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McMillan custom plans, opinions?

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McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  carleenp on Wed May 30, 2012 9:24 am

Has anyone ever used a McMillan custom training plan? I have been considering it since it looks rather personalized, but given the price, I thought I would seek some opinions if anyone has used them before.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Admin on Wed May 30, 2012 9:27 am

I know MartinVW has used McMillan's custom training. He should be able to give good insight into the value and process. You might send him a PM and let him know about this thread so he can chime in.

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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  carleenp on Wed May 30, 2012 9:35 am

I'll do that. Thanks!
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Wed May 30, 2012 10:04 am

I used one back in 2004 when I decided to get a bit more serious about running/racing again. I liked it and it did get me excellent results at the Pig that year. I have then recycled parts/pieces of it for various other races since then and it has worked well.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Martin VW on Wed May 30, 2012 10:56 am

I've bought three - one for my first (2007), one for Boston 2008 and one for Boston 2012. I'm a fan, and I think they helped me to be a better runner.

For the first two, he didn't offer the training-plan-only option, so I was paying I think $125 per month. It added up.

The training-plan-only option is much more economical, and IMO a pretty good deal.

But, neither option offers a fully "customized" plan. Yes, I think he adapts the training plan you your strengths and weaknesses, so the plan I got as a "Speedster" will be different from what an "Endurance Monster" gets (see this article http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=17252 ). I also think it was tailored to the specific training for Boston - but no more than another Speedster running Boston.

I also enjoyed McMillan's heavy influence of quality-over-volume, because that aligned with both my interests and beliefs. I was doing speework from Day 1 as a runner, so the uptempo work that he included was something that I looked forward to, and benefitted me in terms of utilizing my strengths.

Where I fell out of bed with Greg this cycle is, he didn't adapt the plan to my fitness level coming in, my desired average mileage, or my schedule. I had to constantly rejigger everything based on my own knowledge of running, recovery strategies, and training.

For example, I was already running 50 MPW and 18 - 20 mile long runs at the start of the 20 weeks I purchased - not because I had just come off of a training cycle, but because I had methodically built my training up to that level in preparation for this one last cycle. Is that unusual, that a runner would go that long getting ready for a single goal race? Yes, absolutely. But, isn't that what "custom" plan would capture?

I let him know that I wanted to average 60 MPW, after averaging 53+ for Chicago '10 - so an uptick, but not a major one. I also provided him with input that I had successfully trained for Chicago '10 running two harder weekend runs, that it was important for me to make full use of the weekends to stay on track mileage-wise, given the demands of my family and work schedule. His plan consistently stressed how important it was to go easy on Sundays. Now, normally very sound advice, but I had already proven that I could do 30 - 35 miles in a weekend, successfully, without feeling either burned out, or getting injured.

IMO a customized plan would have factored all of that information in.

His first version dropped me all the way down to the 30's, and a 13 mile long run, meaning I would have lost fitness. He acknowledged that it was light, and added a few recovery runs, but even then it was way light on mileage versus my stated goal.

Then, in the later weeks, he had me scheduled for 6 running days when I had told him that my family/work schedule could only realistically support 5. I gave him feedback that I was essentially going to have to "customize" the custom plan to create a different sequence of runs that fit my schedule, that my concern was, if I want to train Tu-We-Th-Sa-Su, with Mo and Fr completely off, that I wouldn't always be certain that I was choosing the right training runs in the right sequences. He never responded.

Bottom line is, I think they are a good value. I think they are superior to the "generic" plans included in the back of anyone's book because they are tailored to your running background.

But, be aware of what you are buying. It is not a "fully customized plan." And the "coaching" plan is a LOT more expensive now, and I really don't know that he or his staff will really serve as a "coach" as much as answer questions.

Hope that helps.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  carleenp on Wed May 30, 2012 11:23 am

That is very helpful. Thanks Martin!

I think I would fall in his endurance monster plan. I can run and run and run some more slow without issue, but I fall flat on speed, which I think I need to work on, but don't quite know how without just randomly trying some things, and I would rather it not be so random. Basically, I have done speed workouts at times before, but I don't know enough about them to feel good about making my own plan.

I do think I know enough in general and know myself enough to tinker with anything I get, especially since I can also seek guidance here on this forum. I also do like McMillan's articles and general approach and am rather curious what a plan from him for me would look like. But, the last time for you where your specific requests were not taken into account concerns me since they advertise that they will do that.

