The Plan

Hi! How are you on this Tuesday morning?



I’m psyched for you.

Now, we could discuss one of two things today:

  1. The latest in my Crohn’s flare-up saga, including an update on how yesterday’s doctor appointment went.
  2. Running.

All those in favor of #2?

That’s the correct choice.


I’m into Week 2 of New York City Marathon training, and I suppose now is the time to tell you about The Plan. I know you’ve been perched on the edge of your seat wondering what sort of training plan I’m following, and what kind of cross-training I’ll be incorporating into my weekly runs, and whether I plan to do two or three 20-mile runs before the marathon.

Well, I don’t know the status of the 20-miler situation, but I can tell you one thing about The Plan: He’s baaaack!

Coach Cane! Remember him?!

Coach Cane got me to the start and finish lines of the Hamptons Marathon feeling confident and injury-free, so we’re attempting 26.2 together again. I promised him I would follow his instructions, not be dramatic, not whine and do my best. I also said I’d try to keep my hourly emails to 1,200 words or fewer, and I would stop sending emails with the subject lines saying, “DEATH, INJURY, LIFE IS OVER” to get his attention.

So here we are, teamed up, Part II (kind of Part III if you count the disaster that was Eugene Marathon Training, which I don’t). Eventually, once I’m feeling totally better, I’ll be joining Coach Cane’s City Coach runners at their Thursday night group runs, but since I’m not ready to embarrass myself by demanding that the entire group make bathroom stops at the tennis courts every mile, he isn’t forcing those on me just yet.

With the first official week complete, it’s time for a little reflection, don’t you think?

Well, despite the, uh, environmental factors working against me last week (the Crohnsing, mostly), I did pretty well staying on track, hitting my paces and keeping my mileage where it should be. I loved Thursday’s hilly run, and kind of hated Saturday’s long run.

Coach Cane asked for 12 miles at 30 seconds slower than my marathon goal pace. So ideally my average pace would be around 9:15.

Nailed it.

Really, I did. My average pace came out to 9:15 on the dot over the course of 12 miles.

But the truth behind the numbers is that this run was so, so rough for me. I was bathroom stopping. I was overheating. I was desperate for water far too often (they call that “dehydration,” young Ali). I had a great running buddy — my hot friend Sara — and thank goodness she was cool with the bathroom stops. She was the ideal running friend because she never said, “I have to go to the bathroom, too,” and then followed me in. I hate that. You don’t want to hear what’s happening in there. Then we probably won’t be running buddies anymore.

Central Park was lively as always with people racing and long running, and I saw just about everyone I know and love in Dry Fit.

I’m glad I powered through, and I knew I’d feel good once the run was over.

I did not, however, realize just how much 12 miles would kick my ass.

I was pretty shot for the rest of the weekend, which I blame more on the whole “autoimmune disease” thing than the running, but also it’s clearly a combination of the two.

Luckily, my only other plans for the weekend were to dog sit and celebrate National Ice Cream Day on Sunday, and I accomplished both of those things with flair.

That white pup is named Rinny. She's a cute little rescue dog, and she's 1.5 years old and I love her.

“Dog sit” is a term I use loosely. Translated it means “Brian held the leash and kept the dog cool in the park so she didn’t attack the other dogs. Brian also picked up the dog poop while I giggled and Brian was the dog’s favorite.” I, however, fed her. Boom, best dog-sitters ever.

"No, Rinny, you cannot jump on the other dogs and get them worked up and then run away while they attack each other. That is rude."

And yes, Sunday was National Ice Cream Day, and so Brian and I went all the way down to the West Village to get what he swears is “the best ice cream.” Oh really, Brian? Would “The Best Ice Cream Place Ever” be closed on National Ice Cream Day?

It was 12:45 PM and there was no ice cream to be found. The doors were locked and I was on the outside, looking in. Is this not the saddest photo you have ever seen?

I banged on the door for a long time, and eventually the man behind the counter let me know they would open at 1:00. And so I waited there, pouting, until 1 PM, at which point I sprinted inside to carefully select my flavors.

So many choices. So many terrible, TERRIBLE tan lines.

Ultimately I went with the Mocha Chip and Mint Chocolate Chip in a cup.

SO HAPPY. Again with the bad tan lines. I should fix running in a tube top I guess.

I don’t think it was the Best Ice Cream Ever. Sorry, Brian.

I attempted to hang onto my Girlfriend of the Year title Sunday by waking up before 6 AM to cheer for yet another one of Brian’s bike races. I slept through my alarm so I missed seeing him during the first seven laps of the park, but I made it in time for the finish!

