"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Steve vs the Experts #11: Pfitzinger

Pete Pfitzinger is an accomplished marathoner (2:11:43) who simply did a practical rewrite of Daniels' book in terms competitive runners commonly use. He still uses the term "lactate threshold," but instead of talking about percentages of maximal oxygen uptake, says it is 1/2-marathon pace (15K pace for slower runners). VO2max runs are simply 5K pace.

In his book "Road Racing for Serious Runners" (1998, with Scott Douglas), he gives an 18 week schedule, with long runs of about 25% of a week's total mileage, alternate weeks being a bit shorter. He also has a second long run of 2/3 the length of the other one; this, if it were done the next day would duplicate a number of ultramarathon schedules. He has a third run each week that is a fast run; about 2/3 of the time increasingly long runs at threshold pace (up to 6 miles), a few times repeats at 8-10K pace (later 5K pace) and late in the schedule 100 meter strides. He has a race of 8-10K four weeks before the marathon and one of 8-15K two weeks prior. There's a three week taper.

The biggest problem with the schedule as given is that it starts at 60 miles per week and builds to 85 in only 12 weeks. That's a sure-fire way to get injured. I like that it has lead-up races, but I expect that starting as late as they do, one would probably have carry-over tiredness even from such short races and one would probably wonder, if one ran slow times, whether one was simply in better shape for longer races or if one was in worse condition than thought.

Pfitzinger wrote another book specifically for the distance: "Advanced Marathoning" (2001,2008, with Scott Douglas). It is possible to line up his schedules with Daniels' exactly; Pfitzinger giving day-to-day, rather than week-to-week schedules. He includes one day off each week, though he usually has two workouts the following day, which i think defeats the purpose. There's one minor change from Daniels in that there's 6 weeks of "endurance phase," 5 of "lactate threshold and endurance phase," 4 of "race preparation" and 3 of "taper and race." One entire schedule has been printed in "Running Times" magazine and is available here.

The fact that he has exact mileage for each day will appeal to runners who just want someone to tell them what to do, but it's not easy to see how to rearrange the schedule to fit one's needs.The weeks 6,5 and 4 are problematic: the first week has a race and an 18 miler the next day, then the next week is 70 miles with a 17 miler containing 14 at marathon pace and the next week is another race. This is just barely possible - if one can actually do such workouts, the marathon won't feel hard at all. I like that there are a number of 11-15 mile runs, which tend to get neglected in other schedules (such as Daniels, who would divide those into two-a-days) and that there are a few fast runs during the early weeks.

(I know you're wondering how long this series will be... a few more yet to come!)


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

ZOMG, when will your pogrom against the experts end!?!1?

That's a sure-fire way to get injured.

You forgot to add:

Pfffftt! And I don't need HIS help for that! Or anyone's!

But I could see it between the lines. Because I have x-rated vision.

Colin said...

What's wrong with going from 60 to 85 in 12 weeks? An added 2 miles per week for 12 weeks doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

I'm assuming that the runner has a reasonable base going in and has run this sort of mileage in the past. Clearly if they've never run more than 40 miles in a week, this buildup would be a problem ...

Lauren said...

I wouldn't worry about how long this program will last. Just throw in a couple of songs by The Who and no one will notice.

I honestly stopped trying to understand everything once you said it was nearly impossible. If you can't do it, I'm out.

Londell said...

I am having trouble absorbing it all as fast as you throw it out...

PiccolaPineCone said...

okay this is totally egotistical of me but since i wrote a review of this book, i have to send you the link. i certainly did not review it as thoroughly as you reviewed his marathon plan!


SteveQ said...

Colin, we're starting from different assumptions. I was looking at the training schedules he had for running at shorter distances and assuming that the runner would be moving up to the marathon distance. A 50% increase in mileage is a big jump, considering that increasing one's yearly mileage 10% is a lot, once one is no longer a beginner.

One can safely increase mileage that much, but only by running much more slowly, which I'm guessing is not what the author or the reader has in mind.

I overstated my opinion. The build-up is no different from other schedules; I just see a lot of runners who burn out on trying to increase their mileage too fast and this is the major distinction between his plan and Daniels', which I'm trying to lump together.

Joe Garland said...

The books are co-written by Scott Douglas.

SteveQ said...

@Joe: You're right, I posted before I remembered to look up his name. I'll make the correction.