Friday, August 31, 2007

Could've Been Worse

That's about all there is to say about the long run today. I had 2h 10m on the books, so I decided to tread down the hills and into town for a run along the Rillito River path. This is a good out and back for Twin Cities, as it forces me back up and through Gut-Check Alley during the last third of the run. While some have remarked that the hills towards the end of the marathon in Minnesota aren't so bad, I still think working hills into the later portions of a long run can only help.

Or maybe not. I really wanted today to feel good, as I've been a bit nervous about the fatigue I've felt during runs of two hours or more. While I'm sure it's been there before, it seems pushed more to the front of my mind this time around. Part of me thinks that with enough longer runs over the years I would be over this sort of thing, but as I worked back up the hills during miles 13-17 I definitely felt a bit of pressure. While things did ease off for the last two miles, I'd much rather not have any bad patches this close to the big day.

In short, I wanted to finish thinking I had another 10 miles in me, and today just didn't go that way. Still, the pace was reasonable, and with two easy days ahead I think I'll be able to recover for a good race on Monday.

Training: 19.6 miles, 2:10:03, 6:39 pace

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Bit Busy

Geez, busy day today. This morning Mystery Coach planned 7 miles at a goal heart rate of 162 or so. I've done a few of these workouts; In fact, here's a rundown:

6/7: 8 miles at 150-155BPM, 6:04.5 average pace
7/5: 10 miles at 150-155BPM, 6:12 average pace
7/24: 10 miles at 150-155BPM, 6:08 pace
8/3: 7 miles at 158-163BPM, 5:56 pace (5:36, 5:39, 5:57, 5:57, 6:00, 6:10, 6:11)

Today: 7 miles at target 162BPM, 5:56 pace (5:53, 5:50, 5:55, 5:56, 5:57, 6:03, 5:58)

While the average pace today was the same as a few weeks ago on August 3rd, I feel much better about how this run went. Last time out I was clearly in a tailspin towards the end of the workout, and I'm fairly certain the 6:10 and 6:11 miles would have been followed by 6:15's or slower if I had continued. Today I could feel the heart rate drift up a bit for the effort at right about 5 miles, and after that I seemed to really settle back in. I also wasn't dying for the workout to end, as the effort still felt fairly manageable after 7 miles were over. The heart rate did take 90 seconds to get back to 120, but with 85 degree temperatures I guess I can't expect much better.

Yesterday was a very easy 12 at 7:20 pace. I really made an effort to put the brakes on whenever I started speeding up, and I think in retrospect it probably helped make today go much better than it would have otherwise.

Sorry for the dry post, the brain is pretty occupied today.

Training: Today, 10 miles, 1:03:39, 6:22 pace, w/7 miles at 162 avg. HR in 5:53, 5:50, 5:55, 5:56, 5:57, 6:03, 5:58
Yesterday, 12 miles, 1:27:39, 7:20 pace

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Red to Green

After second-guessing and bailing out early during my three workouts last week, I was beginning to get a bit of a complex. However, with one day off and two easy days under my belt I had no reason to think today's 4x2 mile intervals at 5:42-5:43 pace w/1 mile easy in-between would be that difficult. The easy mile was supposed to be at 6:40, with the option to go faster if I felt good or slower if I felt bad.

I had the second running shift this morning since Kiera met a friend at 5:15, so my new 1 mile flat course was over-run with parents driving their kids to the two nearby schools at 6:45. I took to my old, familiar 1 mile up and down loop instead, and got right to it after an easy mile of warm up. The first two went by quickly in 5:39 (slightly downhill to the loop) and 5:42, and a 6:35 recovery mile felt just about right. The second set found me breathing a bit heavy, but I still kept fairly relaxed at 5:42 and 5:41. A slower mile right at 6:40 put me on the line for the third set feeling a bit overheated and a little skeptical. 5:42 and 5:40 followed, and by the end of the 6th mile I felt conflicted about the legs feeling tired. By all accounts I should have felt much better, and any thoughts of looking forward to nailing the last two miles had turned quickly to maybe surviving just one more mile like last week.

I consciously slowed for the last recovery mile, hoping that by relaxing enough my legs would get back under me. The lap pace kept creeping up, and with 400 to go I tried the old trick of visualizing the fatigue and stress I was feeling slowly draining out from the bottom of my feet. The clock ticked 6:56 to end the easy mile, I'd emptied out the red and was left with green. After all, this was just two miles of tempo, not the end-all battle of good against evil. 5:40, 5:37.

It felt good to finish off a workout in good stride, and the 160HR immediately afterwards seemed fairly in line with where I've been at for the past few weeks. Maybe I'll analyze it more later, but now it's time to take Finn out for some fun.

I would like to thank the coach for his great post yesterday, and I appreciate you readers taking the time to submit your training questions for discussion. Mondays are turning into my favorite day of the week.

Training: 13 miles, 1:19:58, 6:09 pace. 4x2 mile efforts (1 mi. recovery) in 5:39, 5:42, (6:35), 5:42, 5:41, (6:40), 5:42, 5:40, (6:56), 5:40, 5:37

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Whats your thoughts on Tempo runs? Coach Jack Daniels terms a tempo run, the pace you could hold for 1 hour. Ever since they have became a cornerstone of training plans throughout.

Arthur Lydiard never used that term but some have interpreted those 5-10k time trials at 3/4 effort during the base phase as tempo runs. According to theory tempo runs are supposed to be the king of the stamina builder. That makes me think that Lydiard's base phase would be the ideal place to have these workouts. Looking over Mikes schedules I see he rarely runs over marathon pace during the base phase. Than in later phases you have him go directly to a faster pace interval(somewhere near his 5k pace).

So is there any value to the ever so popular tempo runs or is it just eye wash(as Lydiard would say)? If there is, in which phase would you include this "one hour race pace" runs?


Jesse, As Arthur said there are many pieces to the jig-saw puzzle of training. Tempo runs are not the secret any more than 20X400, half mile hill circuits or 100 miles weeks are. I view tempo runs as developing a little bit of everything but not very good at developing any one aspect of racing to it's fullest. A 2 hour run over a very hilly course will condition more muscle fibers to a higher level than a 20-40 minute tempo run. Intervals will develop speed better than the slower paced tempo run will. In fact the following study by Peter Snell shows how much better:

Dr Peter Snell, University of Texas, asked 10 runners with 10k times between 34-42 minutes to log up 50 miles of steady running weekly for six weeks. Then they were divided into two groups for 10 weeks. One group ran two lactate threshold runs weekly for 29 minutes (12 secs per mile slower than 10k pace). The other group did two repetition sessions weekly at either 200 or 400 meters which ranged from 10k speed to 3km speed. The repetitions totalled three miles per session. Both groups continued to log a total of 50 miles steady running.

At the end of the 16 weeks both groups were tested at distances from 800 meters to 10k. The repetition training group improved 800m times by an average of 11.2 secs. Threshold trainers improved on average 6.6 seconds. In the 10k test, the threshold trainers improved by 1.1 minutes, the repetition trainers improved by 2.1 minutes.

