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


Thomas said...

Wonderful! More logs to dig through.
Oh, and nice workout, too!

Anonymous said...

Hello. I am a student of Lydiard and have been following your blog for some time now(maybe a year). I am interested in this back to back evaulation run that you did. I read all about it from the coaches standpoint and it makes perfect sense. I'm curious is this something you will be doing every weekend throughout your anaerobic phase?


Mike said...

Thanks Thomas, I'll try to update it weekly.

Anonymous, I'll pretty much keep following the same pattern I've been doing for the past 10 weeks or so, which is day 1 with 7 or more miles around marathon pace and day 2 with 10 steady then 5-12 miles around marathon pace. On every other week "day 2" is just a standard long run of 2+ hours with an emphasis on time rather than pace. This is all the coach's idea, and it seems to work for me. Thanks for reading.

runner said...

hey ive been reading your blog for about 2 weeks now i found it on google. i just wanna say your a pretty amazing runner, im too young for marathons now but when i get older i hope to follow your type of training. its like you always have good workouts and races. you must have been great in your youth. keep up the good work.

Mike said...

Thanks Runner, I appreciate the comments. I think I might have had some potential when I was young, but I never really pursued it. In fact, I only joined the track team in high school when my dad forced me to after getting cut from the baseball team.

I also have my share of bad workouts and sub-par races, but since running really is my hobby and escape I tend to put a positive spin on it much of the time.

Good luck with your own running, and I hope you have a good coach working with you. The latter (and some of the former) have really made the past year very enjoyable for me.