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When to start a training cycle

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When to start a training cycle

Post  ounce on Thu Jun 26, 2014 1:46 pm

My goal race is January 18 at Houston.  I have a target of knocking off 30 minutes from my 2014 PR of 5:24. 

I have been running high teens to low 20's throughout the Spring.  Then I thought of really upping the mileage during the hot Houston summer to gain some endurance.

Starting June 1, I began running 4 days a week for 32 miles a week for three weeks.
Starting June 22, I upped the miles to 36 miles a week.
Starting July 20, I'll up it to 40 miles a week.
Starting August 10, I'll up it again to 44 mles a week.

I'm trying to become a pretty decent endurance animal before starting the actual training cycle.  The question I have is when to start this cycle.  Last year, it was 22 weeks out.  This year, I'm thinking 19 weeks out, but have seen any number of combinations of weeks.  I plan on incorporating some sort of speed or faster pace running during the training cycle.

I have never ran more than 30 miles a week in the off-season (Summer).

I have 3 races planned in the Fall:  A half marathon on October 26, a 25 mile pacing duty with Reina on November 22, and a 30K race on December 14.  The Houston Marathon is January 18.

So how far into September (or further) can I continue this endurance progression and still aim for the 30 minute PR?  And at what weekly mileage should I start week 1 with?  Or if I'm missing something, please spill the beans.  Thanks for your time.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  mountandog on Thu Jun 26, 2014 3:36 pm

I have used 12, 18 and 24 week cycles.  I know it seems somewhat obvious but the key factors in my decision were:

a) motivation: can I stay motivated for an entire 24 week cycle?  The answer was yes "back then".  If no, then do something shorter.

b) what is my current level of base?  The more base you have the shorter cycle you can maintain.  I will use somewhere around a 12 week cycle for my December marathon but I plan to do a lot of running this summer.  Trying to maintain 70 mpw and focus on shorter races to improve my speed.  But, 8 weeks @ 70 mpw will give me my strongest base ever, so my marathon cycle can be shorter and I hope to increase my mileage to the 80-90 range (15%-25%) for 4-5 weeks during those 12 weeks.  But it will require a commitment over the next three months to get there.

c) What mileage can I handle and how long will it take me to get there?  There is no magical number of miles.  It's what you can handle.  I want to run 90 miles in my final cycle, but my coach says "no way" as I've never strung together a series of 80 mpw weeks.  His advice is run this cycle in the 80s and then next time if the experience is positive, bump it up a notch.  So my advice; look at your last 18 months of running.  What was the highest mileage you were able to sustain over a period of weeks or months.  If you weren't injured then possibly target a 15-20 increase over that. Then back up from there to see how long it will take you safely to get to your target mileage.

d) A longer cycle gives you more base training.  That's usually early in your cycle. Which in some ways you are already planning to do, so in some ways your're in that 24 week plan now.  

e) I usually want to get in some speedwork so I always consider when I can do that.  I'm doing it now in summer so my preparation and focus is on shorter races, but my mileage is higher to make sure I continue on the base building path.  Kinda paradoxical, but it seems to work.

BTW - I think a 30k race 4 weeks out from a target marathon is a little too close.  If I was planning, I'd put it closer to 6 weeks out.  My plan is to run a HM 7 weeks before and that's it.

Hope this helps.  I'm sure others have different opinions.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Fri Jun 27, 2014 1:56 pm

Ok, first, I disagree on the 30K 4 wks out, and I think it is a good idea, but I would not run it as an all out race, but rather as an 18 miler with some MP from about mile 12 to 16 and then pick it up a bit more for the last two miles.  So a fast finish kind of run which I think would give anyone some confidence.

As for a training cycle, I never really try to go more than 14-16 weeks of serious work, but I am always trying to build my base before that final push. So I don' jump from 25 mpw to 50 in a week, but I maintain a solid 40 mpw for at least 4-6 wks before I jump into the plan. I usually mix some faster stuff (fartlek runs, hills and even track work) into those weeks (I did 4 x 1000m on the track yesterday followed by 3 x 200m) just to avoid slogging.  I use a short cycle because my mind really can't handle a whole lot more of that.  I did a 16 wk program for Boston this year and it worked well, but I was very focused and then I have basically taken some down time since then and I am starting now to build for NY with a 16 wk program starting in mid July.

I also think you need to be careful of burn out in the heat of the summer in Texas and remember that base miles are extremely important.  Again, add in the occasional fartlek work and you will be fine to begin specific training as it gets cooler in October.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  mountandog on Fri Jun 27, 2014 2:29 pm

Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Ok, first, I disagree on the 30K 4 wks out, and I think it is a good idea, but I would not run it as an all out race, but rather as an 18 miler with some MP from about mile 12 to 16 and then pick it up a bit more for the last two miles.  So a fast finish kind of run which I think would give anyone some confidence.
If you race it, it's too close.  Training run is a different story.  So basically you agree with me Michele.   Very Happy
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  mul21 on Fri Jun 27, 2014 2:45 pm

I'm with Michele on the length of the cycle.  I've done 16 and 18 week cycles and I just struggle to stay mentally focused for anything longer than a 16 week cycle, especially if I'm jumping into longer (16+) runs right away.  That 30K is definitely too close to race all out.

