Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The New Guys

Got the word from Mystery Coach to continue with the non-specific longer run thing, so I headed out for 15 miles this morning. While I didn't feel quite as fresh as yesterday, it still went fairly well. I ran down to my brother's neighborhood and back, which brings me through every uphill Gut Check Alley offers. It reminded me a bit of mile 21-25 of the Twin Cities marathon, which seems to just keep going up and up. Thankfully it was 30 degrees cooler.

I was hoping for an evening run yesterday, but a promised bike ride with Haiden along on her trail-a-bike and an impromptu Halloween light hanging stole most of the evening. Oh well.

While it's getting harder to keep up with this blog, I've found some inspiration from other bloggers recently. The Alien Lizard recently posted this inspirational story of Norway's 1995 runner of the year, who just happened to be 56 years of age at the time. So much for me worrying about slowing down at 36.

Also, I've been enjoying a few new blogs lately. "By7" is runner training in China with a very full life, and Justin is a former Division 1 collegiate runner continuing his training after a move to Hawaii. These guys are both worth a read.

Training: 15 miles, 1:44:45, 6:59 pace

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Good Again

Thanks to Mystery Coach for yesterday's Q&A session. I can barely remember my one season of cross-country in middle school, save for a few days of grueling 400's. Please keep those questions coming.

I did end up taking a zero on Sunday, and since I felt like a pile of dog poo it was probably for the best. Unfortunately Monday found me feeling fairly grim as well, and when I eventually did get out the door to run, I did so with one of the worst headaches of my life along for the ride. The legs didn't seem to be too interested either, but with the pounding in my head resonating with each foot-strike it's hard to be objective. I ended up making deals with myself one or two miles at a time until I finally reached the garage after 10 miles.

This morning found me feeling world's better, and for the first time since Friday I felt ready for a good run. With both the shortened long run and the past few days of feeling sick on my mind, I decided to keep the pace mellow but to keep running as long as I felt strong. Things seemed to get better mile by mile, so I worked in two 30 second steep hill sprints at around 3 miles, then when I found myself by the junior high track around 10 miles I put in 6x100 accelerations with a 300 jog. It felt good to turn the legs over, and while I was a bit clunky at first things seemed to improve.

All in all it was a good day, and hopefully this week will find me getting back to normal training.

Training: Today, 16 miles, 1:50:20, 6:53 pace
Yesterday, 10 sad miles, 1:12:00, 7:12 pace

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Mystery Coach -

Can you comment on how you'd apply Lydiard's training philosophy to middle school kids (ages 12-14)? I know of a number of kids at these ages who are mature enough to want to compete and to want to train, but (I presume) too young to do it at the levels / intensity that will more appropriate as they move into High School and beyond. Seems like there must be some balance between encouraging the passion for the sport vs. the need to stay injury-free and to keep improving. I have read too many stories about kids (girls mostly), who run amazing times prior to age 14 and then never again. Relatedly, is interval training appropriate at these ages, and if so, what sort of intervals?


Tim, Middle school aged kids (ages 12-14) are at an age where they go through a rapid growth spurt and this has their energy levels and coordination levels all over the map. Because of this growth spurt the use of hard volume speed work should be avoided. A number of my best runners came from a good feeder program that a coach ran at the middle school in town. His goal was to get the kids out for a bit of work everyday so that they developed consistency in their training. They only had a few meets during the season and most of the speed work was very informal fartlek type running. The fact he did not pressure the kids was the biggest contribution to their development. A very good web article that gives a good overview of how Arthur thought can be located here: Arthur's Kids. As you can see a lot of the common sense that he recommends for kids is sometimes missing in adult programs so it is never too early to be giving the hows and whys of training.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Calling it Early

I woke up feeling absolutely drained today for some reason, and the run didn't do much to improve things. I originally planned to do a tempo run with the younger guys, but since I decided to take both kids up to see my folks for a sleepover tonight as soon as I get home from work I figured I should probably try to get a long run in since Sunday will most likely be a zero. I wanted to stay out for 2 hours or more, but I just didn't have any energy so I called it early. I blame some sort of bug, as I haven't felt any better as the day has progressed and this seemed to come on suddenly.

Yesterday was a leisurely 12 miles, which passed without incident and without any noticeable fatigue, and Thursday evening I brought Finn along in the jogging stroller for 4 easy miles. All in all a decent week, though I wish I could keep my eyes open a bit easier at 4:30pm. I'm sure a two hour car ride with two kids to Grandma's house will provide enough stimulus to wake me up.

Here's how the week went down:
Mo: 11 easy and slow
Tu: 11 w/3.5 at marathon pace
We: 10 miles w/4.5 at 6:20 (moderate) pace
We: 6.2 miles very easy
Th: 14 miles easy
Th: 4 miles easy
Fr: 12 miles, mostly easy with one 30 second hill sprint
Sa: 15 miles easy
Total: 83 miles in 8 sessions

Hope you all have a good weekend.

Training: Today, 15 miles, 1:47:30, 7:10 pace
Yesterday, 12 miles, 1:22:20, 6:55 pace
Thursday pm., 4 miles, 31:36, 7:47 pace

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Surgery Revealed

Still waiting for the full effects of this procedure to take hold. It shouldn't be long now.

