Feb 22

My Respons to Steve’s Hansons Marathon Method Review by RJ

67, 72, 83, 93, 60, 114, 90, 101.

Those were my monthly mileage numbers in the eight months prior to running the 2013 St. George Marathon.  That’s nowhere near as many as I was running in training for, and setting a PR at, the 2012 Denver Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, yet my St. George finish time was just two seconds slower (I really wish my watch hadn’t died around mile 10, I had no idea how close I was to a new PR).

Three weeks after St. George, I took more than 20 minutes off my 50-mile PR from the previous year and nearly 80 minutes off of my time in the same race in 2011.

Steve has previously posted about his experience using the Hansons Marathon Method as he trained for the 2013 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll and Pocatello Marathons. He did amazing in those races, setting huge back-to-back PRs. If you’ve read his post though (If you haven’t, HERE it is. I’ll wait…), you’re already familiar with three pillars of the method which I have issues with in my own training:

1.      The weekly mileage. The Hansons method training increases the weekly mileage up to approximately 60 miles a week on the beginner schedule. That’s not a number I’ve ever hit for a week. Ever. Even in training for 50-milers. Heck, even in weeks I ran a 50-miler.

2.      Six days a week running. That’s also not a number I’ve ever hit for a week. It’s not that I don’t like running, obviously I do, but I don’t want to do it that much.

3.      The Hansons method is very pace-based. Each workout is run at a specific pace for a specific reason. Surely there is genius in this and, if done correctly (meaning, have a realistic goal, among other things) it can produce a desired result. Ask Steve. Maybe I lack focus or discipline, but some days I want to run faster than others and I don’t want a schedule to dictate that to me (maybe that’s why Steve’s PR is 25 minutes faster than mine). I was discussing this with another runner friend of mine a few years ago, someone who also keeps to a very strict pace schedule and my thought then as well as now is that upwards of 90% or more of my runs are not races. If I’m not enjoying the non-race runs, then why am I doing it?

One of the most irritating things I hear people say when they tell me all of the reasons they could never run a marathon is that they either can’t, won’t or don’t want to put in the huge mileage that certain monthly publications geared towards Runners and their World (as well as other sources) tell them they must meet in order to be “prepared.” Bull. Loney.

So how did I do it?

Distance running is, in large part, aerobic. Sure, some would argue that maybe Ryan Hall is not running aerobically when he clocks a 2:10 marathon. I don’t know if that’s true or not and I hate to be the one to break this to everyone, but with very few exceptions, none of us are Ryan Hall. So back to this aerobic thing.

Training the body to withstand long periods of aerobic exercise doesn’t require 20 hours a week exercising. Surely someone putting in that sort of time is going to benefit, but all I’m saying is that it’s not a requirement. It really doesn’t even require three hours or more in a single workout (again, you really want to go knock out two or three 20-mile training runs for confidence sake, go for it). In fact, some studies show that workouts of around three hours or more offer little additional benefit over a two hour workout and greatly increase the risk of injury.

This was the basis for my training as I entered 2013. After three years of doing nothing but running, my focus changed and I set my sights on training for a couple of half-ironman distance triathlons. So when I put my training schedule together it included just three days of running along with two swim workouts, a short bike ride (an hour or less) and a medium length ride (1-2 hours) per week. With only (only) a half marathon run in mind, my run workouts never exceeded 10 miles and my total weekly workout time averaged around 6-8 hours a week (I doubled up my workouts on some days, combining a swim with a short ride, a medium ride with a short to medium run, etc).

The importantly thing was that those 6-8 hours a week were nearly all aerobic. If I had been running aerobically for the full eight hours each week, I’d be right around 50 miles. See where I’m going with this?

My monthly mileage in June (114) spiked only because I decided to run the Seattle marathon with Steve at the last minute (by last minute I mean 60 hours before the race began and by “with Steve” I mean the first 11 miles before he left me in the dust—it wasn’t an aerobic pace for me). It was a bit of a stretch, but I finished that race right around my average marathon time. And I was fine the next day. Because it was aerobic. Readers of Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra will recall that as he religiously spent the bulk of his training time in his Zone 2 heart rate zone (an aerobic state), his pace while in that zone gradually increased. All he did at the end of his training was complete five Ironman distance triathlons in seven days, one on each of the Hawaiian islands.

By the time the end of the year came my body still felt fresh. There wasn’t the wear and tear on it that there had been in previous years. And so when I hit the starting line 26.2 miles away from Worthen Park in downtown St. George I felt great. And I ran great. And afterwards I recovered quickly and lined up to run 50 miles three weeks later – feeling great (I won’t tell you how I felt AFTER running 50 miles…but not so great).

My point is that there are probably as many training programs and philosophies as there are runners. The Hansons Marathon Method is one of them and many runners have had great success using it. There is certainly a place for more rigorous training programs. But if you’re thinking about running your first marathon, or maybe running another marathon but don’t feel you have the time or can’t run 50 miles a week please don’t be discouraged as you look at various training schedules. Keep it aerobic. Keep it simple. Enjoy yourself. Finish with a smile on your face.

