Sunday, September 30, 2007

7 days

It's pretty much easy street until Twin Cities now. I spent this morning running some nice, hilly, and very slow trails around Sabino Canyon. A nice group joined me, and after running close to 9 minute miles on the steeper sections it was fun spending some time closer to 6:40 pace for the last 5 flat miles. This nice run ended a pretty good week:

Mo: 8 miles easy
Tu: 10 miles easy
We: 10 miles easy w/6x100 strides/300 jogs
Th: 10 miles w/7x1000 around 3:18 each
Fr: 8.2 easy
Sa: 9.5 w/7 miles marathon pace effort around 5:53 pace
Su: 11 hilly miles, mostly trails
Total: 66.7 miles in 7 sessions

I leave for Minnesota on Friday, and I can't wait.

Training: 11 miles, 1:28 or so, around 8 minute pace overall

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Last of the Pace Work

Ran my last extended marathon pace workout today, and like last week's similar workout, it probably could have gone a little better. This time I was set for 7 miles at 5:54 pace, or faster if the body felt like it was manageable, and again I strapped on the heart rate monitor.

I'm really starting to hate that thing.

5:53 (161HR), 5:53 (162), 5:52 (164), 5:53 (164), 5:53 (165), 5:51 (164-169), 5:51 (162-169). Those heart rate numbers are approximate averages for each mile, and during the last two faster miles there was enough disparity between the uphill and downhill portions of the 1 mile loop that I noted the extremes instead.

While the run wasn't a huge stress-fest, I would have liked it to have felt easier. The thought of holding the same pace for more than three times the distance gave me pause, but I will be resting up during the last week. Does marathon pace ever really feel easy during the last two weeks before the big day?

Yesterday was an easy 8, and I made sure to keep the pace sedate. Tomorrow will be an uneventful 90 minutes or so, and things will be winding down from there. Enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading.

Training: Today, 9.5 miles, 58:46, 6:13 pace, w/7 mile MP effort in 5:53, 5:53, 5:52, 5:53, 5:53, 5:51, 5:51
Yesterday, 8.2 miles, 59:33, 7:16 pace

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Good Idea

Most mornings around 5am it's the same story: After drinking my coffee and pulling on the running shorts, I search around in the dark kitchen feeling for a sharpened pencil or functioning pen in the cup by the phone (why we have a dozen unsharpened pencils in there I'll never know). Once I find something (often half of a discarded crayon that I step on ends up sufficing), I search for an envelope of junk mail or an old post-it note to turn over and write on. After scribbling my approximate return time down, I place the makeshift note in the middle of the stove-top, where I know my dear wife will find it.

Well, those days are over now. While Kiera was delivering cookies to the Running Shop, the kind employees gave her this, which hangs nicely from the microwave door above the same stove-

While I was expecting to run a speed workout yesterday, the coach gave me an extra day to recover from the last back to back workout instead. I was happy about this after staying out late the evening before while attending a Richard Thompson concert, so instead of running fast ovals I ran 10 easy miles with 6x100 accelerations/strides with 300 jogs in-between.

Today I was to repeat the same 1000's workout I struggled a bit with last time. The goal was to run 5-10x1000 at about 3:20 (80 secs per 400), and to start each repeat on 5 minutes (1:40 rest). This time I had Lucas along with me, who seems to act as my lucky rabbbit's foot when I'm on the track. For some reason I usually end up having a good day when he's out there suffering with me.

3:19, 3:19, 3:18, 3:18, 3:18, 3:18, 3:17, 3:16. After the 6th repeat I started thinking more about the coach's emails, which urged me to be cautious and to "leave one or two in the bag". I told Lucas we'd do at least two more, and when we finished the 8th one I think I was excited enough about how well things had gone that I might have just drilled myself into the ground by continuing. So I didn't.

This was a really good day, and as I checked the watch at the first 200 of each rep I saw it slowly creep from 39 or so to 38, 37, and finally down to 36 for the last one. I was able to relax more and more during the last 4-600 of the efforts as they progressed, since I kept finding myself a little more ahead of pace. The last 100 of each rep was more of a "float" than an effort. The legs seemed to pop right up behind me without me thinking of it, and each stride felt light. It's hard to believe this was the same workout that had my huffing to hit 3:21 last week. It was fun to quit while I was ahead today, and I was able to bottle up the smooth feeling of those last two reps and bring it home with me.

Training: Today, 10 miles, 1:17 or so, w/8x1000 every 5 minutes at 3:19, 3:19, 3:18, 3:18, 3:18, 3:18, 3:17, 3:16. Everything clicked
Yesterday: 10 miles, 1:10:02, 7:00 pace, w/6x100 strides/accelerations every 400

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Feeling Good

Haiden and Finn's podcast, coming soon

Driving back home after dropping Haiden off at school this morning found me wishing I could head out for a run. Even though it was 9am, it was still only 75 degrees or so and for some reason I had a surplus of energy. Considering I was out jogging 10 easy miles just two hours earlier, I take the recent positive vibes as a good sign.

Today and yesterday felt much better than the two days after my last tough marathon pace run a few weeks ago. Instead of struggling down the driveway and onto the roads at 7:40 pace or so for the first mile, the legs seems to be flicking along quickly and putting me close to 7 minute pace straight away. Certainly things can certainly go south, but I'm feeling good about...Feeling good.

Training: Today, 10 miles, 1:10:48, 7:06 pace
Yesterday, 8 miles, 56:55, 7:07 pace

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Dear Sir,

Arthur Lydiard uses the terms; 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 efforts when talking about the pace to run at in base training. If using a heart monitor would I be right to use 65-70% for 1/4 effort 70-75% for 1/2 effort and 80-85% for 3/4 effort?

I am into my 3rd week of Lydiard base training, I have been running my 1-1/2 - 2 hour runs at 1/2 effort and my hour runs 1/4 effort, as I think this gives me a better work out on my long runs and I get more recovery on the 1 hour runs, do you think this is ok?


England UK

Rick, The efforts levels that Arthur used cause a lot of debate on how hard or fast they should be. One problem with using percent heart rates to set efforts they can be too dictating as shown by this runner's remarks:

Looking back over my logs, I can see that all I was really doing for almost 1500 miles was recovery runs. Almost all of my running was done at heart rates between 125-135. At first, staying in this range was the only way I could manage 100+ miles a week, and after a couple of weeks, it was all I could manage without getting really tired. Pushing up into the low 140s was actually difficult, and required the kind of recovery usually reserved for a late season, high-volume interval session. If I had not had a heart rate monitor on, I would have slowed down, thinking I was pushing too hard.

At that stage of his development 140s would have been too hard and his body told him that. How well you recover from day to day is a better indicator of effort than trying to stick to a HR percentage. To take into account the volume, speed and ability to recover I use these definitions of Arthur's efforts:

1/4 effort - a workout that at the finish of it if you were asked to repeat it you could.

1/2 effort - a workout you could repeat the next day (and maybe the day after).

3/4 effort - a workout that could not be repeated the next day but could be repeated in two days.

My runners knew when I said a 1/4 effort run that when they came in I might just ask them to run it again (they never ran too hard on 1/4 effort days)and on half effort days that they might see the same workout the next day so they ran harder but within themselves ( the "Train don't strain" and "Don't steal from tomorrow's workout" rules).