The value of tempo runs lie in the fact that they speed up the rate of energy production without a heavy oxygen debt. For marathoner and ultra marathoner this can be used to develop speed or for distance runners to help maintain energy pathways with out the heavy oxygen debt of intervals. So as you can see there are two different places that you can use tempo runs depending on your goals. I tend not to use anything faster than marathon pace during the conditioning phase because I want to activate and condition fibers by duration (volume) and not by intensity. This also gives the runner's system a chance to recover from the stresses of oxygen debt.

Hello Mystery Coach,

thank you for answering my question last week, it was very enlightening. I have another one today.

I've read Lydiard's book "Running With Lydiard" and on more than one occasion he mentions the importance of running 100 miles a week. I think he says it a dozen times, all over the book. In fact, those are only the "strong" miles, and any supplemental running isn't even included in that figure.

Your training regime for Mike is quite different. You have on more than one occasion used the phrase "optimum rather than maximum". While that may sound logical, my problem with that is how to find out where the optimum lies. Lydiard, at least in that one book, never mentions the words "optimum mileage", instead he repeatedly claims 100 miles to be the sweet spot. Are you in disagreement with him over the mileage, or do you think that 100 miles are for elites, and the mere mortals amongst us should run fewer miles? And how does one figure out where the optimum mileage rests with a runner?

Thanks again

Thomas, A few years back Edward Coyle Ph.D. did a study where they examined the volume of swimming which improved a swimmer's performances the most. When they got to about 10 hours of swimming improvement greatly leveled off (so much so that 14 hours of swimming per week showed no additional gains). Let's look at these results from a runners point of view. How far can a runner go in 10 hours of running? If you average the speed that Arthur's runners ran at (5:20-6:20 per mile) you're at or over 100 miles per week (a sweet spot as you say for his athletes), even at 9 minutes a mile you'll almost reach 70 miles per week. In Arthur's later books he recommended running by time and if you totaled his week it comes out to 9.5 hours of running. So somewhere between 9.5 and 10.5 hours of running is going to give you most of your conditioning gains. Runners face an additional problem that swimmers do not, runners must be able to handle the impact stress to their muscles where swimmers have little of that stress because water supports their body weight. Some of what you gain with greater miles is the strengthening of your connective tissue so that it can handle greater stresses of speed or distance but it has been shown that over 12 hours of running per week running injuries go way up. When I talk about optimum miles I look at the things you can do with those 10 hours. You could run 85.71 minutes a day on a flat course at 90% your marathon pace and get your 10 hours in but it's not going to do much in conditioning all the fibers in all parts of your legs. Anyone who has trained on the flats for 2-3 months and then comes back to hills will tell you how much conditioning they have lost. The same goes if you don't go longer than those 85.71 minutes, a two hour plus run is going to feel hard, or if you don't go faster than 90% marathon pace, 100% is going to feel very hard. Look at the variation in Arthur's schedules, 10 miles at about marathon pace on a flat course, 12 miles easy, 2 hours over a hilly course easy, 10 miles half effort, 15 miles steady. The 100 miles per week are a challenge but your optimum mix may come before that number. Get a good mix in those first 10 hours and if you have the time and energy add the time or miles as you feel.

Hi Mystery Coach,

Have been following mike's progress for some time now. I have bought both Run to the Top and Running with Lydiard and have used Mike's blog and indeed, your comments as a sounding board. I have come from a similar background to Mike. Cycling, triathlon, etc. my questions are:

I am looking at doing a Marathon in July next year. I have been triathlon training / cycle training for the past 4 months and on and off for the past 6 or so years. Given my lack of focussed running for any length of time:

When is the best time to start my marathon buildup?

In terms of using your stamina build up method would I be advised to use the 3 or 7 mile test?

Thanks for your help.

Adam Marks
Horsham, Australia

Adam, The first step would be to get use to a longer run on the weekend regardless of whatever other training you are doing now. If you started with a 35 minute run and added 5 minutes a week by January you'll be covering 2 hours. From January until about 10 weeks before your marathon try to add miles to two other days per week while keeping the long run on one day. The days in between can be more miles but you have to see how you recover and respond to the additional running. The 3 mile or 7 mile test is just to measure progress (run at a steady HR) and keep track of the results. If you are training correctly the times should get faster and with less effort. With 10 weeks to go take 4 weeks to add some small amounts of speed or hill work to develop a more efficient stride (try to get your highest miles in these 4 weeks). Then 4-5 weeks of fast running or controlled races (3-10 miles) once or twice per week with the last week or two before the race low mileage and just strides (up to a mile long) with long rest.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Learning Week

I took yesterday off, and ran an easy 12 this morning with a slightly tender achilles. I think it had more to do with some tightness in my calf, which seemed to finally loosen once I stopped (knock on wood). The zero on Saturday and two shortened runs made for a low mileage week, but I was at marathon pace or faster for over 20 miles.

Mo: 8 miles moderate on Saguaro Loop, 3 miles MP
Tu: 13 miles w/3x2 miles around 5:42 pace, +1 mile at 5:40 pace
We: 10 easy
We: 6.2 easy (100+ degrees)
Th: 9 miles, w/6 at 5:56 pace or so
Fr: 16 miles, w/10 moderate, 5.5 at 6 minute pace
Sa: 0
Su: 12 easy
Total: 73 miles in 7 sessions

As I mentioned before, I think my downfall was running too hard on Monday, which was supposed to be an easy day, and squeezing in a second run on Wednesday. I'm hoping I learned my lesson, and I also hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Stay tuned for Ask the Mystery Coach Monday tomorrow.

Training: 12 miles, 1:23:10, 6:54 pace. Easy, but right achilles a bit tender.
Miles for the week: 73 in 7 sessions

Friday, August 24, 2007

Too Much "Strain", Not Enough "Train"

I don't really want to write about the run today.

The original plan called for 18 miles, with the first 10 around 6:35-6:40 pace and the last 8 at 6 minute pace. When Mystery Coach saw that I quit a mile early and seemed to work too hard for the workout yesterday, he gave me a bit of a reprieve with a suggestion that I just run a steady pace for 10, then a good pace for 8.

While the first 10 went fairly well, I spent much of those miles with a doom and gloom cloud over my head as I worried about the last 8. I was moving along, but I definitely felt some residual fatigue and malaise. After ditching the soaked-through shirt and changing shoes and socks (damn blisters), I finished the first 10 and nervously hit the watch to start the marathon pace effort.

The feet seemed to be sticking to the ground early. While I didn't want to look at the pace, I had to see just how slow I was traveling. When two miles passed at 5:58 pace, I knew I could at least make it another mile to get some amount of work in. At three miles I decided to take it a mile at a time until I really started to slow. From mile 4 to 5 this started to happen, and as the pace slipped so did the form. The blisters made themselves known, and soon I felt like I was at mile 22 of the marathon. At 5.5 miles I finally stopped as the pace kept slowing, 2.5 miles short of my goal.

I'm left shaking my head a bit about stopping. I felt like I was slowly grinding myself into the ground today, and I was at the point where it felt like the stress I was putting on myself simply wasn't worth any potential gains from trying to tough it out any longer. But I have to wonder; On some level, am I training myself to quit when it gets tough?

The marathon is a difficult event for me, which is partially why I gravitate towards it. When I remember marathons where I've slowed during the last 6-8 miles, I give myself enough credit to say with confidence that I wasn't quitting by any means. At those points, if it was going badly, I gave as much or more effort than I put out during the rest of the race. Unfortunately, as the body breaks down, that same effort at the red-line just hasn't carried me along at a fast enough pace to match the rest of my race.

