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.


Mike said...

Thanks so much for this post.

KY, as far as genetic potential goes, the coach is right about me not having a stellar past as far as running goes. I think I ran right around 4:50 for the mile and 10:20 or so for the 2-mile in high school, and when I started training for triathlons back in '98 and '99 I can vividly remember finally breaking 40 minutes for 10K. The same goes for breaking 3 hours in the marathon in 2001. Even at 36 I still think there's room to improve.

Stephen Lacey said...

"Even at 36"?

I think I have room to improve at 44, if only my darn legs would hold up to the training!

Mike, good luck in the marathon! I don't know how you are going to get around the course with so many people riding you the whole way! Following your preparation has been very inspirational and educational, especially with Mystery Coach's wonderfully generous input. I am sure I speak for a lot of lurkers who comment infrequently but read religiously (RSS is great!).

Go for it man and bring home the goods.

Steve in Tokyo