Dec 27

Stepping Away by RJ

PictureI went from non-runner to marathoner to marathon maniac to ultra marathoner to multi ultra marathon and half ironman triathlon finisher over the course of about 48 months. 16 marathons, three 50 milers and three half Ironman triathlons in 40 months to be exact (plus dozens of shorter races). It was hard, I pushed myself beyond limits I thought existed, it wore me down and I fought through a couple of injuries here and there. The one constant through all of this was that I was always motivated. There was always the next race, and thus, the next workout. Every one of them mattered and I took every one of them seriously. Put the time and effort in now, was my thought, or you’re going to have regrets on race day.
 
I can’t think of too many races, any really, where I felt unprepared on race day. Well, maybe the 2013 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon that I decided to run 72 hours prior to the event, but that was purely for fun and not one I had planned on running until my wife decided she would be unable to run it on Wednesday night of race week. That’s not to say that all of the races went how I had hoped they would, certainly many of them did not, but I never felt like it was a lack of preparedness. I was always motivated.

The end of 2013 has been different. After pulling off a 50 miler/trail half marathon combo on consecutive weekends for the third straight year (and destroying my 50 mile PR from 2012 in the process), I had a pain in the arch of my foot that lingered. Week after week I felt it with every step and it hurt. I took time off from running and hit the gym, participating in a weights class and a core class. Running was out and cycling aggravated my foot even more so there was none of that either. Even the light kick in my swim stroke aggravated it.

My foot eventually healed as I knew it would. But it’s been eight weeks now since that half marathon and I’ve run exactly three times. Three easy 5k runs. And while it felt great to get out and run again, and while I do miss it somewhat, there was no motivation behind it. There still isn’t. It might be that I’m not signed up for any races so there’s nothing I’m working towards right now. But I’m not even motivated to think about looking for a race to sign up for. It’s just not there.

Perhaps this is my body’s way of telling me it’s time to rest and recover. To really rest and recover. To recover from the stress of going from nothing to four consecutive years of go go go, pounding out the miles, treating every workout like it was a race, putting in the time and stringing together as many endurance races as I could fit into my schedule and budget. That doesn’t even include the mental energy used to prepare for each race, put together training schedules, learn about nutrition or pace strategies and doing all of it while juggling a family and full-time job. Perhaps this is my body telling me it’s time to rest and recover, not for a week or two weeks or even a month, but as long as it takes. Toss out the calendar, it means nothing. 

I trust that when my body has healed and rested sufficiently, physically and mentally, that I’ll know. It might be that a particular race catches my eye, or I may see someone running along the road as I drive to or from work, or someone may post something about their latest workout on Facebook. Something will happen and the motivation will return. I’ll be excited to set the alarm for 5am the next morning and anxious for it to go off. And then I’ll hit the road and start moving again, realizing very quickly that If I’m going to do this I’m going to have to start back at the beginning. But I’ll be motivated to do so. 

In the movie “Searching for Bobby Fisher” there is a principle that the Ben Kingsley character tries to instill in the child chess prodigy that he coaches. “Don’t move until you see it,” he tries to drill into him. “Don’t move until you see it.” Make a move too quickly without being absolutely sure of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and the consequences that will follow, he taught, and it could be disastrous. 

For me the principle is similar: don’t move until you feel it. Don’t move until the motivation is there and I’m absolutely sure I’m ready to take on the challenge and stress and work of preparing for and completing 26.2 miles, or 50 miles, or an Ironman, or whatever it may be. 

I’m looking forward to that motivation returning. In the meantime I’ll rest, recover, sleep a little more, eat a little less and wait patiently for that moment to arrive.


Jul 22

20 Miles is Worse than 26.2 by RJ

Picture

Occasionally someone will mention that they’ve seen me out running and ask if I’m training for something. When I tell them I run and train for marathons the conversation generally moves toward how awful or difficult or boring or impossible running 26.2 miles seems to them. What I can’t explain to them is that the marathon is more of a victory lap than a punishment. A victory lap for all of the hard work, dedication, time management, commitment to nutrition and regular sleep and perseverance through dark, raining, cold mornings for months and months. A victory lap for completing something that is awful and difficult and boring and sometimes seems impossible: the 20-mile long runs.