By matching the above definitions to your HR you'll have a much better indicator of what efforts work best for you.

Dear Mystery Coach,

I have a question related to peaking for a particular event. I am training for a marathon at the end of October (six weeks to go) and I am contemplating starting structured speed work sessions this week (i.e. 4 weeks of track intervals & 20 min tempo runs @ 10k pace - one each a week). My only speed work to-date has been long tempo style runs generally between HM and M Pace lasting about 1 hour. I feel that I peaked too early for previous marathons as I had started my speed work too early. Can you offer some general advice on how to ensure you are at your best for race day and not the week/month before and perhaps some specific advice in relation to my circumstances.

Thanking you in advance for your considered opinion.

Grellan McGrath

Grellan, By timing your sharpest workouts in the 2 weeks before you begin your taper (24 days - 11 days from race day) you'll do well at peaking. During that 2 week period you should have 3 key workouts that work well for you. Look at your training log and see when you have run some of your best races, then look at the time frame 24-11 days before those races. These are the workouts that helped peak you best (They could be repetitions, or time trials or races). This two week period should be lower in overall stress so that you can run these workouts well and recover well from them. The 3-4 weeks before you get to that 2 week peak period you should work on volume hard workouts so that you can benefit from the sharper work.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Our little diva has a family birthday party today (she'll be 5 this week), so this will be a quickie.

20.3 miles of fun this morning, and all I can say is thank goodness for friends. My pal Catlow helped me quite a bit during the marathon pace portion of the run, and without him running beside me it would have been very easy to let up during the last two miles.

The plan called for 10 miles at 6:40 or slower, then a second 10 miles starting at 5:54 pace then dropping down below 5:50 for the last three. I had a good group of friends to keep me company for the first half, which we covered at 6:43 pace, but only Catlow remained with me for the second 10. Instead of splitting each mile, I decided to just take an overall split for the pace effort. This tends to keep me from surging and lagging as much to make even splits, as I just look every once in awhile at the overall pace as it develops. The first two miles flew by easily, and it wasn't until about 4 miles that I started noticing the effort. I planned the effort as 5 out and 5 back, so at the turnaround I saw 5:53 as the cumulative pace and felt good. Around mile 7 I started having doubts, and I started really concentrating on picking my feet up behind me quickly. I tend to drag and heel-strike when I get tired, and for some reason it works better for me to think about picking my feet up quickly instead of focusing on proper foot-strike.

As I got close to 8 miles I was feeling pretty much done, which is similar to how things went two weeks ago when I did a similar run. Luckily for me, Catlow sensed I was a bit under pressure and started a running commentary on the final miles. Frankly, I was amazed he could actually carry on a conversation at this point as all I could do was scan the horizon for the next bridge, which would signal another half mile covered. Getting to mile 9 was a relief, as I knew the run was finally in the bag. As we crossed under the last overpass and stopped the watch I was grateful to be finished, and happy to see that we held 5:54 pace for the full 10 miles. The planned three faster miles at the end didn't materialize, but holding pace beats three slower miles I guess. Time to rest. Oh, I mean time to party.

Mo: 9 miles easy
Tu: 10 miles w/7x1000 efforts around 3:21
We: 6.2 miles easy
Th: 12 miles w/8x100 strides/accelerations
Fr: 9 miles easy
Sa: 9 miles w/6 at 5:45-5:57 pace
Su: 20.3 miles w/10 at 5:54 pace
Total: 75.5 miles in 7 sessions

Training: 20.3 miles, 2:08:20, 6:19 pace, w/10 miles at 5:54 pace

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mixed Signals

I'd like to start out by offering a hearty congratulations to my wife Kiera, who ran the Flagstaff Half Marathon this morning along with our friend Lisa. So far all I've heard is that it involved rain, wind, cold, mud and fun (hopefully I have the order wrong here).

Today marked the first day of the last back-to-back workouts for the Twin Cities marathon preparation, and heading out the door I felt rested and motivated. The docket from Mystery Coach called for 6 miles at 5:54 pace, and I was to wear the heart rate monitor on semi-permanent loan from the Running Shop for the effort.

I wore my trainers today to save my feet for the 20 miles in my marathon shoes set for tomorrow, and I headed out for two quicker-than-usual warm up miles. I took this as a good sign that the legs were rested, and when the watch beeped to start the effort I was ready. 5:52, 5:54, 5:54, 5:53, 5:57, 5:45. Mile 5 had the most uphill and mile 6 had the most downhill, while the first 4 were fairly rolling.

While the splits were good, the heart rate data bothered me a bit. It sat right at 160 for the first mile, then drifted down to 155-160 or so for the second and third miles. Mile 4's uphill portions found me at 164-168, which seemed a bit high, but it seemed to go back to 160 or so whenever the road tilted down. Mile 5 was the kicker, as I drifted up to 170 while running the longest uphill portion. I could definitely feel a noticeable change in the respiration between 168 and 170, and as the breathing got louder and quicker it seemed I had slipped over the edge and started working too hard. I finally made the turnaround just shy of the 5 mile mark, and as I started downhill on the last mile the heart rate dropped back down to 158-160. I decided to keep at this effort for the last mile, and while it brought me through a bit fast it still felt under control.

When it was over, I stopped in the shade and waited about 70 seconds for the heart rate to return to 120 or so, all the while trying to figure out what had happened during the workout. On the one hand, it was good that the effort and pace returned to normal after I took things into the red, but nonetheless it's a bit troubling to find myself in the red at all for this type of effort. Maybe tomorrow will give me a little more to go on, but for now I'm left with the feeling that things should have felt easier today.

Tomorrow is the big rehearsal for the race, and the plan includes 10 steady miles followed by a second 10 at 5:54, working down to under 5:50 for the last few if things go well. How tomorrow goes will go further towards explaining just how my body responded to today's effort, so I'm hoping for the best. I'll have a few pace mules along to keep me company and keep it honest. Hopefully I'll feel good enough for the whole thing to be fun.

Training: Today, 9 miles, 56:54, 6:18 pace, w/6 mile MP effort in 5:52, 5:54, 5:54, 5:53, 5:57, 5:45
Yesterday, 9 miles, 1:03:26, 7:04 pace

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rough Day in the Neighborhood

This happened less than a quarter mile from our house, while the woman and her dog were well off the road's shoulder on a dirt trail. Kiera and I would see this woman almost daily, me while on my run home and Kiera as she headed out upon my return. I run the same section of trail probably 300 days of the year, often covering it twice during the course of a run.

The two arrested at the scene failed the field sobriety test, and had just bought more alcohol minutes earlier at a convenience store 1/2 mile south of where they murdered this woman and her dog.

Runners, be careful.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cookie Karma

After a tougher-than-it-should-have-been track workout on Tuesday, I got the word from Mystery Coach to back off for a few days. He even suggested possibly taking a day or two off, which he knows drives me crazy. My solution was to sleep in yesterday to catch up a bit on rest, then join the Running Shop gang for an easy 10K in the evening.

Maybe it was the sleeping in (all the way 'til 6!), or perhaps it was skipping a morning run, but for whatever reason I felt great the whole way. Afterwards, Lucas, Shane and I hit a Mongolian BBQ place for dinner. When it was time to break open the fortune cookies, it started with the usual fare: "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." When it was my turn, I wished aloud for an affirmation that a 2:34 marathon was in the cards. Instead, when I pulled the paper apart I was smacked upside the head with a perfectly timed Buddhist phrase.