Remember when I used to be the one doing races? Hehe. The good old days. What's a race?

Girlfriend of the Year title possibly revoked.

Oh I’m sorry, were we supposed to be talking about running? It’s weird how that happens.

One of the main reasons I wanted to work with Coach Cane again was because he’s a multisport coach — that means he coaches fancy people who swim, bike and run, also known as “triathletes” — and I want to incorporate more cycling into my training.

After being riddled with stupid overuse injuries throughout the spring, I know I can’t up my mileage too quickly, and I know I’m probably not a great candidate for an 80-mile running week. My body would break down and then Brian would have to pick up the Scraps of Ali left scattered on the Bridle Path. I feel like he won’t want to do that.

It's possible Brian loves Rinny the Rescue Dog slightly more than he loves Crohnsy Ali. I understand.

And so Coach Cane is on board to keep me running safely, smartly and, if all goes well, injury-free.

This coming weekend, for example, we’re changing it up a bit: Instead of upping my long run from 12 miles to 14 or so, I’ll be doing a long bike ride on Saturday (55 miles, my longest yet!) and a 10-mile run on Sunday.

Then, on Monday, I will pay any of you $10 to come massage my legs.

A sample weekly plan is something like this:

  • Monday: Easy bike ride
  • Tuesday: Speedwork! Mile repeats, for example
  • Wednesday: Easy run
  • Thursday: Group runs eventually
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Long run or ride
  • Sunday: Long run if I didn’t run the day before or recovery run (this past Sunday I was told to do “my slowest run ever”)

I’m excited about this plan and I’m looking forward to using the bike to supplement my running. Yesterday I rode 22 miles and it was a fun change of pace in the morning. It also made me excited to run again, so that’s cool.

Another thing I’m doing this time around? Sticking to The Plan.

I knew I’d be doing speedwork today (mile repeats that made me want to die, cry and puke), and so, for once, I didn’t go to my beloved Chisel class last night.

This is a sample of what my workout looks like, courtesy of Coach Cane. It's like a foreign language.

Look how smart I’m getting, LC! (One of her favorite pastimes is yelling at me when I do too many squats the day before attempting a hard running workout.)

I’m excited for things like mile repeats to start feeling easier. Today’s “half marathon pace” was ridiculously difficult for me to maintain, and the “remainder of lap at marathon goal pace” was more like “shuffle back to Engineers’ Gate and try not to barf, you little brat.” It was a really challenging workout for me, and it was slightly discouraging.

The multiple bathroom stops I made on the way to the park didn’t help, but miraculously I didn’t have to make a single pit stop once I actually started the workout. Still, I can feel the lingering effects of Crohn’s before, during and after every run, and I’m feeling sufficiently fatigued. Not overworked, not dying, just like I’m working hard, and like maybe hitting certain paces should be a little easier.

In due time, I suppose. In the meantime, I’m mastering the art of Sleeping Anywhere, Anytime.

Yes, I can fall asleep sitting up on the couch, with my laptop on my lap (how appropriate) and my dinner sitting in front of me...before the sun has even gone down. SO MANY SKILLS I HAVE.

I know running can only get easier from this point. I’ll get healthy, I’ll get speedy and I’ll feel like my “old self” soon enough.


Right, Assistant Coach Tyler?

This is Tyler, basically having the best time ever. Just being tickled and stuff. Then he probably took a 12-hour nap.

So that’s The Plan!

Coach Cane to the rescue…again.

I spy back rolls. So hot.

WHAT’S YOUR PLAN? I’m always curious to know what other people do for training plans when gearing up for races. Do you come up with your own plan? Get a knowledgeable friend to write one for you? Hire a coach who puts up with your crap? Just wing it and hope race day goes well? Tell me your secrets.

And tomorrow we’ll talk about the doctor. Spoiler alert: I think he’s best friends with my last doctor! Seriously.



41 Responses

  1. I use “Run Less Run Faster” and tweak it to what i know to have worked for me in the past. Like, it only has 3 days of running, but I usually add in one more easy day. I like the 3 days of running because they are very specific runs, and it prevents injuries for those injury prone like myself.

  2. This is the first time I’ve commented… I appreciate your Crohn comments because my husband has Crohn’s for 20+ years now and although I cannot relate to what you guys go through I get to see it daily… you are very brave to share! I am the runner in this family and have signed up for my first marathon in November! (Outer Banks Marathon in NC!) Training plan is coming together with lots of long runs, a half marathon just to see how I do, a 10 mile mountain run through a state park, then the big one on 11/12! Maybe you should sign up for a few short but challenging runs too before your next full? Good luck!

