So it was no surprise to see that when they added free training plans this summer, they partnered with McMillan Running, one of the best in the business. Coach Greg McMillan and his team are known for their thoughtful coaching and planning tools (his running pace calculator and book, You (Only Faster), are two favorites) and a willingness to extend to the ultra and trail community. I was excited to see what an online training plan could do, so I picked the Tamalpa Headlands 50k/USATF Championships on Aug 29th as my goal race and let it build a 12-week plan for me. The daily emails would keep me on track, and ensure I ramping up and tapering down as needed.
|(A snapshot of a typical week of the plan)
Configuring the 12-week plan was really simple. You just pick the date of your race and distance (up to a marathon), and it does the rest. I was a few weeks short of the full plan, and it adjusted nicely. It would have been great to also set my rest days (Tuesdays work best for my work schedule, but the McMillan plan likes Mondays), but it was close.
The daily emails were simple instructions, complete with some context and a few words of motivation. I liked how it would tell me why I was resting (big workout tomorrow, get those gains from yesterday, you've got an easy week to recoup after last weekend, etc.) and presented a light run option if I didn't want to park on the couch. I could also see the whole week laid out so I knew what was coming. I found it particularly helpful to get those daily emails as I was traveling - no longer could jet lag stop me from sticking to the plan!
|(A typical daily email reminder)
In general, I found myself shifting from my typical workouts. McMillan likes his "long runs with fast finish" and fartleks, but there wasn't a lot of hill repeats or 400/800 intervals. There also wasn't any weights, stretching, core, or balance work - it pretty much focused on your miles. I would have liked to see those incorporated, but honestly, I would be leaning into a full coaching service at that point. After the first six weeks, I noticed that my overall mileage was down from 55-60 miles/week to 45-50 miles/week, much in thanks to more rest days. This included extending my long runs a bit to account for my goal race being a 50k vs. a marathon. I certainly wasn't struggling with days where I was too tired or had nagging injuries - perhaps I had been doing too much!
The Headlands 50k turned out to be a perfect goal race. Race Directors Tim and Diane Fitzpatrick have turned this into an epic event, and now as the USATF 50k Trail National Championships it was attracting a world class field. Even as a Masters runner, I had to be ready to go up against Jean Pommier (age 50, but likely a Top 10 finisher), the incredible Mark Richtman (age 60 and still in Top 20 shape), Mark McManus (local sub-4:30 runner here) and quite frankly just hoped I could make the top 50 runners. The race conditions were wet and muddy, but much of the hilly trails were runnable.
|(At the start!)
|(David Roche paces through the puddles on his way to a 3rd place finish, photo courtesy of David Roche)
|(Another finisher comes out of the clouds)
|(Caitlin Smith back in form, and now the 50k National Champion!)
|(The reason I have to train - Mark Richtman [4:47, AGCR] and Jean Pommier [4:29], two of the fastest Masters in the sport)
So despite my less-than-stellar result, I give the Strava Training Plan a big thumbs up. I've already set it up for the next race in October. If you need just a little bit of structure, check it out. And the Tamalpias Headlands 50k gets the double thumbs up - an amazing race!
See ya on the trails...