"The greatest effort is not concerned with results"

The cookie right of course. What I can or can't run has pretty much been determined by my training over the past 17 weeks or so, and all I really can ask of myself is to give the best effort on race day that I'm capable of, clock be damned.

Just getting to the line of this marathon ready is honestly most of the battle. The two runners here in Tucson who were hoping for Olympic qualifying times at Twin Cities aren't even going to make it to the race. Seebo, my pal and running partner at C.I.M. is putting off his marathon assault, Zeke/Chad/Simon/Wilma has bagged it, and Patrick, one of my favorite fast guys, is wisely taking time out to care for his hernia-trifecta.

In my case, the routine struggle involves getting to the line fresh and not over-trained. The last back to back set of workouts, scheduled for Saturday/Sunday might make some wonder if arriving tired is inevitable. Perhaps the coach will chime in, but I honestly don't think so. I believe it's what I've (over)done during the days between the final workouts that has caused more damage than the workouts themselves.

Perhaps it's age, the increased intensity of some of the efforts, or a mixture of the two, but it's taking me a little longer to bounce back from things this time around. The upside is, when I actually allow myself to recover I feel I'm coming back stronger from week to week. If it requires swallowing some of my pride with slow running on my off days, so be it.

Speaking of slow, I hit the road for 12 this morning at a relaxed pace. The legs felt great, and I ended up taking a detour to the track for 8x100 accelerations every 400 meters. It felt good to bring the legs through quickly, and I could feel the hamstrings waking up about halfway through to help with the load. Good day.

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1:25:30, 7:07 pace, w/8x100 stride/acceleration, 300 jog
Yesterday, 6.2 miles in 43:40, felt quite good

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Special thanks to Mystery Coach for raising the hit count (as usual) with his "Ask the Mystery Coach" post yesterday. Keep those questions coming.

I had a bit of a sour stomach this morning as I headed to the track to do a session of 1000's. The plan was for 1-10x1000 at around 3:20, or whatever speed I could run comfortably fast at. I was set to run one repeat every 5 minutes, which meant about 1:40 or so of rest between intervals. An unplanned detour to the restroom at Sabino Canyon and three miles of warm up found me at the junior high track. I honestly hesitated a bit and stalled with a few strides, as stretching the warm up from 2 to 3 miles didn't seem to make me feel any better. Still, I'm usually a bit unsure of speed work before I actually get into the workout.

3:22, 3:20, 3:19, 3:21, 3:21, 3:21, 3:21, done

I never really felt great during the workout, as the legs just didn't feel fresh. Usually I can relax enough to drive the knees and really concentrate on a light and efficient foot-strike. Today I felt like I was really landing flat-footed, and more than a few times I felt myself struggling, with tight arms swinging hard in an effort to get the legs moving (not good). As I noticed how things were going I started to focus on the fatigue level, and 400 meters into number 7 I knew I was about done.

I think I might have needed an extra easy day between the long run and the intervals today, but it could have just not been my day. I was glad to stop before running myself into the ground, and there will certainly be other days.

Yesterday was an easy 9 miles, and that's it for today as it's time to goof off with Finn.

Training: 10 miles, 1:05:24, 6:32 pace, w/7x1000 (1:40 rest) in 3:22, 3:20, 3:19, 3:21, 3:21, 3:21, 3:21
Yesterday, 9 miles, 1:04:47, 7:14 pace

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hey Mystery Coach,

How significant is running form in terms of running ‘fast’? With very few exceptions (Jen Rhines comes to mind), high level runners appear to have a high cadence, a mid foot strike, and a noticeable up-and-down, wave-like trajectory (i.e. not flat and close to the ground).

Is having the form of a ‘fast’ runner required to become a ‘fast’ runner?

Is good form something that develops over time, or are all these athletes being coached to good form through drills, etc.?

I have been told that the classic ‘fast’ form is something that develops naturally over time. Well, I’ve been at this a long time, and my running form looks the same now as it did when I started running 22 years ago…ugly! Thanks for taking the questions.


Eric, Arthur always recommended working on your form. Whether it was running on the hills or his classic 10X100 meter strides (on the flat and slight down hills) with the ankle action drills, higher quicker knee lift drills, and running tall and relaxed drills. Most runners don't spend any time doing these type of drills because it takes away from their mileage. In the mid 1970's when I first started coaching I was guilty of that very thing and that was corrected from an unexpected event.

When the Olympic Training camp at Colorado Springs, CO first opened they put on a series of "Learn by Doing" clinics where the top coaches in the country would teach us first hand what we should be doing with our athletes. Now imagine Mystery Coach under the watchful eye of UCLA pole vault coach Tom Telez (he went on to the University Houston where he became Carl Lewis' coach) learning to pole vault. The first drill involved sprinting down the runway with the pole and initializing the plant. Half way down the runway Coach Telez is yelling "Stop! Stop!", he comes over and says "Coach, What happed to your ankles? You're running like this": (proceeds to demonstrate a flat footed style of sprinting) then demonstrates again (this time flexing his ankles and driving off his back leg). By the end of the session my ankles, bottom of my feet and hamstrings were sore. Obviously it was something that was being neglected by just running distance and intervals. That's when Arthur's advice rang true. By adding once a week the sprint drills (a very light day just working on form) over the next 18 months my best times in all events improved (3 miles by 15 sec, 5 miles by 30, 10K by 45)

These sprint drills are not all out but are faster than your intervals and are done with very long rest. They have to be worked into gradually but the benefits of better coordination, smoother leg and ankle action gradually come about. My college athletes benefited more from that one day of sprint drills than doing more miles or more hard intervals. From the 400 meter runners up to the 10K runners they all improved. Remember the real proof is running faster not on how your style looks.

Amanda said...

Not sure how people normally submit their wonderful questions for Mystery Coach :) , but I do have one!

What sort of nutrition plan do you recommend to ensure you are
fueling for the miles? If you are a morning runner, how important is eating before the run?

Amanda, Providing you are eating 3 well balanced core meals per day the most important time to eat extra calories to refuel is the first 30-60 minutes after your hard (repetitions) and long runs. Studies have shown that drinks with a 4-1 ratio of carbohydrates and protein (chocolate milk, Ensure, Slim Fast and other products fall into this category) speed up the fueling of the liver and working muscles. You should try for 250-400 calories in that first half hour with a snack afterward. During the rest of the week adding snacks of high carbohydrate foods between meals can help with refueling. One thing to watch for is that you don't let yourself get too hungry between meals that is where the mid meal snacks are useful.

Depending on what the goal of your morning workout is will decide whether to eat or not. The shorter faster running would be helped by a light meal. If you are getting ready for a marathon and doing a long run it is better to not eat so that the body has to switch to fat burning more quickly and you can gain the benefits of the long run earlier. Taking time to refuel after the long run will pay much bigger dividends in a much easier recovery.

Dear Mystery Coach,

I would love to hear your thoughts regarding tapering for the marathon.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that a 3-4 weeks taper is recommended. Yet the schedule you drew up last week only had 1-2 weeks of taper. For all my previous marathons I have tapered for about 3 weeks, but I was never sure if that the ideal time (I simply followed other people's suggestions). Have you got any pointers on how to figure out what's best for an individual runner, apart from trial and error?


