I started running in January 2013, without much of a plan. I knew I was going to sign up for the Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon that following November, so I downloaded a copy of the RunDisney Galloway training plan and kind of followed it. But when I realized that I could run longer intervals than what the plan called for or cover more distance, I rationalized that I knew my body better than some random free training plan and did whatever seemed to feel good to me while also seeming to be a bit of a challenge. I didn’t do any of the speed drills or the Magic Mile or anything. And it worked…kind of. I was able to complete not only the Wine and Dine half, but the Navy/Air Force half a few months before it and several other local races. I wasn’t fast, but I was a solid mid- to back-of-the-packer and I was feeling pretty good about my fairly regular running improvement.
But then I lost direction. I wanted to improve my pace but I wasn’t sure how. Do I increase the length of time I run each interval? Do I focus on running faster? Strength training? Something else?
So I decided to gradually increase my running intervals. Over the course of about 6 months, I increased from running 1 minute and walking 1 minute, to running 1:50 minutes and walking 1 minute. But my pace slowed…a lot. I went from a 12-13 minute/mile pace to a 14-15 minute/mile pace. I had three half marathons in April and May of 2014, and I finished so far back that they were almost running out of medals by the time I finished and were always out of food. And I was miserable…not just with what I got when crossing the finish line, but also with the long and hot hours I was spending on the courses. I couldn’t keep to my intervals and I was walking more than I was running. It was no longer fun. If I wanted to keep running, I needed to change something.
I decided to find a coach. Clearly what I was doing on my own wasn’t working. But who could I trust? In the end I reasoned that Jeff Galloway’s training plan was how I started my running journey, so it only made sense for him to get me through this rough patch.
In early July 2014 I signed up for Jeff’s e-coaching program. It is a 6-month program for about $300. It seems kind of pricey since you commit to the whole program up-front, but when you break it down monthly it really is quite reasonable (and cheaper than a single session with my strength coach). And I’m a bit of a Galloway Fan Girl. To me, it’s worth it to get coaching from the guy who literally wrote the book on run/walk/run interval training.
Here’s how I spent 6 months with Jeff…
Holy cow! My first email from Jeff! With my new training plan! I’m so excited to start this!
But wait…long run paces no faster than 15 min/mile to start? And running for only 10 seconds at a time in my first short runs? I’m soooooo way past that. OMG what have I done?
But he’s coached a bunch of people. And he developed this interval training method. So maybe I should give this a chance and not second guess. OK…all in…even if it seems like I’m starting from a place below where I think I am…’cuz I clearly am not an expert and I don’t have a great track record on my own. OK. Let’s do this!
My first long run under the new program. It was 5 miles at :10/:30 splits and supposed to be no faster than 15 minutes/mile. Honestly, it was more mentally tough than physically tough. I have been running 1-1:50 minutes at a time for months. Dropping down to 10 seconds felt like I wasn’t running at all…more like I was walking 5 miles. And because I was only running 10 seconds, I was running a lot faster than I normally would. But is that maybe the point? If I run shorter intervals I can do them faster? I’m not sure. The walk portions were almost painfully slow to try to keep to the overall pace requirement. I window-shop faster than I walked these portions. ARGH!!!!
But I’m going to stick to what the program calls for. When I did the free training plan for Wine and Dine last year I skipped all these early runs because I thought I was better than that. But as a result I never learned the speed drills and whatnot. And I never figured out what running at different exertion levels felt like. So I guess that’s what I’m doing now.
Since severe storms and tornado warnings interrupted my Tuesday run, I moved my Tuesday drills to Thursday. This was going to be the first time I ran Cadence Drills (CDs), Acceleration Gliders (AGs), and 800s, so it was important that I do this on a track. But when I arrived at the high school a few blocks from my house, I saw the football team practicing. ARGH! I wasn’t sure if the public was allowed on the track when the team was practicing, so I ended up walking over to the trail where I usually do my long runs. The problem with this was that it’s not completely flat and I had to walk another half mile to find an 800+ meter section that wasn’t interrupted by streets. Although I did complete all the components, this workout, that was supposed to be 45-60 minutes, ended up being closer to an hour and 45 minutes! And I covered almost 7 miles! I was not expecting to do that on an empty stomach. On the plus side, now I’m motivated to call the school and find out what the actual public hours for the track are.
