb the unexpected a little better.

Early in the training:

I made a post about this a bit ago and I think is a must read for everyone new to the idea of cumulative fatigue: Avoiding the early pitfalls of marathon training.

A few keys to take away:

  1. Let your fitness build, don’t try to force the issue. I see this all the time where people think if fast is good, faster is better. No, running the right pace for what we are trying to accomplish is better. For instance, if your goal is 3:45 and it’s already an attempt at a big PR, then why make it harder on yourself and try to run faster than what is prescribed? I want you at peak fitness for your goal race, not the local school fundraiser 5k.
  2. Don’t rely on running alone. This one has always been a problem for me. As much as we feel strapped for time, we need to carve more out if we truly want to prepare. I am talking about things like flexibility, dynamic warm ups, core training, and general strength. I know I know. I hear ya and I have fought it forever, too.
  3. Sleep and proper nutrition are your best friends during a heavy training cycle. This is for your life, aw well. Should be non negotiable.
  4. Adjust for environment. The summer is a perfect example of this. For an October marathon, you’ll start training in June. This means that a lot of your training will be during the dog days of summer. So many times my athletes will overdo it trying to hit paces that aren’t reasonable given the temperature and humidity. Is it ideal? No, but that’s why we don’t be a ourselves up that we were 15 seconds slow per mile when it was 80 degrees with a dew point of 65 degrees and we’ve only been training for 6 weeks.

If you can do these things, you’ll set yourself up to be able to not only tolerate training, but also maximize your training adaptations during the last 6-8 weeks of the marathon segment (when it really counts). You’ll put yourself in the zone of cumulative fatigue without crossing the threshold into overt training.

Love the Sport!

Love the Sport!

What do I do if I take it too far?

The end result of what I saw many folks doing was taking cumulative fatigue into nonfunctional overreaching by the time they got to the strength segment of the marathon plans. If you find yourself in that zone or rapidly approaching it, here’s what I would do.

  1. Immediately start doing the things we just talked about. Consider vitamins/supplements.
  2. Spread workouts further apart (Modifying Schedule)
    1. Tuesday-Friday-Sunday
    2. Wednesday-Sunday w alternating weekend
  3. Within a month of race? Start taper now. If you are fried and performance has gone by the wayside, we have to bring you back and quickly. Reducing both volume and intensity is the easiest way to do it.
    1. Scale back to 2b.
    2. Focus on lower intensity SOS
    3. Don’t scale back so much you lose fitness

End Goal

The end goal is two fold. The first is to teach you how to train, regardless of system you use. We want to take you from guessing to knowing the how, what, and why if becoming a runner (regardless of pace, as pace is irrelevant). This is an ongoing process and hopefully incorporated into everything we provide. The second is what you are immediately concerned with- getting to the starting line healthy. I realize that things rarely go perfectly as planned. If you find yourself in such a situation let’s cut our losses, minimize the damage, and get to the starting line in one piece. This will at least allow you to run your race and you still might even just surprise yourself with what you can still accomplish. It certainly doesn’t have to mean throwing in the towel on a training segment!

 

Listen to our PODCAST on Cumulative Fatigue

Marathon Race Strategy: A few thoughts

We have talked before about tapering and general race strategy ideas. We talk about several of these topics over the course of HMM. However recently an interesting article was posted on online that looked at 80 million runs logged on Strava. It shows some interesting numbers based on a wide spectrum of runners. It also prompted me to look at and update some of our specific race strategy ideas.

I’d like to preface the actual data that the mentioned article provides as this will help clarify some of my ideas about pacing and race strategy.

First…

..most 3-4 hour marathoners (regardless of gender) were logging an average of about 35 miles a week. 4-5 hour marathoners logged an average of 25-30 miles per week. This is valuable data when we look at pacing but I wish they would have broken up the groups a little more. Instead of 60 minute groups, it’d be great as a coach to see 15 minute separations. There’s a big difference between a 3 flat marathoner and a 4 flat marathoner. Those differences get even more visible the faster one gets.

Secondly, in both the 3-4 and 4-5 hour groups, the breakdown of weekly mileage looked like this:

 

45% of volume was runs less than 5 miles
39% 5-10 miles
9% 10-15 miles
8% 15+ miles

What does this mean?

Well, there’s probably a number of ways to look at this. However to me, it represents what we talk about all the time. That is that a lot of folks in this range are sold the idea that you put in a few very short runs during the week and then make up a bunch of miles with a long run that’s completely inappropriate for the overall mileage. The reasoning: I’m running 4-5 hours, so I just need to be able to cover the ground. Will it get the job done? Clearly, but it’s such a painful experience.

To further my head scratching, most runners in these two time brackets hit their peak mileage at 4 weeks out from their goal race. After that, began a significant reduction in mileage over the next month. BTW when I talk about head scratching, it’s not at the runner, it’s at the idea that people are selling these ideas. What I mean is, for these two groups of runners, a month is an incredibly long time. On the one hand, it’s a couple more weeks to gain more fitness. On the other hand, when training is cut out, it’s a few weeks to actually LOSE fitness.