Thomas, I should have explained the section before the taper (Volume Speed / Sharp Speed 5-6 weeks) a bit better to show how it fits in with the taper. Let's start first with the last 10 days or so, there is not much you can do conditioning wise except keep the fibers "awake" with some pace and light speed work. You should not go into the last 10 days hoping you will recover or need any last minute training. This means the 2 weeks before the last 10 days are where you are looking for leg freshness and sharper (faster than race pace) speed workouts that are hard but not exhausting. Usually I schedule 3 hard workouts in this two week period with more days of lower volume easier running (so your volume of running actually starts dropping 3 1/2 weeks out from race day but the intensity is sharper). Here is a recap of the last 10 weeks:

10 - Hills with preliminary speed work

9 - Same as week 10

8 - Same as week 10

7 - Highest mileage with volume medium pace running (example 3-4 X 2 miles 10 seconds less than MP)

6 - Same as week 6

5 - Same as week 6

4 - Same as week 6 with the last half of the week easier, a hard long run finishes the week (mileage at 90%)

3 - Miles drop to 80-85% with harder speed work outs (example 5-10 x 1000 around 10K pace)

2 - Same as 3 for first half the miles drop to 25-30% (days off etc)

1 - Some days off, days that you run should be low volume pace or faster runs.

Hello again coach.

Last week when you described the Stamina conditioning phase you wrote-
"The goal is to run as many miles as possible at your most efficient paces (15-45 seconds slower than marathon pace or 60-90 seconds slower than 3 mile race pace) and still come back the next day to repeat the workout."

Looking over Mikes conditioning I noticed one thing consistently. He does runs often 12-13 miles (1:20-1:30 hours for him). So when you say "come back the next day and repeat the workout" this very much fits what Mike does.

My question is- Lydiard explains the importance of *3* long runs per week. In his guides he has 1.5 hour runs altered with 1 hour runs and of course the weekend long run. But he always stresses these 1.5 hour runs and the long run. I took this literally during my conditioning so I would do 2 runs of 1.5 hours and the weekend long run. Problem is I really can't say the next day after a 1.5 hour run I could repeat that workout. Sometimes I could only jog for a half hour or even have to take the day off!! Regardless of an easy pace sometimes the length was enough stress to warrant downtime.

So I guess what I'm getting at is would it be better for me to do runs that I could come back and repeat everyday? For me that would probably be around 1-1.25 hours without much of a problem(with the exception of the weekend long run that extends to 2 hours). As I mentioned it's the 1.5 hour runs that warrant the recovery days.


Jesse, give yourself a little time for development. Shorten the 1.5 hour to 1-1.25 hours but keep the 2 hour run the same. As your legs get better at recovering from the impact damage you'll see the days between becoming easier. It is better in the conditioning phase to see 1.25 hours and 45 minutes the next day than 1.5 hours and the next day off. You'll gain good muscular endurance from the 2 hour run and better recovery by training in a more balanced way.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Still at it

Pretty much just tried to stay in the game this week. One day of 800's, one day of tempo/sort of fast longer intervals, and one long run. Here's how the week went down:

Mo: 11 easy
Tu: 13 easy w/6x100 stride, 300 jog
We: 10 w/6x800
We: 6.2 easy
Th: 12 easy
Fr: 10 easy
Sa: 10 w/2x3 mile efforts (1 mi. recovery)
Su: 19.25 miles
Total: 91.75 miles in 8 sessions

I somehow managed to coerce a great group of runners to join me for the long run this morning, and as a result the miles just flew by (with the possible exception of a few singing excerpts of Twisted Sister, Jesus Jones, Phil Collins and Poison). No, I couldn't find a connection between these jukebox selections either, save for the fact that they date all of us a bit.

While the group headed back to the house at about 16 miles, I ran a few more miles by myself to get the the 2h 10m mark. For some reason I headed back into Sabino Canyon for a few more hills, and while I could definitely feel a little fatigue it was nice to end the run while still speeding up instead of slowing down.

All in all I felt good about the week, if only for the fact that I managed to stay out of trouble by not overdoing either the miles or the workouts. Enjoy the weekend.

Training: 19.25 miles, 2:11:18, 6:50 pace

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Climbing the Ladder

Yes, it is this gorgeous in Tucson

The schedule got shuffled around a bit this week with my wife going out of town for some kind of scrapbook-fest in Phoenix on Friday and today. Luckily Kiera's mom came by early so I could get in a workout this morning, and while it was hot I was glad to get the run in.

The coach has slowly been turning the screw on some of the faster paces, and instead of the usual 7 miles around marathon pace he prescribed 2 repeats of 3 miles, with an easy mile splitting the intervals. The first 3 miles called for 5:45 pace, and I was cautioned to keep to the program. For the second three I was free to run 5:40-5:45 pace, and I had free reign to speed things up and test some faster paces if I felt up to it.

After two easy miles of warm up I ran the first interval in 5:43, 5:45 and 5:43. The second mile had a fair amount of uphill, which was a bad idea since it's always mile 2 that gets me during a tempo run. I found myself working at a pretty good rate for this first interval, and it felt like the heat was probably causing a little strain. A few miles at 5:45 often makes me wonder if sub-2:30 is just going to be out of reach for me.

Enough about that though, as there was an easy mile to jog before the second effort. I worked it out so that I would be on the junior high track for the second set. With a stiff breeze coming off the desert floor and the sun beating down at a good angle, running ovals seemed like a good way to distribute the stress evenly instead of running directly into the fireball for a mile, turning away from it and then doing it again. The first mile found me a bit fast off the line, and I could tell by about 600 in that I should back off just a little if I wanted any chance of steadily building through all three miles. I get enough practice slowing down in races, so no need to repeat it here. 5:38 for mile one felt as easy as any of the first three miles, which was a good sign. The track helps on these, as it's easier to get into a good rhythm without all the undulations of the roads in my neighborhood. Mile two 5:36, and I'm starting to feel it a little. I make a plan to just maintain for 800, then run as smooth as I can for 400 before trying to edge it up for the last 400. The last mile passes in 5:35. Maybe I lagged on the watch, but when I took my heart rate immediately after the last repeat I was surprised to find it at 176. It was down to 140 at a minute, then 120 at 90 seconds. Again, I think the heat was the culprit, as I could feel the heart thumping a little towards the end of the easy mile between efforts.

With an easy long run of 2h 10m planned for tomorrow, the week will end without a single mile between the planned 5:50-6:00 marathon pace. However, with the different stress of the 800's on Wednesday and the longer tempo segments today I think it's a pretty fair trade.

Yesterday I was planning on 12 miles with a series of strides, but the combination of one of my neuromas bothering me and a third night of poor sleep made me change my mind. I just didn't feel that fresh or motivated, so I canned the strides and just eased along for 10 miles instead. The workout days are starting to gain in importance now, so I'll probably continue being cautious about the recovery days in order to make the most of efforts I have left. Again, so easy to write...

Training: Today, 10 miles, 1:03:17, 6:17 pace, w/2x3 mile effort (1 mi. recovery) in 5:43, 5:45, 5:43, 5:38, 5:36, 5:35
Yesterday, 10 miles, 1:11:25, 7:08 pace

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Feeling Old

After joining the Running Shop gang for an easy 10K last evening, I tagged along to hear about a possible team some of the local runners are putting together to run the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in West Chester, Ohio on December 8. Our club is planning on fielding at least one competitive team of eight runners, and this meeting included several of the runners who will probably make the final cut.

