A big change has occurred in my training this fall. Starting in late September I hired a coach to design a training plan for me. The long term goal is to break 24 hours in a mountain 100 mile race, but to start with, we both thought it would be a good idea to train for a road marathon. I have only ever done 3 road marathons and never really trained for one other than doing enough long runs to be able to complete 26.2 miles. I am registered for the Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon on January 20th. Now the focus is on speed which I have never attempted before. It has been a shock how quickly my workouts have completely transformed. Previously, most of my running was done at a slow pace. In retrospect, too slow of a pace. I got a heart rate monitor in the spring of this year and learned that most of my running was done in a heart rate range of 120-130 bpm with the exception of major hills which forced the heart rate quite a bit higher. Now almost all of my running is between 140-150 bpm and a lot of the running is at even higher heart rates. My coach, Tim Waggoner, is a proponent of Maffetone training using a heart rate monitor. I wish I had learned to train with a heart rate monitor years ago. One of the biggest challenges I have found in trail running is pacing yourself over a 30, 50 or 100 mile event so that you don't go out too hard and bonk, but also that you don't go too slow and leave too much in the tank. The heart rate monitor measures your effort level whether you are going uphill, flat or downhill. It is also a great tool to monitor your progress through training. In July, I ran 10 miles on a track keeping my heart rate at about 145 bpm. I averaged 8:25 min/mile. After 8 weeks of performing Tim's workouts, I repeated this test and average 7:50 min/mile. The test itself is not a particularly hard workout that necessitates recovery, but is very informative as to how your fitness is progressing.
I have been having a blast doing the new variety of workouts including hill repeats, track intervals, progression runs and fun things like a 20 mile run with five sub 7 minute miles spread out over the workout. I have felt stronger and faster as the weeks have progressed which never happened when I was doing my old routine of primarily long slow distance workouts. It's not that any of the workouts is that unusual or something you couldn't find in a variety of training plans, but rather it is Tim's ability to put together a series of workouts in a progression that is challenging without causing my body to break down that I think is so important. I'm not running higher mileage, staying at about 50 miles/week, and am actually spending less time running because more of the running is on roads and I am running much of it significantly faster. If you are considering getting a coach, I would highly recommend it. You will have a lot more fun with your workouts and probably you will get more out of them. I think there a lot of good coaches available now that most coaching is done over the internet. I chose Tim for several reasons starting with his use of the heart monitor as a training tool. Also, he is probably best known in the triathlon world and although I am not training for a triathlon, I do a lot of swimming and strength training in addition to running and I wanted a coach who would understand how to combine all of these workouts. If you are interested in learning more about Tim, he was interviewed on Ultrarunner Podcast, on a Youtube video from Ultimate Direction, and he does a regular podcast with Endurance Planet called Ask the Ultrarunner.