This started today. (Well, technically yesterday.)

Holy hell. How is it already time to start thinking about a spring race? Um, it’s 18 weeks until April 15? Are we sure about that?

[I should probably preface this post by saying that I have never followed a formal training plan for a marathon (or for any other distance, actually). At least, not since college when my coach wrote our workouts for the week on an 8″X11″ with a sharpie and photocopied them for us to hang in our dorm rooms. Oy…I am old and probably lack discipline!]

Anyway. Over the course of my dozen or so marathons, at my most organized, I’ve had ideas about how many 20+ milers I should fit in and rough weekly mileage goals. At my least organized, I’ve just been like, “oh I ran for two-something hours once, I should be fine.” (Which is a painful marathon training strategy on race day. Don’t do this.)

But I’ve never followed an actual plan penned by an actual person-who-presumably-knows-what-they’re-talking-about.

Enter Pfitzinger.

Honestly, I’ve heard nothing but tales of success from this dude and his plans. And also, tales of pain and suffering: he’s big on mingling pace work with endurance work, so you’ll get, like, a workout where not only do you have to complete a 22 mile run, but you must do 16 miles at race pace.

Good god. Awful. But the marathon is kind of an awful distance so I see where Pfitz is going with that. He’s going for awful. Which is how you’ll feel on race day. Can’t argue.

When I ran CIM last December and finally broke my decade-old PR, I did it on higher (for me – most weeks in the 50s and 60s, peaking in the low 70s) mileage. It was a personal breakthrough that I needed to run a lot in order to succeed at running a lot. (Hey, I never claimed to be smart.) But my training was very disorganized and I remember thinking, especially a few months later, on the heels of this spring’s highly mediocre Gansett Marathon, that I could probably do amazing things if I combined higher mileage with disciplined workouts.

So when I ordered Advanced Marathoning last summer, it was totally with the Pfitz 70 (peaking at 70 MPW) plan in mind for this spring’s Boston.

And then I spectacularly failed in my mission to build up enough base to safely do that. I’ve been running on a 25 MPW level (which is low for me) for the last few months. I can’t really explain it; it has just felt like enough. (I knew it wasn’t, objectively, but for some unknown reason I was disinclined to increase my mileage.)

The first week of Pftiz 70 calls for 54 miles. It wasn’t going to happen.

So I downgraded. Pfitz 55 it is, then.

The plan started yesterday with a rest/XT day. Oh hey, I like this plan. Since it was pouring anyway, I had no qualms about going to the gym and doing an easy 3K row followed by some weights. (I really do want to keep up the weights during this training cycle, and one of the nice things about the 55 MPW plan is that most of the weeks have two – sometimes even three – rest/XC days. I can keep up my strength routine and not turn in to a marathoning pool of Jell-O like I did last spring. Sweet.)

Today was the plan’s first real workout: an 8-mile “Lactate Threshold” run. Those are fancy words for “grinding tempo.” That’s a concept I am very familiar with but have had little direct exposure to in recent months.

The tempo portion was prescribed as four miles to be run at 15K/half marathon pace. At first, I rolled my eyes: what the hell is that supposed to mean? But this is apparently a benchmark workout that repeats itself several times throughout the plan so I figured it would be worthwhile to take my best guess and set a baseline.

Although…half-marathon pace? Oof, I don’t even know right now. The last half marathon I ran was on Thanksgiving Day and I did a hangover-shuffle-jog for 13.1 miles and finished (respectably, actually, considering the circumstances) in 1:48. Real HMP would probably be closer to 7:30. 15K? Haven’t run once in years, but maybe 7:15?

I set those as my bounds and went after it.

Workout One in the bag as prescribed. In the interest of avoiding traffic lights, I headed to Piedmont Park and looped its various roads and paths for the tempo portion. And I’m happy to say that it was fun. After several months’ break, I’ll say (prematurely) that it feels great to run with a purpose again.

The rest of the week calls for base mileage and a 12-mile long run, with a weekly total of 32 miles. I can absolutely handle this. (Am excited about it, even. Yes, I’m excited about running! This is fantastic!)

Obviously, two days in, I have no regrets about downgrading plans. As much as I think running higher mileage helped me last fall/winter as and much as I would love to magically be in a place to do that right now, I know that I am not. 55 MPW healthy and happy is better than 75 MPW stressed out and hurting from taking on too much too fast.

And, of course, lucky you, readers! (If I have any left after being so sporadic the last few weeks!) I’ll be back in the habit of posting lots of meaningless splits and detailed workout recaps and other such nonsense. I promise. You’re…um…welcome?