I have a 12-mile run scheduled while I’m at the beach with my best friends??? And while I’m on a 28-day sugar/gluten/dairy/caffeine detox so I can’t use my normal running fuel??? How’s that supposed to work?
Actually, it worked out pretty well. There was a paved promenade that followed the length of the beach in Fort Lauderdale. My friend and I had run several miles of it earlier in the trip for a Nerd Herd Running virtual 10K, so I knew it went on for quite a while. It took some self-discipline to get up when my alarm sounded at 5 AM, but I knew I’d be upset if I didn’t follow-through with my commitment to the training plan and to myself. It was a tough run for a number of reasons. The heat and humidity were so high that even though the sun hadn’t come up yet, I was completely soaked after 10 minutes. The plan called for 6 miles of walking followed by 6 miles of :10/:30 intervals, so I wouldn’t even start running until my legs were already somewhat fatigued. And I still have to get over my weird mental hurdle that after I walk for a certain amount of time/distance, I decide I can’t run again. Plus, my muscles were screaming for fuel. So it ended up being a harder run than it probably needed to be. But I did it…mostly. I made it through the first 6 miles just fine, and I was pretty OK for the first 3 miles of the running segment. But the heat, humidity, and lack of fuel got to me and I ended up walking the remaining portion. I cut the run just shy of 12 miles (it was closer to 11.2) since I had to meet the girls for a pre-spa breakfast. So, it wasn’t a perfect training run. But I did get most of the mileage in even while on vacation.
After several days of 800 drills, today I got to start really working on speed for the first time. I picked my favorite of the three intervals from my Tuesday drills and then had to aim for faster goal speeds each set. I started out too fast (this seems to be a common theme for me…) but it seems I may have found a new interval to try for my race on Saturday.
My first Magic Mile! I kind of screwed it up because I was on the outside lane of the track and didn’t have the visual cues I needed to know when to stop. So my 1600m ended up being more like 1650m. But my time was right around 11 minutes, which makes me happy. I haven’t done the math to know what that would translate into (which is a shock since I love numbers, but I’m drowning in personnel evaluations at work and I just can’t wrap my head around data right now). But since I’ve been averaging 14-15 minute miles lately, just the fact that I ran one quickly feels great. I really wish I would have done one before I started this training program so I could compare, but too late now.
Today was the first test of my training thus far: Baltimore’s Charles Street 12. Granted, I pretty much had to treat it like a training run instead of a race. But I was excited to see what could happen.
It was a little awkward because I was running some intervals I’d never done during a long run. I started with :10/:30, and although it was rough at the beginning once I settled in I was maintaining a pretty good pace—I think an under-12-minute pace overall. Sure, much of the beginning was downhill, but that was better than I’d expected. And then I switched to :15/:15 and everything kind of took a turn for the worse. It could have been that it happened in a section that had more uphill to it, but I never felt like I recovered enough in the 15 seconds of walking, and I just felt like I was fighting to accelerate up every hill. So I fell into a rhythm of walking up the hills and doing the intervals on the way down. I was able to maintain this until about mile 10, and then I pretty much just walked the rest. I was supposed to switch to :30/:20 for the last 2 miles, but I only tried it during the last mile and I ran :20 instead of :30, for the few intervals I did.
Overall, my pace was about 13:27, which is better than what I was running in May and June (which was closer to 14:00), so I’m going to claim this as a success. But it’s still about 10 minutes slower than I ran this race last year.
Have you tried out any formal training plans to improve your running? What does or does not work for you? Please share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below or via the email, Facebook, or Twitter links below.