I think at the heart of Arthur Lydiard's training is the philosophy that instead of just training hard enough to simulate and then hopefully break through fatigue and breakdowns, it's better to train smart enough to avoid these difficulties altogether. Mystery Coach's insistence on "optimum" training rather than "maximum" is cast from the same mold.

"Train, don't strain" is an oft-repeated refrain of Arthur's, and slowly raising the volume, backing off, then doing it again seems to fit this philosophy better than pushing to the absolute limit. Some say you have to go over the edge to find exactly where it is, but after doing that twice now thanks to my own overzealousness I personally doubt this.

So where am I? Frankly, I'm a bit cooked from pushing too hard this week. The last two workouts (and my apprehensiveness going into them) prove this. I suggested taking a day off or going very easy tomorrow, but the coach suggested taking it a bit further and going easy through Monday. The coach knows this much "easy" will drive me crazy, but it also might make me faster in October.

Training: 16 miles, 1:43:01, 6:26 pace. 10 at 6:37 pace, 5.5 at 6:01 pace

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Quack Quack

Why is it so much easier to learn from our training mistakes rather than from our training successes? I guess the smoke and fire that erupts from overdoing it draws more attention than the sometimes imperceptible gains that come from consistent and balanced training.

A little over two weeks ago I was cooked from a combination of travel, work and general fatigue. I recognized this only after a trainwreck of a long run. Later, my log of the week shows me tired on two occasions before the blow up. After a much-needed easy day of six miles followed by a day off, I seemed to be back to making progress. In fact, the past two weeks of training were easily the best of this training cycle in terms of balancing the increased stresses of the workouts with my increased recovery needs. No single workout left me absolutely fried, and the words,"felt good" or "felt easy" started replacing "tired" next to where I typed in my workout results.

With this in mind, a smart runner would take pains to keep to the same type of schedule and ride the gains out, especially as the workouts start to increase in intensity and duration. Stay in the game, keep moving up the ladder, and other tired phrases I use often come to mind here. I believe that a good week of training, or even two, doesn't mean that much in the grand scheme of things. A good month is something else, and I think taking this longer view leads to a bit more balance while deemphasizing the tendency to cram in the miles or the workouts in a given week to meet an arbitrary goal. Unfortunately, I haven't been a smart runner.

Instead of making good decisions this week, I ended up taking my fitness for granted. Heading out to the Saguaro 8 mile course and running the last three miles close to marathon pace was a bad idea on Monday, especially the day after hill repeats and the day before running 7 miles worth of cruise intervals. This was the first time I had done this type of workout for this cycle (the cruise intervals), and those miles spent running faster than marathon pace should have been preceded by an easy run instead. In retrospect, the load looks like three workouts in a row, which certainly wasn't what the coach had in mind.

Yesterday was my chance to really recover, and to save up whatever I could for this week's back to back workouts on Thursday and Friday. I made a good choice by heading out for an easy 10 in the morning, but then I stupidly decided to do the evening run with the Running Shop gang. Since I've sworn off this run I've had a much easier time with the back to back workouts, so I don't know why I showed up. It's nice to see everyone, but running 10K in 102 degree temps just 11 hours before the first of my back to back workouts simply doesn't work for me. Which brings me to this morning...

A poor night of sleep, interrupted twice by the kids, brought 4am around too soon. Once on the road the legs didn't feel great, and a first mile of 7:40 certainly proved I wasn't running any better than I felt. After a second mile I started the 7 mile effort at 5:57 pace, and found myself working entirely too hard to keep the pace under 6 minutes. 85 degree temperatures weren't helping, but this alone isn't enough to find me struggling this early. After getting things down to 5:56 for the first mile I almost stopped to save the workout for tomorrow, but for whatever reason I pressed on. Mile two passed in 5:55 with slightly less of a struggle, then mile three in an inexplicable 5:50. Now I was heading downhill for a few miles, and I expected the effort to ease. Instead, I kept having to surge a bit to stay under 6. A 5:58 followed by a 5:55 felt closer to the 5:45's I was running earlier in the week, and after a sixth mile in 5:57 I pulled the plug. The feet were blistered for the first time in memory, I felt overheated, and my breathing wasn't right for the pace. I grumpily jogged a mile home, thinking all the way about the mile I had shirked and the probability that tomorrow could be quite tough depending on how I bounce back. While I'm not totally cooked by any means, the workout did not feel the way it was designed to, and it seemed like finishing it for the sake of putting it in the log-book would just mean digging myself deeper.

I'm not upset about my fitness, I'm just disappointed in the series of rookie training mistakes that no doubt contributed to the rough day and the missed mile. I also got to thinking about the 3-4x2 mile cruise interval workout, and how I probably would have gotten all 8 miles in (instead of stopping at 7) if I had taken it easier the day before. Another mile and another opportunity missed.

Afterwards, I hopped into what passes for an ice bath around here. The small amount of available ice melted fairly quickly, but soon enough it was replaced by three rubber ducks, two basketballs, a boat and a small giraffe. While the water was far too cold for the kids to hop in, they made sure I didn't lack for company.

Training: Today, 9 miles, 57:20, 6:25 pace, w/6 mile effort in 5:56, 5:55, 5:50, 5:58, 5:55, 5:57
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles easy, 43 minutes
Yesterday am., 10 miles, 1:11:10, 7:07 pace

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Someone Needs a Nap

If Finn would fall asleep for his nap, maybe I could get some shut-eye too. Oh well, I guess writing a post is fine too. Speaking of breaks, it was nice of the coach to give me a day off from posting yesterday for his first installment of "Ask the Mystery Coach". Keep those questions rolling in so the coach can blow his whole weekend working up the answers. Seriously though, I really enjoyed reading yesterday and look forward to the next one.

As for me, I spent yesterday morning's run doing some pre-race reconnaissance for the upcoming Saguaro National Monument 8 Miler on Labor Day. This is a cruel, hilly race, and touring the course on the day after hill circuits and the day before intervals probably wasn't the best choice. Here's a gander at the grade-

As you can see, it's a colorful course.

The legs didn't feel bad at all after the hills on Sunday, so I ran the race loop at a moderate pace along with Lucas. By the end we were winded, but it felt good to reacquaint myself with this course.

Today the glutes were sore (probably from the downhills), and the quads weren't as fresh as I would have liked. This wasn't great, as the coach had assigned a workout of 3-4 intervals of two miles at 5:40-5:45 pace with a recovery mile at 6:40 pace. After an easy mile I got right to it, and while the legs seemed more inclined to sit at about 5:50 pace I dug in a little for 5:44 and 5:38. The second set came easier, and the breathing was more settled as the miles passed again in 5:44 and 5:38. I was using a one mile stretch of straight road for these, so I'm guessing the "out" was a little uphill. The third set found me laboring a little in the second mile, and the resulting 5:43 and 5:42 confirmed it. At this point I was on the fence about stopping, but since I was close to the track I ran my easy mile up to the school and decided to at least give the fourth set a go. Four times around got me to 5:40, but the legs were ready to call it a day. I gave them one more lap to change their mind, but after a 400 in 1:24 it was time to stop.

