Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hal Higdon's Advance I Marathon Program - Why Not?

Hal you’re my hero!

Here’s the verdict: I am going to follow Hal Higdon's Advance 1 Marathon training program for my second NYC marathon. I’ve read Hal’s Advance program for marathoners before, and I crossed my eyes at the sight of three 20-milers and thought it was beyond me. Then Runner’s World  came out with their “Break 4 Hours” program and I was still hesitant about it—seeing that 3 20-milers were also prescribed. If it weren't for my running buddy's encouragement, because we had nothing to lose and everything to gain, we followed it. In the end, the RW program boosted my confidence with my new PR in NY. I learned that I am capable of challenging myself to move on to harder plans. How else is progress made if you don’t push youself?  I am ready to take another leap.

Why did I come to like Hal’s program? Why, it has all the ingredients that has worked for me in the past and putting it all together, it is the perfect tool to get me to my goal—which is to break 4 hours.  I am merely 12 minutes away. First, it has the Yasso workouts, my favorite speed workout. It has the hill sprints and the tempo runs.  I have been enjoying running the hilly trails by my house and feel that I have gotten stronger in the past 8 weeks. The hill sprints, tempo and speed are all done every 3 weeks, alternating. That means I can give my muscles a rest. I like the idea of confusing the muscles, ala PX-90 style.    Compare that to doing hillwork  every week for 8 weeks, and then speed workouts for next8 weeks.  That seems too grueling for me. In fact, that might have contributed to my past injuries.

I like how the program incorporates a “sorta-long-run” in the mid of the week.
It also has the harder pace run strategically placed the day before Sunday’s long run.  The significance of this it will teach me to run on fatigue legs for the long run, which simulates the late stage marathon fatigue.  In essence, it will force me to run slow for the long runs, which is what Hal emphasizes.  (Don’t get me wrong, I already run slow. What I am saying is, in my head, I can be okay with running it slow as opposed to beating myself up for not being able to hold say a faster pace for the long runs.)  It has a pull back on the LR mileage after 3 weeks, which gives my body a chance to get stronger before diving into the progressively harder workouts.

As the weeks develop, it gradually builds up the number of miles, which is key for the body to adapt to the stress. I notice that the harder workouts are reserved for the end of the week. In the beginning the week, the workout eases into the harder workouts. Hal says it is okay to knock one of the easier days, Mondays, to cross train. I am opting to do that so that I can incorporate different cardio exercises. I will probably alternate cycling with cross-aerobics to hit different muscle groups.  I have high hopes.

The 18-week program starts next week, Monday, the 4th of July. How fitting to start the training with a bang!   I signed up for the Pozo 5k in Santa Margarita. My goal is to get near 24 minutes and some change.  In preparation for that race, here's what I came up with:
Mon—cross-train for 30' cycling
Tues—ladder workout 800-400-200-100-100-200-400-800 w/ 100 recovery walk
Wed—easy 3 (supposed to be 2000x3, but need to rest legs since back-to-back quality runs is too risky)
Fri—easy 5
Sat—30' tempo
Mon—Race Pozo 5k
Stay tuned as I am excited to share with you my experience with this  program.  I forgot to mention earlier that it is the Hal Higdon’s Novice Marathon Program that I used for my very first Marathon in LA in 2002.  Over the years, I tweaked it to fit my schedule and my ability. For some reason, I adhered to the Novice program, never giving the intermediate programs a second look. Now it seems I am jumping from one extreme to the next. Thanks also to my fellow blogger, “run with lipgloss” for bringing this to the forefront. It  was “Lipgloss” who planted this seed in my mind.  But I believe that I can do it.  This time, I will follow it to the T.  The only two changes are moving the  workouts for SPEED/TEMPO/HILLS to Wednesdays and to X-training for Mondays instead of easy runs.  Wish me luck!

Run Free,HappyRun

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Spring Rejuvenation

I went to bed last night, thinking, there are runners who will be starting their 20-week marathon training plan for NYC this weekend. I am so jealous. My 16-week training plan does not officially start until mid-July.  The thought makes me crazy giddy like this goat. Afterall, this is the longest I've ever held out for a marathon since the end of 2008. I've averaged about a marathon every 2-3 months. After The Avenue of the Giants Marathon in May, I took a break from long runs. It's been a couple of years since I've had the chance to just run with no prescribed training plans.

I must admit it is quite nice not to have to think about it or plan the next long run. I've gotten to enjoy the local 5Ks and my neighborhood 4-miler. What's great is that I've shaved just under a minute in both courses. I take that as progress. With continuous training before, I was always going two steps back with each step forward. Needless to say my short races were filled with lackluster performances. Now, with no marathon training to think about, I feel like I can push a little bit more, hence my course records.