How about a beer review to seal the deal? Although this is kind of a weird one.

It was a year ago, when I was still living in Raleigh, that I purchased this bottle. I bought it from the impulse-buy rack on the way to the cash register at a wine store. Without really looking at it.

As it turned out, I’d bought a piece of Stone’s Vertical Epic Series, an annual release timed to the nifty-fun dates of our generation (10.10.10, 11.11.11, etc). Instructions on the label (which I read when I got home that night) are overt that the beer is meant to be consumed, at the earliest, on the date of the next vertical (i.e. a year and a month later). It was less clear whether collectors were supposed to have saved bottles from every year (awesome foresight, I guess) and host an ultimate vertical tasting with the release of the last beer in the series, this year on 12.12.12 (hey, that’t today!)

So I saved this Rogue Epic 11.11.11 bottle for a year. I wrapped it in bubble wrap and moved it from Raleigh to Atlanta. I gave it a precious cubby on our wine rack. And this last weekend, I drank it.

And it was just weird.

Sorry, but it was. Maybe I’ve gotten a little out of the beer game (which hasn’t stopped me from loving on my favorite Sierra Nevada Celebration one bit) but I thought this beer was…strange. Cayenne peppers. Weird semi-chocolate taste. Decent flavor, but disappointing body; there was little to no carbonation left in my bottle. Like drinking diluted Hershey’s syrup. Bleh.

Bottom line: doesn’t really matter because this beer is no longer for sale.  But if you happen to have a bottle that you’re breaking open, I’d love to hear your thoughts…part of me wonders if I just got a bad bottle?

Anyone else gearing up for spring training even though it barely seems like winter (at least here in Atlanta)? Like I said, I am not accustomed to following formal training plans so this definitely feels weird to me.   We’ll see how long I make it before I’m pushing Pfitz’s workouts all around the week to accommodate my OMGSOBUSY (or not) life.

35 responses to “This started today. (Well, technically yesterday.)

  1. Yay! I’m glad you’re back!

    I’m in the middle of a hiatus like the one you’re finishing. I’m glad to hear that it will eventually end and that I could get excited to train again.

  2. Welcome back! You’ve been missed. And I’m excited you’re on this training plan so that, selfishly of course, I can follow along and get ideas for workouts. You always seem to do good ones and sometimes I save them and think, “I should do this, too!” I never actually get around to the execution, but still, thanks for sharing and happy training!

  3. I love the pfitz 55 plan! I’ve used the 12 week version twice…I just can’t commit to 18 weeks with that much structure (and I wonder why my marathon times are stuck in a rut. Huh)

  4. Yay! Welcome back. The one thing that all of my friends who’ve used Pfitzinger always stress is to make sure to start with your *current* paces for the different runs, not your goal pace or PR if that’s not the shape they’re in… Too many of them have burned out/crashed too hard from trying to live up to their expectations for themselves. That’s secondhand advice from people who’ve done it – now, if you need firsthand advice from people who’ve read his book several times and then never actually been able to follow his plan for even a single ambitious week, I’m your girl.

    • I’m trying not to stress about paces generally and go more by effort. Trite, I know. :) But honestly I have no idea what my marathon pace is right now. Depends on the day!

  5. I’m excited to see how your marathon training goes using lower mileage. I too have also struggled following programs, especially ones with high mileage. For my June marathon, I’m totally going non-traditional and following cross-fit’s endurance training program. I figure what the heck? My times weren’t getting faster, so I’ll try something new. Good luck!

  6. Good luck! In the south, winter is the perfect season for Pfitz. I don’t know how people get through those long tempo and long pace runs in the summer.

    • Agreed. I took the summer “off” from running and it was the best decision ever.

      Hope you and E are well! Miss you guys!

  7. Sorry the beer was bleh. You deserve better after saving it in bubble wrap for a year. ;). As for the running, I’m sure there’s not much better motivation than training for Boston!

  8. I had a beer once that like, prematurely ejaculated on me as soon as I opened it. somebody told me that meant it was bottled improperly and bacteria/impurities got in. NO carbonation sounds like a different problem. (Do I sounds like I know anything about beer yet??) Have you read any of the reviews on beer advocate?
    Good luck on the training plan. I’d love to get to 55 MPW someday so I’ll be watching closely…but not in a creepy way.

    • Mmm, I’m not sure which sounds more delicious…bacteria or the intriguingly-vague “impurities.” Delish.

