Thursday, March 02, 2006

Honest Effort

Lydiard training, especially during the conditioning phase where an athlete builds up his endurance, requires listening to the body. Some of Lydiard's schedules list each run's effort from 1/4 to 4/4 (though 4/4 or all-out isn't used during conditioning). Lydiard also advocates running your "best aerobic effort" frequently during the first few months of training.

"Best aerobic effort" is kind of a nebulous term, but many consider it to be the fastest you can run before becoming "anaerobic", or the point at which your body isn't able to process and utilize as much oxygen as it needs to maintain a given pace. Call it lactate threshold, anaerobic threshold, the fastest pace you can hold for an hour, whatever suits you.

I guess the goal is to just "feel" when your body shifts into the red (or anaerobic) zone, and to stay below that. What I'm starting to find with my second go-around with Lydiard training is that this point is constantly shifting depending on how fatigued I am, and the pace where I'm just below red-line can vary from 5:30 all the way to almost 6 minutes per mile. So do I beat myself up and worry about my condition when I'm starting to huff and puff at 5:50 pace when 5:30's felt just as easy last week? Usually. Seriously, I'm trying to put it all in a bigger context now. Patience is key, and today's workout was a frustrating lesson in patience.

Since my last two sessions of tempo work didn't go completely to plan with others, I decided to go it alone today. The goal was 4 miles or so at 5:40-5:45 pace during the course of a 10 mile run. It didn't go well. After a warm-up of 2 miles I started, but after two miles at 5:45 I was clearly running too hard so I shut it down. I ended up cruising at a good pace for another 4 miles, then trying again. This time I managed one mile at 5:43 pace and just called it a day with a one mile cool-down.

Patience and perspective; Yesterday was a very difficult 16 miles in the hills, preceeded by an unusual 8 mile evening run. Tomorrow is 26-28 miles of long run. I think the body was just tired from yesterday and the mind was begging me to slow down considering the workload the day before and the anticipated suffering the day after. What it comes down to is honest effort. Did I give what I had to give today or could I have done more? Was I fooled into complacency and just happy to have an excuse for it? I hope not. Last week I bonked during the long run after running two hard days before it, and here I was in the same situation again a week later due to scheduling snafus.

In the end I'm hoping for the best of all worlds; Enough quality to hopefully get some improvement and supercompensation, but hopefully not enough to make tomorrow's long run a suffer-fest. Tune in for the exciting conclusion.

Training: 10 miles, 1:05:09, 6:31 pace, with two miles at 5:45 pace, four miles of cruising, 5:43 for 1 mile


Scooter said...

"Walking the tightrope" is what I often call the attempt to balance the desired training against risk of injury or (in your case this time) against lack of recovery. It's no easy task, but it's what separates the real contenders from the punch-drunk fighters on the road to Palookaville. You seem to have a knack for identifying what your body needs - it will pay off.

tb1 said...

Can you diagnose when it becomes "overtraining"? I know just from your blog that Lydiard training is pretty serious. And I know that Arthur says to listen to your body. With that said, how do know if you are overtraining or you are simply tired a few days in a row?

Mike said...

Thanks Scooter, I appreciate the comment. tb1, in my case overtraining usually surfaces when I'm not training, but in everyday life. I tend to get more irritable and have less patience when I'm overloaded. I do try to keep an eye on my heartrate before I start a run. If it seems elevated before I even get going, I know I'm probably overdoing it. It's hard to remember that it's when we rest (or between workouts) that we supercompensate and get stronger. Donating lots of blood might not help either in your case! Hope the training is going well.

Mike said...

Hey Mike,

You know how when runners get injured they think their injury is the most important in the world and want to tell other people about it so others don't get it, too? Well here I go haha

Being somewhat deficient in iron at the moment, the result of one year off from school living frugally (no money for meat) and exercising frequently, I would urge you, as you're doing very well right now, to get blood tests, specifically for hemoglobin but also the less frequently tested serrum ferritin.

I say this not cause I think you're killing yourself, but just the opposite...when you're at the top of your game, find out what your levels are, because since per person levels vary so much, you may get an ambiguous test results a few years later when feeling tired and not know if, for example your ferritin is super low, or if you've always been a low-ferritin sorta guy.

Also, compare your levels to Pfitzinger's ideals, cause doctors often think a number is "OK" but for a distance runner 'tis a red flag.

Glad to see your training continuing well! Someday you'll have to get over to Boston for that little road race we have in April.

Mike said...

Mike in Boston, where've you been? It's nice to hear from you, and getting some bloodwork done has peaked my interest. Perhaps tb1 should look into it too, since I'm sure giving blood frequently can lead to low iron levels. I'll have to dig out my Pfitzinger to remember what's in the "normal" range for runners. Boston someday, maybe next year.

Sasha Pachev said...


Some thoughts. First, I have noticed that running at 6:30 pace does me in thoroughly. This is the devil's pace - if you are a sub 2:40 marathoner, you can always do it and feel good about yourself, but at the same time it slowly ruins something, at least for me. I think it is the economy. Too fast to relax on one end, and to slow to be forced to be efficient on the other.
Second - 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. Check out My 2004 training log. Note the half-marathon in the middle of January. It was a mostly flat course, and almost ideal condition. No excuse to run 1:15. I just could not hold a fast pace that day. Earlier, I have been having a few lock-up days like that. Then you see in the following months I apply my interval/tempo combination, and in April in the Salt Lake Marathon I hit the first half in 1:14:26, which was similar to the half-marathon in St. George. And then holding the pace to the end to finish in 2:30:30. No wall.

This is not the only time this happened. I theorize that at some point and for some people economy becomes much more important than cardivascular conditioning. Consider this. Have you ever been passed during a tempo by somebody on a bike smoking a cigarette? Your aerobic conditioning is superior to his without question, but he is using a device that improves his economy to the point of being able to easily beat you. In order to race well, you need a legitimate device in your legs that is like a bike - we call it good form. If the aerobic conditioning starts killing your form, you start losing.
Good form in not necessarily visually appealing, or a visually appealing gait is not necessarily good form. My definition of good form is whatever allows me to hold the pace better with the same aerobic conditioning. And I find that unless I run extremely fast in high volume, my form is not good.