Sunday, September 14, 2008

Evaluating Jeff Galloway Training Methods

ORN: 6.7 miles total; 5x1 mile intervals @ 8:26

(Note:  I updated this report on December 4, 2011, with 5 years experience.  Click here for the update.)

With the United States Air Force Marathon only 6 days away, I have little of interest to write about on running…such is the taper. Stepping back, though, it is worth capturing some thoughts about training.

On October 1, 2006, I had a marvelous time finishing the Portland Marathon in 4:21, meeting many new friends on the trip and starting to think I could really whip this marathon thing into shape. One week later, I found pain in my right knee which would not go away. It turned out to be the dreaded ITB inflammation. It was my first significant running injury and I had no idea what to do.

Doctor’s visits, massage, foam rollers; none really eased the pain. I ran very little in the months that followed; I actually bonked and had a DNF in my first marathon with Darrell in December, 2006. As we moved into 2007, I really wondered just what was going on.

Out of desperation, I began to look seriously at Jeff Galloway's system. I was slightly familiar with it before hand but dismissed much of it, because I wanted to be a “runner” not a “run/walker.” Yet, his assertion that his program could help avoid injuries appealed to me.

My first positive clue was his simple description on how to diagnose over-pronation (look at your shoes…if they wear out inside your big toe, you are overpronating). Hmmm…that helps. I took that info to a good running store; they confirmed it all and switched to a motion control shoe.

Then, in mid-January 2007, I just started doing run/walk. Starting very conservatively, with a Run/Walk ratio of 1 minute run/2 minutes walk, I got out the door again. Amazingly to me, I was gently and gradually running, without pain. I stayed with it. I bought two of his books and read them carefully.

Through 2007, I stayed with the program, getting over the “weirdness” of suddenly walking and then running again all through the run. Figuring out how to make a watch do the timing for me and let me just enjoy the run. I did the Indy Marathon in October, 2007 at a 3/1 pace and it went well until mile 23, when I tried to run continuously the last 3 miles. Then I bonked. Yet I felt fine at the end.

The target race was the 2007 Rocket City Marathon. It was there I first met Jeff Galloway, as he was speaking at the pre-race pasta party (photo courtesy of Darrell’s Celebrity Photos, Inc). During his remarks, he casually mentioned he was going to start the race at a 1/1 ratio and perhaps increase that along the way, as weather and fitness allowed. I dismissed his comments as fluff.

Why? Well, shoot, I had read all his stuff, and from his target times, I convinced myself I could do a 4:15 and, boy, was I primed. And it worked…well at least for 16 miles it worked. My 9/1 run/walk target ate me alive on that hot and humid day and the last 4 miles were a real death march.

Contrast my experience that day to Jeff’s. Reviewing the race results, I went across the half-marathon mat at 2:07:33, a full 13.5 minutes ahead of Galloway’s 2:21:05. But, somewhere around mile 17, I recall hearing a bunch of light-hearted chatter amongst runners gaining on me as I sunk into the sludge of fatigue. Sure enough, it was Jeff and his merry band of followers, looking quite fresh. I looked at Jeff as he passed me and said to him “OK, now I believe you.” He simply grinned, as if to say he’d heard that sentiment many times before. He finished in 4:45:53, nearly 10 minutes ahead of me. And I suspect he felt pretty good at the end, unlike the nausea and trembles I had.

Both long-time readers of this blog then suffered through several months of my self-flagellation following the race. Not only was my ego damaged, but my knee acted up again…not ITB this time, but some sub-patellar inflammation. I strongly suspect dehydration had a major factor in that knee problem. So, back to basics for the spring. Less aggressive R/W ratios, shorter races and some relaxation. More emphasis on hydrating well during training. Galloway also suggested runners over age 40 run only every other day.

So I further modified my training pattern. It worked for shorter races. Five half-marathons in 9 weeks went well; four of the five with negative splits and each beat my target times for the race.

