Thursday, November 19, 2015

Marathon Training Recap: Hansons Method Thoughts & 2013/2015 Comparison

A little belated, but finally put down my thoughts about how my training went for this year's marathon and using the Hansons Marathon Method, as well as compare it to my first marathon in 2013. (See similar recap/thoughts on 2013 here.) As I've been telling people when they asked how this year's went, it didn't go as badly as it did before. See also: 2013 race recap. 2015 race recap.

Time goal & pacing

Both years my time goal was around 5:00 to 5:30 (11:26 to 12:35 pace). While it's not exactly a time "goal" when it's your first marathon, you have to have something on which to base your pacing. Both years I started out roughly on track, around 12:00, though that's perhaps a bit aggressive - when you know you're likely to bonk by the end, there's no such thing as banking time by going out faster than goal, as you might be able to do in a shorter race, you're just using up energy and will likely bonk sooner. Both years I started slowing down around the same time, mile 16/17/18, but held it together better and didn't slow down by nearly as much this year. By the end in 2013, I was walking much more than I was running; in 2015 I think I was at most walking a quarter of each mile, and I at least managed a nice fast finish in the last fragment of a mile.

Actual times:

2013: 6:29:07, 14:51 average pace

2015: 5:44:55, 13:10 average pace

I stuck with the same time goal for 2015, not only because of how badly I bonked in 2013, but because it was finally a realistic goal. At the time of the 2013 marathon, my half marathon PR (set during marathon training) (how many times can I use the word marathon in this post about the marathon and marathon training?) was 2:48 - i.e., more than half the time in which I was trying to run the full. I then beat that time at the halfway mark of the marathon. It was utterly delusional to try to pace the marathon for 5:30 or anything less. 6:00 (twice my half PR plus a little) would have been much more reasonable to aim for.

This time around, my half PR (set at the same time of year, in July at the beginning of marathon training) was 2:31. By any calculator, somewhere between 5:15 to 5:30 was exactly what my goal should be, and I think that's reflected in how, even though I still bonked somewhat and took more walking breaks than I wanted to, when I was running I was still running on pace, and I felt waaay better and finished way closer to where I wanted to be. But I'll probably still have the same goal and pacing next time I try!

Mileage base

In 2013 until the start of marathon training, I averaged 11.75 miles per week. In 2015 until the start of marathon training, I averaged 18.79 miles per week. The fact that I did a spring half marathon this year, forcing myself to keep up the mileage during tax season helped greatly, compared to prior years like 2013 when I was pretty lucky to even hit double digits at all in a week. 

Training mileage

Before pulling together the data, I was thinking that my 2015 mileage was drastically higher than my 2013 - not truly the case!

I knew my long runs weren't as long (hallmark of the Hansons Method), but I thought my total mileage was way higher - I felt like I was spending so much time running! But either time you could round my peak mileage to 40, and my average mileage to 30. Pretty much the same.

What was different though, and what I feel made a big difference in the marathon, was the longer tempo runs (the mileage indicated in the charts is the actual tempo miles - the runs included at least another mile with warm-up and cool-down). Also a big part of the Hansons Method, I think reaching such long stretches of maintaining marathon goal pace was incredibly useful. While that didn't matter too much while my left IT band was aching and I was exhausted from the previous 4 hours of running, it definitely made me feel confident that, at least to the extent that I could run, I could run at a 12:00 pace.

Hansons Marathon Method

I didn't even remotely reach the mileage per even the beginner's version of the plan. I think it peaked at 57 or something ridiculous like that. I occasionally cut some repeats from the speed workouts, and I not that infrequently dropped a mile or two from the tempo (but made sure to get the max 10 miles in a few times), but mostly reduced the mileage by skipping easy runs. I was getting plenty of aerobic workouts - with the crosstraining for triathlon. (So... maybe ended up closer to my understanding of the Run Less Run Faster method?) 

I loved the shorter long runs. Even though it took more time total in the weekend to run 8+16 miles, than just 20 plus a rest day, it's differently mentally, to prepare for and recover from 20, than from anything shorter. And I felt  better for longer in the marathon itself, so it obviously wasn't necessary to do 20 miles to perform better.

I think following the plan precisely is best left to more experienced, and faster, athletes, but the  concepts of the book can be applied at any level. Pushing 60 miles is a lot, for anyone, but especially a big time commitment when you're running slower than 12:00 for even your easy miles. The method is designed for "slow" meaning that a 20 miler will take more than a few hours. But that's still relatively fast in the more recreational runner field. (The charts in the book for paces for the different workouts even only go up 5:00, I had to extrapolate for a 5:15 - 5:30 goal).

Even if you don't want to follow the plan, I think the book is a worthwhile read, and you might be able to work some of the approach into your own plan.
Next time

A lot of what I might do the next time I do a marathon will depend on my life circumstances - I'd love to work up to being able to follow the plan more precisely, but I also hope to have kids by the time I'm doing another one. I think kids plus 50+ mile weeks (even if I get faster, I'll still be on the slower end of things) might be mutually exclusive, at least for me. 

I am interested to read the half marathon Hansons book, and perhaps try that for my next half. Not sure how high the mileage goes for that, but it's got to be less than the marathon plan! I think I would still try to apply the concepts of the super long tempo run, and running long on non-rested legs, for both my next half and whenever my next full marathon is.

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