I was pretty excited by the idea, as the thought of taking a trip with a group of runners to a race half-way across the country to possibly run in mud and snow while competing against other national clubs sounded like a ton of fun.

For some reason I started thinking about how this reminded me of when the band I was in planned our two tours across the country. Many of the runners at the meeting were in their mid-20's, which was my age when the band was most active. Making the plan is almost as fun as putting it into practice.

Unfortunately, as I kept listening to the plan, reality started to set in. Flights, rental cars, lodging, and getting time off from work during the busy season all came to mind, not to mention that most of the workouts the guys would want to do would be done in the evenings and well across town from me. This is where I started feeling a bit too old for the gang I was with. While I make an occasional exception for the Wednesday night social run, evenings are for dinner with the family and goofing off with the kids.

Regrettably, I'll have to sit this one out. The same thing usually happens with other running road trips, 24 hour relay races and the like. While my job is fairly relaxed during the summer, it gets much busier during the fall and winter. As such, it's next to impossible for me to not work on a Saturday. The exceptions are the few weekends a year where I run a marathon, and those days are generally cleared months in advance.

While it stinks to not be able to take part in the race, I have to remember to take the bad with the good. While I'm in the pool at the recreation center at 3pm on a Monday, watching our daughter do mermaid jumps off the deck, most of the runners at that table are either at work or school.

And who really wants to run in the mud anyway?

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1:26:00, 7:10 pace
Yesterday pm., 6.2 mile in 43:20 or so.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

For the Body, Not the Ego

Mystery Coach had a workout of 7x800 with 800 recoveries on the docket this morning, but due to a math error that caused me to warm up for too long and having to get back home in time for Kiera to run, I found myself with time for only 6 repeats.

I'm taking a bit of a different approach to these track sessions this time around. Instead of trying to kill each repeat and racing the watch, I'm focusing more on just getting the body to the right stress level. If it sounds like I'm wimping out, perhaps you're right. Still, I think one of the keys to me not peaking too early this time is to resist putting the "icing on the cake" too early, to borrow a phrase from Arthur.

It might be a good time to go back to what Mystery Coach wrote in his Arthur's Speed Work post about faster running: "Arthur constantly warned against running too much volume, too fast, too soon. By doing a small amount, not too fast at first you'll stimulate the greater number of holes without overwhelming the internal environment of the fiber. This is where he recommended 4 weeks of preliminary speed work at the bottom of the hill ( a little bit with long rest every 15 minutes). Only after this initial stimulation did he move on to greater volume but again not too fast to allow more time for the holes to develop to maximum. It was only then (after the fibers developed their maximum transfer and removal rate) that the very fastest coordination work was added. Now the fibers could handle the load of very fast running. Runners constantly ruin their good condition by doing too much too fast too soon. As you can see by running by feel with the above model in mind you can achieve the effect you want without forcing any of those "perfect" interval workouts upon yourself."

The last two sentences remind me of some of my interval sessions in the past. Often I found myself chasing faster and faster times, too soon before where I hoped to peak, and for what? Well, it sure looked good in the log. Unfortunately, I think it also contributed to bringing around a peak too soon, while at the same time putting more stress on my body than was needed during the last two months of training.

With this in mind I tackled the repeats with more focus on technique and tuning in to how my body felt, and less on the watch. 2:35, 2:35, 2:34, 2:33, 2:32, and 2:30 were the results. I was told by the coach to ease into the first 200, run 400 strong, then ease off a little for the last 200. I followed the advice as best I could, but by the fifth rep I seemed to feel more fatigue by easing a little at 600 so I just tried to maintain through the end of the last repeats.

Overall the intervals felt like I was running a hard 5K, and I took each of the full 800 recoveries without complaint. Fill it up, empty it out.

Training: 10 miles, 1:05:12, 6:31 pace, w/6x800 (800 recovery) in 2:35, 2:35, 2:34, 2:33, 2:32, 2:30

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Staying Out of Trouble

The beard cost me at least 5 seconds

Special thanks to Mystery Coach for his great post yesterday. Also, thanks to all the readers who have contributed questions or comments.

I took things fairly easy today with 13 miles and 6x100 stride/300 jog, and yesterday was similar with 11 easy miles. Last week was a great lesson in respecting my recovery needs, as I know I would have had more trouble during Saturday and Sunday's workouts without taking the rest of the week easy after the race on Monday. Hopefully today's and yesterday's training will let me make the most of the intervals on tap for tomorrow. Enjoy the day.

Training: Today, 13 miles, 1:31:34, 7:03 pace
Yesterday, 11 miles, 1:20:17, 7:18 pace

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hey Coach-

First of all, thanks for being willing to do this. Very, very helpful.

My question is fairly simple: do you have a marathon training schedule that you would be willing to share that one could just plug in goal times, current race times, etc. and be able to follow much of the same training regimen that Mike has done?

Thanks again.


Chris, It is difficult to produce an exact schedule because even the one that is set up for Mike gets revised many times before the goal race depending on how he responds to certain workouts. That being said here is an overview with some sample weeks.

Stamina Conditioning ( 10-13 weeks )

Overview: This is phase is often misunderstood by marathoners. This is not where you get in marathon racing shape. The goal is to run as many miles as possible at your most efficient paces (15-45 seconds slower than marathon pace or 60-90 seconds slower than 3 mile race pace) and still come back the next day to repeat the workout. How easily you recover day after day is an indicator that things are going well. The evaluation run is there not to run faster but to note how well you are recovering. If your legs are tired you'll have to back off a little. You should come out of this phase eager for speed work not tired and worn out.

Week One

Day 1 As you feel
Day 2 Evaluation run 2-4 miles (about 35-45 seconds slower than 3 mile race pace)
Day 3 As you feel
Day 4 As you feel
Day 5 As you feel
Day 6 Steady Run - 20-60 minutes
Day 7 Long Run build to 2 hours

Week Two

Day 1 As you feel
Day 2 Evaluation run 2-4 miles
Day 3 As you feel
Day 4 As you feel
Day 5 As you feel
Day 6 Steady Run - 20-60 minutes
Day 7 Long Run 60 minutes steady then 30 minutes at yesterdays steady run pace

Transition (3-4 weeks)

Overview: This is where the specific training for racing begins. Your workouts are similar to the previous phase but now you work on leg strength and efficiency with hills, small amounts of speed work (1-2 minutes worth every 15 minutes of running) and start to lengthen the fast phase of Week Two's back to back.

