My Thoughts Halfway Through the Hansons' HM Plan

Now that I'm halfway through the Hansons' Half Marathon plan, I though I'd share my thoughts on how it's going.

How does this training cycle compare to my first cycle?

I followed the same plan last summer for my fall half marathon. This time around in winter, it's been both easier and harder.

It's easier because the volume itself isn't as taxing as the first time around. My first cycle was the first that I'd done six days of running, and I set PRs for weekly volume, highest mileage on a weekday, and most double-digit runs in a cycle. Those were all a big deal for me. This time around, mileage in the upper 30s hasn't seemed like anything. For the rest of this cycle I'll have weekly mileage in the low 40s and should get up to 46.5 as my peak, so I'll see how I feel then.

But this cycle has been harder because of the winter weather. Two speedwork and two tempo run days were derailed because of bad weather, and I skipped my only run so far due to snow. Last summer, I never skipped a run. There was only one run where I cut the cool-down part short because of a thunderstorm, but that was it.

Is it bad to skip the speedwork?

I had four sessions of speedwork on the schedule and only successfully completed one of them, the first. Two were derailed because of weather and one because I wasn't feeling well. When I first decided to do this plan again, I thought I didn't need as much speedwork because I wasn't aiming for a big time goal and that I'd do just as well replacing some of the speedwork with easy mileage. But then I changed my mind and decided I should do it the speed sessions for the mental training. I was very wrong with thinking I didn't need the speedwork! This week I started the strength phase of the plan, which has very long repeats at slightly faster than race pace in place of speedwork. Having done so little speedwork, I don't feel prepared at all for this next phase. And I think I'm not as mentally strong as I was the first cycle because it was always a huge confidence boost to get through those speed sessions.

How am I feeling?

It's hard for me to separate my feelings about training in general with my feelings about training in winter weather. Last winter I followed a 5-day-a-week Hal Higdon plan and breezed through winter training like it was a cake walk. This winter, I've struggled with everything--the bitter cold, the snow, the ice, the pitch-black mornings. What happened to me?! When I come back from running, I sprint up the stairs to shed my layers of cold, sweaty clothes and jump in the hot shower. I'm not cold while running, but that walk back to my house after my run in my sweaty clothes is brutal. And it's making me dread my runs. In the last cycle, I was so excited to run that I would pop out of bed before my 4 a.m. alarm went off. This time, I don't want to go out into the bone-chilling, dark mornings and hope to find a cleared path.

I also think that all my unsuccessful runs have done damage to me mentally. Last summer, I felt like superwoman. This time, I'm feeling so bad about my training that I've considered not even running the race (although, that happens before every single race).

Physically, however, I feel like I'm actually doing better than summer training. My easy paces at the same heart rate have definitely improved since my last cycle, though I don't know how much of that is just because hot weather slows me down. But I remember that during the last cycle, even my easy runs were hard. This time I've felt stronger, and all my runs feel a bit easier, not just the easy ones. Even on my long run this past weekend that I felt was tougher, I wouldn't even say it was a moderate effort, just not super easy.

The Next Half of the Plan and Beyond

This weekend I vowed to shed my negative thinking on training so far and focus instead on doing my best for the rest of the plan. We could still have really terrible weather all through the rest of my training--last year February and March, including race day for this same race, were really bad. While I toyed with the idea of trying to find a treadmill for bad-weather days, I would rather not run than run on the treadmill. So for bad-weather days, I'll either just do my best, run easy, or skip the run. My ultimate goal is just to get through the training and build mileage. I need to remember that and not beat myself up and spiral into negativity if I can't do a workout or skip a run.

This morning I had a redemption training run. It was like Mother Nature took pity on me and gave me the best morning--45 degrees and a clear running route. I completed all 9.25 miles of my first strength workout, and it was a huge confidence booster. I felt so strong, so good, and so grateful that I could actually do the workout. I'll prepare for the worst of what's left of winter, but I'll hope for many more mornings like these.

Overall, my biggest takeaway from this training cycle is that I do very well on higher mileage. I know that fatigue will be coming up soon in this next phase of the plan, but overall I'm feeling strong and fit, and the mileage so far feels like nothing, with no aches, pains, or injuries. I stopped trying to lose weight at the beginning of this year, and have easily maintained my weight without gaining even though I'm eating much more to fuel my runs. My legs are slimmer and very muscular, to the point that I'm wishing for summer so that I can start wearing shorts again (which is pretty crazy for me). So, yeah, I think I've definitely found my sweet spot for the type of training I like and that works for me. I'm not sure I'll ever try any other plan other than Hansons'.

I've also decided that after my goal race at the end of March and a rest period, I'm going to go right into 10K training. I've been wanting to train for a shorter distance for awhile, and the timing works out. My 10K race will be in June, and I'll have a few weeks for rest before starting marathon training in July. I'll be following Hansons' plans for both, but I do plan to work with a Hansons' coach for my marathon training.

Wish me luck getting through the next two months of winter training!

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