Also, you might want to back off one of those runs each week once you get to double digits.  An easy day can do wonders for the mind and body so the daily grind doesn't feel overwhelming.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Fri Jun 27, 2014 6:48 pm

@mountandog wrote:
Michele \"1L" Keane wrote:Ok, first, I disagree on the 30K 4 wks out, and I think it is a good idea, but I would not run it as an all out race, but rather as an 18 miler with some MP from about mile 12 to 16 and then pick it up a bit more for the last two miles.  So a fast finish kind of run which I think would give anyone some confidence.
If you race it, it's too close.  Training run is a different story.  So basically you agree with me Michele.   Very Happy

Ok, semantics -  Razz
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  ounce on Fri Jun 27, 2014 10:42 pm

Thank y'all very much.

I can stay motivated for a long time, if the goal is big enough.  And I think a 30 minute PR is pretty durn big.  Besides, my training cycle last year was 22 weeks.

But, Michael, there's no way in hell that I'll be able to do a 70 mile week because I'll only be able to train from Monday to Friday.  So something in the 40's would be tops.  Near the end of the last cycle, I had one or maybe two 40 mile weeks.

This is the most base building that I've ever done, since my first for 2005.  I hear ya on the heat, Michele, but surprisingly and aside from just being soaking wet at the end of a run, it really hasn't been that bad.  But it's just now the end of June with August 35 days away.  I'll watch it.

And Jim, thanks for suggesting cutting back to 3 days a week, once I hit 10/day.  After all, it was you that suggested for me to add a day to the weekly plan, so I appreciate the suggestion.


As far as the 30K race in December, it's 5 weeks out and is held at the same 5 weeks before Houston, as it's part of the 3 race warm up series.  At this point, I would run the race like I did, last year:
Mile 1 - Start out slow.
Mile 2 - Quicken the pace juuuuust a bit.
Mile 3 through mile 14 - Don't get stupid.
Mile 14 to end - If you feel good, increase to a pace you can sustain to the end.
Overall - Don't injure or re-injure anything

So would I have a good endurance base at the end of August (or middle of September), if I ended it with 3 weeks of 44 or 48 miles each week, then roll into the training cycle?

Thanks again for the help.   Approval
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  mountandog on Sun Jun 29, 2014 11:57 am

@ounce wrote:But, Michael, there's no way in hell that I'll be able to do a 70 mile week because I'll only be able to train from Monday to Friday.  So something in the 40's would be tops.  Near the end of the last cycle, I had one or maybe two 40 mile weeks.
I never meant to imply that you run 70 mpw.  What I'm suggesting and I think from what I read in your plan, is to look back over the last year, pick your peak sustained mileage that you ran then, and then ad 15% give or take.  So if you ran 40s for a period with no ill effect, try to get to the high 40's, maybe a 50, and hold it there for 4-6 weeks.  Bib base improvement from where you've been.

Also, I don't think Jim is saying cut out a run, but cut your intensity.  I don't think you can cut out a day entirely and make your mileage.  Do a slower, easier run.  Maybe a 2-3 miles shorter than your normal runs.  Rest while running so to speak.  Also something to consider, is every third or fourth week, back off your mileage and intensity about 15-25% and then go back up.  That will help refreshen your legs and mind for another 3-4 week push.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  Dave Wolfe on Sun Jun 29, 2014 12:49 pm

@mountandog wrote:I have used 12, 18 and 24 week cycles.  I know it seems somewhat obvious but the key factors in my decision were:


a) What is my current level of base?  The more base you have the shorter cycle you can maintain.  I will use somewhere around a 12 week cycle for my December marathon but I plan to do a lot of running this summer.  

c) What mileage can I handle and how long will it take me to get there?  There is no magical number of miles.  It's what you can handle.  

d) A longer cycle gives you more base training.  That's usually early in your cycle.


Hope this helps.  I'm sure others have different opinions.

I think this answer cut to its essentials is great. But I'll ask a question -- what do you consider marathon training? You've bumped up the miles in June (145). Is that not in some sense "training."

