Friday, September 19, 2008

On Pfitz Training Plans

Since a few people actually appear to wind up at my blog while searching for information Pete Pfitzinger or Pfitz plans, I figured that maybe I'd post a few quick tidbits and links that have been helpful to me in sorting out the plan. I do not claim to be an expert on anything-this is my first marathon, and I probably know less about marathoning than many individuals. That said, I've learned a few things in training through experience, and reliable sources, so if I can share some of what I have learned and help out a fellow runner, then I think it's worth my while to type it out.

First paces. So many of us who have been using the Pfitz plan for the first time have questioned at least once whether or not we are in the right pace range for a given run. Though not everyone may choose to do this, I have opted to use the McMillan running calculator as a general guide for the appropriate pace range for a given run. You can find it here:

Select a distance and enter a time for that distance, and you will get a full chart that includes appropriate pace ranges for all types of distances and workouts, including but not limited to recovery runs, tempo runs, long runs, and intervals. The ranges are nice because as you know, some days as a runner you feel terrific and want to push yourself a little. Other days you are feeling lucky just to get out the door, and try to do just enough to keep your training on par.

As for the distance I've used to get those paces, I have opted to use a 10K result, NOT a half marathon or other longer distance. A 5K is not a great predictor for marathon success, and based on conversations with more experienced runners, plus information from the wonderful Jim2, who many in running cyberspace circles may be familiar with, it was my thought that this indeed would be the result to plug into the calculator to get the best possible results at my marathon.

This is the article written by Jim2 (he has many well-researched articles that include his thoughts and opinions based on actual numbers and statistics, and is a true go-to guy for many of us younger runners):

It is long, but a great read. You can return to his main page and find many articles on not only marathoning, but all things running, including some great stories like "Sarah's Saga" about a runner's multiple attempts to "beat the bridge" and finish the Marine Corps Marathon.

Now, here are a few random thoughts that have helped me during this training cycle. Number one....I fell right into the trap of running recovery paces too fast in the beginning. I didn't realize I was doing it and thought that just dropping back a bit slower than my GA (general aerobic) place was good enough. Then I couldn't figure out in the early weeks why I was feeling a bit tired when running the next workout on the schedule. After asking around (and confirming this by plugging my times into the McMillan calculator), I was doing the recovery runs WAY too fast. A recovery run is a recovery run....not a slow GA run. It should take nothing out of you and should really feel like a walk in the park (well, almost). That would be my first big tip to Pfitzers. If you feel like the recovery runs are too slow and easy, you're actually doing them just right. If you're working at all in them, it's a bit too fast. Once I corrected that recovery run pace, I immediately noticed that I would have more juice on my next regular run.

With regard to pacing, I also made the mistake on my first marathon pace long run to take it too fast. I thought it would be good to essentially build a cushion and try to hold on as long as possible. Bad idea. I have my second marathon pace run tomorrow, and plan on taking it AT my goal marathon pace, no more and no less.

As for other long runs, I've been working at starting the runs at about 20% slower than marathon pace and working up to finishing at about 10% slower than marathon pace. This seems to be one thing I've been doing mostly right, although there have been a few days when I was really tired and just did what I could, and others when I started a bit closer to that marathon pace.

Jumping around a bit to strides, or strideouts-I found this video by Katie Koski to be immensely helpful. This was another aspect of Pfitz training that I did seem to have the correct understanding of, but seeing this video confirmed that I was on the right track.

I happen to love strides. They are so short, and coming at the end of the run, the pressure's off to think about covering any more miles on the run.

With regard to tuneup races, I haven't worried too much about getting these to match up perfectly with what Pfitz prescribes. Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to get actual race experience during training, but living where I do, we simply don't have much available to run locally besides 5K's and trail races, which are paced differently anyway. I have several races on my schedule but they're just when and where they've worked into my schedule. That said, if I had the 8-15K races available when they appear on the plan, I'd do them, but I'm just trying to race whenever I can and not dwell too heavily on it not matching up exactly with the plan.

My last thought, and this is purely my opinion again-the recovery run is the only run I really feel 100% okay with ditching if circumstances beyond my control cause me to bag a run. The long runs are crucial to marathon success, and I think the medium long run and various hard workouts (the LT runs, the VO2Max sessions) are also very important for those with specific time goals for their marathon. While the recovery runs also play an important part in keeping the muscles loose, and help us recover from the tough runs, I think it's the run to ditch if you know you HAVE to miss a run during the week. I fully intended to run my recovery run today, but due to somebody springing a surprise on me today, I wound up with a choice of running tonight (with a marathon paced long run in the morning), or not at all. I am opting for not at all so that I can preserve the quality of tomorrow's run.

Again-I don't profess to be an expert in anything, and have no credentials, books, or articles on the subject (well, besides THIS little blog entry). Some of the links provided, though, come from folks with information, thoughts, experiences and opinions on the subject. Hopefully some of you will get some ideas and answers to questions you may have through some of the links here. I know they've been very helpful to me, and I just wanted to share the wealth.

(My apologies to non-marathon training friends-and now back to your regular programming).


yumke said...

One other tip. Here's a site that has a pfitz plan generator.

I'm using Pfitz for the third time. It's a fantastic program

TiredMamaRunning said...

Excellent, thanks for the additional link, yumke!

Although the plan is fairly straightforward, I've noticed that many of us wind up having various questions about the execution of the plan (and how to shuffle it around), so it's great when fellow Pfitzers can share information and tools.

Ronster said...

Hi Kazz!
You're right: there's no excuse for straining yourself on a recovery day. I always wind up going too fast on easy days, which makes it tough to get through the quality workouts. You're doing a great job preparing and you are sounding like an expert!

TiredMamaRunning said...

HAHAH, Ronster. Not quite so much "sounding like an expert" as "don't be like me, and make some of these rookie mistakes."

Right now I'm looking for guidance myself on the schedule for four weeks to goal marathon-the numbers for the runs don't add up and I'm stumped as far as whether it's a typo or what, but I'm calculating roughly 45-49 miles depending on tuneup race distance, not the 50 miles listed. Maybe I just haven't had enough coffee yet to process it. ;)

Guess I can always blog about it and ask if any running folk have a clue.