All in all it's been a good couple of days, but I'll definitely be going easy tomorrow in hopes of saving up for a tougher back to back series on Thursday and Friday.

Training: Today, 13 miles, 1:19:44, 6:08 pace, w/3x2 mile cruise intervals + 1 mile (1 mile recoveries).
Yesterday, 8 miles, 52:23, 6:28 pace, probably a little too hard over Saguaro 8 mile hilly loop

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hi I have seen your post on Mike's blog. I have been following his training for quite some time and I'm interested in the back to back marathon paced(or near)evaluation runs he does on a biweekly bases. I read the theory behind this training and I understand it as a specific marathon conditioner. I took note that maybe 10-15% of his miles are done at this intensity. Would you recommend that same ratio for most runners. What I mean is me being a 60 MPW runner shouldn't be out doing a 10 miler w/ 7 at marathon pace followed by a long run w/5 @ marathon paced the next day. Would I be able to alter those numbers and still fit the principle?


Jesse, One thing that does not change regardless of the number of miles you run each week is that the Marathon is 26.22 miles. To prepare yourself for it you'll have to do long enough runs and fast enough runs to simulate the demands of the race. Let's look at the demands from a practical point of view. A 3:30 marathoner (8:00 per mile pace) spends 50% more time on their feet than a 2:20 marathoner (5:20 per mile pace). A 3:30 marathoner also takes 33% more strides than a 2:20 marathoner (180 s/min. X 140 min. = 25600 to 160 s/min. X 210 min. = 33,600 (faster runners have higher turn over rates and longer strides)) Once you get to 20,000 strides (about 16 miles for a 3:30 marathoner, 21 miles for a 2:20 marathoner you have to start weighing the benefits of going longer (increased impact resistance vs injury risk). For the 2:20 marathoner a long run like that is going to put him/her over 2 hours (close to the length of time of the race) where as the 3:30 marathoner is going to be 90 minutes short. One way to work around this problem is recommended by Dr. Maffetone (see "the Maffetone Method" pg 158) would be to walk for 45 minutes run for 2 hours then walk another 45 minutes. This way you get time on your feet with out the extra impact stress.

Next you have to move on to pace. Depending on how efficient you are with fuel determines how fast you'll race a marathon. Run faster than that pace and you won't make it. This is where the back to backs come in. Day one depletes part of your fuel, day two brings it down further with the first 10 miles then the second part at marathon pace tells how much you have left in the tank. As you become more efficient you can go longer and longer at marathon pace. To answer your question you would be better to run on day one 40-60 minutes of marathon pace then the next day work up to 10 miles (at about 9% slower than race pace). Once you achieve that start adding 1 mile at a time at marathon pace. Keep in mind the distance recommendations above ( 3:30 marathoner 16 miles (10/6) and 2:20 marathoner 20 (10/10))

I noticed in Mikes training there is no coordination phase like that in Lydiard's books. Can you explain why you leave this phase out? In one of his past races he included it but than dropped it when you guys met I guess.


Jesse, It's still there but is blended into the last part of the speed work phase. Depending on how Mike does on the back to backs (once we get over 4 miles at marathon pace (this starts about 10 weeks out from the race) I start to evaluate on to how he responds and recovers from the back to backs. This in turn adjust the workouts until the final two back to backs (10 with 10 at marathon pace) which are the real coordination workouts.

I have one question that I've never quite managed to understand. You had Mike do some fast running recently (as in 4x600 out of 1 mile), and I gather there will be plenty of anaerobic workouts in the next phase.

How come those short repeats (or just about any anaerobic running for that matter) are beneficiary for a marathon runner? I'm sure you need them if your distance is 5k, but do they really help for a marathon?

Thanks in advance,

Thomas, I'm not a big fan of the aerobic/anaerobic model of running because it creates a poor model on how to balance your training. The preliminary speed work that Mike is doing in his transition phase helps the body to develop better and faster pathways to deliver oxygen to the fiber. By running a small amount of speed (about 600 meters worth) with long rest (only every 15 minutes) you drop the oxygen level inside the active muscle fibers (and since the distance is short very little oxygen debt is created). This enhanced pathway for delivering oxygen to muscle fibers is important to all runners. Having a great delivery system (heart, capillaries) is of no use if the faucets of the cell wall can not open 100%.

The next phase of where volume speed work is done has a different goal since we have done our preliminary speed work and our faucets can deliver oxygen at 100% we now have to develop pathways to use lactate efficiently. These volume speed workouts can be of any type ( 6-10 X 800 meters, 4 X 2 miles, or 20-60 minute fast runs or controlled races) as long as they are longer than 20 minutes (it takes about 10 minutes for the lactate pathways to get into full gear) and they are not so fast that you can not get a good volume in. This type of training is essential to get the most out your racing (even marathons and ultra marathons).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Another Week Down

Another morning on the hill, again with the usual four circuits. I'm finally up to bounding 50 steps or so with each repeat (during the 3 minute steep hill running exercises), which really digs into the quads a bit. Altogether it was a pretty good week:

Mo: 12 easy
Tu: 11 w/4 hill circuits plus extra 3x200
We: 13 w/4 sets of 600 meter intervals, broken up
Th: 10 w/7 around 5:55 pace
Fr: 20 at moderate pace
Sa: 10 very easy
Su: 10.6 w/4 hill circuits
Total: 86.6 in 7 sessions

Two hill days, a decent marathon pace workout, a long run and a few intervals managed to get squeezed in during the past seven days, so I'll try not to let all those shorter 10 mile runs bug me.

Next week should be a challenge with a bit more running under threshold and a tougher back to back. Enjoy the weekend, and tune in tomorrow for the first installment of Ask the Mystery Coach Monday.

Training: Today, 10.6 miles, 1:23:08, 7:50 pace, w/4 hill circuits
Saturday, 10 miles, 1:12:15, 7:16 pace
Miles for the week: 86.6 in 7 sessions

Friday, August 17, 2007

Just Wave and say "Hello"

Why even think about it? As Jason Alexander's George Costanza once famously said, "We're living in a SOCIETY here!!!!"

The long run today featured several two and three mile loops through an old, sprawling neighborhood across Sabino Canyon Road from our stucco-box development. I typically wave and say hi to everyone I pass, as it seems like the polite thing to do and it only takes a second. I don't take offense when some people just stare straight ahead and ignore me, but it does get a little humorous when I end up passing them two more times during my loops as they walk in the opposite direction. You see, there's a need to be consistent, so they often feel compelled to ignore me again and again. I'll say hi a second time, then leave them alone if I see them again.

This pattern often repeats itself every few days when I find myself in that neighborhood again. Dogs need walking, I need my runs, so invariably our paths cross fairly frequently. I start fresh each time, and sometimes a person who has ignored me for weeks finally breaks down. Pink lady with Yoko Ono shades and three chihuahuas is one of those folks who have finally broken down and started to say hello. She walks most mornings while pushing a stroller. There's no child in the stroller, but occasionally one of the canines hops in for a rest break. Heck, she even said hi to Lucas yesterday.

The lack of common courtesy I find on the roads is often balanced out by some of the friendly faces I pass, but today the scale was tipped in the wrong direction. This made me think of a clipping a favorite client mailed me yesterday. He's 86 years old, sharp as a tack, and I enjoy talking to him when I get the chance.

