Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pfitzinger & Douglas Marathon Training in Brief

Although I’m not into following strict training plans, I’m going to at least attempt to model my training for the Colorado Marathon 2011 after one of the18 week plans by Pfitzinger & Douglas (P&D), from their book Advanced Marathoning. I chose P&D not because I think they are the best, but because I have enjoyed perusing their book, and know others who have used their plans to achieve the kinds of goals I also pursue with some success. I know still others who have used quite different plans with success as well, and should I decide to run another marathon subsequently, I may opt to try a less technical training plan and strategy. For now, let's discuss P&D, however.

Pfitzinger & Douglas’ Marathon Training Basics
P&D marathon training plans include a fair amount of quality workout time, and some doubling-up (two workouts the same day) depending on the weekly mileage. Even with the seemingly high training load, however, P&D advocate alternating one or two consecutive hard workouts with an easy workout, to avoid overtraining and burnout due to excessive glycogen depletion. In fact, they stress that if you find that you don't have enough gas for a hard workout following an easy day, it's an indicator that you are done you've done your easy workout too hard.

In this system, there is basically only one kind of "easy" workout, but the "hard" workouts vary in type and intensity. The easy workouts are short distance runs that are done a very easy pace, and are called Recovery Runs. The “hard” workouts are considered such because of their intensity and/or distance run. They include Long Runs (LR), Medium-Long runs (MLR),  Marathon-Pace runs (MP),  General Aerobic runs (GA), Threshold runs (TEMPO), Omax Intervals (OI), and Speed Training (ST). Obviously, not all of these are necessarily difficult, but they are done at a higher intensity and for longer periods than easy/recovery runs.

Note: Part of alternating hard and easy workouts should also be a consideration when planning two days of workouts in the "hard" category. One would not want to do TEMPO and/or OI workouts on two consecutive days, but either an MLR or a GA run (which slow "hard" runs) followed by a TEMPO run or OI workout would be a reasonable hard-hard combo, which would then be followed by a Recovery  Run, to complete a hard-hard-easy sequence.

The “easy” work
Recovery Runs (4-7 miles)—these should be done at a noticeably slower pace than the other workouts, but not necessarily a jog. P&D suggest you try and stay below 76% of maximum heart rate (MaxHR) or 70% of heart rate reserve (HRR) for Recovery Runs. Take them faster, and you may defeat the purpose of these runs, which should leave you with sufficient juice to do your next hard workout.

The “hard” work
LR’s (16+ miles)—these should not be slow jogs, but rather simply runs that are done 10-20 percent slower than goal marathon pace (74-84% MaxHR, 65-78% HRR).

MLR’s (11-15 miles)—these are done at the same intensity/pace as long runs. On the faster end of the range if the MLR is preceded by an easier workout, slower if preceded by a harder workout (the alternating hard/easy idea at work).

MP runs—these are MLR’s during which most of the miles are run at goal marathon pace (79-88% MaxHR, 73-84% HRR).

GA runs (8 to 10 miles)—these are moderate effort runs, 15-25% slower than MP (70-81% MaxHR or 62-75% of HRR). These runs should be relatively easy, but the longer distance run and higher intensity/pace distinguish them from recovery runs. Although listed among the “hard” workouts, a GA should still leave you able to do a higher intensity workout the next day.

TEMPO runs (at least 20 min. at Lactate Threshold)—these are often called “Tempo Runs.”  The pace corresponds to your expected half marathon to 15K race pace (82-91% MaxHR or 77-88% HRR), so this is a sustained hard effort, but not a time trial or race effort. The longer the Threshold run, the closer you run them to the slow end of threshold pace range (half marathon pace). Threshold runs are included in longer runs to include some warmup and cooldown running before and after the threshold pace running.

