Thursday, May 2, 2013

Let's Talk Hanson Tempos

Workout: 10 miles, 8 tempo (9:30-ish), Connects

Wow, I'm on a roll. A posting roll. Which sounds like it could be a delicious food item. Savory, not sweet. Duh.

Anyway, I finished classes yesterday so my evenings are no longer used for studying. Also, I'm officially a nine-to-fiver again. I mean, I had a 9:00-5:00 schedule before (more, actually, because of said studying), but I got to do a lot of different things to break up the day (work from home in the morning, go to school, maybe fit in a quick run, head to the office). Now, I get to sit at a desk. I'm definitely going to have to run during my lunch break because otherwise I will literally sit in front of a screen for eight hours and only get up from my chair, like, three times. 

It was funny (but also kind of a bad sign) that my vision went fuzzy shortly after getting to work. It took almost an hour for it to clear up (does this happen to anyone? Sometimes my vision's a little hazy for a couple of hours after waking up, but it's never done it later in the day). It seems my body is physically rejecting being forced to work like a normal person. Being an adult is hard. Fortunately, I like what I do. I'll get over it.


How fortuitous that today was tempo day, because the delightful Professor Amy asked me yesterday about Hanson tempo runs and whether I think they're effective, which I thought would make for a more-interesting-than-usual post.

Before I started the Hanson Method, I was slightly frustrated with the dearth of Hanson bloggers out there (Logan was the only person I was able to find-fortunately, she's got a great blog!). I sort of felt like I was entering uncharted waters, and there were so many questions I couldn't find an answer to. Chief among them was "WHY DOES WEEKLY MILEAGE JUMP FROM 24 TO 39 MILES IN ONE WEEK WHILE ALSO ADDING SPEED WORK AND TEMPO RUNS AND WILL THAT KILL ME?" Mr. Google couldn't answer that one for me, unfortunately. I had to figure it out myself. Answer: I have no idea, but no, it obviously didn't kill me. In fact, it wasn't that big of a deal. I still don't totally understand how that happened, but it did.

Before we get to tempos, though, some pictures, because a good blog post must break up text with pictures. I ran by this creek today and failed to take a picture (too busy tempo-ing), but while I was skimming old photos I found two very different shots of the same place, which I thought was kind of cool.



Today, everything just looked dead so you're probably better off with these. My main goal in life is to convince everyone that Anchorage is the prettiest place on earth by selectively sharing pictures of only the nicest things.

Anyway, let's talk about Hanson tempos.

Amy's (abbreviated) question was, "Does your tempo pace (i.e. marathon pace) feel difficult for you? Is it difficult because your legs are tired or because it seems fast? ... [D]oes it feel like you could run a marathon at that pace?"

Honestly, my first reaction was, "huh?" It hadn't even occurred to me that most plans have you do tempos at paces significantly faster than goal marathon pace. I was able to think back into the distant past, however, to a time when I was diligently training for a sub-2:00 half (a failed attempt, but that's a story for another day, perhaps the day I address Holly's disbelief at my "I have a weak mental game" comment. I will say that I appreciate your coming to my defense!) and my tempos were way faster, around 8:00/mile (a 2-hour half is 9:09/mile, I think).

The pace of my current tempos really doesn't feel that difficult, but as the plan progresses I find that I start them with increasingly fatigued legs. The Hansons have you do tempos after your only rest day, so Thursday is likely the strongest you're going to feel all week. That said, as my mileage increases I'm feeling less and less refreshed following my rest day. In fact, today's run seemed on the verge of falling to pieces after the very first tempo mile. Fortunately, I was able to regroup, push through the first half, and sail effortlessly through the second half. One of the most valuable things I've taken from this training cycle is not to panic over tired legs. Often, the feeling will go away. If it doesn't, well, you'll make it through somehow.

My increasing fatigue isn't anything to worry about. The Hansons want it to happen. It's the "cumulative fatigue" they talk about so much. I still feel pretty great during tempo runs, but there is no doubt they are getting harder, despite the fact that their distance hasn't increased in three weeks (I repeated a week because of my Norway shenanigans, so this was my fourth week with 8 tempo miles, excluding warm-up/cool-down). So no, I'm not breathing hard, but running at this slower pace is nothing to sneeze at.

The Hansons talk a lot about pacing in their book, and they strongly suggest sticking to their prescribed paces. During the first weeks of the plan, many people are tempted to do all of their runs way too fast  (I know I was!), but as they say, odds are you won't be able to sustain those paces later in the plan, at least not if you've chosen an appropriate marathon time goal. I could absolutely run my tempos faster than I'm supposed to (and in fact I often have to rein myself in), but I don't think I could do that and get through all five of the runs that follow it.

Amy also asked whether I think doing tempos at a slower pace will adequately prepare me to (successfully) run a marathon at this pace. I obviously can't answer that yet, but my gut reaction is YES. Absolutely. I have a long way to go before June 22, but the progress I've made these past 12 weeks is, honestly, astonishing to me. I couldn't even fathom running 40+ miles in a week a couple of months ago. I peaked at 40 miles last year using Hal Higdon's beginner marathon plan, and I felt terrible. Not fatigued, like I do with the Hansons; I just felt like a big ol' pile of shit. 15 miles made me quiver in my boots last year despite the two rest days I gave myself prior to long runs. Two weeks ago, 15 miles hardly fazed me at all, even though it was my fourth consecutive day of running. I know for a fact that I am much, much stronger now than I was at any point during marathon training last year (and I followed Higdon's plan every bit as closely as I am the Hansons'). I can't say for sure whether that will translate into a 4:15 marathon (eek! Putting it out there!), but I can say that this plan does pretty amazing things to a person. However, keep in mind that these are the thoughts of a first-time marathoner and not an experienced runner.

