Thursday, June 14, 2012

FIRST, again

In training news, we are approaching the 16 week window before the New York marathon in the fall, and most training programs are 16 weeks long.  (Strangely, the NYRR training program is 20 weeks, and beigns next week).  I think D-Day for 16 week programs is roughly July 11 or so, after the July 4 holiday week.

I will be training using the FIRST program (the "Run Less, Run Faster" folks).  FIRST basically works the theory that the runner need not run a huge number of miles. Quality, not quantity.  Rather, you run 3 "quality" runs per week, and have two cross training days. The three workouts are a speed workout, tempo run and a long run. The cross training days are biking, swimming or rowing, and are designed to improve cardio fitness while not taxing legs, knees, ankles, etc., that are otherwise pounded by running.

I used this program in 2009 and had success.  (My 2012 marathon goal is to equal or better 2009, btw).  In 2009, I was not as diligent about the cross training, and tended to run lightly on one of those days rather than swim or row.  (I don't own a bike.)  The primary benefits of FIRST for me are that I think it helps an older runner (like me) not put as many miles on my body and thus limit injury risks.  And, given my schedule, three quality workouts a week is a really good target rather than 5 or 6 medium workouts that are used to build a base.  Finally, the workouts are tailor made for treadmill running, and the book expressly states that a treadmill can be used and has benefits for people like me.

My main issue with FIRST is that I am not sure I enjoy the training and running, per se.  The three workouts are really, really hard.  There is no sense of just going out to run or hitting the treadmill and zoning out while you put in 6 miles or whatever.  You work at the gym or you work on the runs.  I do love the effect -- faster times and really a sense of accomplishment after a hard run.  But the training is relentless, purposeful and driven.

FIRST came out with an updated book in April that revised and supplemented the previous version.  I bought it last week, started reading it, and started calculating paces, workouts, etc.  And I thought, well, I should start now with a speed workout, by far my least favorite workout.  As I headed to the gym last night I decided to run a 6x800 at speed, with a mile on front and half on back with 400m rest interval.  It is a really hard workout. 

One thing I wanted to look at was my heart rate at the various speed paces, and my recovery rate, if nothing else to establish a baseline for future training sessions.  And then I got to the gym and Garmy was dead. I was furious.  I had just charged it!  I was really peeved. And now I wouldn't get my beautiful heart rate graphs, no baseline, no pace indicators, nothing.  So, I changed it up and made it a tempo workout, another one of the hard FIRST workouts.  5 miles at a tempo pace of about 7:40/mile.  That was hard, but doable.  Of course I would LOVE to see my heart rate data for that run too, but noooooo, Garmy was dead.

I can definitely feel the effect of the run today.  I am a little sore, and maybe a little tighter. Sadly, garmy is on his last legs.  The battery issues are becoming chronic.  The touch bezel is functioning erratically, and it takes FOREVER to locate a satellite. (On Sunday, Garmy took nearly 14 minutes -- I counted.)  So, I need a new one before I start this training cycle.  I don't know what to get though.  The 910 seems like a lot of watch, and is real expensive.  I am not sure I can retain my sanity through another 410 or 405 and the touch bezel.  Maybe a 210?  (On ebay , a 210 costs more than a 410.)

But good to get these things ironed out now, before the training really starts.


  1. I'm with you on the downside to FIRST--I enjoy some (ok, many) easy runs in my week. Good luck with it!

  2. A running friend follows (religiously) the FIRST book. She's run 80+ state records. Has run 31:xx for 5k and 2:15ish for a half. Instead of cycling etc on the cross training days she'll do a drills session (with a short jog warm-up) or a hike.

    I'm sure it's an effective plan, but not for me - I like running more often and don't like the idea of every run being 'hard'. Re the Garmin, get some baseline HR data on the next workout. I have an old 305 which works well and they're cheap on eBay.

  3. That's for the W80 age-group.

  4. I've used the FIRST program with success for 5K, 10K and half--not for the marathon for the reasons you stated, plus I did feel like I could handle more miles. But I still cross-train once a week.

    I hope you get the Garmin issue settled. It IS good it happened early in your training.


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