Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mike's Problem is...

You have to love a comment that includes that phrase.

The other day I grumbled a bit about a botched tempo run, where trying to run a series of miles at 5:40ish pace took more effort than I thought it should. I ended up doing two miles, then running easy, then running one more mile at that tempo. Sasha made a comment about something being wrong with me if the pace was difficult, and later added this regarding my following of Arthur Lydiard's training principles-

"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." Hmmm. Should I take the bait? Not yet, but maybe soon. Maybe someday I'll get into how in many cases (and in his most famous cases) Lydiard coached runners (including Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and Barry Magee) who were not exemplary physical specimens or even elite athletes when they started under him. Many coaches only recruit and take on athletes who are already extremely successful or genetically gifted, but not Arthur. He simply didn't recruit, athletes (good and bad) came to him over the years and he tried not to turn any away. Maybe someday I'll go on about how periodization of training isn't some unproven hypothesis, but a sound training program proven right by 40 years of results. Maybe someday I'll go on about how telling me I'm "blindly following a great coach" is...well, just plain rude. But not today.

Duncan followed Sasha's comment with some kind words. "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 followed with, "Duncan, 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."

Sasha, like you I suspect, my family is my strength. Yes, sleep can be a challenge, and yes, any job has it's tough days. But Lydiard training, especially during the first (conditioning) phase, isn't about feeling great while running 5:40's. It's not a week to week thing. It's about going through the process, building fitness slowly and deliberately over a period of months. Later it's about sharpening that finess by precise degrees, learning pace and increasing speed. It's about bringing out your absolute best and unleashing it during the most important part of your competitive season. And once you've done it, it's about studying the results and doing it again...even better the next time.

I've said it before, I've done the standard "club-runner" routine of racing fairly well and feeling fairly good most of the time. It doesn't do it for me anymore. That being said, I have nothing against runners who do just that. I admire anyone who is able to race well year-round, it requires immense strength and resolve. Follow Daniels, Pfitzinger, Coe-Martin, Renato, whatever. But this blog is about my efforts to understand and train the way Arthur Lydiard advocated. I appreciate comments and questions, and I make an effort to keep things positive, but when what I'm told that I'm doing nothing more than "blindly following a great coach", I honestly have to wonder if that person has actually been reading what I've written over the past seven months, or taken note of my improvements during the same period.

Oh crap, I guess I took the bait.

Half-marathon tomorrow on the Running Shop team, wish me luck.

Training: 6 miles, 43:36, 7:16 pace


Mike said...

Sorry, RobtheRunner's comment got deleted when I re-posted this, here it is-

"You have always struck me as a student of Lydiard rather than a blind follower. I believe that there are lots of good programs to follow and different methods can work for different people as I am sure you know all this. I believe for anyone to claim they have the magic formula and can tell you exactly what you should be doing to improve is rude unless you are paying for their advice, or asked for it. Keep up the great writing, running, and striving to continually work in order to strive for better results. Good luck tomorrow.

Edinburgh Runner's comment got deleted as well, here it is-

"Good luck with the 1/2, and stick to your Lydiard guns. I would have thought the proof of the pudding will be in how you perform in the next marathon, rather than how you feel on a particular day in the middle of your conditioning phase of training.


Thanks as always for the comments...all of them, really.

Hunter said...

I maybe new to running, but I have been studying very delightly about running. I really don't think one can blindly follow Lydiard's training. You are just a good example of how one should follow Lydiard through the experiment of one.

Good luck with the half.

Dirt Runner said...

Good Luck tomorrow.

Hunter said...

oops, I mean "studying very diligently". :)

Thomas said...

Good luck on the half. Maybe you're a bit harsh on Sasha? Maybe he only wanted to make you think.

Personally, I know you're not just blindly following a program. Your blog entries over the last few months show how much thought goes into the training.

Plus, I agree with Hunter, if there is a training program that simply cannot possibly be followed blindly, it's Lydiard's.

Duncan Larkin said...

According to, a man named Mike Salkowski ran a 2:56 and a 2:47 in 2004, a 2:50 in 2005, and a 2:39 this year. I see nothing in these results that tells me your coach, routine, or methodology is failing. If it went in the opposite order, I'd recommend that you stop "running with Lydiard." Keep running with him Mike. Sasha's comment was probably merely to make you think critically, which is good. But if you apply the Socratic method to this, you end up with answers to the question "Is Lydiard helping?" with "I improved, I improved, I improved."

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Hmm, I must have missed Sasha's comment. I'd like to add that I have read many a post about how great the run was, how it felt like floating, how easy it was. While I may not be able to follow all the detail of Lydiard's methods you write about, I can see it is working - and that you feel great about it!

Sasha Pachev said...


Some follow up. I suppose you also know that my family is also my strength. We have four children, fifth on the way, and we have no plans to stop. However, having to take care of children requires physical, mental, and emotional effort that will affect your recovery. In other words, the stress of 80 miles a week feels like 120 when you add the extra responsibilities. You have to adjust your training accordingingly or you are headed for disaster. Speaking from personal experience.
Regarding Lydyard. Let me make some clarifications. He is definitely a great coach. However, a couple ofissues arise. If he were to coach you would it be the way you coach yourself? Would he possibly notice something about you that is different, and not use his "book" method on you? And, if he were to coach Emil Zatopek, or Jim Ryun would they have accomplished what they had accomplished?
The point I was trying to make is you should pay more attention to your body signals and performance as you try different training methods, and not be affraid to deviate from somebody's training "religion", even if it is Lydyard.