Easy 10K around 7:30 pace last evening with the Running Shop gang, then an easy 14 this morning spent exploring a few new roads. It seems that Mystery Coach is giving me a free pass on the hard stuff this week while I get ready to resume workouts for the upcoming half-marathon in December and the marathon in January. The legs felt a little weighty early in the run today, but lightened up as I ran along. If I'd gotten out earlier I probably would have just turned this into the weekly long run, as I felt better and better with each mile (especially once I was finished climbing out of Gut-Check Alley).

Training: Today, 14 miles, 1:38:56, 7:04 pace
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles easy

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Big World

Finn at the zoo this morning
(photo by Kiera)

Pretty good run this morning, as my friend Doug ran by just as I was starting the watch while heading out of the driveway. There's a series of tight, winding dirt trails to the south of Sabino Canyon that I can't navigate through to save my life. Luckily for me Doug is an expert in this area, so I followed his footsteps as we padded around for a bit over 5 miles. Afterwards I worked on dropping the pace for the next half-hour, just to stretch the legs after taking so many short strides on the dirt.

I think I'm through with my short bout of feeling sorry for myself after the last race. It is a big world, and there are plenty of races in the future. I knew going in that I would probably be holding on for dear life to a pack of runners of similar ability, and in the end that's exactly what happened. I did give it a go and put myself in a position to run well, and for that I get to walk away without having to wonder what would have happened if I had tried to stay with the fast guys. I can live with that.

Things have been busy at home and at work, so I haven't had much time to post or to catch up on other runners' blogs. Hopefully I'll get back to it soon.

Training: 10 miles, 1:11:51, 7:13 pace, w/4.5 miles at 6:20 pace

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Come Back to Phoneline Trail...

Just bring a friend in case you sprain an ankle and don't be in a hurry.

As reported here, the Phoneline Trail in Sabino Canyon is open again after being closed for more than a year. This is a pretty rocky 5 mile stretch, with plenty of elevation gain, and I'd forgotten just how slow going the trek is. In the end, I wasn't even able to crack 10 minute pace without fear of cracking my ankle in the process.

I followed up the slow ascent with a quick run down the paved road that cuts through the center of the canyon, and while I felt good upping the pace I could still feel a little soreness in the quads from the race on Sunday.

I spent some of yesterday in the Canyon also while running with Lucas, and unfortunately both today's and yesterday's runs were accompanied by pretty severe winds, which is a bummer. Still, it's nothing like what those folks in California are going through right now.

Thanks to Mystery Coach for the post yesterday, I think I get those 1000's a bit better now myself. Keep those questions coming.

Training: Today, 11 miles, 1:26:30, 7:54 pace, w/3.5 miles at 5:55 pace
Yesterday, 11 miles, 1:21:23, 7:27 pace

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Mystery Coach,

What is the purpose of the 1000s that you use with your runners?, I've seen you use it a few times.


AJ, The 1000 repeats starting every 5 minutes are nothing special from a physiological standpoint but it is a standard workout that I use that gives me good feed back on how a runner is progressing. The work out is given like this; run 1-10 times 1000 meter runs starting every 5 minutes and only start the next one if you heart rate is under 125. When a runner starts this workout they usually run about 10 mile pace and do 3-5 runs before the 125 HR stops them. After 3-4 sessions (about a week apart) they will run 8-10 of them at around 10K pace before the HR exceeds 125. I don't look at the times as much as how easily they recover in between the runs. When a runner can do the 8-10 reps with ease they are close to being in peak shape. If they start having trouble with the recovery to 125 (causing them to stop early) either they ran the reps to fast or they had not recovered from the previous hard workouts. From that information I slow down the reps and add more easy running before returning to the 1000s again. By having one signature workout you can get good feed back on what you should be doing between that workout. For women runners I adjust the distance down to 800 meters and with them starting every 5 minutes also (this way mixed teams can run the workout together over two different loops).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Not the Season

57:07 or so for the 10 mile race this morning. I have no idea on the place, save for the fact that I was dropped by the group of four I was hoping to run the race with, passed during the 8th mile by one runer, and finished a few places behind another runner in my league who went out with the leaders but faded. Ahead of all of us were a few Kenyans from the University and at least one elite fellow (another collegiate from somewhere I'm guessing).

I held to my plan of finding a good group and trying to run with them, but I found myself at the front of that group for the first few miles while running 5:39 and 5:37 for the first two miles. This was a pace I felt I could hold for the distance, so it was disappointing that the legs weren't feeling very light and I was already laboring a bit with my breathing. Soon I drifted from first to second in the group with a 5:39 for mile three, but the others seemed to just be getting warmed up. As I started to lose contact on mile 4 and began yo-yoing on and off the back of the group, a small surge put me back on their tail with a 5:30 for mile four. I suffered as quietly as I could here but found myself constantly drifting back. It was no-man's-land behind me, and I knew that this group was definitely the ticket if I wanted to finish with a good place and time. While I don't mind running a marathon alone, a 10 miler is a different animal.