The furthest I've gone long was in the middle of May for the birthday memorial of our running club's founder.  We ran his favorite 8 mile course.  Yesterday was my first long run since then.  I was a little unsure of how I was going to complete my 8 that I had planned for this weekend. (I had to shuffle my run since we are out of town for a baby shower.)  My thought process was, if I can do 8 now, then surely I can start the training.  It's been a while since my long run, I am thinking for sure I've lost some stamina. And if I did, there's no better time than now to work on it.

I picked the hilliest 8 miler possible close to where I work. This course played a "thorn" in my training from Dec to Jan. I was injured and the hills was just not my friend. It exacerbated my piriformis so badly that I had to back off speed and any kind of hillwork. Long runs were cut in half, if that. So going back to this place, literally was going to be either a confidence booster or it's just going to kick my butt. I had to find out.

I took to the hills nice and slow. If you could only hear me, it was as if I was taming a wild dog, talking to it, "Easy, nice hills, not gonna bite, just let me by and I will be on my way."  I was trying to hold an even effort from the flats to the top. The course had long stretches of gradual inclines that seemed to take forever to crest. I had my Garmin Forerunner with me, but I didnt look at it at all. I like to know that I can have all my splits downloaded to my computer, but as far as feeling the pace, I just went with my feelers. I need to be able to put a pulse on what even effort feels like without the aid of my watch. I surprised myself. I have to do this more often--run without the Garmin.

For a hilly 8 miles I ran a 9:15 pace. I am very happy about that. I ran feeling like it was not a hard effort at all compared to the time I ran it in January. I felt like I could have gone longer, even with the heat. There was not a single  moment where I felt my quads burned with lactic acid, so I knew I hit the right pace. This was a pleasant surprise to me since two nights ago, on Wednesday, I felt super drained.  I ran 3x1 mile repeats and felt like I was going to puke in the second mile repeat. So much so, that I thought the pain of the fast pace was just too much to bear. My body told me, "Enough!" and I was only too happy to get off the track. But my running buddies didn't let me off the hook. After being coaxed for another mile, we finished the workout. The satisfaction of not quitting is immense. Pain is really temporary, quitting is forever.  After the speed workout, I knew for sure I may be cancelling this long run, since I assumed my legs would be tired.  Again, I was wrong. I'm starting to see the pattern here of my thinking the worst. 

So now that I've managed to run a respectable 8 miles, what's the verdict? Am I going to stick to the Runner's World 16-week training program or shall I give Hal Higdon's 18-week program a try? In the back of my mind, there's the Hanson Brothers' tip to runners, "Stay consistent and be patient." They both agree that it takes a while for a program to show results and that you may have to stick to it say, a couple of years before you see some positive changes. I've only stuck to the Runner's World program one time (the other two times I had to tweak it because of injuries/ back-to-back marathons). It's probably not enough to rule it out.  But then again, Hal Higdon's Adv. I program is much more detailed and talks about the purpose of each training. I like knowing what the purpose of each run is, what it's supposed to do and what I might expect.  That forces me rule out the possibility of my tweaking the program. I might have to give Hal a nod. Afterall, I have his book, I didn't realize that it's been sitting on my desk for about--oooh---two years now...please don't laugh.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My New Kicks: Nike Air Pegasus 27

I've been running a long time, since Summer of 1996 to be exact, before I learned the importance of wearing the right type of shoes. When I first got into it, I didn't know much about the running gait much less what type of running shoes I should be wearing. Sadly, I picked my shoes based on price and well, good looks.  Whatever shoes I found on sale, I grabbed.  Mostly the limit was $39.99. Such as the life of a cheapskate and/or the ill-informed.    I ended up with Asics, since it seemed to go on sale the majority of the time. I would wear it out until the threads are smooth. Needless to say, those shoes would last me two years.  Over a span of several years, I had increasing trouble with my knees. That prompted me to see a podiatrist. Dr. Zuber of Berkeley. He gave me some quick lecture about the life of the shoes and he gave me some custom made orthotics that cost me $270. At the time, that was crazy money, and insurance didn't even cover it.  Today I still wear these orthotics. It held up pretty well.

