Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Body to Brain, "Are You Listening Yet?"

I told Finn (our son who turned one last week) that his sister started walking before her first birthday. It's clear he's a pretty competitive guy already, because almost immediately he has started taking steps on his own. He's up to five or six before landing on his hands or his bottom, and he's clearly pleased with himself for making these efforts. His world changes so much on a daily basis, and watching him and his sister develop and being a part of their lives fills me with an immense amount of pride.

Back to me now. Jason left this comment the other day after I complained about not being able to do a workout to my expectations. "What your program may be sorely lacking is proper time for recovery. If I were in your shoes, I would not only put in recovery days that consist of an hour of easy jogging but also complete weeks where the main purpose is to recover.

Like yourself, I have a difficult time coping with such a plan. However, I usually look to my brother Kyle for inspiration when in recovery mode. For him, after a two week block of heavy riding, he will ride about an hour a day and even miss a day or two. He truly believes that recovery is paramount in all programs and often neglected.

In addition, I have a buddy who was schooled in the Weldon Johnson training methodology and, when I did most of my miles with him, we always discussed training. From these lengthy discussions, I gleaned a very important mantra:

"train, don't strain"

So, what I am getting at is that when you are at the point where you are straining during your runs, you are beyond the point where structured workouts and runs will give you any benefit. At that point, recovery must be the answer. However, the ultimate goal is to avoid "straining" via a program with adequate recovery allowing you to get the most out of your workouts."

Jason echoes what many people have been saying about my training since the marathon, especially after posting what some consider a tough plan. I set out to prove him wrong today and failed.

I ran easy yesterday, ate well, slept well, and even experimented by having a piece of toast with peanut butter and honey and a glass of juice before today's run to eliminate as many variables as I could if things did not go well.

Things did not go well. The plan was for me to run 16 miles and do a progression of 6:30, 6:20, 6:10, 6:00, 5:50, 5:45, 5:40, 5:35 for miles 8-15, then finish with a mile cool-down. I ran 6:28, 6:19, 6:09 and 6:04, then tried in vain to get under 6 for a half a mile before calling it quits. The breathing was far too heavy, more like a tempo run than marathon pace, and the legs just did not want to turn over. Rather than beat myself up I just pulled the plug and decided to do some strides on the grass on the infield of the track at the nearby junior high. The track itself is thinly covered concrete so I avoid it if I can. Unortunately the sprinklers were on so I just took a long loop home to make it 15 miles.

Maybe it was the 19 miles on Sunday that left me a little cooked, but looking back on last week's "workouts" (which were both lame enough to necessitate the quotation marks) it is clear that the body is not ready to go fast again. My fartlek workout (5x1 mile on, 1 mile off) had me struggling to stay around marathon pace, and my 6 miles of marathon pace workout turned into 4 miles, where marathon pace felt way too difficult.

"Train don't strain" was invented by Lydiard, and later co-opted by those online poker fiends in Flagstaff. I think Jason is right when he says "...when you are at the point where you are straining during your runs, you are beyond the point where structured workouts and runs will give you any benefit. At that point, recovery must be the answer. However, the ultimate goal is to avoid "straining" via a program with adequate recovery allowing you to get the most out of your workouts."

This begs the question, how do I recover? In my case (though everyone is different), I'm learning that speed kills. For instance, when I shut down the workout today I could have turned home immediately and finished with about 12 miles, but I didn't want to. Jogging at an easy pace is still a pleasure, even after bombing a workout. I still stayed out for 15, and I would have probably ran all 16 if I had given myself enough time to (I lost 5 minutes by not completing the run at the progression pace and I'd promised Kiera I would be back).

I'm going to can the workouts and just run the miles for a week or two and see what happens, with the exception of doing one effort to see where I stand. I will attempt a little tempo with Lucas Saturday, since I said I would. He's planning on running up the road in Sabino Canyon, and I typically run at a pretty good clip on an incline without much additonal effort. I blame all those hill workouts for this.

