Monday, February 8, 2016

2 Weeks of Hansons Half-Marathon Training

I've just finished the first two weeks of the Hansons Method half-marathon training program. (Their book describes the full program in extreme detail.) Actually, the program has 4 weeks of build-up without long runs or speed work, but I basically skipped that part and jumped in when the program began speed sessions. I'm doing the "beginner" program which is pretty intense. It caps out at 48 miles/week! That's what I run for marathons and ultras (if I'm serious)...and this program is intended for a beginner doing a half-marathon race.

After just two weeks, I've learned a few things. First, I'm already settling into a rhythm of six runs per week with Wednesdays as an off day. Part of the cycle is the Tuesday/Thursday speed sessions. I like the structure. I know Tuesday's short and fast repeats will challenge me. And it's nice knowing the next day is not just an easy day, but a full day off from all training. When that rest day is over, I know the next step is a steady tempo run. That hard-off-hard sequence in the middle of the week is comforting.

Another comfort is knowing I have three hard runs (Tuesday speed, Thursday tempo, Sunday long) plus two recovery days, one easy run, and one day free from running. Those recovery runs come on Monday and Friday (after tempo and long runs). They are truly easy. They are meant to be active recovery. Saturday is a "regular easy" run. Slightly faster than full recovery. Kind of a "go as you please" type of effort. This is a nice mix of hard, easy, and recovery. Right now I like it. Later, I'll really need it.

One thing I really enjoy, even after just two weeks, is the variety of runs. Not just the purpose of each run, but the diversity within each type. The speed sessions change every week. First 400m repeats, then 600m, then 800m, finally reaching 3-mile repeats. They are intentional and build from speed to stamina. Never the same workout. Always a different challenge. Tempo runs stay at race pace, but lengthen each week. That builds endurance and stamina, plus confidence in maintaining race pace. And, of course, the long runs simply extend in time and distance.

One complaint about the program is that you really jump into speed abruptly. The first week had 12 x 400m repeats. Unless you were accustomed to some kind of speed work, that would be brutal. I transitioned these first two weeks by cutting back the number of repeats and the pace. If nothing else, with age comes wisdom. I'm not going to injure myself. Push, yes. But always within reason. This 50-year old body doesn't recover as quickly as when I was 30...or 40.

I'll keep reflecting on the Hansons Method as I progress through the program. If it gets me to a new personal best on April 30, uninjured, I'll sing its praises. For now, I just need to keep calm and follow this darn training plan.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Riddle Run Results for 2016

The five RR17 finishers.
This past weekend was the 17th Riddle Run fat ass event. A 28-mile trail run with lots of starters and only a few finishers. Many people come out for just a few miles, then hang out to socialize and cheer on the eventual finishers. It fits with the spirit of the original fat ass runs. This year I only managed 12 miles in just over 2 hours. Fortunately, that was my plan. I'm coming off a 4 week cold, plus I'm training for a half-marathon, not an ultra. Those 12 miles were perfect. And it brings my total Riddle Run miles to an amazing (and current record) of 415. Sweet.

Steve, the overall winner, with RD.
This year, we had perfect weather with a low of 33 and a high of 55, partly sunny with a slight breeze. The forest preserve trails were in reasonable shape. A little snow and ice in spots, the rest pretty good until the warmth created lots of sloppy mud. I was done by that time, but the five 28-mile finishers had to deal with slippery trails. Oh well. Trails can't be perfect--that's what makes them fun. At the end of the day, we had a great circle of fire and friends. Eating, drinking, and chatting. This event is an annual reunion of local trail and ultra runners. I only see some of them once a year. That makes Riddle Run special.

Here are the final results for the event (still in draft form as results continue to come in and get "verified"). Steve Butler repeated as champion by successfully defending his title and cutting a few minutes off last year's winning time. Jen Burton was first female and second overall. Five total finishers and a lot of DNFs. I plan on being a finisher next year. Maybe even a champion! Can we have a new category of "past/current race director" so I can easily win?
Jen, female champion, with RD.

Hope to see everyone back on the last Saturday in January 2017 for Riddle Run 18. Special thanks to Jeff for starting this whole thing and lending his name to the event. Like it or not, it's simply the "Riddle Run." We wouldn't have it any other way. I appreciate all of the runners that brought extra food and drink to share. And, of course, kudos to Tom the "creator and manager of fire."  Tom and I are the only 17-time participants of the Riddle event. I know we'll both be back in 2017. I imagine one day, way in the future, it'll simply be me and Tom crawling around this course. And I'll win.