Ok, about 16 weeks with a two week taper (so 14 weeks of work). I still follow the old Jack Daniels approach. His plans are 24 weeks but the first 6 are base (I add the extra two weeks of base so I can add volume a little slower). Then at week 16 start adding in some tempo and speed as well as lengthening the long run.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  Jim Lentz on Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:45 am

4 days a week is reasonable, but is there any way you can increase the mileage? I plan on 4 days a week training for an ultra and want to get to mid 60s for the peak week.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  ounce on Mon Jun 30, 2014 2:10 pm

@mountandog wrote:
@ounce wrote:But, Michael, there's no way in hell that I'll be able to do a 70 mile week because I'll only be able to train from Monday to Friday.  So something in the 40's would be tops.  Near the end of the last cycle, I had one or maybe two 40 mile weeks.
I never meant to imply that you run 70 mpw.  What I'm suggesting and I think from what I read in your plan, is to look back over the last year, pick your peak sustained mileage that you ran then, and then ad 15% give or take.  So if you ran 40s for a period with no ill effect, try to get to the high 40's, maybe a 50, and hold it there for 4-6 weeks.  Bib base improvement from where you've been.

Also, I don't think Jim is saying cut out a run, but cut your intensity.  I don't think you can cut out a day entirely and make your mileage.  Do a slower, easier run.  Maybe a 2-3 miles shorter than your normal runs.  Rest while running so to speak.  Also something to consider, is every third or fourth week, back off your mileage and intensity about 15-25% and then go back up.  That will help refreshen your legs and mind for another 3-4 week push.
Well, I've disturbed the equilibrium, it seems.  Sorry about that.  I was mostly a high 30's with maybe 2 weeks of low 40's at the last long run of the cycle, which itself is more than in prior years.

And yes, I need to throttle it back some this week.  Today's run, usually the best of the week, wasn't worth a plug nickel.  So, I need to back it down for a couple of days.

Thanks, Michael
@Dave Wolfe wrote:
@mountandog wrote:I have used 12, 18 and 24 week cycles.  I know it seems somewhat obvious but the key factors in my decision were:


a) What is my current level of base?  The more base you have the shorter cycle you can maintain.  I will use somewhere around a 12 week cycle for my December marathon but I plan to do a lot of running this summer.  

c) What mileage can I handle and how long will it take me to get there?  There is no magical number of miles.  It's what you can handle.  

d) A longer cycle gives you more base training.  That's usually early in your cycle.


Hope this helps.  I'm sure others have different opinions.

I think this answer cut to its essentials is great.  But I'll ask a question -- what do you consider marathon training?  You've bumped up the miles in June (145). Is that not in some sense "training."

Ok, about 16 weeks with a two week taper (so 14 weeks of work). I still follow the old Jack Daniels approach. His plans are 24 weeks but the first 6 are base (I add the extra two weeks of base so I can add volume a little slower). Then at week 16 start adding in some tempo and speed as well as lengthening the long run.  
Thanks for putting in your two cents, Dave.  Well, any mileage any time of the year could be construed as training for me.  I was trying to lock in to my body and mind an increased cadence by doing the mileage in order to have my body familiar with how I want to run, this cycle.  Then, during the cycle, I could do the traditional training cycle.  And thanks for the explanation on the 16.
@Jim Lentz wrote:4 days a week is reasonable, but is there any way you can increase the mileage? I plan on 4 days a week training for an ultra and want to get to mid 60s for the peak week.
Jim, thanks for your input.  I believe I'm going to run 4 days on a stepback week and 3 days on a week when I have a longer long run.  I can't run on the weekends, except for those weekends when I'm racing or pacing.  Last year, I had more available weekends, but not this year.  I might could run 3 days and increase the mileage.

Thanks again, y'all.  I have some thinking to do, but not enough to set off the sprinkler system.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  mul21 on Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:40 pm

Michael is right, I wasn't suggesting skipping a run, just backing off to a nice, easy 5-6 mile run. 

Also, while I was out running last night (and I averaged about 9:10/mile) I checked my cadence several times, and as usual, I found I had trouble getting much above about 175 at that pace.  So, if you're getting near that at 12:00 pace, I think you're doing really well for yourself.
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Re: When to start a training cycle

Post  ounce on Tue Jul 01, 2014 12:29 pm

@mul21 wrote:Michael is right, I wasn't suggesting skipping a run, just backing off to a nice, easy 5-6 mile run. 

Also, while I was out running last night (and I averaged about 9:10/mile) I checked my cadence several times, and as usual, I found I had trouble getting much above about 175 at that pace.  So, if you're getting near that at 12:00 pace, I think you're doing really well for yourself.

The big reason I'm near 174 is because of the metronome chirping that pace.  And I want to engrain that into my legs and head, so I won't need the metronome.  I'm averaging between 170-172 on a run.  And I figured out that if I run slower than 13:05 split, then I'm <170.

Monday morning, my legs said to take a break.  So, I'm not running today or tomorrow.  Probably Thursday.  Thanks, Jim.  I hope to have your insight (and the rest of y'all, for that matter) on the blog in the coming months.
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