In my experience, the 20-mile long run is far more difficult than a 26.2-mile race. For while the marathon requires an extra 45 minutes to an hour (at my pace) or more of running, here’s what the 20-miler doesn’t have:

    • Family and friends cheering you on along the way or waiting for you at the finish line
    • Spectators cheering for those around you (but pretending they are cheering for you)
    • Good Samaritans holding signs that read “We don’t know each other, but I’m proud of you” at the point when you want nothing more than to quit but know you can’t. And won’t.
    • Bands/cheerleaders, even bad bands and girls half my age wearing WAY too much makeup — you know they’ll be there and you’re glad they are
    • Little kids giving high-fives to everyone they can
    • Moments that remind you how lucky you are
    • Regularly spaced aid stations
    • And if you train alone like I do, the camaraderie of others, spoken or unspoken, who are pushing themselves towards a similar goal
    • A medal, T-shirt, medical staff and general overall pampering at the finish line
    • The pride that goes along with walking (or limping if your prefer) around the rest of the day with your medal hanging around your neck for all to see

The 20-miler early on a Saturday morning is a lonely, grueling experience but it must be done. Multiple times even, depending on your particular training schedule. It’s not fun. It’s not glamorous. No one that sees you knows if you’re in mile 2 or mile 18. But it’s necessary. It’s the run when your mental toughness is put to the test. 26.2 miles will be more physically demanding due to the number of miles, but if you can mentally will yourself through your 20-milers you’ll be more than prepared for the physical challenge that awaits on race day.

Prepare for your victory lap.


Jul 22

2013 Pocatello Marathon Preview by RJ

I ran the Pocatello Marathon in 2010, 2011, 2012 and will run it again in 2013. It’s a great 
small-town race with a great atmosphere and offers everything you could want in a 
marathon.

First things first: The race organizers, staff and volunteers are absolutely top notch. All the 
trains run on time, the aid stations are where they are supposed to be, stocked with what 
they said they would be stocked with, volunteers at each station are enthusiastic and 
supportive and the finish line area is well organized and easy to navigate. And  although I’
ve heard a few people gripe about non-runners, including family, friends and kids, not 
being allowed in the recovery area (where all of the food/drinks are), I contend this makes a huge difference in being able to move (gingerly) through the area smoothly. Top to bottom, this is one of the most well organized races I’ve participated in of any distance.

The marathon participants board charter buses at around 5am and are taken up to the starting line. It’s dark and we’re in the middle of nowhere when the driver pulls over to the side of the road, opens the door and declares, “We’re here, don’t leave anything on the bus.” The people immediately around me hadn’t run this race before and their general consensus was, “We’re where?” 

In 2010 it was partly cloudy and the moon was covered. We were in the middle of the Idaho wilderness at 5:15am. It was dark. The driver told us there was road about 50 yards from us. Turn right, he said, and then take the first right until you see the UPS truck (which took our drop bags to the finish line) at the starting line. 

The “starting line” was a farmer’s driveway. The line of portable toilets lined a sheep-pen and many (including me) sat down against the barn until it was time to go. Not exactly what 
I had imagined, but interesting, nonetheless. Lines form around the toilets, but nothing too 
bad. There’s music playing, bottles of water available and frequent updates about when 
the race will begin. 

It was still dark when the race started at 6:15am. As a pack we made our way down the 
driveway and onto the road. The first 13 miles are downhill. All downhill. I wasn’t prepared 
for that the first time. After a while I started to look forward to something flat, or even uphill. 
Just something different. That would come, but not for a while.

The sun eventually came up and darkness gave way to a perfect morning. Not a whisper of 
wind could be felt and the temperature was perfect. Around mile 7 I turned my music off 
noticed a strange sound: silence. Miles from anything, on a closed road in a canyon. 
Except for the sound of shoes hitting the ground, it was pure silence. I kept my music off for 
a while and just enjoyed the sound of nothing. 

Just before the halfway mark (and the start of the Half Marathon, which goes off at 8:00am) 
there’s an aid station, a left hand turn and then a slight rise, maybe a quarter to a half mile 
long. It’s not much. The second half of the race consists of some light rolling hills. Nothing 
too extreme except for a pretty good hill from mile 20 to 21, but the rolling hills seemed to 
roll “up” as we came back into Pocatello. The aid stations ware almost a mile apart during 
this stage, but the effect of running downhill for two hours starts to catch up with you through 
these rollers if you haven’t trained for it. The hill to mile 21 finished me off in 2010 (though I 
made it a point to sprint the hill in 2012, no matter what that would mean over the last 5 
miles).

The final 5 miles into town are as flat as can be. The Idaho State University basketball 
team always runs one of the aid stations during this stretch as does the local high school 
cheerleading squad. There’s also spray misting machine set up and a few other blessed 
locals who set up their own sprinklers on their front lawns.

The final turn always comes before I think it should, which is a welcome sight after 25.5 
miles and the final stretch to the finish line is tree-lined and shady as you run. The spectator 
support is great, the finish line volunteers are excited to see you and the shady grass park 
is a great place to collapse and relax for however long you need.

Pocatello is a race I ran for the first time in 2010 because it was on my way back from 
dropping my brother off at school, but I’ll go back for a 4th consecutive year in 2013 
because it’s a great event. In addition to the marathon, there’s a half, 10k, 5k and a short 
run for kids, all on the same course. It’s a great family atmosphere with plenty of food, face 
painting and other activities and it’s always held the Saturday before Labor Day, so you 
have an extra travel day built in after as well.