For a historical perspective, here are all of the Riddle Run winners from 2000-2016. Based on feedback from faraway buffalo runners, there is a need for satellite versions of the Riddle Run. Race management is considering this option for 2017.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Hansons Half-Marathon Training Program

One of my goals this year is a new personal best at the half-marathon distance. I ran a 1:32:35 at the 2014 St Louis half-marathon (7:04 pace/mile). Now I'd like to lower that PR at the Illinois half-marathon on April 30. In my dreams, I break 1:30 (~6:52/mile). In reality, I'd be happy with any improvement in that current PR. 1:32:34? That'll do! In terms of practical goals and target times, I'm shooting for a 1:31:46 (7:00 pace/mile). Seven minute per mile pace seems doable.  A challenge, but reachable. It's a nice "round" number too. And a finish time of 1:31:46 just seems right. Hard to remember, but that's fine. I'll easily remember 7:00 pace.

The St Louis race course was rather hilly compared to Champaign. But the weather in St Louis was almost perfect--no wind and temperatures in the low 40Fs. Champaign will be a flatter course, but probably warmer. Is that a push? One element evens out the other?  Maybe. Another plus for the Illinois course is proximity--I'm a 15 minute drive from the starting line. No hotels, no strange dinners or breakfasts, no worries about traffic or parking. And I know the actual race course. Plus, plenty of friends running and volunteering. Overall, a huge advantage. This new PR seems possible! Even at the age of 50.

It seems possible, but how do I achieve this "possible goal" and make it a reality? I'm using an actual training program. Novel idea (for me). No more day to day, week to week, haphazard planning. For this PR attempt, I'm going with the Hansons Half-Marathon Method based on their book by the same name. They also have a marathon training plan I may adopt for my BQ attempt in July...but first the half-marathon in April.

Why the Hansons Method?  I was drawn to it because it had a thorough exploration of the half-marathon distance and race strategy. And nutritional advice. Not just a 2-page training plan. It's a full book dedicated to the half-marathon. That's rare. I also like that it incorporates two types of weekly speed work (that change over time) plus a long run. And it emphasizes "cumulative fatigue" by requiring 6 runs/week. Consistency will build strength, speed, and fitness. I need that for a personal best. Their basic 18-week plan can be found here (without the full details that are provided in the book).

What are the key elements of the Hansons training plan?
  • Tuesday speed session. Every Tuesday is an interval workout that begins with a focus on speed (5k race pace) and transitions to strength (10k race pace). An example of an early speed session would be 12 x 400m intervals at 5k pace. About half-way through the program, the speedy 5k intervals move to "strength" intervals that are longer efforts at 10k pace. For example, 3 x 2-mile repeats. 
  • Thursday tempo run. Each Thursday is a progressively longer tempo run at half-marathon race pace. This develops your lactate threshold and also gets you comfortable with race-day pace. Win, win. 
  • Sunday long run. It may "only" be a half-marathon, but those long runs are still important. No 20 milers needed, these Sunday runs top out at 12 miles. Toward the end of the program, you alternate weekly 10 and 12 mile efforts. Long enough to build endurance and stamina, but not so long you can't recover and be ready for the Tuesday speed sessions.
  • 3 other "easy" runs. To build overall weekly mileage, which peaks at 48 miles in the beginner program, you need lots of regular easy runs. These range from 4-7 miles all done at an easy conversational effort. You become more fit through active recovery. 
  • One rest day. Each Wednesday is a day off. No cross-training, no weight-lifting, no running. Just rest. With 6 days of running, you need a full day of rest to allow healing and adaptations. 
If I survive this very structured and intense plan, I'll be ready for a great race at the Illinois Half-Marathon on April 30th. Wish me well.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sick and Tired of Being Sick

It's been about 3 weeks and I'm still struggling with a cold. Not the worst thing ever, but slight chest congestion, coughing, and runny nose. No fever or aches and pains. I'm really tired of this "being sick" thing. I suppose it's better than having a running injury, but it still sucks. At first I ran through the first week+ of illness. Nothing changed. So I took a full week off from running. No change. Now I'm back to short and easy runs. No change...yet. My Hanson training program for the Illinois Half-Marathon (April 30) begins next week. Doubt I'll be ready to tackle intervals and tempo runs, but maybe the following week I'll be able to step it up a notch. I still have hope. And it's "only" a half-marathon. I'll be ready. My real goal is the July 31 Jack & Jill Downhill Marathon for a BQ attempt. I must be ready for that race!