Friday, March 25, 2011

FIRST Training Method for First Time Marathon Review

Posted by: Shawn Buddenhagen

I recently finished the Shamrock Marathon, this was my first attempt at the marathon. After consulting with some people who had already completed some marathons, I was referred to the FIRST training plan. The plan is built around three key runs a week, and 4-5 days of cross training. This plan sounded perfect for me as I don't have a ton of time to train, and I already go to the gym 4-5 times a week. So I decided to give it a go.

The key run workouts are one interval session, a tempo run, and a long endurance run.

The intervals range from 400m to a mile. These are to be performed at -45sec of your 10k pace. I figured my 10k pace was around 8min/mile, so I started these workouts at a 7:15 pace. Well, that did not last long. After a while, I went by feel, and completed them as fast as I could. No pain, no gain, right? Most workouts were in the 6-6:15 pace range, and really helped my gain some speed.

The tempo runs are to be performed at +15-30secs slower pace, than your 10k pace. I maintained between 8-8:15 miles for these runs. These were the most difficult workouts for me. My heart rate would get up quickly, and I would just have to hold on. Also, these workouts were performed outside, in some really cold weather, which may have added to the suckness.

Finally, on the weekends, usually Sunday, I would complete the endurance runs. The pace varies, but is usually slower that your marathon pace. I really enjoyed most of these runs. It was great to keep pushing myself to new distances. My longest run before the training was 13.1, and I did that on week 3 of training. I find an out and back course works best for me. I map out places where to get some fluids, and bring a phone in case I get into trouble. It felt like an adventure to go far away, and have to make it back.

Cross training for me was interval training at the gym. Crossfit style workouts or one of the great classes at Wareing's Gym.

My thought, experiences, and suggestions.

1. I started on week 8 of the 18 week program. If I were to do the program again, I would start at week one, as those lower mileage weeks help prepare you for the later weeks. My legs could have used some more base miles.

2. Do the interval workouts on a track. The first couple of weeks, I did the intervals my my GPS watch. The watch was accurate, but it is difficult to gauge your effort. After I started to the track, I did a better job of pacing my efforts. Also, the track I ran on was a padded track, so there was less impact on my joints.

3. Illness and injuries make training difficult. I missed about 5 workouts due to illness and injury. I was sick for a week, and tried to complete 12 on that weekend, and it was a death march. The weekend I was to run 18, my calf muscles seized up at 11 miles, and I had to be picked up. After that run, I could not run for about 5 days.

4. Blisters and bloody nipples are painful. I learned quickly what to wear for the weather. I wore some socks that did not cut it, and got massive blisters. I wore a workout shirt that opened up both nipples in a bloody mess. Also, find shoes that work with your feet. The Nike frees I wore, worked for a while, but then started to give me issues. I switched to the New Balance 890, and have been running with winged feet.

Overall - This program was a great starting place for a first time marathon. The workouts ramp up nicely, and there is sufficient rest to keep injury, and burn out at bey. Some of the interval workouts were brutal, but definitely helped me pick up some speed. I started at a comfortable pace of 9:15, and finshed the program around an 8:45 pace.

My marathon time was 4:33, but not wholly indicitive of my fitness. I experienced some muscle cramps early, and they slowed my time. I did enjoy the race, and feel the training really paid off.

Below I have included a copy of my training sheet with my notes. It is a mess of times, and notes, but interesting none the less.

1 comment:

  1. I also did the First program to prepare for this run. I checked the link you had above and it provided a different plan than the one I used. There seem to be a lot of differences in the paces, etc. but the overall concept is the same. Check here:

    This link doesn't help you with the faster paces - for this you need the book, which I picked up at Amazon for about $2.

    After mulling around with the paces, I set the program at 8:30 (3:45) and built the schedule from there. I followed it loosely for the first 8 weeks and pretty closely for the last 8 weeks, using swimming (and some cycling) as the 2 days of cross training.

    I don't have a lot of distance running experience so this was a stretch for me (ran the Shamrock 1/2 in 2009). I felt like 4:00 for the marathon would be a good goal and ended up with 4:16. I think if I had followed the advanced plan instead of the 1st time plan I may have been able to achieve the sub 4:00 time I was hoping for. The advanced plan had you reach 20 miles 5 times during the 16 weeks, where the 1st time plan only does it on week 13.

    I did a 19 miler on week 9 and a 20 miler on week 13 and both times I just survived. If I had done more of these long runs maybe I would have lasted longer. My sub 4:00 goal was in reach through mile 23 and then my calves started cramping too badly to continue to run.

    All in all I think its a great program - especially for triathletes - and I plan to continue to use it.