Week One

Day 1 Easy Run
Day 2 Preliminary Speed and or hills
Day 3 Easy Run
Day 4 Preliminary Speed and or hills
Day 5 Preliminary Speed and or hills
Day 6 Steady Run - 20-60 minutes
Day 7 Long Run 2 hours

Week Two

Day 1 Easy Run
Day 2 Preliminary Speed and or hills
Day 3 Easy Run
Day 4 Preliminary Speed and or hills
Day 5 Preliminary Speed and or hills
Day 6 Steady Run - 20-60 minutes
Day 7 Long Run 60 minutes steady then 30 minutes at yesterdays steady run pace (add 1 mile every other week until you reach an hours worth of hard running)

Volume Speed / Sharp Speed 5-6 weeks

Overview: This is the peaking phase with the hardest most specific workouts. This is where it is hard to be very exact in the number or speed of the workouts. Recovery between very hard efforts is more important than the exact speed or number of repetitions. The long run in Week One is gradually shorten to aid in leg freshness. The back to back workout is peaked 4 weeks from the race date (60 minutes steady with 60 minutes at about marathon pace). You only need 7-8 speed workouts (or short races) to reach your peak. The first 3-4 workouts should be at a slower pace (about 10 seconds faster than marathon pace) and good volume (4-8 miles worth). The last 3-4 workouts should be done with your last minute adjustments in mind. Need leg freshness cut down on the volume, need speed some 800- 1 mile reps at 3-6 mile race pace, and if you need to bring it together a hard run, time trail or race of about an hour. You really have to study on how you are responding to the workouts.

Week One

Day 1 Easy Run
Day 2 Easy Run
Day 3 Speed work
Day 4 Easy Run
Day 5 Easy Run
Day 6 Steady Run - 20-60 minutes
Day 7 Long Run 2 hours

Week Two

Day 1 Easy Run
Day 2 Speed work
Day 3 Easy Run
Day 4 Speed work
Day 5 Preliminary Speed and or hills
Day 6 Steady Run - 20-60 minutes
Day 7 Long Run 60 minutes steady then up to 60 minutes at yesterdays steady run pace

Taper 1-2 weeks

Overview: The mileage falls off greatly (25%) with half volume speed workout every 2-3 days. The last week could look like this:

Day 1 Short tempo run
Day 2 Off
Day 3 Short tempo run with strides
Day 4 Off
Day 5 Off
Day 6 East warmup with strides
Day 7 The Marathon Race

Keep track of your speed workouts and note when you have peaked. Use that information for adjusting the next build. Good luck with your training.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

End With a Bang

Interesting week of racing, recovery and difficult training. Here's how it went down:
Mo: 12 w/8 mile Labor Day Race/Hill-fest
Tu: 8.5 am., easy
Tu: 5.5 pm., easy w/Haiden in the stroller
We: 10 easy
Th: 13 easy
Fr: 11 easy, w/6x100 stride-100/jog 300
Sa: 10 w/7 at MP (5:51-5:57 pace)
Su: 20.3 w/10 at 6:36 pace, then 10 at MP (5:52-6:12 pace)
Total: 90 in 8 sessions

While the race crippled me less than I thought, it was nice to take things relatively easy for the week in preparation for the Saturday/Sunday block of marathon pace/stamina work. Saturday turned out great, and today's 20 miler was...tough.

My friends Scott and Toby were kind enough to wake up early and join me for the first half of the run, which was set for 10 miles of 6:35-6:40 pace. I took them on the Down and Up Loop, which was made a bit more difficult because of a fairly slow start as we jaw-boned and caught up with one another. Scott only mentioned beating me last Monday two times, so kudos to him for his show of restraint. We probably ran the last three or four miles of this first 10 at close to 6:30 pace in my effort to bring the overall pace down a bit, which might have set things up for a more difficult second 10 miles at marathon pace by myself. A quick change of shoes at the house and a swig of Powerade later, I was jogging to my familiar one mile loop to start the effort.

The coach suggested 6:00-6:05 pace to start, then gradually to bring the pace closer to 6 flat. The last three miles were supposed to find me running hard and bringing the pace down further if I could.

Well, the splits tell the tale: 5:52, 6:01, 5:57, 5:54, 6:00, 5:59, 6:03, 6:03, 6:09, 6:12. I felt great at the start and got out too fast, managed a decent correction for a few miles while settling in, and only started to feel a little stressed after 5 miles or so. I backed off a little on miles 6 and 7 as I could feel the clamp-down coming. The legs were sticking a little to the road, and I found myself getting lazy on the turns and the downhills. When the focus starts to go, the legs generally follow in fairly short order. Still, I made an effort to dig a bit for the 8th mile, and I was a bit disappointed to only manage 6:03. As I started mile 9 I knew the form was a bit shot, but I could still manage to move along at a decent clip so I just did the best I could. I really felt the uphill portions of 9 and 10, and I was more than happy to walk the quarter mile home after finally finishing the effort.

I was a bit unhappy with the slowing paces, but after thinking about things a bit I'm feeling better about the effort and the week in general. Moreover, I honestly feel like I'm still gaining fitness at this point, which is a good place to be with a month to go before Twin Cities.

Much of the rest of the day revolved around me trying to get the kids out of Kiera's hair as she recovers from a virus. We visited the local toy train museum, which was actually quite cool. I spent half the time on the floor with the little kids, helping to reconstruct a giant train track loop that had been destroyed by some kids probably playing Godzilla before we arrived. I was so absorbed in it that I had to laugh when I finally made the last connection of the track and looked up to see about 10 grown-ups in chairs around the train mat staring at the "big kid" in the middle of all the toddlers. I didn't mind though, as Finn kept pushing his small train along about a foot behind whatever tracks I happened to be putting together. Meanwhile, daughter Haiden found herself adopted by all the kindly Grandpa's in engineer hats manning the various electric train displays.

All in all not a bad Sunday.

Training: 20.3 miles, 2:08:45, 6:20 pace

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Some Good Numbers

While it's only the third inning as far as the weekend's back to back workouts go, I'm happy with some of the data from today's 7 mile effort. I've been focusing on staying close to 5:57 pace on these for a few weeks, but for today the coach encouraged me to feel out some faster paces and to try to work down to 5:54 or so if things felt good. After two easy miles, here's how it went:
5:55, 5:55, 5:53, 5:52, 5:51, 5:57, 5:51. While the first few miles found me feeling a little stale, once I was warmed up and well into the workout I started to relax and enjoy the effort. I felt like I was comfortable enough to make small pace adjustments, which is hopefully a good sign. Perhaps the best indicator today was a heart rate of 152 immediately after the workout. Last week I was only able to manage an average pace of 5:56 for 7 miles at an average heart rate of 162. While the weather was certainly better today, I'm guessing the lower heart rate and faster paces have more to do with me being rested than anything.

Enjoy the weekend, and head over to Eric's blog and tell him you want to hear about his half marathon today.

Training: 10 miles, 1:02:56, 6:17 pace, w/7 mile effort in 5:55, 5:55, 5:53, 5:52, 5:51, 5:57, 5:51, 152HR afterwards

Friday, September 07, 2007

Paring Down

Today marked the last of my recovery days from the Labor Day race. While I had the option to start the back to back workouts for the weekend today, I decided to hold off until tomorrow (as originally planned) to keep from monkeying with my wife's running and social schedules too much.

I broke out a new and different pair of shoes for the run this morning, which is certainly earth-shattering news. After much hounding and criticism for my footwear choice for training from various Lydiardites and shoe minimalism fans, I'm slowly working my way out of my usual trainers (Brooks Adrenaline with a big, spongy Spenco insole and added metatarsal pad). I can't even remember when I started with the Adrenalines, though I think it had less to do with their stability and more to do with how they fit my strangely shaped feet. The spongy insoles were added back in '04, when I started having issues with my plantar fascia with a marathon just a month out. The advice I got at the time was to ice the area, wrap my arch with a compression bandage, and add arch support to my shoes. This combination worked, and while the ice and bandage eventually fell by the wayside, the insoles endured. For one thing, they last through four pairs of shoes, so I'm not constantly gluing metatarsal pads to the underside of stock insoles every 6 weeks or so.