When we are looking at low mileage, slower runners, having a big drastic taper doesn’t make much sense because they haven’t been training maximally to begin with.

There’s less overall training over a specific block of time.

What’s my point with all of this? Well, there’s a few points I want you to take away. The first is that even if followed 80% of our training plans, you are vastly more prepared than the majority of competitors in your time groups. Why, because you’re running more mileage, more pace oriented work, and training to get better (not just survive). Secondly, because of that, I believe you are above these averages and ready to run above the averages.

Now, reading through all this data made me ask questions too. The main one, was “how does training affect pacing?” As someone pointed out on our coaching group, the experience of a 4-5 hour marathoner is incredibly different than a 3 hour marathoner. What I believe they are referring to is how they approach their pacing in a race. Unfortunately, I was unable to find much more than “if you train more, you’ll run faster.” I did find an article online from a coach laying out a blueprint to break 4 hours.

It basically outlined, start out fast and hold on. To me, that sounds like absolute torture.

I will say this, though. If that’s how you have trained, then that’s your best bet for success… if you trained with our program, you are strong enough to avoid that race strategy! You won’t have to try and put massive amounts of time in the bank early on, knowing that you’ll be making large withdrawals over the last 10k. This is true regardless of whether you are a 2:30 or a 5:00 marathoner. With that, let’s discuss pacing strategies for the spectrum of marathon runners. How I’ll do it is from pre-race through the finish line.

Pacing is key!

Warming Up

The first question is should I warm up? The second question is, what should I do for a warm up In this section, the answer isn’t the same for everyone. In general, the faster you are, the more you should be doing. For all of us, though, we have to balance being ready to run vs. conserving precious energy stores.

Sub 3:15 Marathoners

For you, performance is key, so the pump has to be primed and ready to allow you to get into a pretty fast race pace and settle in. I recommend a ten minute light jog, followed by some dynamic stretching and possibly a few strides. Time this out so you can hit the restrooms and get to the starting line on time.

3:16-4:00 Marathoners

This is probably an individual choice here. I would say if you tend to go out too hard in races, you may want to actually decrease the amount of a warm up. I have found that this will naturally inhibit your decision to go out too fast and lead to a more desirable conservative start. You should also consider the race itself. If it is a smaller race, you can probably do a light jog and dynamic warm up (this group can skip the strides) and get to the starting line just a few minutes before the start. If it’s a bigger race, you might literally be corralled in for 20-30 minutes, or longer! If that’s the case, you might want to limit drastically what you do for a warm up. If you jog 10 minutes and then stand in a corral for that long, you will lose any benefit a warm up provided and simply wasted some energy stores.

4:01-5:00+ Marathoners

For many of you, your average pace for the marathon will actually be slower or what you run during the race. The way the corral systems work, you’ll also be the last in line to cross the start line. You can choose to view this as a negative, which is understandable. However, the positive is that your walk to the start line (especially in a major marathon) will actually serve as a decent warm up. Someone asked a question about a dynamic warm up to help decrease the time they would lose, but I don’t know. I feel the same applies to this group. If you are in a corral for a long time (15 minutes, or more) then it might not make sense. If it’s a smaller marathon and you can do a dynamic warm up, jump in your place, and start within 15 minutes, then it might be a good idea. I just think your environment will dictate what you can and should do.

Everyone

The one piece of advice I give to all marathoners is in regards to fueling.

When you get to within 15 minutes of your start, take your first gel or whatever you are going to use for calories.

This ensures that your first calories aren’t coming from glycogen, and if they are, these immediate calories balance things out. Some people will say, but what about the insulin response? This is when you take sugar (carbs) in and then insulin response and you have a blood sugar crash. This is nonsense since you are going right into exercise. It’s going to be used before the body even tries to store it. However, for that to work, it has to be done within that 15 minute window. I don’t even care if you are crossing the start line and take your gel.

Finish line is in sight!

Early Miles (0-6)

Regardless of your pace, the start is imperative to how the rest of your race will go. The goal is to settle into goal pace as soon as you can. I realize that you may be dodging people in the first few miles but, stay calm about it. Don’t make any silly moves just to get around a slower group. Bide your time, try to take any tangents and then make your move when the opportunity arises. You might be a little faster here without even trying. It is ok for the first couple miles, but after that, you really should be settled into pace.

Speaking of pace, what’s the standard deviation in pace?

The faster you are, the smaller that range is.

For the 3:15 and faster crew, you are looking at a range of 5 seconds, maybe 10 seconds per mile either fast or slow. For 3:15-4:00 hours, I’d give yourself a range of +/- 10 seconds. Beyond that I’d say 15 seconds fast or slow is your max deviation.

