Friday, November 30, 2007

Into the Mist

The crazy weather continues for what is marathon/half-marathon weekend in Tucson, Arizona. The temperature was above 60 degrees at 5:15 this morning when I started my run, and I spent the 14 miles running through drops, showers and a fine mist. It felt like I was back in Portland, Oregon, where I spent precisely 1.5 winters before I nearly went mad from the rain. Folks coming to town for the race expecting cool temperatures and sunny skies might be a bit disappointed, but we definitely need the water.

As for me, the legs seem to be getting some snap back after going into hibernation for two days after the 1000's on Tuesday. As for the lungs, I'm feeling like a diesel engine: I can go, go, go for a long time, but I'm a bit noisy and slow.

Training: 14 miles, 1h 37m, 6:59 pace

Thursday, November 29, 2007


"That's right boy, you have to earn your dessert" Photo by Kiera

The sad thing is our boy doesn't do well with dairy, so he's stuck with that tofutti-type fake ice cream.

I felt a bit like Finn looks in the photo on the run this morning. After squeezing in 6 miles with the Running Shop gang last evening I woke up to foreboding skies. Unlike Thomas, who seems to run through two or three tsunamis weekly without blinking, I don't like that wet dog feeling of being rained on throughout a run. Before I left I told Kiera I would turn around and come home if I got dumped on, but we both knew I was lying.

Five minutes from the door the rain started, and it got steadily heavier throughout the run. The legs were a bit fatigued from three days of doubles, so instead of trying to force the pace I found as many hills as I could and worked on strength for the 12 miles. It was good to get home and wring out the shoes.

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1:25:40, 7:09 pace
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles around 7:20-7:30 pace

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Mystery Coach's Axiom Number Two reared its head today.

"How easily you recover from a workout is a better indication of your condition than the workout itself."

I was dragging a bit for this morning's 16 miles, especially for miles 5 through 10. After that I felt like I ran through the fatigue a bit and came out relatively fine on the other side. Still, I find myself wishing I'd run those 1000's yesterday between 3:25 and 3:30 as ordered instead of drifting down to between 3:20 and 3:25.

Damn, that Mystery Coach is right again.

Training: 16 miles, 1:54:10, 7:08 pace

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


powered by ODEO

Turnover. Mine is usually a bit slower than I'd like, especially when I'm running easy. Nobby Hashizume mentioned as much after watching me during an easy run and later at the Twin Cities marathon. Since I've been cheating a bit and using the iPod on a few runs I've noticed that the beat for the song above feels drop dead perfect for practicing turning the legs over at a good clip, whether slow or not.

Spoon is one of my favorite bands, mostly because they've been trying to remake the Beatles Revolver for the past 7 or 8 years with their own songs. So buy their album, load this "Black Like Me" song onto your MP3 player and pound the pavement in time. Pause it for a minute before the second verse as you keep running, then hit "play" again and see if your turnover has slowed or has stayed the same tempo. If the latter is the case, feel free to shout along with the "yeah, oh yeah's" after the second chorus. You've earned it.

Training this evening: 5 easy miles, 37:50, 7:34 pace. Yeah, oh yeah

Speed...Sort of

Mystery Coach assigned 10 x 1000's today, starting every 5 minutes and trying for 3:25-3:30. It was sort of a speed workout, though the speeds were right around 10K pace (5:30-5:37 per mile pace) so it was difficult to hit the times without slowing down for the second 400, then slowing down more for the final 200. I was definitely dragging for the 4 mile cool down, which surprised me given how the repeats felt pretty good up through 9 of 10.

14 miles daydreaming yesterday morning, then 5 easy miles in the evening.

Work is still crushing my soul (and putting a cramp in my blogging), so that's it for now.

Training: Today, 12 miles, w/10x1000 on 5 minutes in 3:24, 23, 23, 24, 24, 23, 24, 21, 22, 22
Yesterday, 14 miles am., 1:36:40, 6:54 pace
Yesterday, 5 miles pm., 37:30, 7:30 pace

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hi Mystery Coach,

I sincerely appreciate your response on my earlier 2400 meter lactate threshold test and this Monday question format.

Which Will Bring a Faster Boston Marathon?

In just winding down from a "first ever" Cross Country season I am pondering the title question.

I've ran the Boston Marathon off and on about ten times with PR of 2:38. All of these races were preceded by a fall marathon. Now, as a master’s age runner the intention is to train smarter and run faster.

