I am officially in Week 5 of marathon training, so I thought I would finally get off my ass and write something about it! (Technically, I am literally on my ass at the moment, but you know what I mean.)
For the first time ever, I am following a training plan for a race. I thought this might be the right way to go, as I hadn’t been making the smartest decisions on my own. My runs home from work were a good idea in theory, but I think I did too much too soon. I started getting sore calves a couple of months ago and it hasn’t fully gone away, especially in my right calf. Massage, acupuncture, stretching, rolling, icing, heating, compression sleeves, and ibuprofen have helped. I even started seeing a physical therapist. (I’ll write all about that soon!)
But I can’t live the rest of my life carefully staving off a more serious condition, one foam roll away from a catastrophic injury. I realized I needed a more expert hand to guide me through what would be the most challenging training I’d ever done. I needed a plan.
At first, I thought I would just cobble together a bunch of marathon training plans and create my own so I could work around my schedule, which included training with the Harriers, long runs with Fred’s Team, and a few other races. But a few weeks ago, I watched a New York Road Runners live video on Facebook and became convinced to follow their Virtual Trainer Program. A few things sold me: it was personalized and highly customizable; it could modify what you did on which day according to your schedule; and as your training progressed it would give you an estimated marathon finishing time. There was even a Facebook group. I decided to go for it.
There were a few options to choose from:
- 20-week, 16-week, and 12-week programs
- Conservative (aka easy), Moderate (aka medium), and Advanced (aka hard) plans
- $49.99 for the basic plan, $174.99 for the plan plus individual correspondence with the NYRR coaches, and a $999.99 plan for all of the above plus race-day perks like private transportation, a special tent, etc.
I decided on the 16-week Moderate plan at the $174.99 level. I’m already getting transportation and a special tent via Fred’s Team. Also, a thousand bucks is a lot. But $174.99 for a personalized plan where I can ask coaches stuff and get answers? Sure. You know how much money I save each month by bringing my lunch to work every day instead of buying it? Probably about $174.99.
Since we were already in week 1 of the 16-week plan, I jumped right in. Unfortunately, this was a week where I was having some calf issues, so I had to dial it back a bit from the prescribed workouts. Already, I was feeling like a failure. But I substituted strength training on days I didn’t run and stuck with it.
I’ll post a couple of examples. First, here is my predicted finish time that sits at the top of my training calendar. This could change at any moment depending on my progress. Mine actually hasn’t changed at all since I started:
A 3:41-3:46 finish seems pretty ambitious to me but I kind of like that. I like pushing myself and attempting to do things that seem just a bit nuts. This isn’t that crazy – it’s not like it’s telling me I can finish in 2:30 or even 3:00, neither of which would be physically possible for me in 2018 or maybe ever. But based on what I’ve done up until now – I did run a 1:46 half marathon in May – there’s a chance I can pull off this finishing time. I also still have a few months of training to go. So it’s ambitious, but not unfathomable.
Their workouts have a few categories and they’re always nicely varied throughout the week. They include Regular Runs (at a comfortable pace), Easy Runs (at a slower pace), Long Runs, Intervals, Hills, and “Flex Days” (these can be your choice of easier workout, either running or cross training or a day off). There are also scheduled days off, depending on the week.
Here’s a long run I was prescribed coming at the tail end of a week I’d been sick. Each workout comes with a set of instructions, which is nice.
Although I was feeling well enough to run, I was still coughing and not feeling 100%, so I only did one loop around Central Park. Again, you don’t have to do exactly what the plan says if you’re having an off day. I entered this into the program:
I wrote that explanation assuming that someone was reading these entries, but I’m still not sure if they are. Either way, I use that “notes” space to write a summary of the workout – if anything so I can just have it for myself. We’re not required to write the location or which shoes we wore, I like to anyway. I recently started to write down the weather, too. Again, I don’t know if anyone besides me reads these things.
Each prescribed workout also comes with tips from coaches written on the side of the page – they focus on everything from running through pain, taking rest when you need it, remembering to stay hydrated, how to fuel, tips for treadmill running, and more.
I can see today’s plan, the week’s plan, or a full calendar overview. This is a nice way to see what’s coming up and being able to prepare in advance for it. For example, I have a long run of 16 miles scheduled for next Thursday to accommodate a race I’m running next weekend. So I have to get up extra early that morning. And start running in the dark… before Central Park officially opens. Should be interesting. But at least I can plan for it.
I was going to post more examples of prescribed workouts, but I’ll do that as I go through the program. I just wanted to give a general overview of what it was like.
So far, I’ve sent the coaches a few specific questions and they’ve answered promptly, but I’ve also seen a coach answer questions in the Facebook group… which is free. So, to be honest, right now I’m not sure if I could have just paid $49.99 and just asked questions in the Facebook group and get them answered there?
In summary, I’m really glad I’m following a training program. The plan itself is varied, the right amount of challenging, and very adaptable to my schedule. And NYRR seems very responsive to questions. So far, so good!
I’ll try to post more consistent updates with my training, because it honestly just helps me keep better track of how I’m doing. Summers tend to be lazy for me – I’m still working and running, but I just haven’t been posting as much stuff online. As we get into fall and closer to the marathon, I’ll post more often.