I remember the first time I ever walked into a running specialty store, Transports in Berkeley, near the campus.  Newly informed that I need motion control shoes for my over pronation, the salesperson tried to put me in a pair of Saucony Progrid Stabil.  I didn't know much about the brand at the time, but he reassured me it was big in the running world. I put it on and I thought they were mighty comfortable but they just looked chunky and made my legs look big. How vain was that? I walked out of there with a New Balance 851. I stuck with NB for a couple of years and I love it. Well only until I had that I- want-to-try-something-new" feeling came back again.
It was my "try-something-new" attitude that made me switch over to other brands. There was nothing wrong with NB, I wanted to try a different pair, find out what I was missing. After all, there have been so much advancement in the design and engineering of the shoes. Which one of you shoes, will make me fly?  I wouldn't know unless I tried, right? 
Fast forward to my marathoning years: I've tried, Mizunos, Sauconys, Brooks, and I went back to Asics. For a good long haul there I had no complaints with any stability model of Saucony: the Guide, Xodus, Triumph and the Omni.  Still in search of the best fitting shoe, I switched over to other brands. The last three consecutive pairs of shoes I've bought have all been disappointments.  First, it was the Brooks Ravenna.  This was the fist time I bought a pair 1/2 a size up from my normal street shoes. (I know I am a little slow to this tip. No wonder my foot was always beat up after a long run!) Even though this was 1/2 bigger, it still was too small which felt like it as a 6 1/2. I had to slit a hole on the side, to give my toes room. I bit the bullet and just tried to make do. Next time, I know better. Brooks tend to be on the smaller side.

Ravenna, you are not true to size, but you did accompany me to my PR in NY.

The hole helped my pinky toes a little bit

When Saucony came out with their minimalist version, the Kinvara, I was swept by all the rave. The reviews were great. I've had Saucony for years and had no problem, why would this be any different?  I had high hopes for these shoes. My excitement got so intense that when I finally saw this shoes in person the day before the the NY marathon, I almost pulled the trigger.  My running buddy Heidi had to hold me back from my drunken "I-want-to- buy-this-now-and-wear-it-tomorrow-for-the-marathon" stupor.  To me, the new shoes smell was akin to the smell of a brand new car. It was too overwhelming. I almost fell into the trap of wearing new shoes in the marathon. Cooler heads prevailed and I waited to buy the shoes.  I sized up to a full 7 1/2 this time. Unfortunately, the shoes did not live to its hype.

I exclusively wore the Kinvaras just for track and speed workouts.  I found out that beyond 5-6 miles, my feet became unhappy, swollen and I felt every gravel on the road. It never got comfortable. Maybe I needed to give it a break in period, so I did just that. How weird, I thought because all my other Sauconys never required me to do that.  I was in denial and thought these had to be my good shoes. The reviews said so, never minding that my feet were unhappy. It got to a point that they started to feel uncomfortable the moment I put them on. After months of black pinky toes that never seem to disappear, I've finally came to the conclusion that the Kinvaras were not made for my feet.  There was no give on the toe off. When my foot was flexed, my pinkies ended up being jammed on the side of the shoe.  Moreover, there is a stiff plastic piece holding the netting which  I thought this was the source of the problem. (The Kinvara 2 still have the same design.) I wondered how many people are affected by this. I couldn't possibly be the only one?

Bye, Kinvaras, it was good while it lasted.
 In the middle of my unhappiness with the Kinvaras, I bought the Asics 2150s, to add to my shoe rotation.  Another running buddy raved about it and again the reviews were all positive. I made sure I had plenty of toe room with the 7 1/2. For a third time, there was no reprieve. I was still having problems with my pinky toes.  It wasn't until Heidi put it on the night before our Ave of the Giants Marathon when she confirmed that the Asics were simply too narrow.  I was surprised to hear this because I already bumped it to 7 1/2, it's a full size bigger than my foot.  To prove it, she told me to try hers on. Her Nike Air Pegasus felt like pillow on my feet. My pinkies had room. I joked with Heidi that I would have to steal hers for the marathon. But I was stuck with my Asics 2150 the next day.

Surprisingly, one brand I've never tried before is Nike.  On the other hand, Heidi has been a fan forever, for as long as she's been a runner.  And she's one of those runners who will buy in bulk to stock up if and when her model of shoes goes on sale.  She is a loyal fan. Her motto, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" She gave me her old pair of Pegasus to try before I invest on a new pair myself.  Her old pair still has 200 miles left on them. It felt good to run without my pinkies screaming in pain.  What's more, finally I won't have black pinky toes anymore, well until these two grow out.  Ewww.

The blue Pegs are from Heidi, the saucy red one is reserved for NY and CIM
Here's more good news: The Running Warehouse took back my Saucony Kinvara after I've explained the problem.  Sixty days has long passed since the day I bought them, so my expectation of them were simply to forward me the address of Saucony's R&D. I thought Saucony might be interested in finding out that there is a problem with their #1 shoe. I was so surprised that RW exchanged it for a new pair of Nike Air Pegasus 27. Talk about customer satisfaction. I'll be going to RW from here on out.

 Thanks Running Warehouse and Thanks Heidi!  What shoes do you wear?