Thursday, April 10, 2008

Running the numbers

I am covering several bases with this post, firstly it addresses my own analysis of my actual mileage vs. my training plan in an attempt to identify where I went wrong (again!) and ended up injured (again!) and secondly it hopefully provides some insight for any would be runner on how not to do it and thirdly Runner's Lounge Take it and Run Thursday this week is about Training Plans so that just seemed like great timing.

Being that I am in Los Angeles I'll give you some backstory as they call it around here. When I started training for my first Marathon last year I had been running consistently for the three years prior, I had run before that but had had a hiatus where I spent several years mountain biking. I never really kept tabs on my mileage but it averaged around 25 miles a week over three or four runs. I set myself the target of completing it in 3:30 or less, I had no real appreciation of if this was fast or not but it sounded like a challenge.

In preparation did I choose my plan after great deliberation and research, after a review of the literature of the great marathon runners and planners, Lydiard, Galloway, Noakes or Daniels and after long consultation with coaches and other marathon runners? Well no, I found one in a freebie magazine and thought “huh, this’ll do”. Of course as any new disciple of something does I immersed myself, consuming Runners World each month before breakfast and plowing through the literature, nutrition, shoes, clothing, GPS I read about it all. I did however stick to my plan…well I mean I kept using the same one. The plan itself was aimed at a newbie runner and took them from zero(ish) miles to a marathon over the course of 26 weeks.

Mistake #1; I was already ahead of the curve and should have started 4-6 weeks or so into the plan.

Along the way I picked up a Nike+ chip primarily as a means to measure my mileage, I was running a lot on beach paths and was unable to get an accurate read on the distances, from there I discovered the Nike+ forums and the challenges that people created there and jumped in feet first.

Mistake #2; I veered away from my plan, running on my rest days.

My target marathon was to be San Francisco in early July, along the way I built in several half marathons and even a full marathon as a training run despite the fact the longest training run on my plan was only 22 miles.

Mistake #3; exceeding the training mileage and extending my long runs even further.

I ran the San Diego Rock’n’Roll Marathon in early June as a training run and finished in 3:45:09, nearly fifteen minutes faster than my target time of 4:00, I thought I was set, 3:30 was in my sights and I had tone, it was a done deal, you could take it to the bank. The day before I was due to leave for San Francisco, my son was sick, not just a "brought it home from school have a runny nose sick" but full blown sky high temperature on the phone to the Doctors and monitor him closely sick. It’s at this point that everything else goes to the sidelines, I spent an hour on the phone canceling flights and hotels and cuddled up with him on the couch for the rest of the weekend, of course 48 hours later he’s a right as rain and tearing the place up in his usual manner. It was totally the right decision but it was also six months of training gone up in smoke. I signed up for a local 50k at the end of August and it was during mid July that my miles caught up with me. I had run over 1100 miles in 28 weeks and my IT Band had had enough, basically it stopped working, point blank refused to function. Not just on one knee but both along with one hip. I DNS'd for the second time in as many months.

I’ll save you the recovery story, it’s documented here, but the short version is that 10 weeks of physiotherapy put me back on the straight and narrow.

This brings me to this training cycle I find myself 18 weeks into a 20 week plan and once again I am faced with an IT Band issue. In an attempt to detect a pattern I looked at my running log comparing this year to last, and yes there is one, providing you squint and tilt your head 30 degrees to the left you can just make out the profile of some nice hills!

Next I looked at my actual running this year vs. my plan. This brings me to Mistake #4; think macro. I was actually under the impression that I was within 90% of my plan 75% of the time, that is for a big race like a 50k my mileage before and after would drop but for three out of fours weeks I was within an acceptable margin…wrong! Check out the graph and you’ll see that I was off by a mile or two or ten! A picture really is worth a thousand words. The early zero was when I was ill and the last two are projected.

So as you can see four classic mistakes leading up to what I am almost sure will be a DNS for next weeks race, I have yet to vocalize that decision but in my mind it's almost made.

In conclusion I hope that this post helps someone in their planning and that they can learn from the mistakes I have made, I certainly have!


  1. Sounds like we're in the same boat again.

    Who else should we invite?

  2. I promise to
    1. Not run on my rest days
    2. Not run more miles than on the plan

    Ok. Hopefully I will be ok for my next marathon. Any ideas on a training plan that has low weekday mileage? I don't want to over-train and hurt my hips (likeI did last time)

  3. You are too late in warning me!! I am the stupid runner in this side of the coast making those same mistakes. Too much, too fast, with missed rest days. Reading your post makes me realize it that much more.

    OVER USE!!!!! That is the IT Band issue in a nut shell.

    Hope when you finally say the words that will add one more DNS that there are no small children around.

    Drink heavily for a week, pout, sit in a dark closet and then rejoin us.

    We will get past this one way or another. It is only making me want it that much more!!!!

  4. Ohhh invite me, me, me!! I'll sit on the sidelines with some studs ;-)

  5. My knees (the knee-cap femur) issue and hips (causing pain) are my achilles heel. The Man he "just" has achilles tendonitis.

    Great advice in there. Some I could have used a few messed up training programs ago. :)

  6. Despite the pain - there are really two hilarious things in this post:

    1) The photo - I LOVE thier stuff and have calendars, mugs and postcards littered around my office/cube.

    2) Your graph. Quite simply, that's really hilarious.! ;)

  7. Thanks so much for the training log recommendation. I'll definitely check it out!

  8. The picture is hilarious.

    You live, you learn but sometimes things are unavoidable. I like to think that these obstacles make us stronger in the long run. But I'm often wrong.

    Godd luck!


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