OI runs—these are repeated high-intensity bursts ranging from 600 to 1600 meters in length that are intended to improve VO2 Max. P&D prescribe intervals run at 5K race pace. This is slower than you might have seen in other training plans, because P&D maintain that VO2 Max is not as crucial in a marathon, so there is no need to spend all of your energy running intervals at higher intensity, which might leave you unable to complete your other workouts, which they rate as more important for marathon preparation. Each interval should be followed by a rest interval during which you jog for 50-90 of the time it took to complete the interval.

ST—repetitions of 50-150 meters to develop turnover (leg speed) and running form. ST is done at the end of a GA or Recovery Run, and the form of speed training advocated by P&D is “strides,” in which you gradually accelerate to full speed over the first part of the repetition and then maintain intensity and good, relaxed form for the remainder. Each repeat is followed by jogging or walking 100-200 meters.

Setting Reasonable Initial Goal and Training Paces
There are very long term goals that people want to reach, which might take a number of training cycles and races to reach, and then there are race specific goals. What I'm talking about here, and what P&D talk about, is setting a reasonable initial goal for each single training cycle, so the runner can determine training paces based on their current condition that can be used in workouts from the beginning of the training cycle to improve their condition most efficiently. Goal and training paces can be re-evaluated at different points during a training cycle and revised as needed, but to get off to a solid start, you need a reasonable starting point.

Marathon Pace. It doesn't make sense for someone who ran a 2 hour PR in a half marathon two weeks ago to start an 18 week full marathon training cycle expecting to run a 3:15 marathon to qualify for Boston. What does make sense is to use that half marathon PR to predict how quickly a runner might reasonable expect to complete a marathon once they have trained for the extra distance. Since there are a number of equations that calculate predicted paces based on statistical fits of large data sets of race times over the years that do a very good job, I suggest people use them. Take your best time on a recent race, plug the numbers into one of the available calculators, and see what you get (see Example 1 below).

Example 1: Determining Reasonable Marathon Pace
Let’s say I recently ran a 10K in 42:06. I plug that value into equations based on The Daniels Formula, by Jack Daniels, using a nifty excel spreadsheet like the one available for download here or perhaps the McMillan Running Calculator, and based on my 10K performance the time/pace I should be capable of running a marathon with appropriate training is displayed. The two calculators will produce different results. The Daniels Formula calculator predicts a marathon time of 3:13:40 (7:23 pace), while the McMillan Running Calculator predicts 3:17:34 (7:33 pace). They differ because they are based on different equations and likely were produced by statistically fitting somewhat different data sets. Pick the one you like best or take the average. It doesn't matter too much, because both are close enough, and this prediction is just a number that gives a reasonable expectation of your marathon performance assuming that when you run it, your aerobic capacity is the similar and you are otherwise adequately trained to run 26.2 miles. Note: both calculators will also predict times for a full range of other race distances, as well as a number of paces or pace ranges. You can use these pace range if you like, but if you plan to use the P&D training approach, you should probably stick to their guidelines for training pace range. In any event, I have found them to be quite comparable.

Goal Training Paces. Once a reasonable marathon goal pace has been determined, the remaining training pace range for the hard running workouts at the start of the training cycle can be either adopted directly from the output of the calculator, or if you want to make sure you are training in the full spirit of P&D, you can simply calculate your training paces as a percentage of this goal marathon pace (see Example 2 below).

Example 2: Determining Training Paces (LR Pace range)
Using Excel: this is the easy way to do it, if you know your way around a spreadsheet. Pick a cell and type in your marathon pace (see Example 1 above) in this format: hours:minutes:seconds, where the hours, minutes, and seconds are all a 1 or 2 digit number. Excel should be able to detect that you have entered a time, and assign the appropriate number type attribution to the cell so it knows what to do when you do mathematical operations with the time you've entered. Let's say you entered your time in Column A, Row 1 (Cell A1, in other words). You could simply then enter the following formula in any other cell in the spreadsheet to calculate your "fast" LR pace:
= A1 * 1.1
For your "slow" LR pace, simply enter the same formula in third cell, but change "1.1" to 1.2 instead. Simple, and most other spreadsheet software should behave similarly and use the same type of formula structure.