What's Your Hurry

Slack up brother, what's your hurry,
That so recklessly you scurry,
With your elbows crowding sideways
And your eyes fixed straight ahead?
Is a minute's time so precious,
That you need to be so ungracious,
And go tramping on your fellows,
As on the way you speed?
Can't you spare a nod of greeting,
Pass the time of day in meeting,
Swap a joke or smile a little
When a neighbor comes along?
Is the dollar so enticing-
Is success so all-sufficing
That you can't devote a second
To a brother in the throng?
Do you know your destination?
It's a quiet little station,
Where ambition never troubles
And the dollar jingles not;
Where riches are not enduring,
Where your note has passed maturing,

And the richest man's possession
Is a little grassy spot.
Why be over keen in speeding,
On a trail so surely leading

To that lonely little city, where
We all must land at last?
Slack up, brother! What's your hurry,
That so recklessly you scurry?
You may lead a slow procession
E'er another year is past.

-By Samuel Ullman, "From a Summit of Years Fourscore"

Today's long run went fairly well, but I did start to feel a bit of fatigue after 14 miles or so. At mile 16 I almost pulled into the driveway for a quick drink, but the fear of breaking my rhythm so close to the end of the run found me just throwing my shirt into the driveway instead. I know better than to leave it on the road. By mile 18 I was past whatever dragging feeling it was that dogged me for a few miles, and the last two miles passed without incident.

I don't like admitting this, but I would like to feel stronger and more relaxed when I get past 15 miles or so during my long runs. I think part of it is probably marathon-withdrawal amnesia, as I can't concretely say that 20 and 22 milers were ever all that comfortable when I was training for the marathon last December. Another thing I need to keep in mind is the increased training load, especially on the day before each long run. Still, I think I might be a bit light on the "time on feet" aspect of the long run. Luckily there's still time for several more long runs.

Training: 20 miles, 2:14:25, 6:43 pace. Tired for miles 15-18, progressed down from 7:20 pace early

Thursday, August 16, 2007


"Are those short repeats really beneficiary for a marathon runner? I'm sure you need them if your distance is 5k, but do they really help for a marathon?"

ps-forward, knees up, back-leg fully extended drills on the uphills to a little over 3 minutes, then instead of heading straight down the hill, I kept running (slowly) up to the top (it evens out a bit so I'm still able to recover) before heading down. This hopefully keeps my muscles from going right from the uphill shock to the downhill eccentric contractions, which should allow them to recover (Nobby Hashizume says the same thing, to recover for 800 before heading back down).

With a shorter work interval I was able to get my knees up higher, and hopefully I'm getting more out of the exercises by focusing on better form made possible with the shorter duration."

I pretty much took Glenn's advice and combined it with a long, illustrated article by Nobby Hashizume, who worked closely with Arthur Lydiard during his final years and was his good friend for 25 years or so. This article really came alive when Nobby mailed me a copy of a hill training DVD that featured Arthur lecturing about hill exercises while athletes demonstrated them.

I don't want to reprint the article since it's Nobby's work, but it mentions that "Arthur's Boys" climbed an 800 meter hill with springing and bounding, recovered on 800 meters of flat road at the top, ran 800 meters down the hill, then did a series of windsprints or easy intervals at the bottom. They did four circuits of these, plus a warm up and cool down to get 12-14 miles in the session. They did these six days a week (plus their standard 22 miler), though later Lydiard concluded that 2-3 sessions of hills would be just as effective.

I'm sure Arthur's boys got to the top in under three minutes, and that seems like enough time for me to load up the muscle fibers before recovering. I don't have a flat area at the top for strides, so I have to do all of mine at the base. In short, I do what I can to emulate the training Arthur's original group performed on the hills given the limitations of my own physiology and geography.

It's also worth noting that Arthur's schedules for conditioning and hill training were the same for his milers, his 5K guys and his marathoners. Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and Barry Magee all worked through this preliminary training, because each of them were training the same systems before moving on to more pace and distance specific work. These first two phases are about building the strength and endurance to maintain your maximum speed for the race distance, whatever that may be, without slowing down.

With all this being said, probably the main reason for me performing my hill workouts as I do is the fact that the coach hasn't asked me to change. I'm sure he has his own opinions on specific hill workouts, but a look at my log shows me consistently coming out of my hill phases in better shape than I was going in. If this is the case, why mess with it? He has added more of the preliminary speedwork on some days, and a good explanation for this can be found in his post on speedwork.

Today Lucas joined me for 7 miles at 5:57 pace. It was nice to have the company, and the workout really felt good. 5:56, 5:56, 5:49, 5:55, 5:53, 5:51, and 5:55 were the splits, and the heart rate was right at 160 after a fairly challenging uphill last mile. I found myself looking forward to the effort that would come with paying back the slight downhills on a curving mile 5 and 6, which I take as a good sign. If I can keep it together for the long run tomorrow and manage to recover for the weekend, things will be looking good.

Training: 10.1 miles, 1:04:22, 6:22 pace, w/7 mile effort in 5:56, 5:56, 5:49, 5:55, 5:53, 5:51, and 5:55. Good day

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Miss Independent

Afternoon showers make for sultry mornings in Tucson, Arizona.

The hill phase I'm currently enjoying should probably be called a transition phase. In fact, that's what Mystery Coach has called it all along, but the reasons for that are only starting to hit me now. Along with the hill circuit workouts and the back to back workouts, I'm starting to implement a bit of preliminary speedwork. The goal is to get the legs ready for the relatively short anaerobic phase ahead, and if today was any indicator it's obvious I'm not ready yet.

Today's run was pretty much two miles easy, followed by 1 mile on the track with 600 meters of effort. Rinse and repeat three times for a total of four segments, then add one easy mile back to the house. The composition of the 600 meters was up to me, and I was encouraged to mix it up a bit. This was my take:
1. 6x100 accelerations to full speed, w/100 rest on the first 4 and 300 rest on the last two.
2. 3x200 w/200 rest in 34, 33, 33
3. 1x400 in 73, 400 rest, 1x200 in 33
4. 1x600 in 1:53

The legs dragged a bit by the last 600, which I did as one interval mostly to end things sooner. The times could be worse, and they were slower yesterday when I did 3x200 before the hills in 36, 35, 35. This time on the 200's I tried to run the turns very steady, then attempted to find my last gear on the homestretch. This seemed to work fairly well, though running in near total darkness yesterday probably accounts for that day's slower splits.

I'm feeling altogether clunky during these introductory sessions, and it's going to take some work to get me running quickly in a straight line again. Hopefully getting a jump on speedwork with these abbreviated sessions will pay off, and if I'm lucky I won't feel buried tomorrow when I start the weekly back to back runs.

At home things are changing a bit, as our daughter Haiden started her first week of her 5-day kindergarten bridges program. She's clearly enjoying her new-found independence, and she demonstrated as much while working with Kiera (my wife) on her first homework assignment. Kiera traced Haiden's outline while lying on a large piece of butcher paper, then it was Haiden's job to decide how to draw and color herself in. First came the dress, then the soccer shoes (she's never played soccer but they had the cleats and everything), followed by a little purse.

