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


Michael said...

What do you know about the R&R Arizona Marathon in mid-January?

Dallen said...

I used to run easy days at around 6:30 pace. I eventually convinced myself that this was too fast, so I forced myself to slow down. Now I think I run my easy days too slow, but I can't force myself to go faster. I'm not sure which is really better. However, it is more fun going faster.

Eric said...

Nice workout today, and excellent post.

Mike said...

Thanks Eric, I appreciate it man. Dallen, I am often amazed and impressed at how fast and comfortable both you and Greg seem to be during your long runs. Being able to manage marathon pace +10% (or faster) for 20+ milers makes me think that both of you are well suited to the marathon. I think a few slower days a week is a good trade off if it enables you to do that kind of specific training without breaking down.

I guess it comes down to all of us being different.

Michael, I'll comment over in your neighborhood on the course tomorrow. I think it's a very fair course and offers the opportunity for fast times. The wind can be a factor, but since it usually blows from East to West it shouldn't be much of a factor. Mile 21-25 is a big, straight road (at least 7 lanes), where I found it a little difficult to concentrate. I'll come up and cheer for you.

Marc said...

not related to running, and you may have mentioned this in an earlier post (I've been out of it for a while), but what do you think of the new Crowded House?

Mike said...

Marc, the first cut gives me the same shivers I felt when I heard the first track from "Temple of Low Men" on my cassette walkman in '88 while pedaling home from the mall after buying it (Temple is still my favorite).

"Nobody Wants To" is such a beautiful song, and I get wrapped up in how well it seems to deal head on with the messy aftermath of Paul's suicide.

"She Called Up" is a favorite at our house, as Haiden and I sing it regularly. It seems to channel the early humor from this band as well as Split Enz, which is somewhat sad since so much of it can be traced back to Paul.

"Pour Le Monde" seems right up your alley Marc. "I listen for good/in a hope that comes to nothing/ for the liars have moved in/and they believe their own dark medicine"

"Even a Child" follows in a similar vein, and Marr's guitar work and writing is superb here. Maybe Duncan should forget Morrissey, as this is as close as you'll see to a Smith's song in the last 5 years.

"People are Like Suns" is a good closer, and "English Trees" is a nice effort.

This being said, I think the rest seems a bit pieced together. "Say That Again" sounds like an "Enz" outtake, and it's about 2 minutes too long. "Silent House" and "Heaven that I'm Making" sound like the brooding Neil Finn from his solo efforts, and "Transit Lounge" is just a mess.

It beats "Together Alone", but finishes behind the other three albums in my book. Still, it has 6 very good songs and I'm so glad to hear from them again. When I saw them this summer they seemed absolutely thrilled to be playing together again.

Paul said...

Hey Mike,
Nice work on the 7 miler. I agree with you that easy/hard are relative to the amplitude. If hard is only slightly right of the middle on the bell curve and easy only slightly left, they will not be to far apart in pace.