Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Had a nice 8 miles plus with Lucas again today, a little faster than planned but we were both feeling pretty good towards the end so we surged for a half mile or so which brought the average pace down. It's a windy day in Tucson, so while we had a headwind for two miles going out we reaped the benefits on the way back.

I've had a few comments I wanted to, well, comment on. The other day Mike asked if I run with a heart rate monitor. He also wondered how much of my running is done at or near my "threshold" (use whatever term here, LT, AT, or the point at which your smiley face becomes just a little frowny). I call it my maximum steady state, which is a term Lydiard favored. My answers: No on the heart rate monitor, I dropped that pretty much after training for the Vermont City Marathon in 2004. At that time I used it frequently during tempo runs to see how my heart rate reacted with each mile. These runs (under Pete Pfitzinger's plan) varied from 4-7 miles, and I could record and review my average heart rate per mile during the run. Sound tedious? It was, though going back later and reviewing the data proved very valuable. I was definitely able to pinpoint my true "tempo" effort (pace would vary a little depending on wind, terrain, etc.) this way, and while I don't use the monitor anymore I feel I can still tune in to the effort without too much difficulty. I still use pace to dictate tempo, but I do try to factor in the variables that can throw that off. How often do I run at or just below threshold? Not nearly enough. My goal during this Lydiard conditioning phase is to spend at least two days of the week running at paces close to threshold, though so far I'm not doing it as much as I would like. Some of it is fatigue, some of it is scheduling, some of it is...well, it's just plain hard sometimes, though I'm not complaining.

Sasha also commented on the trouble I had one day running tempo pace by saying "...if 5:40 feels hard something is wrong. Also, if you have been doing mileage, and have a hard time sustaining a certain pace after 1 mile, that is another indicator that something is wrong. I have had this happen to me before, and I am still not 100% sure what it is, but I have always been able to fix it with a mix of 400 meter repetitions and tempo runs." Sasha goes on to say that economy is the key, and that his best results come from running very fast at high volume.

I can't argue with Sasha's results, and while I appreciate the advice, it's in direct conflict with the Lydiard style of training. Many athletes, (myself included in the past) have fallen prey to the following scenario; "I'm tired, my times are getting slower instead of improving, I'd better run some very fast intervals to get my speed back." Lydiard writes that doing this often sends athletes into a spiral; Faster times will come for a very short time, perhaps, from the injection of intervals, but soon the fatigue of running these fast repetitions on top of the previous level of fatigue will cause a crash. Without endurance and strength, an athlete cannot get the maximum benefits from anaerobic training, and in turn will not run as fast or as long as he would have with a proper foundation.

Lydiard training is about balancing all of the aspects of training. First you build endurance, then you add strength. Speed comes next, then economy and pace judgement. Finally, the athlete should be able to arrive at the most important race in the best shape possible. It takes a long time, there are no shortcuts, and hopefully it's worth it.

Can I still work on economy and run fast during Lydiard's conditioning phase? Yes, but not with 400's. Doing strides, or running fast for shorter distances (think 100-150 instead of 400's) with a longer, complete recovery should help with form and economy to some extent. His tempo run suggestion? I think he's spot on.

Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs (the best band you've probably never heard) said once about performing, "When I get onstage and play in front of people, I honestly believe we are the greatest band in the history of the world. If I don't believe that, then I'm a joke." The point is, you have to have faith in your program and believe it will lead to improvement. Faith in this case comes from understanding why you are doing something, something Lydiard provides (if you can read between the lines and bug people like Nobby enough). Many athletes are like dogs chasing cars, or day-traders chasing the latest market trend, always a step or two behind, going from fast repeats one week to progression runs for no clear reason except that it sounded good on a message board. Seeing an entire program through, Lydiard or otherwise, is difficult. Is it the best program available for maximizing your potential as a runner? Well, I'm committing to it for three years, so if I don't believe it's right for me, then I'm a joke.

Training: 8,25 miles a.m., 57:16, 6:56 pace


Hunter said...

Mike, I am just curious, what sasha said "running economy", did he mean that you need to work on your running form or technique to lower the O2 consumption for that fast pace?

Mike said...

I think both. This is what he said with regard to bonking after my 28 miler-"My thoughts on bonking - after you've done your homework (mileage, long runs, long tempos, good diet, clean liver), if it still happens the problem is in the economy. If you run like an SUV, a bigger gas tank is not the solution. You need to do something to the engine and the vehicle body to burn less gas.

Eric said...

I tend to think of running economy as neuromuscular efficiency. Like muscle memory. If your muscles have no memory of what a particular pace requires, your economy will be poor. You can have textbook form, but still be neuromuscularly inefficient. I am dealing with it right now. =)

Sasha Pachev said...

Mike - there have been a number of coaches that have created different, possibly conflicting programs, which nevertheless have produced great athletes. How is that possible? My explanation - different people respond to different types of training. If you create a training program to which a certain percentage would respond, and train enough people, you will become a great coach.

The problem with blindly following a great coach is that his program may not be something that you will respond to - your body may not be the type that belongs to the percentage that made him a great coach. For example, I have discovered experimentally that I respond better to Daniels'-leaning approach than to Lydyard's. But at the same time, if I do everything exactly the way the Running Formula says I do not get as good of a result as if I adapt it to my own needs. Intervals with short rest at 5 K pace do little for me. What has worked best for me so far overtime is a combination of mile race pace 400 meter repetitions downhill, 2x3 tempo runs at between half-marathon and 10 K pace, and 10-12 mile marathon pace runs with a 10 K pace finish for the last 2 miles. I also find it critical to have some aerobic activity (eg. jog a mile) every 3 hours during the day.

To get the best results, you should try different programs, and then listen to your body to see what it is trying to tell you. Then play around with different variations and carefully measure and log the results. It is critical to find a workout that is still a workout, but can help you accurately predict your race performance. Analyze, detect patterns, try again to see if your conclusions are right.

Mike said...

Mike- thanks for replying to my questions. It's nice to get more information regarding other training methods. Reviewing Lydiard's protocol made me realize that I am probably running the bulk of my mileage too slowly. My AT HR is 185, I averaged 176 HR for a marathon a month ago, yet the majority of my training is ran at around 150-160HR. At the very least, I am trying to bump the bulk of my running to 160-170 HR...still aerobic and 15-25 bpm below my AT vs. my current 25-35 below. Hoping this overall increase in pace along with some tempo work will make a difference- thanks again!

Duncan Larkin said...

In my humble opinion, nothing is wrong with struggling one day at tempo pace. You're human. Stick to your Lydiard guns and don't contemplate newfangled stuff. I know you won't, but I somehow feel obligated to write this.

Sasha Pachev said...


The problem is that from what I have seen in Mike's blog it is more than one day. And I never see an entry that says "I was going 5:40, it felt like almost a jog, I went 4 miles, turned the legs over on the last one, 5:25". No matter whose training method you follow, if the routine is working, you'd be having many days like that if your marathon PR is under 2:40.

Mike's problem is that he does have a job and a family to take care of while trying to maintain a very challenging mileage for that situation. This means if his boss yells at him or gives him a stressfull assignment, there goes his recovery from a 16 mile run. If his kid wakes up at night, there goes his recovery. So the same routine may work one week, but cause a disaster the next. I've been in those shoes in 2002.