Then came the tattoos.

First on one arm, then the other. If I remember right one was a flower, and I imagine the second was a cat or similar. Kiera thought she was finished, but Haiden had other ideas. "I need one more tattoo," she announced while bringing the crayon up to the forehead of her likeness. "Are you sure, Haiden?", Kiera asked. "You already have two tattoos, that might be enough." Haiden's response: "I can do what I want, mom."

When all the paper cutouts of Haiden's class are taped up outside her school building, I am reasonably sure there will only be one child with a pink bunny tattoo smack in the middle of her forehead.

That's our girl.

Training: 13 miles, 1:31:44, 7:03 pace, w/6x100, 3x200 in 34, 33, 33, 1x400 in 1:13 , 1x200 in 33, 1x600 in 1:53 (2 miles between each block of 600, mostly even recoveries)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Laptop Down

Thanks to Mystery Coach for adding "Mystery Coach Mondays" to the blog. I'm sure it will beat hearing about one of my recovery runs, which seems to be the usual on Mondays. Yesterday was no exception, as Lucas and I plodded around for 12 miles at a little over 7 minute pace.

Today was my first hill workout of the week, which followed the same pattern as Sunday with the exception of me turning around lower on the hill to avoid another altercation with the security guard at the top. 11 miles around 8 minute pace with a bit more bounding on the four repeats.

My laptop is in the shop, so this is it for now. Grrrrr.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach Mondays

I receive a number of emails each week asking questions about training. It would be better if everyone saw the responses so that they could add to their training knowledge. To help with that goal "Ask Mystery Coach Mondays" will start next week and will be a weekly post at the "Running With Lydiard" blog.

"Ask The Mystery Coach Mondays" will be a post with a question and answer format. Questions can have to do with your training specifically, general training theory, or why I use a specific workout at a specific time. Mail your questions to me ( mysterycoach at gmail dot com ) and I'll choose one or more Friday night for a post Monday morning. Include your blog if you have one. I also encourage using the comments section for different points of view on my answers or would like further clarification about a subject.

Thanks again to Mike for sharing his blog space and readers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Like the Old Days

Check back tomorrow for the announcement of an exciting new weekly feature on the "Running With Lydiard" blog

It was back to the hill early this morning to finish off my first week of hill training. This time I went through the same routine that seems to work for me. In short, I do four circuits of the following:
3 minutes of steep hill running (bounding when I can)
1.5 minutes or so of steady running with good form to the top of the hill
Run gently down the hill (my aching glutes)
3x100 slightly downhill strides/accelerations on the road perpendicular to the hill, reaching full speed for the final 25 meters of #2 and #3.

80% humidity this morning left me drenched, and by the end of the workout I felt like I had done an hour of light weight lifting with my legs, which I guess is about right as each circuit takes 12-13 minutes.

Yesterday I ran 10 miles easy. I could definitely feel a bit of soreness from two days of faster paced running, so it was nice to take it easy.

Here's how the week went down:
Mo: Big Fat Zero
Tu: 12, 3x hill circuits
We: 12 easy
Th: 10, w/7 at 5:53 pace
Fr: 19 miles, w/10 at 6:35 and 7 at 6:03 pace
Sa: 10 easy and slow
Su: 10.5, 4x hill circuits
Total: 73.5 miles in 6 sessions

With the tougher back to back runs and the addition of two hill workouts (not to mention the zero day), I can't be too disappointed with the low total. Or at least I won't admit it here.

Training: Today, 10.5 miles, 1:12:50, 8:11 pace, w/4 hill circuits and 12x100 strides/accelerations
Yesterday, 10 miles, 1:13:47, 7:23 pace

Friday, August 10, 2007

That Marathon Feeling

Hey Thomas, I finally updated my training log.

Mystery Coach is big on conditioning all the muscle fibers, as runners certainly use all of them when racing. For races at shorter distances, it's fine for the fast twitch muscle fibers to act like...Well, fast switch muscles, firing fast and hard for a short period of time. For races like the marathon the goal is to get those fast twitch muscles at the end of the chain to act more like their endurance-heavy slow twitch fiber brethren towards the front of the chain. The coach explains this theory here.

As the theory goes, getting to those fibers (or activating them as the coach says) is half the battle. One way is by running very fast, which quickly overwhelms the endurance fibers on the front lines, causing the faster twitch fibers to activate and contribute (so all the fibers are firing at once). However, at this intensity they can't fire with any efficiency for long, and they don't learn to perform the way they will need to for the marathon. This kind of exercise is useful for keeping these fibers "at the ready" when it comes time for sharpening in the weeks before the race, but it seems of limited value for getting these fibers used to carrying their load during mile 20-26.2 of the marathon.

Another way of getting to these faster-twitch fibers is to fatigue the fibers in front of them with long, steady running at or near marathon pace. As the slow twitch fibers fatigue, the faster-twitch fibers are called in to finish the job of completing the run at marathon pace. This is very specific work, "conditioning" (the coach's words again) these fibers to do precisely the same job they will be asked to do for the marathon. This is where yesterday's 7 miles at a planned 5:57 pace, followed by today's workout of 10 miles steady and 7 miles at 6 minute pace come in.

Lucas joined me this morning for the first part of the run, and after an easy 8 minute mile we got to work on progressing down towards the 6:35-6:40 average pace the coach prescribed for the next 10 miles. While I felt pretty good (or at least not bad), I could feel the 80 degree temperature bearing down on me along with a bit of fatigue from yesterday's marathon pace work. At 10 miles I quickly hit the bathroom at the house, then changed into the race shoes I used yesterday. Just drying off, tossing the soaked-through shirt and putting on dry shoes revived me a bit, and I was optimistic as I headed out for the next 7 miles alone.

The first mile passed at about 6 minute pace, and while I wanted it to feel as easy as yesterday it did take a little more work. By the end of mile three I had slowed a few seconds, but if felt like I was sitting just below my red-line so I tried not to worry about it. The stretch from three to five was the most difficult, but I knew if I could get to five without falling apart that seven would be in the bag given my stubbornness. From mile five to seven it kicked in: That marathon feeling. It's hard to describe, but for me it feels like the whole body is being put under a bit of pressure. Breathing gets more difficult, yet not out of control, and the same goes for holding a certain pace. It's the feeling I've often experienced somewhere between mile 16 and mile 23 of the marathon. It starts in the back of my mind and slowly becomes more of a concern. "I can do this, but I can't do this forever."

I ended up finishing the seven at an average pace of 6:03 per mile, which I can live with. It's not the six minutes flat I was shooting for, but I do feel I tuned in to what I was capable of right now and made the most of the final miles of the workout by staying aerobic. I'll take 7 miles at 6:03 over 5 at 6 minutes flat followed by blowing up. The heart rate was 156 immediately afterwards, and I was too anxious to get through the one mile cool down and home to Kiera's scones to stand there and wait for the beats per minute to get down to 120. Understand these were chocolate scones.

Training: 19 miles, 2:03:48, 6:31 pace, w/10 miles at 6:35 pace followed by 7 miles at 6:03 pace, a bit physically and mentally drained by the end, but no bonking feeling

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Must be the Shoes, and Thoughts on Hard/Easy

It sure is fun when things go well.