      Yeah, the carbonation thing is totally weird. In hindsight, I probably screwed it up somehow by storing it (horizontally) on the wine rack; I know you’re not supposed to do that, technically. But it seemed like the best way to prevent it from being prematurely consumed.

  9. We tried the vertical epic from 2011 a few weeks ago, and I totally agree it was funk tasting. Very Belgian-y but just like you said, flat and and weird tasting. I took one sip and said no more! I have tried a few other years, and they were much better. I think 2008 and 2009 were better. Hopefully the 12 doesn’t suck!

  10. Wow. I love your hangover jog kicked my times butt! Welcome back. I missed your blog!

  11. I’m using an amalgam of the 55/70 for MY FIRST MARATHON this spring.

    No really this isn’t about me. I’m excited to read you in the earlymorning again.

  12. Oh dude. I am so excited to read about your journey with Pfitz. I’ve always had it in my mind that I should be using his training plans, but I am DEFINITELY not an advanced enough runner to be doing that yet. Nonetheless, it is a dream of mine, so I’ll be following along closely.

  13. Yay, glad you’re back Shelby!

    I didn’t realize you weren’t following any sort of guide for you last marathon training cycle. You’re good at cobbling together decent looking training plans.

    I was shooting for the 55mpw plan, my highest volume week on the Pfitz plan was 48 miles, plus 2 spin classes and a weights session. At least one run always got skipped or cut short each week. But for someone who’s never followed a formal training plan, I still got results.

    You’re far more disciplined than me, so you should see great results with this plan. I can’t wait to live vicariously through you this training cycle :)

    • I’ve done formal workouts and such with various teams and track groups over the years, but never followed a comprehensive plan.

      I would definitely say you got results! :)

  14. I gave my husband that book for his bday and he became obsessed! He just ran his first ever marathon (marine corps) using the 18 week plan. He ran a 2:52. He know swears by the plan. He is doing the 12 week plan now for a spring marathon.

    • Your husband is talented, that’s a fantastic first marathon time! What’s he gunning for at his spring marathon?

  15. I used the Pfitzinger 12/55 plan once before. I felt like it was too much crammed within a short period of time. I was 12 weeks into 18/55 (with 1 extra day per week of running I added, since I felt the mileage was too low for where I was at, but Iwas not ready to ramp it up to 18/70) when I had to drop out due to Achille tendonitis. I liked the plan a lot and actually managed to PR in one of the 10k tuneup races the day before I hurt my Achilles. The mileage is relatively low but man, the intensity of the workouts will kick your butt. I’m looking forward to hearing how your training cycle goes!

  16. Hmm…interesting game, Stone, interesting game. I like the idea of it in theory (even though it’s totally gimmicky), but you gotta follow through on the product. That being said, I do love their IPA. :) Glad you’re back to feeling purposeful with your running – I bet it’ll help you crush your next race!

  17. Oh, awesome. I recently discovered your blog and really like it– now I’m excited to follow along with your training. I PRed last fall using Pfitz’s 55 mpw program, but I admit I didn’t know what the hell my 15K pace was either, so a lot of the prescribed training paces were kind of pulled out of my ass.
    (Also, dear Lord, I am impressed and amazed that you once peaked in the low 70s. That’s just outlandish to me.)
    I am also impressed that you saved the beer AND remembered to drink it yesterday! I dig Stone, but I usually just go for the IPA.
    Good luck on your training; look fwd to keeping up!

  18. Yay! Glad to see you are back! I love following along your training! I had grand ideas to hit 80 miles as my peak because I think I do better on higher mileage but I just don’t think its going to happen. Instead I am going for quality and going to try for 70. I stole some things from Pfitz but doing a lot more mp workouts in general..which I always say I should but don’t really do enough of…

  19. I too have started training for my spring marathon (RnR in DC in March) but it doesn’t really feel like it yet. My head isn’t back in the game yet so I’m giving myself a few weeks of just running without worrying too much about pace just yet. By mid-January I’ll have my base back up and I can be a little more focused. For now it’s just about running and getting out there and getting back to loving running…

    • It can be hard to feel “in to it” this time of year with so much else crap happening. I’m sure you’ll get your head in the game come January. Good luck with your training!

  20. At least you are starting from a 25 mpw base. My base is 5. No, not a typo. I am going with a lower mileage plan and have no illusions of running fast at Boston. Good luck training!!

    • Hey, just getting there is the challenge, right? Stay healthy and have fun building back up! I’ll bet we’re probably in the same wave since (I think?) our qual times are pretty close – maybe I’ll see ya in Hopkinton!

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