A huge advantage I see in XC is the quicker recovery. Last year it took four weeks to build mileage up, which only left four weeks of base training. Then it was onto a 16-week marathon conditioning program. It seemed my body wasn't prepared for the work.

With XC, the miles can stay up at base level with every two-three weeks a pullback as a mini-taper for a race. The races serve as a built in rest mechanism and a quality workout.

Would a Fall Marathon or Fall Cross Country be better to produce a faster Boston Marathon?

Would you recommend the McMillan Calculator as a pace setting standard for training? Last year I basically targeted my goal race pace and tried like hell to run that for many training runs even if I wasn’t yet at that level.



Mark, With 21 weeks until Boston 2008 and coming off your recent 17 minute 5K you are well setup for a marathon build. Most runners underestimate how long it take to fully recover from a hard marathon. A hard fall marathon will affect your training for 8-10 weeks, this might explain why you felt behind the recovery curve last year.

Before answering your question on the McMillan Calculator I would be amiss if I didn't point out Axiom #1 (every once an a while Mike gets to write this on the blackboard one hundred times)

Workouts show what condition you are in, they don't make you into that condition.

Running beyond your level does not move you up to that goal level, it actually retards your development by getting ahead of your recovery rate. First let's look at the levels the McMillan Calculator gives for a 17 minute 5K:

Endurance Workouts Pace/Mile
Recovery Jogs 7:50 to 8:20
Long Runs 6:50 to 7:50
Easy Runs 6:50 to 7:20

Steady-State Runs 6:00 to 6:11
Tempo Runs 5:45 to 6:00
Tempo Intervals 5:40 to 5:52
Cruise Intervals 5:38 to 5:45

Most of your base level runs should fall in the Easy Runs range (6:50 to 7:20) and if you are recovering properly you should see the pace drop (about 1% (4-5 seconds per mile)) per week at the same effort (heart rate or perceived effort). The key is to let yourself improve and not force down the pace. Mark Allen (the triathlete) had a very good way of describing this phase when he called it the "Patience" phase and patience is the key to a good base.

On a separate note, in the next few weeks I'll be looking for some volunteers to participate in recording data about their training. It won't require you to change your workouts but just to record some physiological data every few weeks. If you might be interested you can email me: mysterycoach at

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I drove into the parking lot at St. Philips plaza at 7:02am, and for perhaps the first time ever the group I was meeting with decided to start the run on time. I could see five runners scampering away quickly while I put the car into park, and a minute or so later I was panting and making my way on to the tail of the group. 16 miles of hills, trails and good conversation followed, and it ended up being a nice way to end this week's running. Here's how it went down:

Mo: 17
Mo: 5 easy
Tu: 14
We: 12
Th: 10 (5K race)
Fr: 10 (in Phoenix for Thanksgiving)
Sa: 22 w/last 2 at marathon pace
Su: 16
Total: 106 in 8 sessions

I was bummed to not get at least another double in, but with the two short days of mileage for the race and the day after I guess I shouldn't complain. Hope everyone else had a good week.

Training: 16 miles, approximately 1:56:00, 7:15 pace

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Pie Guy

Since Mystery Coach didn't have any pace-work planned for today, I went ahead and got the long run over with a day earlier. Hopefully this will pay off by allowing me another long run early next week, as the following Sunday will be taken up by the Tucson half-marathon.

It was actually chilly for a change when I left the house around 5:30 this morning (47 degrees), and so for the first time in many months I put on a long-sleeved shirt. I felt like dirt for the first three miles or so, which I attribute to the holiday travel and resulting lack of sleep, though it could also have been a sugar crash after eating a box of Mike & Ikes on the drive home from Phoenix last evening. I finally found my legs after five miles or so, and I decided to do my old out and back run into town. As I made it to the dirt path along the Rillito River I could feel my posture moving forward and the pace dropping along with this shift. At 9 miles I still felt good, though it's always a little tough mentally to throw myself into the last two miles before turning around with 11 still to go.

This run puts me through all four miles of Gut-Check-Alley for mile 14-18, which is a snaking uphill with a variety of grades that takes me from the lowlands in town back up towards the foothills where we live. This section will always be mile 18-22 of the marathon in my mind, so mentally I treat it as such. Even as the stride shortens and the breathing increases on the hills I remind myself to try and hold pace while bracing for the final push home.