The body started to turn against me on mile five, with the legs feeling more sluggish with every step and the breathing rate rising by the minute. Even with a 5:38 to end the mile the group began to move away from me for good. A 5:43 for mile 6 found me starting to lose confidence about finishing relatively strong (something the last marathon and the 8 miler in September didn't help with), and an uphill 5:59 resulted for mile 7. I'm so glad I wasn't looking at the watch during the second half, or this split would have been a punch in the neck as far as my racing psyche goes. For mile 8 and 9 I actually seemed to be making up some ground on the group that dropped me, but getting passed by a runner here hurt. I'll say 5:47 and 5:48 for these miles, as I missed a split in the middle. I spent the last mile trying to chase down the runner who passed me, but the course veered into an area around our Convention Center and had us making successive 90 degree turns, running up and down handicapped ramps and other nonsense. Just staying on my feet was a challenge, and the guy stayed away.

The 8 mile race in September, the marathon two weeks ago and the race today share a common storyline: I go out at what should be a reasonable and sustainable pace, yet still fade considerably during the second half. In the local races I'm getting spanked by runners I have raced more closely with in the past, and in the marathon I'm finishing more than 10 minutes slower than my best.

While I know there are plenty of excuses I can fall back on for all three races, they don't give me any comfort when the screw is turned and I either can't respond or I whither under the weight of the moment. Also, at age 36, I sometimes find myself wondering if this is the start of the inevitable reversal of fortune all runners face at some point, where the PR's simply stop.

In general I think I'm pretty positive about my running and training, but from time to time these dark clouds appear. I think it's as valid to write about them as it is to go on and on with another long, boring race report. Hey, lucky you; you get to read both.

One thing I do realize is that a bad race or two (or three) doesn't change or invalidate any of the fun I have running, or my love for the sport. I'm pretty lucky to be where I am and to get the help and support from my family, coach, and friends (both here and in cyberspace), so hopefully it doesn't come across like I'm overlooking the great hand I've been dealt in life.

Perhaps I'm just a bit grouchy about getting dropped.

Training: 10 miles race in 57:07, plus 2.5 miles warm up and 2 miles cool down

Friday, October 19, 2007

Clean Bill of Health

"If it hurts, don't do it."

With those words the doctor released me this morning with no set restrictions on activity. He asked me if I was running again, and I told him the truth. I did spend more time discussing the shorter and easier bits though. "You runners are crazy", he said as he opened the door and led me out.

Game on for Sunday.

Training: 6 miles, 42:18, 7:03 pace. Late start this morning but a shorter run was probably for the best. I'm writing this to keep me from heading out for 4 more miles this evening.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Toe in the Water

Laced up the marathon shoes today to see how the body would respond to running the potential paces that could be thrown at me Sunday, should I end up racing. If I do take to the line, the provisional plan is to take the pace rather than make the pace. This is new territory for me, as during longer races like this (10 miles) I generally end up settling in to the front of a group and staying there. If others want to run the same pace, that's fine and welcome, but I like being the one making the subtle shifts in tempo depending on how I'm feeling at the front rather than responding to others doing the same thing. However, this time out it seems like there's a pretty good group of 3-4 guys who will most likely be leading the charge while I try to either hang on or stay in reach. It's fun when I get faster, but not so much when other local runners eclipse my own gains.

I emailed Mystery Coach and suggested running a few mile repeats around 5:30 pace and working down to 5:20 or so if I felt good, and he came back with a plan that called for 2-3 miles at 5:50-5:55 pace, 10 minutes easy, then 3x1 mile at 5:35, 5:25 and 5:15 with one mile recoveries. At first this sounded a bit tough, but I figured it would be a good indicator of whether or not racing should even be a consideration at this point.

After warming up for a short mile I got to it with a 5:54, a 5:45, then a half mile at 5:44 pace before easing off. Doing these on the roads before dawn made checking the pace difficult, which partially explains the speeding up. The first mile felt the worst, and while the whole effort felt a little harder than it would have a few weeks ago it wasn't all that bad.

I took about 10 minutes to jog to the track for the repeats, and of course grey-sweatshirt-with-headphones-guy was there. He generally runs 3 or 4 miles, shuffling in lane one and never yielding for anyone doing workouts. He's less than a quarter mile from Sabino Canyon and its miles of hilly trails and beautiful scenery, yet he chooses to shuffle along here with his head down. At least the guy who chooses to walk his dog on a long leash around the track was missing today.

5:32, 5:24, 5:13. It took some concentration to land the last one, as I really felt klunky once I got under 5:20 pace. The feet seemed to stick to the ground and the fists were clenched tight, but at least I was still able to manage the pace. Afterwards an easy 2 miles home gave me 12 on the day.

Tomorrow I see the doc, and with luck he'll take it easy on me and give me the official green light to exert myself again.

