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).


Jesse said...

WOW!! This certentaly gives me something to think about. I'm glad to learn that my suspicions were correct in regards to my coordniation question. I sort of seen this when looking over the log so I'm glad I'm not as lost as I thought I was.

About my other question I'm still a little confused. It so happens that I am a 3:30 marathoner(thats the plan anyway when I race in a few weeks). I'm not familar with Maffetone, where can I veiw this information(pg 158)? Doesn't lydiard strongly agree with runs of 2 hours OR MORE? In his 95 book he states "up to 3 hours". During my current training I have ran, so far, 2 training runs of 20 miles in 3 hours(9 min pace or about 90% of marathon pace). My last one left me with pretty bad shin splints so when you mention "increase impact resistance vs injury" my ears perked right up. So would it be wise to run only 2 maybe 2.5 hours in training while walking the rest of the time and never actually running the entire planned race duraration? Would this be done on the week where the long run stands alone or on the test B2B weeks or both?

I currently trying a Lydiard style buildup and I don't plan on changing much at this point but I'm noticing scores of errors(the already mentioned shin splints)which is what brings me to these questions. I will be training again for a spring race and need to adjust my training.

thanks for taking your time to answer.

Mystery Coach said...

Jesse, To view Maffetone's recommendation go to Amazon and search inside the book for "Tim" it will bring you to the page.

It is best to alternate long weeks with the back to back weeks.

Some runners can handle the very long runs of 3 hours but I have found that once you get over 2-2.5 hours you'd be better off adding intensity (like very hilly courses)

Thomas said...

Thanks a million for the answer, Mystery Coach. I think I understand the purpose of those workouts a lot better now.

Dusty said...

Very interesting - thanks Mystery Coach for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Great info here! Thanks for sharing.

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