I'm still pondering. I think I might do it, knowing that I might still have to tinker around with it. I actually rather enjoy tinkering with plans anyway, although I'm not sure how wise it is for me to do so sometimes!
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Ben Z on Wed May 30, 2012 5:36 pm

As an alternative I would recommend reading Hudson's book and trying to develop your own training plan. It's really not as hard as you might think given how much you know about your strengths and weaknesses already.

I know many runners who just want a schedule created for them and will stick to it (us Type As) but based on what I am seeing from Martin's experience I think you should think about a different option. You could take a plan from Hudson (or Pfitzinger) and adapt it to work on your weaknesses that should get you what you are looking for I believe.

I'm happy to do a bit of back and forth as I've helped a few of my friends create a training plan as well.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  carleenp on Wed May 30, 2012 9:35 pm

I decided to order one, but with full knowledge that I might be tinkering with it anywhere from a little to a lot. My main concern is that it will come back with more than I can handle, but then I figure I can always change it. In the alternative, I also figure if I think it is way too much I can shelve it for down the road when it isn't too much. Cool

What I know for sure is that I am ready to move beyond the general Hal Higdon program with only pace runs for speed. I was OK with that for awhile, and it served me well until now, but I am bored with that and think it is time for me to mix things up. I'm curious to see what I get and you all have given me some good suggestions in my other thread on speed work too.

The questionnaire for the custom program was pretty extensive with questions about vacation time and planned races etc. I stressed that this would be my entry into some speed work and that I tend to recover slowly so I need days off or extra recovery run type days after certain types of workouts, especially after long runs over 15 miles. I also mentioned that I would like to run 5 days/week early on, but might need an extra rest day or replace a running day with cross training when long runs are over 18 miles. So we will see if it gets customized for that.

Ben, it is interesting that you mentioned Hudson's book. I have that sitting here but haven't read it yet! I thought that might be my marathon recovery period diversion. I need to learn more about the theory behind various speed workouts. I really like to make my own programs or take existing ones and tinker with them to fit me. But I feel a bit out of my league on this stuff!
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  mountandog on Wed May 30, 2012 10:16 pm

@Ben Z wrote:As an alternative I would recommend reading Hudson's book and trying to develop your own training plan. It's really not as hard as you might think given how much you know about your strengths and weaknesses already.

I know many runners who just want a schedule created for them and will stick to it (us Type As) but based on what I am seeing from Martin's experience I think you should think about a different option. You could take a plan from Hudson (or Pfitzinger) and adapt it to work on your weaknesses that should get you what you are looking for I believe.

I'm happy to do a bit of back and forth as I've helped a few of my friends create a training plan as well.



I am on a business trip right now - Mexico City, Portland and have some downtime. Am on Chapter 4 of the Hudson book right now. So far I like the philosophy. I am like you Carleen, looking for some outside advice to step up to the next level but not sure how to do it. If I get any particular insight from the book I will share it with you.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Ben Z on Thu May 31, 2012 12:26 pm

@carleenp wrote:I decided to order one, but with full knowledge that I might be tinkering with it anywhere from a little to a lot. My main concern is that it will come back with more than I can handle, but then I figure I can always change it. In the alternative, I also figure if I think it is way too much I can shelve it for down the road when it isn't too much. Cool

What I know for sure is that I am ready to move beyond the general Hal Higdon program with only pace runs for speed. I was OK with that for awhile, and it served me well until now, but I am bored with that and think it is time for me to mix things up. I'm curious to see what I get and you all have given me some good suggestions in my other thread on speed work too.

The questionnaire for the custom program was pretty extensive with questions about vacation time and planned races etc. I stressed that this would be my entry into some speed work and that I tend to recover slowly so I need days off or extra recovery run type days after certain types of workouts, especially after long runs over 15 miles. I also mentioned that I would like to run 5 days/week early on, but might need an extra rest day or replace a running day with cross training when long runs are over 18 miles. So we will see if it gets customized for that.

Ben, it is interesting that you mentioned Hudson's book. I have that sitting here but haven't read it yet! I thought that might be my marathon recovery period diversion. I need to learn more about the theory behind various speed workouts. I really like to make my own programs or take existing ones and tinker with them to fit me. But I feel a bit out of my league on this stuff!

