There's still a couple days left in the month, but I've already flipped my training schedule calendar template to February 2013. (Since obviously the first week of February includes the last week of January.) That January template? Stayed pretty much blank all month. I did run consistently throughout January, but I never wrote up a plan for the month...I just took it week by week.*
Starting with February, however, I have all the squares filled out through June 2--the date of the North Olympic Discovery Marathon. Technically my training plan doesn't start until February 11. I designated December as recovery month, January as base-building, and this week and next will be pre-training. I expect there will be some tweaking along the way--there always is. But I am happy to have scheduled out all of my long runs and fit in the half marathons and other races I plan to run.
I based my plan on a personal variation of the Run Less Run Faster plans. Now granted, my modifications are probably enough to make it completely useless, but I did this for the Eugene Marathon and I'm happy with how that went. I had used the model for a four hour marathon last year, but I was never able to run fast enough in the training runs and I did Eugene in 4:21 (which was fine for me). This year I am modeling on the 4:15 plan. It remains to be seen if I will be able to hit those training paces. Ever.
RLRF is based on three key runs per week, which include one (fast) speed work day, one (pretty fast) tempo run, and one (slowish but faster than typical) long run. You are supposed to to hard cross training on two other days, of a type different than running (swimming and biking are recommended).
Here are the changes I made for me.
First, I have added back one easy run day (for a total of four runs, most weeks). I simply can't fathom running only three days a week, plus I think it would drive me crazy if every single run had a specific purpose and pace goal. So I'm giving myself one day to just run however I want. Also, my cross training is less than ideal, because....
I don't swim (except on vacation, for fun) and biking is not practical for me in the winter. I do my cross training mostly on the ellliptical, which is actually similar to running, but I like it because it is low impact, and that helps avoid injury (one of the goals of cross training). I am still toying with the idea of whether I should try to start spinning classes (assuming I could find one). I. Hate. Spinning. But I also think it is an excellent hard cardio workout (and low impact also).
I have also modified the long run schedule just a little bit to work around my race schedule and I have cut the number of 20 mile runs from five to four. I believe that five 20+ mile runs is too much! Even four is pushing it. But I like having four on the schedule because if something happens to one of them, I still have a solid three.
The thing I like best about RLRF is that the long runs are done closer to marathon goal pace. The first 20-miler is about one minute per mile slower than marathon pace, and the last 20-miler is 15 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace. I know theories about how slow/fast to do your long run vary widely (and I have flip-flopped in my beliefs many times), but the truth is, in all of my "good" marathons, my actual marathon pace has been just 15-30 seconds faster than the typical pace of my long runs. (I have also run marathons at a pace much slower than my long runs, which I know is not the ideal!) Now that actual marathon pace is factoring in bathroom stop(s) and whatever other delays, so my marathon moving pace might actually have been a little faster...but nonetheless, I have never been able to run a marathon drastically faster than my long runs.
Although I am committed to my training plan for this cycle (16 weeks, by the way), I have been recently tempted by the Runner's World Smart Coach plans. They are really fun to play with because you just plug in a recent race time of your choice, plus a few details like the length of your plan, preferred intensity, start date and race date (which determines the length of plan), and day of the week for your long run. The program will generate a plan just for you!
I really like the plan(s) I generated based on my recent half marathon and 10K runs. Someday I would really like to try it out, just to see if I could really achieve as fast a marathon time as they promise me based on my semi-crappy times in those two recent runs! I find it hard to believe, based on my past marathon experience.... I would nickname these plans "Run More, Run Slower" (which was also one of the names for my summer ultra training experiences). The "Run More" part is in the weekday runs, which are 7, 8, and 9 miles for the first few weeks, and increase to 9, 10, and 11 further along. (The long runs are typical to any marathon plan.) The long runs and easy runs are slow, and the tempo runs and speedwork are pretty moderate. I could follow that plan right now.
Except. Oh, there's always an except, isn't there? I absolutely know that there is no way that I can get up in the dark, wet, and cold early enough in the morning to do a 9, 10, or 11 mile run before work, several days a week. The 7 and 8 mile runs would be questionable as well, this time of year. I can, and have, gotten up to do a longish run on a work day once in a blue moon for a special reason, but I just don't see it happening three days a week for 16 weeks. Not while still keeping my job....**
I think I could probably do it in the later spring and summer, when it gets light much earlier. I am seriously considering using a shortened version over the summer for my next (after NODM) marathon in September. That's one of the fun things about it, you can make the training plan any length you want! (They don't predict quite so impressive finishing times when you make the plan shorter, which makes sense.)
I have already modified my pre-training plan for this week. I was supposed to do some test 800s on the track on Wednesday or Thursday, but with all the rain we've had, the track is flooded and muddy (I drove by it today). So I'm moving the 800s to next week. I didn't want to do them anyway....
*I noted my daily mileages in my running journal, which I plan to keep up on this year so I don't have to go back in December to reconstruct the year's total mileage.
**I know there are many people who do this, get up super early and/or run long in the mornings, but marathon training is hard enough without making it semi-impossible!