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1:16:02, 6:21 pace, w/2.5 mile effort at 5:54, 5:45, 5:44(.5), 10 minutes easy, then 3x1 mile in 5:32, 5:24, 5:13 (.75-1 mile rest)
Yesterday, 10 miles, 1:08:29, 6:50 pace

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Where it Began

When I started this blog a little over two years ago, I was about 9 weeks into my first conditioning phase using Arthur Lydiard's training. Our son was about three months old and our daughter was about to turn 3. The legs were wobbling a bit under the stress of my first attempt at higher mileage, and sleep was at a minimum. Still, through the haze there was a concrete goal I had my sights set on: Break 2:40 at the Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon in early January. This required chopping about 8 minutes from my current PR, but 2:40 was just such a nice, even number. If any of you were reading back then, you might remember the report. Thinking back on it reminds me of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where Harrison Ford watches as the bad guy reaches into his chest, grabs his heart, and starts to pull it from his body. This was 2:39 slipping away between mile 21 and 25. In short, I have a history with this course, and I'm going back January 13 to do it again.

On the way there I'll run a Cross-Country 5K on November 22, the Tucson Half-Marathon on December 2, and perhaps a 10 mile race this Sunday if I can get Mystery Coach and Kiera on board while ducking my doctor.

As for the training, the zero train stopped after 4 days. An easy and tentative 5 yesterday gave way to a moderate 7 today. I still feel on the mend, but it's nice to be out in the fresh air again. I'll probably wait until the morning of to decide on the 10 miler, as it seems everyone in Tucson is in fantastic shape at the moment. This means the race will be a very fast gut-buster.

Training: Today, 7 miles, 44:54, 6:27 pace
Yesterday, 5 miles, 36:46, 7:23 pace

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Mystery Coach,

What happened to Mike at Twin Cities?


This might be better left for MC’s 'Question & Answer' period on Monday, but given you raced last weekend, I’m curious about the length of your recent runs, 49:51 and 1:02:05. I realize everyone has their own strategy, and we all recover at different rates (me quite slowly), but your jaunts appear on the aggressive side … thoughts? Do you have any immediate goals?"


Mike & Michael, These two questions are linked and part of the answer starts here:

By the 8 a.m. starting time the temperature was 74 degrees and the relative humidity was 87 percent, according to the race's medical director, Bill Roberts. The race uses an index called the wet bulb globe temperature, which takes into account the temperature, humidity and the effect of sunlight. Put those together and you get the hottest Twin Cities Marathon ever.

Because of his size (6'2" 170lbs) Mike has a bigger disadvantage than most runners when running in high humidity heat. Before the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta Danish researcher Bodil Nielson had calculated that runners weighing 143lbs would not be able to sweat fast enough to remove the heat generated by running at 2:10 marathon pace. The first and second runners in that race (77 degrees with relative humidity 70 percent) weighed 95lbs and 100lbs respectively. When compared to a runner like the winner (Josiah Thugwane South Africa) Mike has 79% more heat generating mass but only has 47% more skin surface ( 1.37 square meters vs 2.01 square meters) to cool himself. Since Mike's Body Mass Index is in the same range as most marathoners losing weight will not give a big enough offset to give him an advantage in the heat.

Mike has indicated that the race because of the limited nature of the heat has taken less out of him than some of the long training runs used during this build hence his return to those training runs. One advantage I have this time around is that Kiera and his Dr are in charge of his not running for recovery.

Since Mike is in good shape he is deciding on a cooler marathon in the next few months and the plan is to maintain his condition with some racing and maintenance long runs.

In the base phase how long should the tempo runs be, in Mr Lydiard's original training (with Snell etc) his guys were doing 10 miles. In later training plans I have seen 5k -10k recommended, some times once a week other times he recommends twice per week, what do I follow? I have a good background in running since 1993 and am now into week 5 of base training


Rick, Arthur found out early in his training that mixing up the distances and paces gave better results than running the same distance everyday. Running all distances from 2 miles and up can give different types of benefits (shorter days give glycogen levels a chance to recover and can help your biomechanics, longer days develop stamina qualities in those harder to recruit fast twitch fibers) The goal is to mix up the paces and recoveries. I've used all distances from 2- 10 miles for the faster runs but remember these are not races or race simulations (those are used during the peaking stage) use them to aid recovery and to stimulate the muscle fibers to work a faster rate.

Hello coach,

I am always looking at your training in the context of a marathon schedule. You even gave a great outline a few weeks back that was super awesome. How exactly would you design a plan for another distance? Lets say a 5k runner. Would the back to backs still be of importance? Would the speed work be more intense and would there be more of it? Lydiard's schedule's didn't very much in the base phase or the hill phase, even the track phase was pretty similar regardless of distance. I'm wondering what kind of changes you would have made in Mike's schedule if his goal had been a 5k?


Jesse, The conditioning and hill phases would be the same but during the peaking phase there would be more emphasis on the speed work, not more of it, but with the goal of keeping the legs fresh so that you can do the faster work needed to compete over the 5K. This means you might have to run the long run slower than during the conditioning phase or cut it back to about 75% of it's length. The important thing is to condition yourself well during the conditioning phase so you can hold up to the faster work and recover faster from the speed work. The back to backs during the conditioning period aid in the ability to recover faster and will show their benefit once you start your speed work.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hearing but not Listening

Dear runners, never bring your loving spouse along to a follow-up visit after a surgery. Problems can sometimes arise due to differences in interpreting the kind doctor's instructions.

"Absolutely not. He said no running for a week, or at least until you see him again on Friday."

"No, he said no EXERTING myself for a week. Running easily isn't exerting myself."