Then, the 6 hour trail run in July; I went very conservative, with a 2/1 ratio, plus walking up the hills on a warm, muggy day in the Indiana woods. 27.5 miles and no Wall in sight. Amazing.
My summary assessment of Galloway's method so far is it seems to work. Something about the change of muscle use during a run, from running to walking, seems to allow rest or change that avoids damage. I do most of my shorter runs at a 6/1 ratio; long training runs I back off to 5/1 or 3/1. All of that works. I don't fully understand why, but I can sense it, both as I run and after I run.
What I have not seen as working is Galloway's time prediction methods. I've worked through it and it always predicts I'll run a race a lot faster than I can. I'm not sure what to think about that. Yet, since speed is not a big issue to me, this issue is less of a problem. The big plus is simple; no injuries all this year; each race has been enjoyable; negative splits are a rush.

So, this brings us to my fall series, with three marathons in fairly close succession. Will all of this focus on injury-free training work out at the longer distance?? I truly don’t know. So stay with me as we see what this two-year-long experiment brings about.

The plan for the Air Force Marathon this Saturday is simple; run a 3/1 and stay with it throughout. Carry my own fluids and sip on every walk break. Eat two Clif Bars during the race. The weather forecast right now is helpful, though far from perfect. Start temps in the mid 50s, heading to the low 70s by the end. Can I carry it to the end??

Thanks for listening; that in itself takes real perseverance.


crossn81 said...

Good Luck Joe!!! You are going to do great and I look forward to hearing about it.

Anne K. said...

Good luck, Joe!!!! You'll be able to rest and relax in Italy!

Anonymous said...

I know you will have a GREAT race and be primed for Memphis.

Wes said...

I have gone from a run/walker to a runner, but I'm pretty sure at IM FL, I will end up doing a 2/1 or 3/1 ratio. part of the reason your times are so good is because you WALK FAST :-) Not that that is a bad thing, but Galloway says walking fast is not THAT important. It works for you, so I'd stick to it, for sure :-)

One thing I've learned about hydration, is two sips from the Fuel Belt every 3-5 minutes will keep ME hydrated. I think your plan of every 3-4 minutes will work beautifully for you.

Good luck in all of your marathons!! I hope this first one goes well!!

Darrell said...

I think if you stick to your Galloway plan, you'll come through these three races just fine. You'll probably be able to come back out and get me in Memphis and still feel good.

Have a great race in oHIo.

John said...

Great post, Joe. Informative, enlightening, entertaining.

I'm interested in hearing about how you'll approach this last week, training-wise, and how well it works for you.

You'll be ready for Saturday, I'm sure... Your 3/1 will carry you through to the end of the race just fine!

Ann said...

Good Luck and thanks for the post. I struggle with wrapping my mind around walking. But I am starting to believe that if I am ever going to achieve any distance longer than 3 miles I'll need to embrace the run/walk.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Sarah said...

Good luck this weekend! I went from being a run/walker to more of a runner. Personally, I find more enjoyment in continuous (as much as possible) running. But I can certainly see the value in the run/walk method. And I'm sure there will be a lot of that in my future..... : )

Anonymous said...

Best of luck to you. Great to hear your story.

David said...

I would never run/walk ... until I tried it this summer. I run a mile/walk a minute. Not much for walking and recovery but it gets me through .. so far.
You sound ready. I feel ready. It'll be a big fall for us all. Good luck this weekend.

Backofpack said...

Good luck, good luck, good luck! I can't wait to hear how it goes - I hope you enjoy every moment and find yourself at the end happy and pain-free!

Now you've got me thinking...I might switch to a 4/1 since I've been bonking lately. Hard to do on a trail run with lots of ups and downs. I've already decided I'll let the terrain dictate the walk breaks. Though I have learned that walking while climbing doesn't really count as a break for this old heart. I'll see!

(Um, does it mean something that the word verification for me is nerdvx? Like I'm a nerd or something?!?)

Anonymous said...

Good luck with the Air Force Marathon and with Indianapolis. I'll be at Indianapolis too, but I'm doing just the Half Marathon.

Marge said...

The whole family will be with you tomorrow, Joe. Your approach is so typical of you -- an engineer to the core! Looking forward to your reflections after it's over. Be well and safe!

Karen said...

"As we speak" you are running.... and I certainly hope you are enjoying it and feeling good. We'll hear all the details in Italy!