Sunday, April 02, 2006

Meat and Potatoes

From the "Introduction to the Lydiard System" link on my sidebar-"The meat and potatoes of the conditioning period is the long runs, three a week. Many parts of your physiology improve as a result of these longer runs. The under-developed parts of your circulatory system are enhanced; neglected capillary beds are expanded and new ones are created. This increases oxygen transportation and utilization, thereby improving your Steady State. Also through aerobics training, your heart, which is just another muscle, becomes bigger and is able to pump more blood with each contraction and to pump the blood faster. Your lungs become more efficient, with increased pulmonary capillary bed activity, which improves the tone of your blood, allowing you to get more oxygen out of each breath. Blood circulation though out your body becomes better, waste products are eliminated more easily." Gotta love Lydiard.

Much of this is echoed in a fine article by Jason Carp in the May Running Times magazine entitled "Turn on the Power, Energy System Specific Training". Carp discusses the three distinct biomechanic pathways the body uses to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The chemical breakdown of this high-energy metabolic compound gives us the energy to move our bodies. Two of the three pathways are primarily for producing anaerobic energy; the phosphagen system, which powers efforts of up to 10 seconds for sprinters, and anaerobic glycolysis for efforts lasting from 30 seconds to two minutes. The most interesting for me was his writing on the third system, called simply "the aerobic system", which is the predominant energy system used for races lasting over three minutes. Like Lydiard (and many other coaches), Carp writes that "Since distance running is primarily by the delivery and use of oxygen, most of your training should focus on improving your aerobic system's ability to supply oxygen to your running muscles". How does he suggest going about this? "Long, continuous runs and a high weekly mileage." He adds, "Continuous running also increases the number and activity of aerobic enzymes and muscle capillary and mitochondrial volumes, which enhance your muscles' ability to use available oxygen to produce ATP." At the end of the article he does note that while training the aerobic system is the most import aspect of distance training, it is also necessary to train the other two systems as well for the best running performance. Lydiard incorporates the other two systems with anaerobic work and quick, sprinting exercises after the conditioning and hill phases of his training (although there are some windprints during the hill phase to ease the transition). It's a great article, worth the subscription price when added to the article on Lorna Kiplagat and Pete Pfitzinger's excellent "Essential Ingredients" series in his monthly lab report. Anyway, back to my running.

The longest run of the week is what I ended up skipping last Sunday when Kiera got sick. I was worried after I got sick yesterday that I might miss it again, so I made sure to eat a light dinner of pasta (which is all I could stomach), and climbed into bed at 8pm. When morning arrived (early as usual in this house), my stomach still had some pangs but my head was fine and I wasn't running a temperature. I decided to give 22 miles a go.

I started very conservatively, covering the first 11 miles at 7:24 pace, thinking I could always speed up if I was feeling good towards the end. Well, that never happened. My plan to avoid using a gel changed at mile 18 when I was feeling completely spent on the side of the road. It was either stop and walk, or eat a gel and see how it would go. It did give me enough of a kick in the pants to get home, but I still felt utterly depleted. My heart rate felt elevated for most of the run, which I attribute in part to the heat (it's warm here now and I didn't get out until 8:30), and in part to my sickness combined with the fatigue of a tough week. Still, I grinded it out at 7:28 pace, which is slower than I would have liked but better than no long run at all like last week.

So my first of four weeks of Lydiard hill training is over. With the tough start to the week I was faced with a choice: I had three hill workouts and three long runs planned, but only enough days for 5 workouts without putting either two hill days or two long runs back to back. I went back to my books and decided that covering the distance and putting the time in on the long runs was ultimately more important for my preparations, especially after missing a long run last week. So I ended up with 93 miles in 8 sessions, with two hill workouts, two 16 milers, one 22 miler, and one day of tempo work with 5 miles of effort. While I'm bummed I didn't get to 100 and that I didn't get in all three planned hill days, I'm not going to wreck my recovery by trying to drag through a few miles this evening. Recovery is the order of the day. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Training: 22 miles, 2:44:25, 7:28 pace
Total miles for the week: 93 in 8 sessions


Eric said...

Another nice week, Mike. Way to work through the challenges. You are nothing if not tenacious.

I struggled on my 22 miler today as well. Bonked pretty good with four miles to go, but I considered your entry about the tempo run from the other day and realized I just needed to suck it up and get going. So thanks for that.

I hope you and your family are feeling better. Take care.

Thomas said...

As you yourself commented on my blog after a less-than-perfect training run in January:
Put this run in the bank and you can revisit it during a dark period in a race.
Well, I couldn't phrase it any better.

Paul said...


Pretty amazing stuff. Perseverance is an understatement for your last week. Your recent training has certainly had the 'batting donut' degree of difficulty added in. When you are able to train with only moderate travails you will feel like a rocket ship. The race will feel like a vacation.

edinburghrunner said...

well done mike, looking forward to hearing about the next phase.