You see where this is going. The doc's actual words were somewhere between the two, though I was sternly admonished by him yesterday when I mentioned the October 21 10 mile race coming up during yesterday's appointment, which followed Thursday's surgery.

"So I shouldn't plan on running it?", I asked. He paused for a second, then looked me in the eye with the same expression I give our 2-year-old when he picks a random wood-chip up on the playground and puts it in his mouth.

"Make my job easier, just use some common sense."

Zeros since Thursday and counting.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Too Long Gone

"Mike, this might be better left for MC’s 'Question & Answer' period on Monday, but given you raced last weekend, I’m curious about the length of your recent runs, 49:51 and 1:02:05. I realize everyone has their own strategy, and we all recover at different rates (me quite slowly), but your jaunts appear on the aggressive side … thoughts? Do you have any immediate goals?"

My pal Michael, who is gearing up for the Rock and Roll marathon in Phoenix, Arizona this January posted this in the comments the other day, and it seemed like good fodder for a post.

As far as my runs starting out a bit long, I guess they are when compared to after other marathons. I pretty much just headed out the door on Tuesday planning on 4 miles and things just felt good. Wednesday I felt even better, which led to an extra 10K of easy running in the evening. Usually I can barely run during the first four days or so after a marathon, so my thoughts are that the conditions (and perhaps my condition) and the slower pace kept me from damaging my legs too much.

The other thought in the back of my mind was a small medical issue that necessitated fasting (including fluids) from Wednesday night until Thursday afternoon (thus no Thursday run), and a resulting recovery of anywhere from 2-5 days after that with no running. With these unavoidable zeros in my head, I probably subconsciously got back to it quicker than I normally would, as no running for a week straight would almost certainly put me in the loony bin. I mean, just look at Patrick these days. If I start writing about poop I will most definitely have gone too long without a run.

Training: Wednesday pm., 6.2 miles around 8 minute pace. Zeros since then.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Run the Sun Up

It's pitch black at 5:35am now, which is a far cry from the days in July when I could see where I was going at this time. I start slow, and take a detour through a quiet neighborhood with good blacktop where I know I won't trip over any large cracks while I wait for enough light to run the dirt trails.

Slowly the ridge-lines of the Catalina and Rincon Mountains materialize, silhouetted by a deep blue light. These are the first signs of dawn on my side of town. No clouds today, which makes for a cool morning but will mean 95 degrees later on in the afternoon. I continue on the Slow Down Loop, but add a few sections of the Esperero trail to give the feet and legs a bit of relief after Sunday's race.

Aside from a different temperature and dew point, it's much like it was last week, or a month ago, or a year ago. The marathon comes to mind only a few times, most pertinently when I manage to trip over a tree root on an uphill and land on my hands. It's a reminder that the knees aren't quite driving as high as usual yet, but that will change.

My love for the sport is as strong as ever, and aside from a bit of a bruised ego I'm stronger for the experience last weekend. The legs feel better than I can remember them feeling after any of my previous marathons, which is comforting for the future but gives me some pause when I think about what I left out there on the course. I did what I could on the day, but for whatever reason there seems to be more left in me.

A late start with Finn waking early before the run means 8 or 9 instead of 10 miles, and the last two find me out of Sabino Canyon and tracing my two mile loop. To the east the sun is more than midway up the peaks, and as I finish up and head west back to the house my shadow grows more defined in front of me with each quarter-mile traveled.

One last look behind me before turning the last corner finds the sun lifting and breaking free of the Rincons. It's just the end of a perfectly good run. While what's happened in the past has burned into memory and what's to come is still forming, today started with a perfect hour watching the sun rise.

Thanks to all of you for the kind comments and encouragement after the race on Sunday. I really do appreciate it.

Training: Today, 9 miles, 1:02:05, 6:55 pace
Yesterday, 7 miles, 49:51, 7:06 pace

Monday, October 08, 2007

Let's Get This Over With

Sopping-wet-dog-of-a-runner tries to make the best of it

It wasn't my day. And while I did my best to change the hand I was dealt, I just never gained the upper hand during Twin Cities. The plan was to ease into the effort and work down from 6:10 or so to my goal pace of 5:54 by 5 miles, but in the end I didn't run a single mile at my planned pace.

6:11, 6:03, 6:00, 5:58, 5:58, 5:58, 6:00, 6:00, 6:02, 6:02, 6:03, 6:09, 6:14, 6:32*, 6:08, 6:16, 6:20, 6:35, 7:26*, 6:38, 6:43, 7:00, 7:08, 7:18, 7:20, 6:45, 1:19. I think the first half was 1:19 and change, the second half was of course much worse to bring home my 2:48. The two asterisks mark miles that included porta-john stops (yes dear readers, when it rains it really does pour).

As I mentioned to Mystery Coach, the 5:58 miles felt like 5:50 or faster, and when I noticed it was going poorly early and adjusted down to running 6's the body felt no better. Being forced to start in the second wave after giving 5 or 6,000 runners a two minute head start complicated things further, as I found myself working through seemingly solid walls of people once I began catching the first wave at mile 1. I never fully realized just how helpful it can be to be working at the same or similar speeds as the runners around you until running a few miles dodging pack after pack of runners traveling a minute or 3 slower per mile. Everyone was quite courteous, but it was a challenge just the same to be swimming upstream the whole race.