I'll plan on keeping the miles up this week, but backing off next week if it seems like I'm still not coming around. Nobby is coaching a marathoner now that he has advised to just run easily for several weeks, an hour to an hour and a half daily at 7 to 8 minute pace. This guy runs marathons more than 20 minutes faster than I do. Maybe Nobby is on to something. For the time being though, I'd like to keep the miles up and only change one thing at a time (again with isolating the variables).

If ever there is a time to feel slow, it's summer.

Training: 15 miles, 7:02, including a failed progression run starting at 7 miles with miles of 6:28, 6:19, 6:09, 6:04.


Greg said...

I'm not trying to talk you out of your plan to go easy for a while, because I think that's what you need for now, but geez man!! There has to be a happy medium between slow runs and this:

16 miles and do a progression of 6:30, 6:20, 6:10, 6:00, 5:50, 5:45, 5:40, 5:35 for miles 8-15

I mean that's a tough workout, regardless of your current fitness level, but to throw it in when you're still trying to recover and feel comfortable at marathon pace is deadly.

Anyway, I give you credit for trying. You'll be back at it when your body is ready.

fartleker said...


I think you may be on to something now. When I was running (seems like such a long time ago now), every single day was much too hard. Tuesday would be the Workout Group interval set, Wednesday would turn into a tempo run, and Thursday would be another Workout Group day. Saturday and Sunday turned into race and long run days. Recovery didn't exist. Some of the workouts went well, the majority did not. Plus, I never felt great and was eventually injured.

There is nothing wrong with taking some down time, especially considering that you just finished a marathon. This seems to be the one thing that many runners and other athletes do not realize. Yet, it could be the simple step between a 2:40 marathon, and a 2:30 marathon.

Also, instead of putting a true "effort" in these next few weeks, why not just have a couple of random pick-ups in the tempo for 2-3 minutes. Less organized than the fartleks you have done, but just a way to turn the legs over some more and have some fun.

dezmo said...

Sorry to hear about the bad workout. I'd bet the heat also has something to do with it. Anyway, I've always had good luck with just piling on some mindless miles when I get that stale feeling. I know that I'm ready to add back intensity as the times and HR drop. Geez ... it almost sounds like I'm being supportive.

Eric said...

So, are you resting, relatively speaking? I've done a lot of it lately. It was tough, but the payoff was HUGE. I cut my mileage back to about 60 a week levels for ten days, with a long run of 90 minutes. My legs freshened right up. That was the first of my three layoffs. After ten days of lower miles, I went out for a relaxed 8 miler and found myself averaging 6:20 pace with a heart rate in the low 140s. It was ridiculously easy. And even through the calf injury and more layoffs, I've been able to maintain that comfort at those paces. The rest paid off tremendous dividends.

Just something to consider. You are a plant in a pot, and the pot is full of water. You're just pouring more water into a full pot and the plant is drowning. Give the roots some time to absorb what you have already poured on. Don't look at it like losing two weeks of good training. You need to hang back and consolidate that fitness you have worked so hard on.

Evan said...

Now is the time to plan to not have a plan. I [think] I know how you feel, I'm always keen to keep to the self-imposed schedule and it's hard to be less structured.

Summer [in most parts of North America] is [often] a bad time of year for trying to do quality training, and if you can plan your running year to take advantage of the seasons it makes things just that little bit easier.

Recovering from a marathon and putting in some easy base miles, doing a lot of 200s at 3000m pace (a workout you can recover from quickly, but also gives good practice at going much quicker than marathon pace), and running trails, is the way to do it. If the day is a little cooler or you feel good do an unstructured tempo. At least in my experience tempo and marathon pace comes naturally 4-5 weeks after a marathon when you're recovered but still really fit.

Another random thought you might find gratuitous or helpful is that 80 easy miles on trails still builds your fitness. I have also found in the past that forcing myself to take the break from racing and structured workouts for a month or so makes me much hungrier for them when I come back. Think of a break from structured workouts as building up stores of animal aggression that you'll release in August in Chicago, or October when the racing weather is better. Enough airy fairy stuff from me ...