  3. Hey Ali, I just signed up for my first marathon on December 26, 2012 to support autism related charities. I don’t start training until September, but I have about 7 other races that I am running before the full marathon. (I challenged myself to run 12 races in 12 months). My plan looks like two days of running 5-6 miles, one day of cross training (biking circuits that I call CIRCUIT BUSTERS!!!), one day of a big run, one recovery run, another circuit buster and then day off. This is my first marathon and I’m blogging all about it. Check it out some time 🙂

  4. I flew by the seat of my pants during training for my 1st marathon this past March. I used my road runners’ club winter series to get those dreaded long runs in on Sundays. I made it through the marathon finish line but I knew I needed something concrete for Philly on 11/18. So, enter Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 plan. It fits my schedule well with XT on Mondays (XT for me is biking, either outside or popping my road bike on the trainer). Good luck in November!

  5. I’m doing the NYRR Marathon Training Plan. It worked for me last year, so why change. I like the falexibility of the plan and I generally run by myself anyway.
    I’m glad you’re working with Coach Cane. He knows how you try to do too much and he knows about your Crohns issues, which I hope won’t be too much of an issue after this flare up.
    I almost didn’t have ice cream on National Ice Cream day, but really I have ice cream every weekend, so it was a no brainer. 🙂

  6. I am running my first marathon on Sept. 29th. I have a group with a plan and since they got me through my first half last year, I trust them. It’s Northeast Ohio FIT. However, I am out of town for our 15 mile run on July 28th, which begins a new streak of “I’ve never run this far before,” ending on Marathon day. So I have to do my 15 by myself this Friday. I am getting up EARLY and going to my version of your Central Park (favorite place to run and all that) which is the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Park my car near a mile marker, run North 4 miles, back to the car to refill water, have some powerade and then run south for about 4, and back to the car again. (I know that’s 16, but I expect to walk the last bit for cool down.) Then pop over to the nearby farmer’s market for an orange and home to shower, ice and nap. Then we have 18 a few weeks later, 21 on the marathon course a few weeks after that with 12 mile runs on the weeks between the increases and then taper. Add in speed work on the track, a tempo run and some easy runs each week and there’s my plan. I’m quite petrified, but trusting my coaches that I CAN do it!

  7. It is really funny because I, ms. type A, am training for my third marathon (Chicago in Oct!!) without a real plan. My legs hated me for months but are starting to feel better so I should probably, ya know, create a plan. I do two standard 7 miles runs during week but haven’t planned an increase or hills or speed. I have goals for my long runs. Who am I? Conclusion? I kinda like it! I felt like running today so I did 8 instead of 7 and it was great! I have a feeling that if I set out for 8 miles it would have not been so great.

  8. Hey Ali – I’m going to train with Coach Cane too through the JR training program. Also, I’m only running 4 days a week too. When I got injured before, I was running a lot more often, while only training for a half. But I didn’t get injured during my marathon, so I’m sticking to 4 days.

  9. Sounds like your plan (and your coach!) are pretty awesome. I’ve only run two half marathons, and both times I followed my Team in Training plan from my first race. It’s basic, easy-to-follow, and fool-proof. Can’t go wrong!

  10. Yay backfat! Or not yay, but at least I’m happy not to be alone in that. Yay Coach Cane, but I thought the assistant coach would be his baby. But then again all babies (aka everybody else’s baby) are pure awesome. My current training plan came from Run Faster; I had done training plans for the half twice from this book and felt strong, so I wanted to stick with it.

  11. I dig the tanlines! I have the same ones, but not as good. I took a Runners World SmartCoach plan and then tweaked it because it only has me running 3 times a week, and I want to run 4. Also, it uses the same workouts again and again which gets a little dull, so I wanted to have more fun and mix things up.

  12. I did actually want to hear about the doctor…will have to wait till tomorrow, darn it.

    I make up my own plans…and then wonder why I don’t get any faster. I’m starting to think I may need a proper professional plan.

    Thinking of you today. My little boy and I are making his daddy a poo poo cake for his birthday!!!

  13. I used a coach for my first marathon which was extremely helpful and pretty much necessary, I’m not sure I would have even made it to the start (I’m a huge bailer!). This year my much more experienced running partner and I downloaded a plan from Runners World. It’s tough, has me running only 3 days but I’m happy with it and I’m kicking ass (sort of) in this hot and humid NY summer! Hope you liked the new doc!