By 10 miles I was absolutely certain a PR wasn't in the cards, and by the half I knew I wouldn't be breaking 2:40. By the time I closed the first porta-john door behind me after miles of my stomach clamping down this had turned into the train-wreck race I guess most of us eventually face.

Miles 15-20 I focused on trying to run within myself enough to ensure the last 6 wouldn't be a death march, but by the end it seemed even worse to be running with only pride on the line instead of precious seconds or minutes.

I will say without hesitation that the spectators at Twin Cities were the most kind-hearted and enthusiastic bunch I've ever experienced, and they certainly helped me through what felt like one long hill between mile 20 and 25. Seeing Patrick (thanks for the pic and sorry for calling you Chad) and Chad himself was great, and staying with the Hashizume gang made all the suffering more than worthwhile.

Thanks also to all of you for the encouragement, and I hope to have a more upbeat marathon report the next time around.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Haven't checked the official results, but since I was in the second wave my gun time is 2 minutes off or so. Bad day for me, but I appreciate you all checking in on me. I'll write a bit about it once I'm back in Tucson and settled in. As I said in an email to Kiera, it's a bit bittersweet, as the whole trip has been great with the exception of a certain 2 hours and 48 minutes. I hope Greg, Thomas and Dallen fared better.

Friday, October 05, 2007


Getting stuck in the second wave is a drag (long story involving a fax-send error), but I like my number. 51 is always a good omen, though it's traced back to my cycling days. Aside from bib #1, #51 has won the Tour de France the most times.

Before I go on, I'd like to wish good luck to Greg, Thomas, and everyone else racing this weekend.

Today I ran 5 miles with two sets of strides followed by three 800's at race pace with an 800 jog in-between. The track is the one place where marathon pace always feels slow and easy, so it's nice to wait until the last week for this type of run. All three felt very good (2:45, 2:56, 2:54), and I ran the mile back home as slowly as I could. The work is done.

I can honestly say that over the past 20 weeks of training for Twin Cities I've never enjoyed running more. I'd like to give credit to Mystery Coach for making this possible, and for helping me realize that it's possible to train hard without having an antagonistic relationship with my running. So many runners (and running blogs) seem to refer to their training almost as if it's a prison sentence, and I think during my first two attempts at following Arthur Lydiard's training I fell into that camp. When I look back to the disappointment following my rough time at the Rock and Roll marathon in San Diego last June, it was anchored by a feeling that all the pressure I had put on myself and all the training I had suffered through was for nothing because of the bad result.

I can tell you right now that whatever happens at Twin Cities, I'll come home with my head held high. I know I will run with courage and with joy, as the journey over the past few months really has been its own reward. Each lesson the coach has tried to pass on to me has been accompanied by a funny story or interesting experience, by someone who really has seen it all before and knows how to put training in perspective. While the training load has been heavier than before, I can count fewer than a handful of runs over the past 5 months that have found me disappointed or distracted afterwards. Most often, my running is something I enjoy and look forward to. A great race, or even a poor one won't change this. However, the best way I feel I can turn Sunday into the former is to keep the same perspective during the race that I've found during the training. I'll do my best.

Special thanks to Kiera, Haiden and Finn for their love, support...and tolerance.

P.S. Since I won't have a computer with me, any spoilers who find results and want to post them have my blessing to do so. Thanks Eric.

Training: 5 miles, w/2x100 strides/accelerations, 300 jog, then 3x800 (800 jog) at marathon pace

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Little Footsteps

"I'm going to run every morning, just like Daddy"

When Haiden uttered this phrase over breakfast, Kiera turned to me almost immediately and said, "That has to go in the blog." We unwittingly created a bit of a monster after deciding it would be a good idea to get our daughter a running outfit to balance out the cheerleader outfit a friend gave her for her birthday. After trying it on she asked to go for a run the next day (today) as she was getting ready for bed the evening before.

Sure enough, at 5am sharp she came bounding into our room. After waking us up she asked to borrow Kiera's iPod for her run. After begging her to go back to sleep, she crept back a few minutes later, undeterred. Finally, after I got back from my own easy 5 miles, Haiden suited up for her 100 mile run. It's always 100 miles to her, don't ask me why. Finn of course wanted in on the action too, so the photos are of the start of the race around the cul-de-sac. We all ran two laps, which is a pretty good trip for Finn and his little legs. Afterwards there was sports-drink, which seems to be the main reason they run. Haiden also announced she needed a special hamper just for her dirty running clothes (dad's special hamper is a bathtub until it cools down enough for the clothes not to stink so badly). All in all, it was a pretty amusing morning.

Training: 5.5 miles, 38:18, 6:55 pace

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

No Reservations

I took the day off from running and took the kids to breakfast and the park this morning instead. It felt strange to skip, but it was nice to get some extra time with the kids before heading out of town on Friday.