Now, two things come to mind when giving these ranges. The first is, don’t read that as, “oh I can be x seconds fast and be ok.” That’s not how it works. What I am saying is that you’ll have some fast miles and some slow miles. If you can keep that range you’ll average out to be pretty dang close to your goal pace. If you are consistently fast early on, which is easy to do, there’s a good chance you’ll pay dearly for it later on. Conversely, if you settle into a pace and it’s slower, now is not the time to panic. It’s early and there are ebs and flows to the race. Don’t try to force a faster pace. Stay relaxed and see if you naturally speed up. Sometimes it just takes a while to get the diesel fired up.

As far as nutrition, everyone should be starting early.

As far as gels/chews, everyone should be looking to take their first “dose” about 30 minutes into the race. Remember, you took one about 15 minutes before, so at 30 minutes in you’re 45 minutes since your first caloric intake. Beyond that, look to start hydrating early on too. The biggest mistake I see across the board is that we feel good early so we pass on fluids and gels. The problem with that is that you won’t be able to make up for this deficit later on. You also have to remember that late in the race that same pace will feel a lot harder at 20 miles and you aren’t going to feel much like loading up on sports drink and gels. Bottom line is: start early and feel better late.

Middle miles (7-20):

If you were able to settle into rhythm early, this stretch will be much easier on you mentally. My advice across the board is try to be in a position to zone out and put your legs on autopilot. I know, I know, easier said than done. However, this is why we stress pace, pace, and more pace!

The time you spent doing the tempo runs during training will pay its dividends here.

In an ideal situation, you’re with a pack of runners with each sharing some of the work. This will allow you to conserve some energy and “zone out” for a big stretch. I know it may seem counterintuitive to detach yourself from the moment, but there’s a reasoning behind the madness. I’m a firm believer that it’s nearly impossible to concentrate that hard in a task that will last a minimum of two hours. You can do it, but if you have to focus that hard during the “easiest” portion of the race, I feel like you’ll be mentally fatigued as much as you are physically fatigued. This is a bad combination for the later stages when you need your mental fortitude to overcome the physical degradation. So, put yourself in a position where you can use minimal mental energy to stay on task, knowing that the hard part is on its way!

Lastly, what will help with what I just discussed is staying on point with your nutrition. Your muscles aren’t the only body parts that use carbs. The brain solely relies on carbs to fuel its fire. By keeping your blood sugar up you allow the muscle glycogen to be used where it needs to be and you keep your thoughts more focused and ready to dig deep.

Finishing strong (last 10k)

We have all heard it. The marathon begins at 20 miles. 20 miles is the halfway point in the marathon.

That’s really true regardless of ability. However, everything we have talked about is setting you up to handle the toughest part of the marathon. There’s no denying it, the last 6 plus miles will be a true test for you. Here’s my top tips:

Think small. In an ideal situation you get to 20 miles and you are starting to feel the effects, but feel confident that the big grizzly bear isn’t going to hop on your back. The effort is certainly there, but your thoughts are still crisp and you are still moving well. Going back to what I said about zoning out. This is where still being mentally sharp is crucial. You can gauge where you are at, calculate splits, and have the fortitude to really narrow your focus to the immediate task at hand. If you can do that, you can start to think small. By that I mean, not focusing on having six miles to go, rather you can focus on the next 10 minutes, or 1 mile, or the next street light. Whatever you can mentally prepare yourself to run your goal pace for. When you get to that spot, hit reset and don’t allow yourself to think beyond that. It’s a great way to break a big chunk of distance up into manageable pieces. If you are mentally drained and about to reach a bonking point, you can’t narrow that focus and you end up dwelling on the whole distance left. This can be incredibly devastating to confidence and then pace.

Continue to take carbs in. Even if you just rinse your mouth out with sports drink, you can trick your brain into thinking it has had carbs and keep your intensity up. So, even if your mind (or stomach) is fighting you taking anything in, keep that tidbit in mind.

If you were conservative on pacing and are wondering when to pick up the pace, NOW would be that time. I don’t know if I would just slam my foot down on the gas (as much as you can at the 20 mile mark), but a winding up of pace would be fine.

I want you to think way back to the beginning of this article and the statistics I wrote about the average 3-4 hour marathoner and the average 4-5 hour marathoner. They generally ran low mileage and based on their weekly mileage breakdown- grossly undertrained. That’s why you see so many being too aggressive early on and then trying desperately not to lose all that time back during the last 6-10 miles. For one, they probably have no sense of what their marathon pace is, because emphasis was placed on long slow distance runs and no pace work. The second is because the majority of training taught them to survive training rather than adapt to training, they raced accordingly. They spend months learning how to survive the distance and not how to be strong over the entire distance. The point is, you should be in a position to avoid those things, as long as you trained accordingly and execute the race plan. Granted, circumstances are out of your control, but this should be true within reason. Even if you can’t pick it up over the last 10k, you should be strong enough to minimize the losses, rather than just hope you put enough time in the bank. This is true across the board.

Above was the advice I give the majority of my personal athletes. I work with athletes trying to run 2:30 to runners just wanting to get across the finish line. Hopefully, you can pull something from this and apply to your own race strategy in the future!