As I crest the last hill I'm left with miles 21 and 22. Since my only faster running this week was the 5K on Thursday, I decide to try and finish up with two miles around marathon pace. The legs protest for the first 400, but finally relent and start turning over a bit more quickly. I can feel the quads biting a bit from the race, but it's that good, slow burn that indicates things will be fine if the pot stays simmering awhile longer. Still, it felt good to touch the garage door and be done, and pumpkin pie seems as good a recovery food as anything else in the house. At 8am the kids agreed with me on this as each got a slice.

Training: Today, 22 miles, 2:27:40, 6:45 pace, w/last 2 miles at 5:55 pace
Yesterday, 10 miles, 1:06:30, 6:45 pace

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More Mush

While walking our 5-year-old daughter to her classroom I spotted a big contruction-paper turkey taped up to the gate. It was made by her class, and each student wrote what they were thankful for on the overlapping tail feathers. I cringed at the first one: "I'm thankful for our Playstation". Next: "I'm thankful for money".

I asked Haiden where hers was and she pointed to a brown feather. "I'm thankful for my family". This girl is all heart.

9th place in the cross-country turkey trot, and I was lucky enough to win a pie this year. Kiera is a wonderful baker, but she can't stand pumpkin so I never get any squashy-dessert-goodness. I ran 5 seconds off my best time from last year, but given the training as of late it could have gone much worse.

Up to Phoenix for Thanksgiving. Hope those of you in the States enjoy the holiday.

Training: Today, 10 miles, including a 5K in 16:54
Yesterday, 12 miles, 1:24:36, 7:03 pace

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

See That Red Octagon?

It turns out a titanium wedding ring can really do a number on the painted hood of a new Honda CR-V. I unintentionally found this out this morning while getting out of the way of said vehicle as its driver failed to look right while simultaneously rolling through a stop sign. What kills me is that I watch this happen over and over as parents exit from DROPPING THEIR KIDS OFF AT SCHOOL. When the driver rolled down their window, I made sure to mention that it could have been a kid instead of me, and that if they were shorter than the hood they would probably be dead. To their credit they apologized, but I really don't have much patience for this type of thing.

Lots of running, not much time to write about it. 17 easy miles yesterday morning, followed by another 5 in the evening. 14 a little faster this morning, and hopefully a light day tomorrow before the 5K Turkey Trot on Thursday.

Training: Today, 14 miles, 1:35:30, 6:49 pace
Yesterday am., 17 miles, 2:00:25, 7:05 pace
Yesterday pm., 5 miles 37:30, 7:30 pace

Monday, November 19, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hi mystery coach,

I am now have done almost 3 months of Lydiard base training,my question is; I plan to keep base training for two more months, I have found running the same number of miles week after week has been making me very tired.

Do you think it would be better to run 3 weeks of increasing miles then have a low mile week?
I feel I could make better progress this way! as at the moment I feel am getting slower and slower each week!

cheers rick

Rick, If you are getting slower it sounds like you have an imbalance in your program or have reached the maximum gain for this build. To properly evaluate your training schedule you should have an evaluation run at least once every three weeks. I like using a 3 mile steady run about 13% slower than your best time during the previous racing season (a 6 minute per mile 5 K runner would run at about 6:47, a 5:30 per mile runner at about 6:13 and a 5 minute per mile runner about 5:40) Running these runs should not be faster each time but make a note of your heart rate during the run or how quickly you recover to 120 bpm and 110 bpm. Those numbers should go down as you become more fit. If they get worst you are not recovering between workouts which may be why you feel you need an easy week. There is a difference between needing an easy week and having an easy week built in. The Finns who used the Lydiard system before the Munich Olympics had a 70% week every 4th week and used it to stay ahead of the recovery curve not to catch up on recovery.

A trap runners fall into during the conditioning phase is running too much of their mileage at too high of an effort. If you look at the original Lydiard schedule only 20% of the week was harder than 1/2 effort (one ten mile run at half effort and one ten miler at three forths effort). I used to tell my runners that 1/4 effort was a run you could repeat as soon as you came in, a 1/2 effort was a run you could repeat the next day. A 3/4 effort run would need an easy day but could be repeated the day after. "Never take away from tomorrows workout" is a very important mantra to be thinking about during the base phase.

As you can see the conditioning phase builds up by the consistent volume you do day after day. Too often runners ruin their seasons by hammering the distance thinking it will make them tougher, they end up wearing themselves out.

