Half-marathon training – giving it another go
I’m starting my notes on yet another attempt at besting my half-marathon PR. The last two attempts have been thwarted by knee, achilles and assorted other issues. I’ve changed up a few things to compensate, and I’m using a running plan that’s different than ones I’ve used before, one that stresses not only more miles per week than I’ve ever run, but emphasizes the right pace (i.e., don’t always run at your race pace), a tactic that should work well for me.
The training program is an 18 week program, so I’m targeting the San Antonio Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon on December 7th. I’ve run this race twice before, but this time the course goes a bit further north and runs through Trinity University and some of my old stomping grounds, as well as still going by familiar landmarks such as the Alamo.
Hanson’s Half-Marathon Training Plan
I’ve utilized the typical long-run on Sundays plus tempo/intervals runs type of training plans in the past. There were all in the 20-25 weekly mile range (with an occasional 30). I usually ran them all at the same pace (except, of course, for the intervals).
With the Hanson plan, you run six days out of seven. The past plans I’ve utilized have been 4 or 5 day a week plans, emphasizing the long run. While there are long runs in the Hanson training plan, it is engineered so that the long run is 25% or less than your total weekly mileage.
In order to see if my wheels would hold up to six times a week, in June I started doing that frequency for a few weeks, hitting 28 miles in one week. While it did wear my old butt out, it didn’t lead to any injuries (see the next section).
This plan has three levels of suggested schedules: Just Finish, Beginner and Advanced. The Beginner is the one recommended for runners like me, who may have done a half-marathon but not run six times a week with this type of mileage. The Beginner track has mileage starting in the 20 miles per week and peaking at nearly fifty miles per week.
There is an emphasis on the right pacing for the right type of training run. There are several great charts in the Hanson book concerning pacing. They split the runs into easy, long, tempo, strength and speed, in that order from slowest pace to fastest. The easy runs make up the majority of the mileage and the suggested pacing for these is 1:30 to 2:30 per mile slower that your target race pace. This is in order to train your body to run fatigued, and to help burn glycogen more efficiently (there is quite a nice “why do we train this way” chapter in the book which pulls it all together). Since my target is a sub 1:50 half-marathon, my target pace is 8 minutes, more or less, making the easy runs in the 9:30 to 10:30 pace. It will take a lot of mindfulness to slow down to that pace, and to keep all the paces in the range…as the Hanson method places a lot of emphasis on the right pace.
Since I’ve been thrown off training multiple times in the last few years by a variety of injuries old and new, I’ve had to develop strategies (or I’ve actually had to listen to doctors for a change) to minimize these injuries.
I’ve had the ACL in my right knee replaced and had that knee scoped. During my last half-marathon two years ago, my “good” knee started hurting on mile 11. My ortho said I had a bit of arthritis in the left knee, possibly from over-compensating for the right knee. He suggested, among other things, changing my stride to be less heel and more fore-foot, and to change to shoes that emphasized this. I bit the bullet and started running in Newtons. They say that you have to start slow in Newtons, running only at most a mile to get your legs adjusted, and they were right. When I first started in them, I experienced a lot of soreness in my shins and calves. Now I’m on my third pair.
I’ve adjusted to a much shorter, quicker pace, lifting my knees more and coming down with my feet under me instead of reaching in front of me. Using this technique, I’ve experience no knee pain (knock wood), even when doing the six times a week experiment referred to above.
When I’ve upped the pace to do speed work or intervals, I’ve twice had issues with the bursa sac in my heel swelling up, making running painful. The last time is happened, I went to an Airosti clinic. The clinician found a couple of tight knots on my calf, and when she loosened those (which hurt like hell), it appeared to relieve the pressure on the bursa sac. Keeping that in mind, I do a few things for my achilles and calves:
- I use my trusty hard foam roller, and not only roll out my calf muscles, but if I do have a tight spot, I “sit on it”, leaving as much weight on it on the roller until that tightness releases;
- I do a few toe raises off the curb at the end of my run, trying to stretch out;
- When sitting at my desk, I will roll out my calves and the area around my achilles with a tennis ball and/or golf ball.
Again, I’m spending a lot of time with the hard foam roller on both of my IT bands. I’ve only had issues with them one time, but once is enough; I roll them out at least once a day.
So that’s the attack plan. Week one starts this coming week, with some easy runs…but I got a jump with my experimental running, so I’ll put in a few more miles on the easy run days (which its their recommended way to add miles).