Until now. 20 minutes spent with some uncooperative rubber cement led me to the duct tape, and with some combination of the two I officially have a new shoe in rotation: The Asics GEL-Stratus. It mimics the heel-height, heel to toe drop, and general profile of the Asics DS-Trainer I race in, though it's quite a bit more flexible and doesn't offer any stability. I've been trying to drop the heel-height in my training shoes to get the calf muscles and the achilles more involved, as they seem to take a pounding when I switch over to my racing shoes. I'm also trying to get away from 'stability' shoes in general, mostly because the gang at the shop is quite convinced I don't need added stability given my natural gait. I figure I'll work the shoes in slowly (every other or every third run), and see how the body reacts before hopefully using them on a regular basis. I'll also keep training in an older pair of my race shoes for speedier days.

This is all part of a general 'paring down' and refining effort I'm making as the marathon nears. Things like stride mechanics, efficiency, weight, and both general and race-day nutrition come to the fore with about a month to go. Also, I've been spending some time studying the "Headfirst Running" article by Matt Fitzgerald in the October issue of Running Times (sorry, it's not online so no link). I'm anxious to read his new book, Brain Training For Runners, which presents an interesting model of running performance and fatigue. Fitzgerald mentions that "the most widespread and costly stride error among non-elite runners is overstriding, or striking the ground heel first with leg extended in front of the body instead of flat-footed with the foot underneath the hips."

The "foot underneath the hips" part of that sentence reminds me of one of Mystery Coach's emails, where he mentioned the feeling of running "on your legs instead of with them", or something similar. One look at the chewed up heels on my usual trainers (which have an extra-spongy and elevated heel with the added insole) shows that I'm coming down hard on them, while a look at my racing shoes reveals almost no wear on the heels, but a more general wear pattern from the midsole and up on the forefoot. While the different paces I use with each shoe surely make some of the difference, it will be interesting to see how these new trainers and their lower heel height wear. The Stratus is also very flexible, so seeing how the foot reacts to this newfound freedom of motion will also be telling. No more lazy feet, I hope. While I'm not going all-out minimalist on you, I am trying to get my training stride to more closely resemble my racing form. I'll let you know how this goes.

As for the run, I covered 11 easy miles in fairly cool early morning rain. After countless days with temperatures in the 80's at 4am, I'm not complaining. The shoes felt good, and the stride did feel a little quicker. I tried to visualize starting the "paw-back" before the foot reached the ground, which hopefully leads me to spending less time on the ground with each footstrike. Easy to say.

Training: 11 miles, 1:15:36, 6:52 pace

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Change of Plans

Instead of a second run yesterday, I spent the evening watching television and eating Chinese food alone with my feet up. Since Kiera had planned on me being gone, she had taken both the kids to play and eat with some friends across town, leaving me an empty and quiet house.

Originally I was going to use the rain as an excuse to not put in a run, but a call to the shop while I was still at work revealed that the weather was fine there (4 miles away). Still, as I drove down into town to meet the others for the run something made me change my mind and head home. Once home, the rain was letting up and it was actually fairly cool outside. It was a perfect opportunity to get in a few miles by myself, but I didn't. Maybe it was the fear of putting in two doubles in a row during the two days after a stressful race, or maybe it was just laziness. Something in my gut just told me it was a fine evening to just lay low, and that's just what I did.

This morning I got off to a late start after getting a bit more sleep than usual. Everything was still wet from the rain the evening before, and the air was a cool 72 degrees (heaven in Tucson during September). I put in 13 mellow and uneventful miles under thick clouds, and felt great doing it.

Training: 13 miles, 1:30:51, 6:59 pace (last mile at 6:25 pace)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I put in 8.5 easy miles yesterday morning, then met up with the Workout Group for another 5.5 or so in the evening with daughter Haiden in tow. We hit the big city pool in town after she finished school, which is mercifully covered by a giant sun-shade, then I took her out for pizza before joining the group at 6pm. She got some time in the center of the stretching circle before the run, which of course thrilled her. Unlike here dad, she loves to be the center of attention. It was fun wheeling her through the park in the jogging stroller while talking and running with runners from the group.

Today looks to be about the same as yesterday, with 10 easy miles this morning and an easy 10K run with the Running Shop gang this evening. The coach mentioned that during the four days between the race and my back to back workouts this weekend that more miles were fine, as long as they are at an easy pace. Running with friends makes this easier.

As far as me making peace with my effort for the race on Monday, I want to be clear that I'm not so much disappointed with the result as I am with how I executed the race. Any race can offer a "dare to be great situation". When the miles slowly unwind you, and you're left half-way through the course stripped down to your essence, what is it going to be? Do you start feeling sorry for yourself, hold your place and try to conserve enough to not totally fall apart before the finish? Do you bargain with yourself, and try to justify the slowing pace by placing the blame on workouts leading up to the race? Or instead, do you squint hard and draw your focus to the singlet disappearing up the road, making it the only thing that matters at that moment? Draw the knees up just a few millimeters more, push forward off the forefeet, and be the runner you imagine you are (or wish you could be). The race eventually ends, regardless of how great or terrible we feel. And while it doesn't mean anything, for a few moments it can mean EVERYTHING.

It's often said that our fastest races feel almost effortless. I've had those kind of good days, and I've enjoyed them thoroughly. Still, it's been during those few races where I've managed to turn a rough patch, a bad race, or simply someone trying to hand it to me in the late stages of the struggle on its head that I've been the most proud of my running. I certainly had that opportunity on Monday, and I simply didn't make the most of it. There will be other days.

Training: Today, 10 miles, 1:12:16, 7:14 pace
Yesterday: am., 8.5 miles, 1:01:13, 7:12 pace
pm., 5.5 miles, around 7:30 pace

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Saguaro National Monument 8 Mile Race

I ran faster, but everyone else seemed to run MUCH faster. 5th place, 47:27, and 44 seconds better than my PR for the course (set last year).

Here's that profile pic of the course I posted before, so your children can follow along at home:

My race plan was to run the first three miles conservatively, hopefully around 5:45-5:50 pace, then to turn it on and race the rest of the course hard. I've noticed through tracking my old splits that I tended to go out fast, then run the last half of the race at the same pace every year as I stomped along on legs worn out from the early hills. By keeping something in reserve, I felt I could make up some good time on the last three rolling miles.

The reserves just weren't there. A 5:28 and 5:32 for the first two miles found me in 4th place, with second and third dangling 50 and 20 meters ahead. These first miles I tried to just fall down the steep hills, turning over the legs quickly with shorter strides, which seemed to take less of a toll (and less time) than braking and holding myself back. Mile three found everyone slowing during the first uphill half, and when I came through in 5:47 I was a little concerned because I found the effort fairly taxing.

The huge hill I was saving up for loomed, and at 3.5 miles I started scrambling up it. My mental scenario of starting to pull runners back here started to evaporate as I found myself at the limit while they seemed to be gaining ground. So much for considering myself a hill warrrior and banking on all the inclines I'd covered in training. Mile 4 passed in 6:09, but from here it just keeps going up for another full mile. This was a hard portion to run alone, and looking beyond me to see second place well gone and third slowly getting further away dampened my spirits as I tried to find a way to breathe through my ears to get more air. The watch read 6:47 when the mile finally ended, which wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared here.

