Late 30s husband, father, programmer, and runner.
I don't always run marathons, but when I do, I prefer the Hansons marathon plan.

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The sun is coming up later and later. I slipped out the door right at 5am today, but the sun was barely casting any light. Like a thief, I emerged from the shadows at each lamppost and plunged back into darkness just as quickly. No worries. I’ve run the streets near my house so many times, I feel like I know every crack in the sidewalk, every low-hanging branch, every pothole in the asphalt.

The beginning of this tempo run was dark enough that I was having trouble seeing the mile split on my watch. That didn’t last long, and everything went smoothly from there. I had to scale back the pace closer to my 6:29 target as the run went on, but 44:46 (6:24/mi) is about 20 seconds better than I did two weeks ago.

So long, 7-mile tempos. Bring on the 8s! Two years ago, this same run did not go nearly as well. It’s been a lot cooler this summer, and I was not as diligent about getting up early either.

The sweaty face of victory:

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Hey, remember when I thought I was feeling so good after yesterday’s workout? Yeah, forget that. Today’s 3x1600m went fine, but I had no gas in the tank. No extra gear.

It’s funny how running that 5-minute mile has changed my perspective. My 5:40 goal today seemed like it would be easy by comparison. But then I got out there and each split was consistently slow. I couldn’t seem to make myself go any faster even though I knew I was behind pace. I guess that’s what the Hansons plan will do to you.

These are supposed to be tough to do at the end of a 6-day stretch of running. I logged 54 miles in that time, including the track meet. I should be happy I was able to do this anywhere close to my goal.

Official splits:

5:44.45  5:45.63  5:44.72

Two year comparison

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Crossfit first:

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So many stations! The squats/jump rope/bear crawl/burpee stretch was particularly painful. I only made it through 2 rounds plus an extra row before time was up.

6 mile run afterwards. The other people in my class look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I’m off for more. I like to do the run after crossfit because it really helps me learn to run on tired legs. And it also seems to work out any soreness for tomorrow. Just like a foam-rolling session.

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I mean, look at the progression on those splits. My legs were tree stumps to start, but I was ready to sprint by the end. Should be in good shape for tomorrow’s interval workout at the track.

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Slept through my 6:15 alarm. Slept through the 8:00 alarm for church. Lots of hard running finally catching up with me. The whole house was dead too. Kids have gone to sleepovers and late night parties. No one was moving well today.

Finally got out around 11am for my 10-miler. Not a good time to be outside running, but the humidity was low at least. I wore a baseball cap to help keep the sun out of my eyes and protect my head from sunburn. Normally the wind would be an annoyance, but it felt good to have a breeze today.

These were nice and steady except for that last one. I had been feeling pretty good about my “easy” running being on the low end of the Hansons suggested range so far, but maybe the cumulative fatigue is finally making its impact. It’s probably just the result of a particularly challenging week, but I made it through! Week 12 in the books. 11 weeks to go!

I found the Ron Gummerson summer track meet at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates while browsing through the CARA race schedule. It said it was open to all ages, but it definitely catered to kids and alumni of the high school. If my kids had been there (they were with my parents all week), it would have been fun for everyone. Instead my wife and I ended up sitting around for 3 hours waiting for the non-alumni 1600m run.

But I didn’t really care. It was fun to watch the little kids do the sprints and the hurdles. I just needed that taste of a real track meet to get me pumped up to run a fast race. I knew as the night went along that I was unlikely to have any competition in my event. The alumni run had a couple college runners in it, and I think the winner finished right around 5 minutes.

So when the gun went off, I just shot off the line like a cannon. I didn’t take any laps on my watch because I didn’t want to waste any arm movement, but I think I went 73, 73, 76, 75 to finish in 4:57. In those last couple laps I was having to yell at people to clear lane one or just fly out to lane 3 when there were bigger groups. I might have been a second or two faster if I had a clear shot at the inside lane.

I didn’t think I’d be able to go this hard for four full laps, but I was surprised by how consistently I ran. I was really breathing hard by the halfway point, but the ol’ legs just kept pumping. It took me a couple hours after the meet was over before I finally felt like I could breathe normally again.

So maybe not the most efficient use of my time, but it feels awesome to have a real track finish under my belt as an adult. I mean, sub-5 is pretty crazy for a 39-year-old marathoner. I haven’t run this fast since high school (4:35 PR), and this time would put me right around the end of my sophomore year. I will have the biggest of smiles about this for a long time.