I was excited about the run this morning, as 7 miles at 5:57 pace was finally on the menu (Look Greg, actual marathon pace!). For weeks Mystery Coach has kept the back to back workouts at 6:10 pace, but as we begin moving towards more specific marathon training and away from general conditioning we're also moving down to hopefully present marathon pace given my current fitness. Hopefully 5:57's and 6 minute flat miles will give way to 5:50-5:55 miles as the marathon draws near, but I guess it's best not to get ahead of myself.

Along with specific marathon paces I'm also working on spending more time in the Asics DS Trainers I use for racing the distance. To that end I laced them up for the run today, and even during the warm up I felt noticably lighter on my feet than I do with the bulky Brooks Adrenalines I usually use. I add an insole with cushioning to the Adrenalines too, which adds to the weight.

The workout went off without a hitch: 5:56, 5:54, 5:51, 5:56, 5:55, 5:54, 5:50. The effort was so easy towards the end that I actually felt like I was running 7 minute pace for the last mile. The body really opened up to the effort here, and I had to noticeably ease off during the last half mile to get the pace into the 5:50's from the 5:40's. By this point I was thinking about saving up for tomorrow's effort of another 7 miles at pretty much the same pace (6 flat) after 10 at a steady pace.

The heart rate was an even 160 immediately afterwards, which I was happy with given the weather conditions (the usual). After a minute I was at 120BPM, which is much better than a week ago where after a slower 7 mile effort at 160BPM I was still at 130BPM after two and a half minutes.

Thoughts on the Hard/Easy training philosophy:

I get a fair amount of grief from runners regarding the paces of my easy runs. According to many I run too quickly on my "easy" days or not hard enough on my workout days. Some people argue percentages, stating that my easy runs should be at less than 70 or 75% of my 5K pace, some cite logbooks, articles or discussions with runners much faster than me who run much slower than I do on their easy days.

I know everyone for the most part means well, and I usually don't spend much time defending my paces unless I see a problem with someone's math. All this being said, I do have some thoughts on the hard/easy concept:

1. Hard/Easy works well in tandem, but if the first part is absent you shouldn't have to focus on the second part:

During my conditioning phase I was advised by the coach to not run too fast. On general aerobic days, "too fast" meant 6:36 pace or so, or marathon pace plus 10%. I was also advised not to go faster than 6:08 or so for the effort portions of my back to back workouts. In addition to this, I would often run a weekly 2 mile effort by feel, comfortably hard, which usually ended up around 8-10K pace or so.

In a typical week we're looking at 10-15 percent of mileage spent at marathon pace +10 seconds per mile, 0-4 percent of mileage spent at 8-10K pace, and the rest at no faster than 6:36 pace (usually 6:40-7:10 pace). Tell me where the real "hard" is in this schedule that necessitates hours of running at 7:30 pace in order to recover?

Lydiard's conditioning phase is about building endurance and stamina, and preparing for the harder and more specific work that follows during the later phases. "Strong aerobic pace" is often mentioned when this phase, while the term "long, SLOW distance" is avoided. I feel most of my running is between the two.

2. Easy is relative:

When I have my head on straight I check myself during the runs the day before and the day after my weekly back to back sessions, which to me are the two runs where I need to be wary of running to fast. The question I ask is, "Will it feel easier if I slow down?" If the answer is "yes" I slow down, but most often the legs and lungs can't feel the difference between 6:55 and 7:30 pace. Again, if I was running harder on the "workout" days it would probably be a different story.

3. When it does get hard, it will get easy (or it should)

I learned this the hard way last Friday when I didn't take my first 7 mile effort at a 160 heart rate followed by 2h 30 minutes the next day seriously enough, and instead ran and worked too hard in the days leading up to it. It took two days to get right after that. The next few weeks of back to back workouts will be more difficult for me, and as such you will see slower runs before and after.

When I moved into this phase for my winter marathon build I was still getting to know Mystery Coach. When he emphasized running no more than 10 miles the day after these more focused back to backs as either a single or double depending on what was easier for me, and at no faster than 7 minute pace, I originally thought he was being too cautious. I was still learning the meaning of "easy" then, but the coach had obviously seen it all before. I needed these easy days, and I eventually looked forward to them. Instead of straddling the middle of the hard/easy scale as I could during conditioning, this specific work required running to the edge of one side, then walking back towards the other. This is a long way of saying that you'll probably be seeing more slow running in my log for the next two months, but only because of a similar increase of faster running. Again with the balance.

Training: 10 miles, 1:02:51, 6:17 pace, w/7 mile MP effort in 5:56, 5:54, 5:51, 5:56, 5:55, 5:54, 5:50. 160HR immediately after, 120HR at one minute

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's What's Behind Me That Hurts

I bent down to put the recycling buckets near the curb before heading out to run and really noticed how stiff and sore my glutes were. At the time I wasn't sure if it was the strides or the uphill running yesterday that was causing the discomfort, and as it turns out it was neither. Apparently, running downhill causes me more grief than going up, for as soon as I started rolling down the big hill on Dog-Poop Trail I could feel the soreness kick in when I started running more upright and landing stronger on my heels. This is running like I'm sitting in a bucket, and it seems unavoidable when I'm gingerly treading down steep inclines. I'll take going up over going down any day.

I ended up covering 12 miles at a very relaxed pace, and aside from the soreness already mentioned things felt good. I did concentrate on keeping the effort as slow as was comfortable, as today is my one day respite between yesterday's hills and the next two days of back to back workouts. With this in mind I'm skipping the evening shop run again tonight, even though it's been awhile since I've seen the gang.

Training: 12 miles, 1:23:45, 6:59 pace

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Something Different

I took a big fat zero yesterday. I intentionally didn't set the alarm, and by some glorious coincidence the kids slept until 6:30. When I finally woke and heard the sound of the rain beating down on the roof I thought I might get a run in after it stopped, but when it was still going strong as Kiera left for an afternoon of scrapbooking I realized that it just wasn't going to happen. Instead I took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese for lunch and laid low while our son napped and our daughter colored afterwards. At one point in the early evening the guilt of the zero hit me while I was talking to my wife. I paused and looked at her, and as soon as I mentioned feeling bad about not running she said she knew those would be the next words out of my mouth.

If running ever feels like a job, I know something is wrong. I needed a day to get myself right after owning up to the residual fatigue from my road trip and suffering through the resulting disappointing long run. When I woke today at 4:30 it was game on, and I was definitely motivated to get out the door.

This was originally scheduled as the first week of a short hill phase in Arthur Lydiard's mold, but an audible called by the coach after seeing me stall a bit put the ball in my court as far as how much or how intense my running should be for a few days. Still, I had the go-ahead to run hills if I felt like it or to do some strides if I was up to it, so I ended up doing a combination of both along with some sight-seeing.

Sabino Canyon was officially closed due to heavy rains and flooding, but I snuck in my side entrance by the shooting range and ran down to the first flooded and blocked bridge to see the damage. So much for my first choice for hill repeats with scenery. From there I hit the track and ran a mile of 100 sprints and 300 jogs, just to loosen up the legs. I could definitely feel the hamstrings working to snap the legs up behind me, and I felt altogether rusty from the day off. Next I ran down Sabino Canyon Road and did six more strides/accelerations of 100 or so meters en route to my old nemesis, Sabino Mountain Road. This winding climb up to a gated and exclusive subdivision has been the terrain for my last few hill phases, and with Sabino Canyon in ruins again it looks like I'll be on it again for the next few weeks.