I'm quite excited about getting to stay with Nobby Hashizume and his family for the marathon this weekend. Nobby is one of the founders of the Lydiard Foundation, and his work to preserve and promote Arthur Lydiard's vision is appreciated by me and countless others in the running community. The first time I corresponded with Nobby was back in the summer of 2005, when he kindly emailed along a diagram of Arthur Lydiard's shoe lacing technique after I commented about my ignorance of it on an old thread. When I started this blog he would email me from time to time with comments and suggestions, and since then he has shared so much great training and running advice with me. We don't correspond as much as we used to, as both of us are busy, so I was surprised and delighted to get an email from him offering up a home-stay for the weekend.

I have a little more to write about regarding expectations and feelings about the race, but I'll have to save it for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Running Through the Gears

I was honestly surprised by today's planned workout, which included a 30 minute rehearsal of the marathon, 15 minutes easy, then 3x1000 starting every 5 minutes. On paper it looked tough with the marathon later this week, but I knew I could always back out if it seemed to be taking too much out of me.

To simulate the first 30 minutes of the marathon, I was to go into the effort pretty much straightaway without much for warm-up, and slowly work down from a first mile around 6:10 or so to 5:52 pace by the end. After running by feel for the first 1/2 mile or so I noticed I was right at 6:08 pace, which didn't feel too difficult. I ended up running the effort at 6:06, 6:01, 5:57, 5:51, 5:53. The fourth mile found me starting to feel good, which wass probably what Mystery Coach had in mind by asking me to ease into marathon pace over the course of 30 minutes.

Over the course of two easy miles I made my way up to the junior high to run the 1000's, thinking all the while that I could easily pull the plug and jog home if things started to go south on the track. I figured I would try to run the three repeats around 3:18 or so, which is just shy of 79 seconds per 400 (and about my average for the 8x1000 last week). I laughed to myself after coming through the first 200 at 36 seconds, which was way too fast. I reigned it in a bit but still ended up at 3:13 for the first repeat. I made sure to ease off for the next two, hitting 3:18 and 3:19 without having to dig in.

The one mile jog home found me feeling good. It was nice to run through all the gears, and the Coach's draconian rule of no more than 10 miles total over the next three days seemed easier to swallow with a workout in the legs.

Special thanks to the coach for the post yesterday, please keep those questions coming.

Training: Today, 10.5 miles, 1:05:20, 6:15 pace w/5 mile effort in 6:06, 6:01, 5:57, 5:51, 5:53, 15 minutes easy, then 3x1000 (1:40 rest) in 3:13, 3:18, 3:19
Yesterday, 6 miles, 43:03, 7:13 pace

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Dear Mystery Coach,

I am a avid reader of Mike's blogspot and have long wanted to ask you to guide me in the principles of applying Lydiard training to my Triathlon training.

I did a tough half ironman in 5 1/2 hours in mid June and am hoping to go under 5 hours for that race. In terms of running development, I am currently running about 50-60 miles a week at the aerobic pace of HR 140-160 or a mile pace of about 7:35-8:00 per mile in addition to my swimming workouts at night with a swim squad. I shall also get back to my cycling once I return to the UK to continue my studies. Is such a mileage enough for someone like me? Most weeks my running gets up to about 7 hrs a week. While there's another 6-8 hrs of swimming. I'm hoping of putting in 20+ HR weeks for all 3 sports once I'm back in the UK.

My Question is, how do I apply the Lydiard training to the training that I am currently doing to achieve peak performance come race day.

Also, my other question is, in endurance sports (triathlon, running, cycling, etc) does talent or hard work play a bigger role?? Take for instance, I know people who off very little/no training who can easily do a 5k in 18 minutes but when i started out it took some serious training to get my 5k to 18:11 and recently did 2 10k road races in 39 minutes and I don't seem to be getting any faster. Does this mean that I will never be able to reach Mike's standard of doing a marathon below 2:40 and running a 16 minute 5k just because my genes will never allow for it? Just wondering, how was Mike faring when he started? Would be interesting and uplifting to know whether or not he was just a normal chap like all of us, but then trained hard and smart to get him where he is today.

Just some thoughts and burning questions from a young 20 year old Malaysian boy who wants to try and perform well in age group triathlon and runs.

Yours sincerely,
Kuok Yuen (KY in short)

KY, The art of peaking is the most underused aspect of training and is the biggest point that Arthur trying to make when teaching his program. When you look at the Lydiard system as a whole 10 weeks are devoted to slower distance training and 4 weeks are devoted to off season training. What is often misunderstood is that these are stages where you rest your instincts for pushing (you train within yourself). Arthur cautioned all the time against running fast and hard all the time because your system would become jaded (and less likely to be able to do very hard workouts or race fast). The key time for very hard workouts starts 7 weeks out from your event and last for 3-4 weeks. Before that you'll need 3-4 weeks of preliminary work to be ready (hills and a little bit of speed work) The last 3-4 weeks should be used to freshen up and do coordination work like practice time trials for pace. To apply this to the triathlon you should give yourself a 3-4 month period where you just work on volume but nothing very fast (think of going longer on the bike one day a week and longer on your run (not faster)). About 10 weeks out from your triathlon you should start working up to longer and longer hard repeats (such as 3 X 10 minutes working up to 4 X 20 minutes a little faster than goal pace) these should peak 4 weeks out then begin to decrease the volume (keep the intensity) until race day.