God, I should film an infomercial for these guys or something. I've obviously drunk the Kool-Aid. I like my tempos just as they are (you really can find anything on the internet) and wouldn't want to run them any faster.

We'll end with my stats from today's run because I worked hard for them.

Question: what do you think about tempos? What's your formula for how fast you run them?


  1. What an informative post. I'm VERY curious about their method, but it seems so daunting to me. I like to live it through YOUR dedication. Much easier that way. Your stats for that last run are awe-sommmme. Keep drinking that Kool-Aid, it's working for you!

    1. Aha, thanks! You know, I thought it sounded pretty daunting, but it's really not that bad. I mean, yes, you're running almost every day, but I don't really think about it anymore.

  2. I am sitting in class giving a final right now and love seeing Professor Amy on the blogroll! I am so genuinely intrigued by Hansons' method and loving that you are posting so much about it. Thanks for answering all my questions. I always have a hard time mixing my paces up, but I suppose running at MP seems like a challenge, but not too difficult of a challenge. And, again, way to go on your dedication.

    Here goes another question: if you are a first-time marathoner but trained last year, what happened with that? Did you get injured or was Hal just not working with you?

    1. Yep, injured. I did all the training and then went and got a stress fracture two weeks before the race. I was running a very hilly half in shoes I had only worn a couple of times (oops), and instead of stopping when the pain started at mile 11, I ran harder. I was stuck in a boot for six weeks during a New York summer. It was awful! Although I will say that despite following Hal's program exactly, I did NOT feel like I could run a full marathon. I felt pretty undertrained, to be honest. I'm not sure how well it would have gone.

  3. Fuzzy vision: do you get migraines? I had a migraine once that didn't give me a really bad headache but made me think my retina was detaching and I couldn't read my computer screen. Apparently it was a migraine in the vision center of my brain.

    I haven't read a lot about the tempo runs in the Hansons plan (although I really want to in the near future!) but I tend to do my tempo runs by feel/heart rate zone. Are Hansons tempo runs strictly by pace, or do you alter your pace a bit and run according to effort?

    1. Strictly by pace - and very "strict" paces. Your tempo runs, intervals, long runs, and easy runs all have specific paces you are supposed to stick to (easy runs even have you can switch it up?).

    2. No, I NEVER get migraines and I very rarely even get headaches. I seriously doubt that's what this was, or at least I hope it wasn't! It continues to happen, though... I guess I'm just getting old.

      Like Logan said, they are VERY strict about pace. They've got one for each and every run. I'm sure that drives some people crazy, but for me it takes the thinking out of it, which I enjoy.

  4. You have me totally convinced Anchorage is beautifully awesome. I'm happy to continue being fooled, if it's not really real. But I think it is...I LOVE those pictures, btw.

    Such an informative post! I love that you're breaking stuff down. One of the reasons I started documenting my Hansons experience on my blog (pre-quitting) was for exactly that reason - there was NOTHING out there. So I thought I would let people know how it was working and how it felt for me. I'm definitely going to be heading back to YOUR posts once I start up again in July for MCM.

    I like that the tempo runs are actually your MP, because I think it trained my legs to just run that pace...and keep going...even when they were tired. Once I had a few tempo runs under my belt, I just naturally fell into that pace, without even thinking about it. I think that's part of the point - it becomes natural so that when your mind is telling you that your legs are tired at mile 20, your legs just keep plugging along at the pace they know.

    Solid job on your run, btw! =)

    And as a side note - I actually think my legs feel more tired after two days off, than they do with just one. I try to avoid taking two days off as much as possible.

    1. Yeah, I think you're right about taking two days off. I guess my point was that despite giving my body plenty of time to recover between runs (I only ran 4 days a week), I never felt that great.

      So you're going for the Hansons again! That's great!

  5. I'm also loving all the info. As I said at the start, I've never trained anyone (including myself) using the Hansons' method, although I do think there is some merit to it. However, I think it also takes a really dedicated and patient person to stick to the paces so strictly - especially when they feel easy. I think lots of runners DON'T, and then the whole plan goes to poop (or so it seems). So - I'll echo a thanks for all the info, and another high five for sticking to it so well. I'm pumped to see where it takes you!

    I think tempos are some of the best (mental) training for longer races (<10K). Intervals are harder, in the short-term, but unless you're a sprinter, they don't really prepare you for running uncomfortably for an extended period of time - which is *exactly* what a tempo run is. Bingo! I use Jack Daniels' tempo paces because (as anyone who's been around here awhile knows), I love Jack Daniels.

    1. Yeah, I've heard great things about Jack Daniels! Both the runner and the drink. I could be totally wrong but I feel like his training philosophy is similar to the Hansons' (albeit not as "radical"). I could be totally wrong about that, though.