Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Add some variety to your marathon workouts

Brom Hoban

Area runners training for fall or winter marathons tend to follow tested, proven routines: building up mileage and increasing the long run on weekends. There's nothing wrong with that.

But runners who use the same routine for long periods find that they hit a plateau. Your body adapts and gets used to what you're asking it to do. And simply piling on more mileage may not be productive.

According to exercise scientist Tim Noakes — author of "Lore of Running" — "The human body can only adapt to a certain point. Once you get to two hours a day of training, you've probably reached adaptation limits."

But there are still plenty of things you can do to break through a plateau and reach peak shape for an upcoming marathon.

Add some variety to your workouts. "We tend to do what we do best," says local running guru Paul Carrozza, "what we're already good at." That usually means you'll opt for a speed workout that you know you've mastered. And while that may be good for confidence, it doesn't provide as strong a training stimulus as something you're not used to.

For example, if you've been running a mile three times at 5K pace for your speed work, try shaking that up and running a mile, two halves, and then four quarters. You're still getting in three miles worth of intensity, but you're placing different demands on your body.

Or you can take a training staple like the marathon pace run and change that up with good results. Jack Daniels, author of "Daniels' Running Formula," suggests that instead of knocking out 12 miles at your marathon goal pace, try inserting six to eight miles of just under marathon pace into a 20-mile run .

Another easy way to break up the training routine is to vary race distances. Even if you are building up with longer races like the Austin Distance Challenge, don't be afraid to throw in the occasional 5K. It'll help keep you sharp.

And don't forget recovery. During your marathon build-up, it's easy to get caught up in the mentality that you have to get in another workout, another 10 miles. The truth is, most training adaptations take place during rest.

Ultimately, rising above that plateau and hitting a new peak for your marathon may not necessarily mean more training, just different training.

Cunningham wins Longhorn Ironman

Austin pro triathlete Richie Cunningham topped the field at the Longhorn Ironman 70.3 for the second straight year, winning in 3 hours, 48 minutes and 55 seconds.

Cunningham, an Australian, bettered his 2008 time for the event, which is made up of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike section and 13.1-mile run. A year ago, he won in 3:49:44.

Brian Fleischmann, of Colorado Springs, finished second on Sunday. He reached the finish line at the Travis County Expo Center in 3:50:43. Italy's Alessandro Degasperi took third in 3:51:15.

Joanna Zeiger of Boulder, Colo., topped the women's field for the second consecutive year. She finished in 4:14:53.