When it comes to finding your potential it may take far longer than you think. A number of studies on athletes like Mark Allen and Lance Armstrong show that they make improvements not thought possible by physiologist for periods up to ten years. I'm sure if you asked Mike his high school coach would be surprised at what level he runs at now. If you train smart by giving yourself a easy base period every year (so that you can train extra hard when needed and let your system recover) you'll find that in your late twenties and early thirties that 18 minutes will look slow.

Hello Mystery Coach,

I have a question on how to best improve 5k speed after running a marathon. Now that my Fall marathon is behind me, I'd like to spend the next two months working on speed. My goal is to run a 5k PR in December before returning to base conditioning for a Spring marathon.

I was thinking of emphasizing two primary workouts each week: VO2max hill repeats (brutal), and 200m/400m repeats at faster than mile race pace with full recoveries. In the past I've found that hill work always seems to improve 5k times, and I'm thinking that working on my mechanics and leg speed with fast Daniel's repetitions (something I've never done before) might help to bring all my paces down. Is this a reasonable strategy?

[ Here's some background info in case it's relevant: I'm 36, been running for 2 years, ran marathon last week in 2:58 off of 60ish mpw training, and ran a 17:27 5k this morning. My mile splits were 5:16 (too fast), 5:37, 5:45, in which I fell apart very badly the last mile. From this I'm hoping to improve enough to run steady 5:25s for a sub-17 minute 5k in December. ]



Kurt, Looking at your times it looks like you are on the speed side of running. Instead of the two hard repetition type workouts each week replace one with a volume workout such as 3 - 4 X 1 mile @ 5:55 pace with 1 mile jogs, or a steady hard run of 3-4 miles @ 6:15 pace. On alternate weeks try either hills or the fast reps for your other fast workout and remember it is better to learn to run relaxed at 75 second 400m pace than to staining doing 70 second pace.

Dear Mystery Coach,

Having read your advice on the "Running with Lydiard" Blog, I am wondering if you could offer me some advice on coaching young runners. I have recently started coaching a small group of runners. As a rule most have little experience and are competing in the main in school level cross-country running.

Here in the UK most young runners do track sessions once or twice a week, with a longer run on Sunday throughout the year. I am aiming to do something different by focusing more on the long-term development of the athlete, & focusing on more steady running over hilly terrain, & setting schedules based in part on the principles set out by Arthur Lydiard. I have, however, been unable to locate Lydiard's advice/schedules regards young runners.

Generally my runners train as follows ...

Juniors (Age 11-14):

Tue: 25-30 minutes steady
Thur: 25-30 minutes steady
Sat: Session *

* The Saturday session varies week by week but includes progression runs, 4-5 minute repetitions, alactic strides, hill repeats, track intervals depending on the time of the year / competitive targets. Generally, I seek to increase the volume first, & then the intensity as we near their major races (county/national schools' championships)

Inters (Ages 15-16)

Tue: 40-45 minutes steady
Thur: 40-45 minutes steady
Sat: Session (varies week by week as per Juniors)
Sun: Long Run (60 minutes)

Seniors (Ages 17-19)

Tue: 55-60 minutes steady
Wed: (Light) Strides session
Thur: 55-60 minutes steady
Sat: Session (varies week by week as per Juniors)
Sun: Long Run (80-90 minutes)

On days when not running, my runners are advised to do some x-training (swimming & cycling) & general conditioning based upon body-weight exercises (sit-ups, push ups etc.)

I would be most grateful for your comments on what training I am offering my athletes.
In particular, am I giving my runners enough training (as per Lydiard's recommendations)?


Alan Maddocks
Beacon Hill Striders
Leicestershire, UK

Alan, I always found coaching young runners very rewarding and have great respect for coaches like yourself who take approach of focusing on the long term development of the athlete. When working with young runners it is always best not to be too exacting with workouts so they develop a feel on what they are working on instead of learning to dread certain workouts that are overly difficult. The schedules that you present are a good starting point and look well balanced. One of things that gave good results with my young runners was a reward system for learning consistency and helping them to learn how to balance their conditioning running. Each year we had two 10 week periods (one from end of June until September, the other January to the beginning of March) where the runners would run miles for reward t-shirts. We had the 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500 mile reward shirts. The runners kept track of their miles. They could run them how ever they wanted (some ran almost the same distance everyday, others ran little during the week but on the weekends would run a couple of long runs and some ran a pattern similar to what you have). It kept them all motivated and working toward a bigger goal. It was interesting to note that once they got to that 500 mile level they were always the top performers in the conference (most runners didn't get to that level until the 3rd or 4th year but when they did the gains were notable). One other method that I found useful was disguise speed workouts. I would pass out folded cards with times printed on them (from 30 seconds to 6 minutes) and a number (from one to how many runners in the group). After they warmed up for 15 minutes the runner with number one could surge for the length of time on the card whenever they wanted, the same for number two, etc. This lead to some very fun hard workouts. Some runners would wait until a long hill, others when they turned on to a narrow path, and others would immediately follow the previous surge with no rest. Since no one knew the length of time or who was next (or what their strategy for the surge was) it kept everyone motivated and on their toes. No one ever dreaded that speed workout. So getting them to train without thinking of it as training is a big factor in keeping them motivated.