  14. My “plans” include excel magic to combine “the bests” + lots of double checking/calculating + significant self doubt and paranoia. Funny, I have another “plan” for another race, but can’t decide if I should run it. Apparently I’m also now afraid of morning running (help!) which is not helping with the decision…

  15. Guess who’s back? Back again? Ali’s back! Tell a friend!

    (Did the song come through in that comment – it’s supposed to sound all Eminem bad ass-like.)

  16. I like your training plan. I’m like you, running 4 times a week, regularly, beats up my body. I like to sub out one of my weekly runs with spin class and then take a gym class on the cross train days. I’m in week 7 of my training and I feel healthier and stronger than I have in years past, even without 4 days of running, which does wonders for my confidence. I also think it helps that this is not your (our) first marathon – we know now that we can still perform on race day without following a strict training plan! And Tuesdays are my speed days too. Woot. My fav gym instructor teaches a speed class on the ‘mills over my lunch hour. It’s amazingly motivating!

  17. omg, Gian beat me to our Cones story! I agree, it is NOT the Best Ice Cream Ever. That is at Ample Hills, which I still have to take you to on that run we’ll do where we hit up a track along the way and you don’t wear a watch.

    Anyway, eating ice cream in the winter is a great excuse to hold hands 🙂

  18. Cones is gelato, not ice cream! Or at least that’s what I thought. Speaking of dates, Anthony and I went there after dinner on our third date. Then for three cocktails at little branch. After a bottle of wine at dinner, of course. This was also the night that Anthony discovered just how truly #fatfluential I am.

    YAY training plan! So long as it doesn’t get in the way of wine and cheese and olympics and such, I’m excited for you!

        1. I TOLD BRIAN CONES IS GELATO, and he was like “It’s the same thing.” I disagreed.

          Let’s hang out Thursday and not be nice or proper.

          1. um, not the same at all! tell brian he ruined national ice cream day for you.

            re: thursday, i can handle that.

  19. You went to Cones! I have a funny story about that place. It definitely has NOTHING to do with my first date with Nicole, on a cold December night, walking around the West Village while enjoying ice cream from Cones (aka freezing-my-little-Puerto-Rican-cheeks-off-while-eating-ice-cream-from-Cones).

  20. So this time I think I’m going to find a training plan online. I tried to find a coach now I have spending money from work and stuff, but I couldn’t find a reputable one.

  21. Yay training! I’m still nursing my knee back to health after running that one marathon (and not really doing a good job since I should be stretching like 2 hours a day 7 days a week and I am lazzzzzy right now) so I know I’m not ready for another training cycle just yet but will most likely get on board for another spring marathon. But one of my main concerns during training cycles is cross training, since I love it so much. So I really like seeing that your coach is incorporating long rides! Does that mean you’re giving up spin classes for outdoor rides? And do you think you’ll do weight training once a week or so (just not the day before an intense run)? And what about yoga? So many things to do other than running but when running is the #1 priority what’s the best way to incorporate other things without going crazy and overworking your body?? That’s the question I have not yet answered for myself. Always trying & learning I guess!

    1. Yes, take care of yourself so you’re fully healed before you start another training cycle!

      I, too, love cross training, as you know, but I’m trying to cool it this time around. Like tonight, I wanted to do a spin class, but I’m not. Trying to tell myself to JUST STICK WITH THE PLAN…and not add to it.

      If a spin class fits into my schedule at some point, I’ll do it for sure. But yes, for now it’s outdoor riding over spinning. I’ll still try to do weight training for sure, and yoga as well. I’m going to test out doing a Friday yoga class. If it affects my Saturday runs I’ll give it up, but if it feels good, that’s what will work best with my schedule I think.

      I think I answered all the questions 😉

  22. If it wasn’t Blue Bell, it wasn’t the best ice cream ever, sorry.

    For my NYCM training plan, I just took one of my running club’s Houston Marathon plans and tweaked it. I know I want to do a 50 mile “peak week” and have my longest run be 23 miles, but not sure when to schedule those things yet….

  23. Because you told me about National Ice Cream Day, I actually DID go get the best ice cream I ever had! Torico in Jersey City. OMG. Amazing. Thank you for that. I just started half marathon training last week, using a plan that I believe came from Runner’s World. I already messed it up by misreading it today. I was supposed to do 4 x 800, but I did 8 x 400. Oops, and also ow. I love Sara! I wish I was fast enough to run with you two.

    And I take it the doctor didn’t go well? I still say call the woman doctor I gave you!

    1. This just in: Your doctor lady, who seemed awesome, doesn’t take my insurance. So bummed.

      But hey, nice job with the workout this morning! You may have read it wrong, but sounds like you crushed it!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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