I'd be interested to know if you feel McMillan actually incorporates all your feedback in to the training plan or if you have a similar experience to MVW. Based on your comments about it being an extensive questionnaire I would hope for a very customized plan.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Martin VW on Thu May 31, 2012 1:42 pm

@carleenp wrote:I decided to order one, but with full knowledge that I might be tinkering with it anywhere from a little to a lot. My main concern is that it will come back with more than I can handle, but then I figure I can always change it. In the alternative, I also figure if I think it is way too much I can shelve it for down the road when it isn't too much. Cool

What I know for sure is that I am ready to move beyond the general Hal Higdon program with only pace runs for speed. I was OK with that for awhile, and it served me well until now, but I am bored with that and think it is time for me to mix things up. I'm curious to see what I get and you all have given me some good suggestions in my other thread on speed work too.

The questionnaire for the custom program was pretty extensive with questions about vacation time and planned races etc. I stressed that this would be my entry into some speed work and that I tend to recover slowly so I need days off or extra recovery run type days after certain types of workouts, especially after long runs over 15 miles. I also mentioned that I would like to run 5 days/week early on, but might need an extra rest day or replace a running day with cross training when long runs are over 18 miles. So we will see if it gets customized for that.

Ben, it is interesting that you mentioned Hudson's book. I have that sitting here but haven't read it yet! I thought that might be my marathon recovery period diversion. I need to learn more about the theory behind various speed workouts. I really like to make my own programs or take existing ones and tinker with them to fit me. But I feel a bit out of my league on this stuff!

Good luck with it Carleen! I would suggest you start incorporating strides into your workouts now, so that when you get the plan you've already begun the adaptations to uptempo work.

@Ben Z wrote: I'd be interested to know if you feel McMillan actually incorporates all your feedback in to the training plan or if you have a similar experience to MVW. Based on your comments about it being an extensive questionnaire I would hope for a very customized plan.

I doubt a direct 1:1 correlation could be seen unless Carleen specified, as I did, that "I'm looking to average 60 MPW (key workout miles, excluding recovery runs)" and then gets back a plan that averages far less than that. I also had several very unique personal circumstances that mde the differences much, MUCH more stark. Greg could build a solid case that it was in my best interests as a 54 year old novice runner to NOT average 60 MPW, and that running more than 50% of my miles in a weekend was a recipe for injury. We just never had that dialogue.

And, I want to reiterate, I DO see the McMillan plans as a solid value for runners looking to impove. His plans will push most runners, and will be more tailored, at least to "runners like Carleen," or "runners like Ben," than anything else you can get for essentially the price of a new pair of running shoes.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Jerry on Thu May 31, 2012 2:19 pm

Save the $ & just run more. lol!
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Admin on Thu May 31, 2012 2:40 pm

@Jerry wrote:Save the $ & just run more. lol!

cheers

My work here is done.

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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  carleenp on Thu May 31, 2012 2:47 pm

@Jerry wrote:Save the $ & just run more. lol!



Probably the best advice. But I went for the spend money and run more option!

I'll report back when I get the plan. I didn't specify things in mine to the level Martin did in his, but I did make a few specific requests such as running 5 days per week, certain races factored in, and a vacation schedule factored in.

And when my legs feel more recovered from my marathon, I'll start adding in some strides. That may be another week or so.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  carleenp on Tue Jun 12, 2012 7:15 pm

My plan has arrived. I am pretty happy with it. It has flexible 4-5 days of running/week as I requested. Basically Monday can be run, cross train, or rest for that. The speed work seems gentle enough to start, with strides the first week and then some weeks where I choose among three different workouts, and more intense stuff toward the end. The races I mentioned are incorporated, as is my vacation. A day off for rest after the speed day was also built in, which I requested. The only thing I took issue with is that the taper is more intense and longer miles on the long runs during that period than I normally do and I suspect I'll tone that down a bit, but we will see when I get there.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Ben Z on Wed Jun 13, 2012 9:49 am

@carleenp wrote:My plan has arrived. I am pretty happy with it. It has flexible 4-5 days of running/week as I requested. Basically Monday can be run, cross train, or rest for that. The speed work seems gentle enough to start, with strides the first week and then some weeks where I choose among three different workouts, and more intense stuff toward the end. The races I mentioned are incorporated, as is my vacation. A day off for rest after the speed day was also built in, which I requested. The only thing I took issue with is that the taper is more intense and longer miles on the long runs during that period than I normally do and I suspect I'll tone that down a bit, but we will see when I get there.

