Tuesday, September 12, 2006

28 Percent

After being threatened with having a collection agency thrown at me, I paid my $19.99 for my temporarily suspended Runner's World subscription. Two issues arrived yesterday, and after the kids went to bed I spied the teaser headline on the 40th anniversary issue, which read "Long Runs: Here's Your Perfect Pace!" Geez, all this obsessing on my part about this, when all I really had to do was open to page 61. After getting past the ads for Land Rover and "Dean-feed" organic cereal, I read the article, which they also posted online here.

Amby Burfoot consulted famed coach Jack Daniels for the article, but it was a study done by Jason Carp, running coach and Ph.D. candidate (who needs a better website as well as a tailor for that suit) that got my attention. He gave questionnaires to American qualifiers for the 2004 U.S. Olympic trials and figured out that as a group they averaged roughly 28 percent of their weekly miles at marathon pace or faster.

I was feeling pretty good about my training paces for last week so I thought I would compare my results. If I count the 8 mile hilly race, which I ran at 6:01 pace, I ran a whopping 15 miles at marathon pace, which comes out to around 16% of my weekly miles. Makes a guy think.

I also figure it's safe to assume that most of the runners who qualified for trials in the marathon were averaging over 100 miles per week, which means they are running around 30 miles a week at marathon pace or faster. There's an old saying that your true marathon pace is the fastest 26.2 miles you ran during a week of training, and this would be proven right by Carp's data.

Online and real-life running guru Greg McMillan describes his take on long runs and correct pacing in the article, though he expands on it a bit more here. Looking at my training, I'm doing things a little more his way, which includes a long, easy run one week followed by a harder run with marathon pace or faster during the second half the following week. I'm kind of compounding things by running 7 miles at marathon pace the day before these long runs, but that's another story.

Looking at this article brings to light the uncomfortable idea that marathon pace really shouldn't be that...uncomfortable, and that doing more of it shouldn't beat me down too much. It also makes me feel better about running at daily paces that are faster than what I'm used to. After all, I was running much of the time at 7 minute pace when I ran a 2:47, so why should I still be running that pace when I'm trying to run 10 minutes faster?

As for today, I experimented by putting a 2 mile time trial the day after yesterday's 10 mile moderate effort. The legs were just a little tender on the surface, but I was able to hold 5:29 pace for the two miles on my rolling course with more ease than usual. I skipped this workout last week with the race, but it feels good to move the legs again, if only briefly. The breathing was back to normal after about a minute, which I also took as a good sign.

I had to cut the run at 9 miles in order to get home for Finn's appointment with a pediatric infectious disease specialist. As expected, he's completely healthy now and our $40 co-pay bought us assurances that his "thermostat is just set a bit high." I'll take this as good news.

Training: 9 miles, 59:15, 6:35 pace, with a 2 mile time trial at 5:29 pace. Sore at the beginning, fine by the end


Anonymous said...

I have some comments :)

1) Can you date that picture in the online version of the article? I believe that's Rod Dixon in the black.

2) Are you not going to comment on the fact they identify lactate threshold as being 30-50 seconds below marathon pace?! Perhaps that's accurate for marathon paces around 10 minutes per mile.

3) Like "how fast should non-workout days be?", the question "how easy should marathon pace feel?" is a great one for discussion [on long easy runs] because there's really no right answer. That said, if you're doing the necessary mileage to actually carry your projected marathon pace over the whole marathon, marathon pace in training will not feel easy because you will generally be more tired and more glycogen depleted than in the actual marathon.

4) YMMV, but my experience has been that to get that 20+ miles a week at marathon pace it really is necessary to just jog the day after and sometimes the day after that. Basically one is purchasing a lot of 6:00-6:30 miles with a bunch of other miles in the high 7:00s and low 8:00s. If it's good enough for a 2:24 guy, it's good enough for me.

Mike said...

Evan, sometimes I write a post and I just KNOW you will comment.

1. Eric is good at this sort of thing, I'll leave it to him and hope he comes through. (hint, hint)

2. Yes, that's crazy math, as I don't think me running 5:10 would be anything close to "LT" or tempo pace. It's a shame when they (RW) come up with these formulas and put them between a quote by Jack Daniels and a quote by Jason Carp, which makes it look like they approve of the numbers.

3. I love the Beck link you provide for it's description of "non-workout" pace, especially this part-
"If you're in a period of training without immediate racing goals, you can run as fast as you want to every day as long as your rate of recovery, on the whole, outstrips your rate of breakdown." As far as how "easy" MP should feel, I like either of these approaches-
(A.) Run a little slower than goal pace (which will hopefully not feel too taxing), then gradually work the pace down week to week until you're at goal pace with the same "not too taxing" feeling from running 10-20 seconds slower previously.
(B) Start by running fewer miles at MP and work up. I know 4 miles at MP felt like crap 6 weeks ago, but now knocking off 7 isn't bad.

4. I'll let you know how it goes for me on this, but since I'm doing the back-to-back thing I won't be doing the two days of easy jogging after. You're right, everyone breaks down differently. Thanks as always for the comments.

Anonymous said...

Good discussion. The gradual adaptations in pace or mileage week to week you mention are the way to go.

I should clarify that I'm actually a fan of the back-to-back hard days (tempo/long, race/long or 400s/long all work well) and then taking 2-3 days easy. Most effective way of getting 3 quality days in a week I find.

Eric said...

That is definitely Rod Dixon. As far as dating the picture...I would put it somewhere around early 90s because Rod was still young enough then to warrant the number 1 race bib. The proliferation of those goofy cycling hats and thin strap vests leads me to a similar conclusion.

It's not carbon dating, but, I do what I can.

Great post, and excellent comments, as ever.

Andrew said...

If Lydiard's 1/2 effort = current MP capability, then even his base conditioning cycle is 32 miles of MP per week.