Finally the road started to tilt downward, but the fast feet I was wearing and turning over easily early in the race were now starting to stick to the road. I did my best to lean the whole body a little bit forward, but I was just too far gone to make the most of the downhills. A 5:51 for mile 6 shows this, and 6 flat for mile 7 actually had me thinking that things might really end badly. I usually don't go so far into the negative during shorter races, but footsteps behind dampened my already dull spirits.

As I tried in vain to separate myself from the runner coming up, I saw a tall shadow and heard the familiar late-race wheezing of my pal Lucas. Once I knew it was him I actually cheered up a bit, as we work well together. As we started up the hill though, a familiar voice shouted "Lucas, I'm coming to get you!". Then a funny thing happened: Lucas swore. It was so out of character that I was actually smiling, even as our friend Scott came up on us. He clearly had a bit more in the tank than either Lucas or myself, and after running even and exchanging a few words he put the screws to us as both of us faltered. Before the race Scott asked me to store a few things in my bag by the finish line, and as he showed us his heels I had just enough energy to say "I'm throwing your keys in the desert". Lucas and i finally made the last turn, with me taking 5th and him taking 6th.

I know all the guys who beat me fairly well, and I'm honestly very happy for their successes. Still, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'm a bit distressed at what seemed to be a changing of the guard. Quite frankly, I had it handed to me today by places 2 and 3, and I can't help but feel I should have been able to run with them. These thoughts are unfortunately crowding out the fact that I ran a personal best for the course, but the camaraderie of summiting the last hill with two good friends (even while suffering badly) is a bright memory that will endure.

Results are posted.

It was great seeing and chatting with Phil, who made it down from Phoenix to run this race for the first time. Stop by his blog and read his excellent race report. As always, he has some nice photos to go with it.

Race: 8 miles, 47:27, 5th place, 12 miles total

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

My next question deals with weight training. Whats your thoughts on weight training for distance runners? Lydiard says it numerous times that his guys didn't use weights, just ran hills. Weight training just seems to be such a common practice amongst runners today. I tried time and time again to apply the "hill running as strength training" principle and time and time again wound up injured. Without fail I develop a muscle imbalance in my quads that results in a tracking problem within my knee. Last time I developed ITBS.

So whats your thoughts on weight training? Will the strength gains carry over into running? If so can you offer some suggestions on how to weight train so that it complements a running schedule(i.e rep ranges .exercises etc.)?


Jesse, Arthur had an interesting view on weight training, if you had time for it that you would be better served doing more running instead of weight training, yet he also recommended weight training for some of the national teams that he advised when they did not have hills available. I have found that weights can be used to replace the hill phase. Squats and reverse lunges are very effective for developing the upper leg in a balanced way. (2-3 sets of 10 resting about a minute between, 2-3 times per week (We used less than 1/3 body weight working more on form and full range of motion).

Before you give up on the hills though I have observed that many runners start too quickly, too steep and with too great of volume when first starting on the hills. You can get excellent results with something as short as 100 yards and not very steep. Since you have an imbalance in your quads concentrate on the pull through (almost like a pawing motion) and the extension behind your hips (you'll feel this in your butt and hamstrings). Jog 4-5 minutes easy at the top then stride down the hill, working on bringing the knees up and a light quick push off. Work on this 1 to 3 times in a session 2-3 times per week. Think about what you want to achieve on the hills, feel where you are putting the stress (ankles, calves, hamstrings, or quads) and adjust your session as needed.

It always takes me a long time to warm up properly on my runs. It takes between 2 and 3 miles each day to get up to my target pace, and I usually feel slow and stiff for those first 15-20 minutes.

For any race up to the half marathon distance, I can easily warm up by jogging for 20 minutes. That's not a problem. But for a marathon, I would hesitate to spend so much time and energy before the start of the race. On the other hand, I don't want to start with 3 slow miles. I know the marathon is a long race, but if I lose 30 seconds per mile for each of the first 3 miles, I'm well behind my target time, and playing catchup-up for 23 miles isn't the most appealing of thoughts - it also might put me into the wrong frame of mind, if I try to make up for lost time and run too fast.

What's your recommendation?

Thank you

Thomas, What I usually recommend sounds like will put you in the wrong frame of mind but let me see if I can prevent that. The marathon is very fuel dependent and there are two critical times during the beginning of the race. The first 10 minutes where the lactate processing engine can get up to it's maximum rate so that lactate can be used efficiently for fuel, the second is at about 30 minutes where the fat metabolism has risen to a high enough level to contribute a good amount of your energy thus saving glycogen. By giving up 40-60 seconds in the first 30 minutes can save far more than that in the last 5 kilometers of the marathon. As you can see a slower start is not all that bad, but how can we get you up to those speeds (10-15 seconds slower per mile) with out giving up the 30 seconds per mile (for the first three) and not wasting fuel running with a long warm up? Try and running 5 to 10 times 100 meters with a slow walk back as a warm up. The first 100 should be just a jog then each one after that should be a bit faster until you get to marathon pace on the last one. This might take a bit of experimenting on your part to find the right number and whether it will work for you. You should try this before some of your training runs and see if it get you to the desired level of being loose. Two other things you can try. The first is run your regular warm up the day before the race. Many runners take the full day off and end up feeling stiff the day of the race. The second may not be practical but a 5 minute hot soak about an hour before the race then changing into a warm up suit to keep the warmth in the legs can help speed up a warm up. Experiment with these suggestions a number of times before your race so you gain confidence that the warm up will work the way you need it to.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Wrap Up

Early breakfast with Finn

With the race coming up tomorrow I figured I'd wrap up the week with a post. Here's how it went down:

Mo: 10.5 easy
Tu: 13 w/3x2 mile at 5:42 pace, 1 mi. recoveries (6:35-6:56)
We: 12 miles easy
Th: 10 miles w/7 at 162HR (5:50-6:03 pace)
Fr: 19.6 miles
Sa: 7 miles easy
Su: 8 miles easy
Total: 80 miles in 7 sessions

I really approached this week with some caution after overdoing things last week. My easy days were usually 7:15-7:20 pace, which is more relaxed than my usual 6:40-7:00 pace. I also cut a few miles off of both today's and yesterday's runs to recover from the Thursday-Friday one-two punch and to hopefully get myself right for racing tomorrow. We'll see how well this strategy pays off. Greg Wenneborg, who has won this race eight of the ten times he's run it will be on the line, which guarantees some fairly quick early miles for any brave enough to go with him. Still, anything can happen. I look forward to seeing my pal Phil out there.

Training: 8 miles, 58 minutes, 7:15 pace. Legs feel good.
Total miles for the week: 80

Saturday, September 01, 2007


I finally got off my rear to see some local music last night, which meant crawling into bed at about 1am. I was certainly in no hurry to get out the door for a run, and once I finally did I moved fairly slowly under sunny skies for 7 easy miles. I'm backing off both today and tomorrow, which will hopefully result in me feeling fresh for the Labor Day 8 mile race through Saguaro National Monument. This is the hilliest race of the year, so I'll need all the rest I can get. Overall the legs are feeling pretty good considering the long run yesterday and the pace run on Thursday.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Training: 7 miles, 50:45, 7:15 pace, nice and easy.