On a personal note I've had great success with a higher taper. I know Dave B. has too as he only cuts back a bit on the speedwork the week of a race.

My typical three week taper would include:

T-Minus 21 days from raceday: 20-22 miles w/ 8-13 @ goal MP OR a half marathon all out w/ 1-2 mile w/u and c/d

T-Minus 14 days from raceday: 20 miles easy

T-Minus 7 days from raceday: 12 miles easy

Hudson is also an advocate of this approach and while everyone is different I am a believer that you shouldn't drastically reduce your mileage during the taper as it will leave you feeling flat.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  carleenp on Wed Jun 13, 2012 6:19 pm

My problem is usually that by taper I'm pretty beat up. I don't recover well at all from very long runs, so my last 20 miler usually leaves me needing extra rest or I end up at the race with still tired legs. But I don't cut speed during it, just mileage. Last time I did a few extra pace runs during the taper, but still cut the mileage way back. I'll keep the mileage up if I can when I get there, but my past experience has been that I really need to to cut it back on the long runs to get my legs fresh to race. So, for example, McMillan has me doing 14-18 with a fast finish 14 days out and I'll probably do 12 with a fast finish instead unless I'm certain I can handle the extra miles. Where he has me doing 12-14 7 days out, I'll probably be at 8-10.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Martin VW on Thu Jun 14, 2012 10:01 am

@carleenp wrote:My problem is usually that by taper I'm pretty beat up. I don't recover well at all from very long runs, so my last 20 miler usually leaves me needing extra rest or I end up at the race with still tired legs. But I don't cut speed during it, just mileage. Last time I did a few extra pace runs during the taper, but still cut the mileage way back. I'll keep the mileage up if I can when I get there, but my past experience has been that I really need to to cut it back on the long runs to get my legs fresh to race. So, for example, McMillan has me doing 14-18 with a fast finish 14 days out and I'll probably do 12 with a fast finish instead unless I'm certain I can handle the extra miles. Where he has me doing 12-14 7 days out, I'll probably be at 8-10.

Good that you know your body and how it responds. My suggestion to you is, don't go into the cycle with a preconceived notion about what you are going to be able to do 4 months from now. McMillan's plans will have you stronger by then than a Hal plan. By the time you get to the Peaking period (he intentionally doesn't call it Taper), if things are going well, mileage won't be the same issue it may be for you today. After a couple of his cycles, 20 milers - even 23 /24 milers - at MP + 60 became uneventful.

McMillan's article on the two different types of long runs. http://www.mcmillanrunning.com/articlePages/article/2 is terrific because it explains why he has you do what you will be doing. What I don't think it explicitly says is that since you will be doing tempo pace for a part of the Fast Finish run - in fact, even faster at the very "end" - you have to tack two cool-down miles on (anything faster than MP should include a 15 - 30 minute cool-down) onto the end of the Fast Finish Long Run. The focus of the run is on the distance/duration of the uptempo portion, less so on the total # of miles.

And, stay healthy! His plans really "peak" you for race day, so you want to be the healthiest in the end. If you have to do some modification to stay fresh, do so throughout. Don't wait until Peak.

Good luck!
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  carleenp on Thu Jun 14, 2012 7:07 pm

Thanks for the info! I definitely plan to see how I feel when I get there. I want to stick to the plan if possible. I just have my doubts right now since the end period is so different for me. But if I feel OK when I get there I'll stick with it as is! I do like that a lot of the things are in ranges too. So there is some flexibility with it all. I am also excited to get started with it next week. I think it will be fun to be doing a different program.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  JohnP on Sat Jun 16, 2012 1:50 pm

I'm late to the game but I also bought one of his custom plans a few years ago. I liked the variety he had, and also options he gave depending on whether you need strength/endurance/hill ability. I did get a solid PR using his at the Pig but I know that getting a PR at a marathon is much more than just following a plan. Still, I think you will be happy with it.
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Re: McMillan custom plans, opinions?

Post  Kenny B. on Sun Jun 17, 2012 8:52 am

I am very late on this but I just purchased his 20 week plan as well and should be starting it shortly. It looks quite challenging but I do find the variation in workout to be refreshing. Can't give my opinion on it as of yet but "trust" the schedule and take it day by day. That is my plan!
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