Reflections on my Manchester Training

Back in December I outlined my plan of attack for Manchester. After a good deal of research I went for the Pfitzinger and Douglas 18 week, up to 55 mile training plan from the book “Advanced Marathoning”.

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How did I find the structure?

I was very pleased with the structure of the plan. The 4 mesocycles leading up to the race were really well designed and I found they made logical sense and flowed into each other nicely.

On a week by week basis, the balance was excellent. Mixing basic principles to do with hard days and easy days, and the balance of mileage was really excellent. Reading the book to understand this I feel was essential. It explained the principles behind the training, the reasons why there are a certain amount of days between sessions of different types, why threshold running is important. it really helped me to trust the plan, and would highly recommend to anyone following a schedule, to read the book alongside it.

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Reading the book also helped me to understand how to restructure the plan in case of unforeseen circumstances, such as my travel arrangements, and not to worry if I had to move things around a bit. Which leads me on to my next section…

Did I stick to the plan?

I tried, by and large, to follow the plan as close to the prescribed schedule as possible, but there were some areas I couldn’t make fit.

I had to get a bit creative with Tune Up Races. Around the UK, Sunday is race day, but with P&D they want them on Saturdays, and usually prescribed 8-10km. The closest I could come to reconciling this in my training, was running parkrun on a saturday morning at a “Race Effort”. Obviously these are a bit shorter than prescribed, but I also ran the Reading Half Marathon, which in my head was a bit longer so made up for the other tune up races being short. Essentially, I ran the prescribed number of race pace mileage, just in a slightly different distribution. It’s hard to tell if this had any effect on my final 26.2 result, but I suspect not.

Credit to Aime and Neil Biss
Credit to Aime and Neil Biss

In general, my Saturday runs were probably the sessions I deviated most. This was in order to keep parkrunning (The plan is for Jodie and I to run our 50th together the week before our wedding) so i tried to fit parkruns in with them, either as part of the session or a total replacement. I DID still try and do them at the prescribed intensity though. Most of these were at General Aerobic pace with some strides though, so little “quality” and don’t think they affected the result too much either.

The other area I strayed from a bit, specifically in the early days were the long runs. I already had a high mileage tolerance, so I expedited the ramp up in mileage. This affected me quite a lot, I found the early phases of training very physically demanding, and I probably wouldn’t do the same thing again. This may have left me fresher for the remaining 3 phases of the plan which means I could have performed my sessions better and netted a better finishing time.

Speaking of long runs, there were quite a few of them that were in 2 parts, as I tried to use races as training runs at training paces. Specifically, half marathons. This often meant a break between the two sessions. My final 20 miler for example saw a 7 mile warm up, an hour and a half break, and then the Yeovil Half Marathon. I think this affected the quality of the long run, and again, could have had an impact on my final result. I still like using Half Marathons as part of training runs, as it means aid staions are provided, but in future I would do the half, jog through the funnel, direct to the car to deposit any goody bag/treats and just keep going, leaving as little “rest” as possible.

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What did I like about the plan?

I liked the structure. Following a regimented plan which i understood the theory behind gave me trust and confidence to follow it in the same way I would follow advice from a coach.
I like the marathon paced long runs, they really helped build confidence that I could run at my target race pace, and I feel my legs really benefited from these too.
I liked the progressive phases concentrating on specific areas, like ramping up mileage, then threshold, then speed followed by the taper. It meant you concentrated on one straining stimulus type at a time so I wasn’t too worried about overtraining injuries.
I liked that through all the training, I remained uninjured. It means the plan is well balanced, provided you stick within their guided pace zones.
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I liked being introduced to strides these were great bursts of speed which, though I wasn’t training for 5k made me feel like I wasn’t losing any short distance speed. I think ti also helped my technique as I felt my legs were stretching longer and hopefully will aid my efficiency long term.

What didn’t I like?

The structure was brilliant, but it meant missing out on a lot of social runs with the club and the training group I run with. This meant some of my runs were pretty lonely. Its hard finding someone doing the same plan, for the same race, at the same pace to run with. Next time, I’d treat the General Aerobic runs a bit more liberally. I’d try and switch some of those to run with other people swap it out for a club run now and then.
I wasn’t a big fan of the Lactate Threshold runs.I just don’t think I liked the structure of them very well. I would have preferred doing them as cruise intervals or something similar, rather than at one stage running 7 miles at threshold. It knackered me out for days and I think I could have gotten the same benefit from 3 x 15 minutes at LT pace with jog recoveries, provided I did the same volume at LT, then I’m sure I’d receive the same benefit.

Was it successful?

I’d have to say yes.
OK, so I missed my race day target of sub-3:20 by 33 seconds. But over the course of 26.2 miles that is only just over a second per mile. Its pretty darned close. And I shouldn;t forget, at the start of the training plan, my target was sub-3:25, which I actually did achieve.
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So it delivered me a 39 minute Marathon PB.
But I also ran Reading Half in 1:30:08 – a 6 minute PB, and I set a 5k PB too (though that sub-20 still eludes me!)
I didn’t get anywhere near my weight loss target for the race, but I now have another year and a half to bring that down. Not to mention, that should make me even faster!

Would I follow the same plan again?

100% yes. I’ll almost certainly use exactly the same schedule. I really enjoyed and would definitely recommend it – as long as you read the book with it and don’t just follow it blindly!
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