By Hand or with Calculator: Let’s say my predicted marathon pace is 7:23, and I know from reading P&D that I should do my long runs at 10-20% faster than this, or at 110-120% of this pace, basically. An easy to calculate my Long Run paces is as follows:
Step 1: Convert Marathon Pace to seconds as follows,
MPsec = (Minutes * 60) + Seconds = (7 * 60) + 23 = 443 seconds
Step 2: Mulitply by 1.1 and 1.2 for the upper and lower ends of Long Run pace range and round to nearest second,
fastLR = MPsec * 1.1 = 443 * 1.1 = 487.3 (round to 487)
slowLR = MPsec * 1.2 = 443 * 1.2 = 531.6 (round to 532)
Step 3: Convert Seconds to min:sec format,
Fastest LR pace = 487/60 = 8.12 minutes = 8 minutes (0.12 * 60) seconds = 8:07
Slowest LR pace = 532/60 = 8.86 minutes = 8 minutes (0.86 * 60) seconds = 8:52

Training Plan Structure
Advanced Marathoning provides plenty of solid exercise physiology, training theory, and other advice to allow a technically-minded individual to design their own marathon training program based on the principles set forth by P&D, but for those who find the theory a greater challenge than they want to tackle, there are also a series of prescribed 18 and 12 week training plans designed for runners who are able to commit to running different amounts of weekly mileage. There are plans for runners willing to run 55 miles or less weekly, and those willing to run 55-70, 70-85, and 85-105 weekly to prepare for a race. Most runners who decide to try a P&D training program will probably use one of the prescribed plans, if only as a guide for a more 'freestyle' approach based on P&D concepts. For Colorado Marathon 2011, I will be roughly following the <55 mile or 55-70 mile 18 week plans, but since I am starting with 17 weeks to train, I'll be starting with week 2. If I start with the higher mileage plan and I unravel quickly, I'll either switch down to the lower mileage plan, or freestyle for a couple of weeks and then jump on one of the 12 week plans from there.

Periodization. If you want to design your own plan based on the approach of P&D, pay special attention to the section in Chapter 1 of their book on Periodization. A marathon training cycle (a macrocycle) should consist of a series of 5 mesocycles, each with a different training purpose (Table 1). Each of these will then consist of microcycles that can vary in length, but for practical reasons, popular training plans to just make them all 7 days in long and consist of 3 hard workout sessions, maybe 4 for some athletes. Because of this cycle structure, it is difficult to fit a complete macrocycle for marathon preparation within less than a 12 week period, and ideally you'd be able to allow for more time.

Table 1. Marathon Macrocycle (one complete training cycle)

Mesocycle   Objectives
       1           Increase mileage & improve endurance (longest mesocycle)
       2           Improve lactate threshold & also further improve endurance
       3           Race-specific training/preparation (incl. tune-up races)
       4           Taper and Race
       5           Recovery

Among The Other Considerations
Tune-up races, and revising goals and training paces. Your condition will likely improve throughout your training, so it's advisable to find a couple of places in your training cycle to fit in tune-up races. That is, some shorter-distance race you can use to judge changes in your fitness and determine whether you should consider revising your goal and training paces.

Missed training. You might have to miss training for unforeseen reasons. in which case, if it has been no more than a week, you can probably jump right back onto the schedule and keep training. But more than that, and you might want to re-evaluate your goals and consider altering your training strategy. In any case, attempting to squeeze in more mileage to "make up" for lost time, will invariably violate that hard-easy principle mentioned earlier, so it's a choice between letting go of what you missed and continuing forward unfazed, or re-evaluating your goal and training paces.

Hills. Another consideration is how much you should train on hills. If your event is on a hilly course, you may want to select hillier routes for some of your training runs. Consider running some of your LR or MLR runs on hilly terrain, for example.

1 comment:

  1. When calculating a long run pace which is supposed to be 90% of marathon pace is it not best to multiply mph by 0.9 as opposed to min/mile by 1.1 ?


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