Thomas is up to the same sort of thing now that I'm moving into, which includes steep hill running and eventually some bounding. In my case I'm sticking with the former until the legs get into the swing, and today that meant 3 x 3 minute efforts of slow, forward momentum while driving the knees as high as I could. After three minutes I ease off and run the last section to the top of the hill at a relaxed pace but with good form. From there I try not to kill myself by running down slowly to the bottom. In most cases I do 3x100 slightly downhill strides on the road that meets up with Sabino Mountain, but since the legs were already in the hole a bit from the earlier sprinting I stuck with a bit of easy jogging before heading up again.

The Arthur Lydiard Foundation, headed by Nobby Hashizume, has this video online, which illustrates some of Lydiard's hill training methods. That's Nobby in the flesh doing the first exercise of steep hill running. Later on I'll probably move into some shorter, more explosive hill running as I get closer to the marathon.

All in all it was a good day, and the legs are buzzing from the new stimulus. As I mentioned before, the hamstrings definitely noticed the sprints, and the upper calf muscles and the lower quadriceps took the brunt of the hills.

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1:30:15, 7:30 pace
Yesterday, Big Fat Zero

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Not Fade Away

4-year-old Haiden shoots a self portrait

The last two weeks were of the sort that makes me regret keeping my training log online. I think subconsciously it's my ego that keeps me from updating it. Did I say something about a "marathon mindset" recently? Mine apparently still needs some work. Let's see those numbers-

Mo: 12 moderate
Tu: 10 easy (tired)
We: 10 w/1 mile at 5:57
Th: 10 easy (tired)
Fr: 10 w/7 at 160BPM, 5:36, 5:39, 5:57, 5:57, 6:00, 6:10, 6:11
Sa: 14 Long run trainwreck
Su: 6 easy
Total: 72 in 7 sessions

Put this week after last week's 77 miles, then compare it to the previous five 90-plus mile weeks in a row during June and July. What happened to this guy?

Somewhere I went over the edge a bit. If I had to do it all over again I probably would have taken a few days off from running during my trip (I returned home Thursday night). The coach emphasized keeping the paces easy and generally running by feel, but on the occasions where I woke up tired and actually dreaded running before putting in a full workday I saw skipping or cutting the run short as a cop-out. Plus, the weather was so nice on all but my last day there I didn't want to waste the opportunity of running where the dewpoint and the temperature were under 75 degrees, which hasn't happened here in weeks.

Whatever I was trying to avoid or train through hit me in spades on Saturday when I got up to do my long run. Our son woke while I was drinking coffee, and I delayed my departure to play with him in his room so my wife could get a little more sleep. As I sat and we kicked a soccer ball back and forth I thought about how much I had missed the family while I'd been gone, and here I was getting ready to head out for 2.5 hours for a run before going to work for a full day. The legs were tired, and quite frankly I almost decided right there to skip the run entirely.

By the time I was five miles from home and at the bottom of Gut Check Alley, I knew I had made the wrong decision by heading out the door. The pace was slow but I still felt like I was laboring. Instead of turning around right there I kept heading downhill and ran the loop around my brother's neighborhood, and when I stopped at his house for a drink at 8.5 miles I knew I was going to be in serious trouble. I took the direct route back up the hills home and called it at 14 miles.

I emailed Mystery Coach, and the prescription is a few easy, unstructured days for now. The ego is bruised, but nothing is broken. This morning I felt pretty good, and when Finn again woke early I decided to pump up the tires on the increasingly-neglected single jogging stroller and take him for a solo muffin run. He hasn't had too many runs without his sister alongside in the double-stroller (the muffin run is usually her thing but she was still fast asleep), so this seemed like a treat to him. We grabbed a muffin to go for Haiden and a cookie for him to eat on the way back, then raced home to avoid both a quickly softening tire and the rain that was beginning to fall. Finn smiled all the way, pointed out all the dogs, rabbits and birds, and scanned the sky in vain for airplanes. Both arms raised and poked out of the stroller (cookie in one hand) when I pushed him quickly out ahead of me or took a quick turn, accompanied by a "wheeee" through smiling teeth.

If this is the kind of running I'm reduced to, I can certainly live with it.

Training: Today, 6 miles, 42:17, 7:04 pace, muffin run w/Finn in the stroller
8/4, 14 miles, 1:38:29, 7:00 pace, aborted long run
Miles for the week: 72 in 7 sessions (sigh)

Friday, August 03, 2007

Down but not Bottomed Out

A seven mile evaluation run back in Tucson served as my welcome home workout this morning, and the end result was less of a "missed you" hug and more of a "why'd you come back" kick in the crotch.

5:36, 5:39, 5:57, 5:57, 6:00, 6:10, 6:11. Mystery Coach bumped the heart rate window from the usual "run forever" zone of 150-155 to a more marathon specific 160 (give or take a few beats), and the resulting mile splits find me shaking my head a bit. When the pace slipped to 6 flat on the fourth mile I was bummed out, but hopeful that I had "bottomed out" and would find the last two miles passing at a similar pace. No such luck. The kicker came when I stopped after finishing the 7th mile to see how long it would take for my heart rate to get back to 120BPM. As I stood on the side of the road I could feel every bit of the 79 degrees and 75% humidity as the few remaining dry spots on my shirt and shorts slowly soaked through. After 2 minutes 30 seconds the heart rate was still at 130, which was a bit strange but was probably due to the amount of blood pumping to the skin in an effort to cool me off. Usually I'm back under 120 by a minute at the most.

The bad: Obviously I was running slower with each passing minute while at a heart rate that should find me at an even and sustainable pace for twice as long an effort. I have a long way to go if I expect this effort level to carry me 26.2 miles at 5:50-5:52 pace in October.

The good: The marathon mindset is returning. Aside from being bummed out about noticeably slowing down to keep within the assigned heart rate parameters, I was fine with the effort. Yes, the legs were a bit tired, but I blame that more on spending the eight previous days on my feet moving and packing paintings. I felt like I had several miles at 160BPM left in me, the only problem being that each successive mile would probably be slower than the previous one.

It is great to be home, even with the weather, and I look forward to settling back into my old routine.

Training: Today, 10 miles, w/7 miles at 158-163BPM HR, 5:36, 5:39, 5:57, 5:57, 6:00, 6:10, 6:11
Yesterday, 10 miles, 1:08:14, 6:49 pace, tired and hot

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

10 a Day

Seems I'm getting into a rut while working away from home, but it beats doing nothing. I ended up working late yesterday to get more packing done, and by the time I was done it was after 6, I was exhausted, and it was windy as hell. Are those enough excuses for me to skip a planned second run?

I headed out for another 10 today and kept things relaxed except for one mile at 5:57 pace towards the end just to see what it felt like after several easy days. I think it should have felt easier, but there's still plenty of time for that.

I head home tomorrow and I won't be able to get to my muffin place beforehand, so probably no posts until Friday when I'm back and running in Tucson.

Training: 10 miles, 1:05:50, 6:35 pace, w/1 mile at 5:57