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I discovered the Sag Valley trail last year when I was flipping through a book of popular Chicagoland running spots. I did a couple of my 16-milers there last summer, so I wanted to come back again this year. Since I’ve added 2 miles to all my weekend runs this time, I’ve only got the one shot at 16.

It’s definitely more “natural” than other trails I run on. Dirt, rocks, and roots instead of pristine limestone or blacktop. Lots of horse droppings to navigate, and all kinds of ups, downs, twists, and turns. Definitely more of an adventure than a training run.

The spot where I park is also a popular location for people who like to climb the old toboggan run stairs. Up and down they go. You can kinda see some of them already workin’ those glutes way in the background:

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The parking lot is mostly empty here, but people were waiting for a spot when I finished two hours later.

The run went well. I finished the two loops in 1:54, which is supposed to be 8 miles around. I ran an extra couple minutes to get to 16 on my watch. I think it really short-changes me in the first mile of the loop. It’s heavily wooded, and the split always comes out above 8 minutes when I know I’m running faster than that:

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So whether you believe 1:54 or the official 1:56, I was in the 7:09 - 7:15 range. A little slower than the 7:05 I was shooting for, but the trail is very challenging and I’m still feeling the effects of last night’s 7 and Thursday’s 1600m sprint.

About 10 miles in it felt like I had something in my shoe. I stopped to check it out and I had ripped a giant hole in my sock. Not much I could do about it, so I pressed on. I’ve got a nice blister going on the inside of my arch that will make the next few days fun.

Two year comparison

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I only ran a mile last night. I only ran for 5 minutes last night. Either one of those by themselves would be nothing. But together? It’s like a bizarro peanut butter cup. I didn’t even try to get up to run this morning. I knew I’d have a bad case of Frankenstein legs.

So I waited until after work. Dreading it all day. And even then, it was no picnic.

I thought I was getting my groove back in mile 3. False alarm. This was definitely a “get it done” run. Survive to run another day.

And you know the worst part? Which I alluded to in my earlier response about adjusting the Hansons plan? I have 16 miles scheduled for the morning. On a tough dirt trail that I was saving specifically for this distance. Oy vey.

  • Question: I have a question, when you start the training plan cycle, do you start exactly where it starts? I'm planning on the beginner plan but my current long runs are a lot longer than the plan has and my weekly mileage is around 35-45 already. Also my race is on Saturday, but the plan has a Sunday race. Have you moved the dates around? I really should read the book because I'm sure there's answers there. I'm running in to trouble balancing this plan with my current race schedule. - iwatchtheworldoutside
  • Answer:

    I typically start the plan from the second week, but otherwise yes. Between marathon cycles, I cut my mileage back a lot. I’d say I’m floating around 30 mpw when I get started. I’m not sure about the beginner plan, but I welcome the light weeks at the beginning of the advanced plan even if I’m capable of more. There’s plenty of hard running as you get closer to race day. You could also just move up to the advanced plan. The hard running starts earlier and there’s more “easy” miles, but you still set the pace based on your time goal.

    As for Saturday/Sunday, the best thing to do is shift the entire schedule by a day so the long runs are on Saturday. If that doesn’t fit your schedule, you could flip-flop the Saturday and Sunday runs. That breaks the pattern they want you to follow, but I think it’s alright if you’re getting all your runs in. Finally, you could just keep the schedule the same and race on Saturday. That would mean one less taper day at the end. If you’re really worried about that, push all the tempo runs up a week so you get enough rest.

    Racing — the book will say not to do it at all during training, and I somewhat agree. You really have to juggle the schedule if you want to fit in a race and get the benefits of the plan. I put a half-marathon about 2/3rds of the way in so I can get a readout on my progress, but otherwise I’m rather hesitant to schedule anything else. The book has some suggestions if you must, like trading a weekend race for a Tuesday speed or Thursday tempo session. I’ve done that in the past and it’s worked out.

  • Question: I can't even say how cool it is that you're in my corner. As a 11'30" runner, having a speed demon such as yourself hanging out, commenting and making suggestions... it's a huge motivator :) - jordan-gets-fast
  • Answer:

    I don’t follow a ton of people, but I do try to latch on to those following the Hansons plan. Having done it a few times now, I feel some responsibility to help shepherd anyone doing it the first time. I know I would have appreciated the assistance.

    I’m pretty much a solo runner. I don’t run with friends or a training group. It’s nice to have tumblr to interact with runners at all ability levels. Just because your times aren’t super fast doesn’t mean you’re not working hard.

What a race! I ran in the very last event, but it was worth the wait! I wasn’t sure I had it in me, but oh the pleasure and the pain. More photos and details to come later. Cloud 9 for now.