>Racing>Looking for Feedback - Pfitzinger Plan for HM
The Running Dead
All - Looking for feedback. I'm 53 and I've been running for ~ 8 years. I had been working with a local coach who kept my weekly mileage on the low side to deal with some nagging injury issues but left me feeling under-trained and low on endurance late in HM 's and marathons. I decided to take a new approach in 2020 and used a Pfitzinger HM plan that had weekly mileage peaking in the 60's.
TL/DR - The higher mileage helped with endurance (I PR'd by ~ 1 min), but I struggled with the intensity of the quality work-outs and felt flat late in the plan. And I had no kick the last mile of the HM. Do I stick with Pfitz for a marathon in the fall or are there other plans that I should consider? Any advice on executing the LT and VO2max work-outs better?
The rest of the story:
Though my spring goal race was canceled, I ran a HM time trial yesterday The good news. My endurance definitely improved. I hit a PR and went sub 1:34 (in a time trial!). The weather was good (low 40's, low wind, cloudy) and I executed my race plan and ran a consistent effort throughout. Throughout the 12 week plan, I was able to get in the runs and hit the mileage (my last 4 months have all been above 200 miles; before that, I don't think I had any). Though the load seemed really heavy at the beginning (as my daily 6 mile runs became 9-12 mile runs), I felt like I settled into the work load and no real injury issues cropped up.
The bad news: the quality workouts in the plan were hard to execute. Most of them I had trouble hitting the paces and I didn't fully complete them. And late in the schedule, I was feeling really flat. The VO2max workouts and the tune-up races were really tough and several times I cut them short and just finished the mileage. Even 2 weeks into the 3 week taper, I had little speed and I was starting to wonder if I would be able to hold any kind of effort come race day. On race day, though I was able to hold pace, I had very little kick at the end. My last 1.2 miles was just under 7mpm pace, and that effort had my HR rate spiking up 20 beats.
So now the question: What next? I have a marathon in the fall (assuming it doesn't get cancelled) and I'd like to make a run at running 3:15-3:20 which should be in reach based on my current fitness. I understand that another round of training with higher mileage should help. Do I stick with Pfitz and do a marathon plan or take a look at a different plan? Any advice on how to hit the quality workouts more successfully? Should I slow down the paces until I can hit them and then increase intensity? Stick with it and gut out what I can (the some is better than none philosophy)?
Thanks in advance for your help.
I don't really have the experience to help you much (got injured doing 12/47 for HM was my one experience with Pfitz) but some things stand out here.
My last 1.2 miles was just under 7mpm pace, and that effort had my HR rate spiking up 20 beats.
This reads to me like you should have gone a little harder most of the race. I've never raced by HR but that effort at the end is almost pure effort, not going from Z2 to z4/5.
The VO2max workouts and the tune-up races were really tough and several times I cut them short and just finished the mileage
IMO that's a decent compromise to stay healthy, but if it happens multiple times I would take another look at the paces you're trying to train at. FWIW I know multiple older guys who say that VO2 workouts used to take 1-2 days to recover from and now take 3-4 and they're almost not worth doing. You could try doing them at 10k pace rather than VO2 which should still help the speed and economy but be a bit easier to recover from. If those are too easy lookup how Tinman suggests you do Critical Velocity workouts and try that (IIRC recovery is 1/3 the time of the interval which is shorter than VO2 recoveries). I would absolutely still race, it's both necessary for the practice and is the best feedback on how the training is going.
And late in the schedule, I was feeling really flat
I'm a firm believer that tapers are the place where individual runners vary the most. If you have any idea what your body likes this is where I would start tweaking the plan. Ditto for recovery weeks. As an older runner you need more recovery, start by cutting back miles/intensity on the recovery weeks while doing your best to hit the main training weeks (within reason). If that's not enough, you could use Pfitz as the skeleton of your plan, but I do believe the long runs are the most important thing for a marathon and it sounds like you're getting those in.
Finally, you PRd! That's awesome, sounds like the plan/miles did something good for you, especially if you could do that in a time trial! Good luck with the marathon.
P.S. Just getting through a higher mileage plan uninjured means you did some things right. Good job listening to your body.
1600 - 5:23 (2018), 5k - 19:33 (2018), 10k - 41:20 (2021), half - 1:38:57 (2018), Marathon - 3:37:17 (2018)
I'm biased toward Pfitz plans--I followed them almost to the letter a few times and even when I got to the point where I rolled my own, my training was heavily Pfitz influenced.
The one change I always made and always recommend is I did the workouts by perceived effort, not by pace. Even my marathon pace workouts--I don't think I ever had a "big" MP workout that was as fast for the MP section as I wound up racing my good marathons. It was rare for me to do a workout as fast as my race times would suggest I should have been able to--I didn't care.
If you had never run over 200 miles a month before, it's totally understandable that you were feeling fatigued late in the plan. And most people feel lousy during taper. My .02, stick with it and worry about dialing in the effort on your quality workouts, more than the pace. The point of workouts is to provide a training stimulus--it's not a fitness test. It's much more important that you complete the workout than that you hit the right pace.
Races are the fitness test.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------“Some people will tell you that slow is good – but I'm here to tell you that fast is better. I've always believed this, in spite of the trouble it's caused me. - Hunter S. Thompson
Thanks for the advice. As much I'm looking for "the big secret", it comes down to: higher mileage is good (but takes some time to adapt to), run your easy days easy (always been a bit of a challenge for me), and listen to your body (run your quality work-outs based on effort if you have to).
I think I'll give the Pfitz 18/70 plan a try for my fall marathon, and I'll report back in.
Appreciate your time to help me put this training cycle into perspective.
You got it. The Secret is: Run a lot, mostly easy, sometimes fast.