Since you have been running volume for 3 months already you may have reaped most of your gains by just doing volume so it might be time to condition other aspects of your running. Lydiard's original plan called for 10 weeks of marathon conditioning then 6 weeks of hill conditioning. Changing over to hills just might be the stimulus that you need to continue your improvement.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Working the Weekend

Two 12+ hour days in a row on my feet at work drained some energy today, and while the run went well I was happy to get home to the kids for a few minutes before going in to work yet again. All right, enough with the pity party. Here's how the week went down:

Mo: 13
Tu: 16 on hills
Tu: 5 very easy
We: 14
We: 6.2
Th: 11 w/7 between 6:16 and 6:23 pace
Fr: 20 w/10 at 6:16 pace
Sa: 13
Su: 14
Total 112 in 9 sessions

The bad: No dedicated hill sprints or strides and only two doubles
The good: Back to back moderate pace running, good mileage, and avoiding getting divorced or fired during my busiest work week of the year.

Hope your weekend is...Well, a weekend at least.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Coffee Please

Busiest work weekend of the year for me, so no time to report any more than the basics. Still running.

Training: 13 miles, 1:32:10, 7:05 pace. Started slow

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who'd Have Thunk It?

Out of nowhere...a great long run. The plan called for 10 easy (7:10 or so) and 10 moderate (6:20-6:25). I started conservatively on some hilly loops and finished the first 10 at 7:09 pace. Mystery Coach had mentioned primarily running by feel for the second 10, and not to worry if the pace drifted up or ended up slower than planned. Surprisingly the next 10 clicked off at 6:16, and it still felt like something was left in the tank. I'll take it.

Training: 20 miles, 2:13:20, 6:43 pace, w/10-20 at 6:16 pace

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cut the Power

As I sit at the kids' small green plastic table, affixing metatarsal pads to the insoles of new running shoes with rubber cement and duct tape it begins sinking in. While waiting to take clothes out of the dryer in order to match up running socks from most to least-worn I think about it some more. Regardless of recent racing results, this running thing is still way more than a hobby.

I was a bit tired this morning after two days in a row of doubles and steady miles (I ran 6 last evening with the guys), and when the first two miles of warm up dragged along around 7:40 pace it was clear I needed to add an additional easy mile to ramp the legs up for 7 miles of up-tempo running. Mystery Coach has dialed back the intensity of these early back to back runs, and today I was thankful for it as I hit the watch to begin after the third and final warm up mile. The goal was the same as last week: 7 miles at 6:20-6:25 pace.

6:23, 6:22, 6:16, 6:20, 6:22, 6:18, 6:16. All in all it felt close to last week's effort, save for when I stopped the watch afterwards. While last week I was able to ride the momentum of the workout home with a faster, effortless mile around 6:35 pace, this week found me slowing down about as quickly as I could afterwards. It felt like someone had immediately cut the power, and realizing this I just trudged it in around 7:20 pace and was happy to pull the shoes off afterwards. It wasn't a bonk, but rather a strange sensation of jumping immediately into full on recovery mode.

Michael asked the other day about where in the build would find me at peak mileage. Judging by Mystery Coach's schedule, it looks like I'll keep building this week and for two weeks after, which will be the week of the Tucson half marathon. Afterwards I'll take one slightly down week, followed by my peak mileage week beginning December 9.

Time to find those socks.

Training: 11 miles, 1:14:40, 6:47 pace, w/7 miles at 6:23, 6:22, 6:16, 6:20, 6:22, 6:18, 6:16
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles around 7:30-7:40 pace

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sad But True

When our daughter wakes us twice and our son wakes us once during the night, it can be hard to get going in the morning. I was guilty of setting the coffee maker back one hour after the third interruption, and as a result I didn't hit the roads for the run until almost 7am.

21 miles over two runs in the legs from yesterday, as well as some faster running on the docket for tomorrow meant just getting out and putting some time in today. Still, the late hour and some residual fatigue from both running and work stress made it a little tougher than usual to get out of the house. With this in mind I brought along the old iPod for a change, which proved to be the ticket for getting through the miles.

Sadly, I plead guilty as charged to doing a few air-guitar windmills to Death Cab for Cutie's "Crooked Teeth" while padding along Territory Boulevard. Yes, this is my wife's music. Whatever gets you through the run.

It felt good to get this run in the bag.

Training: Today, 14 miles, 1:38:00, 7:00 pace
Yesterday pm., 5 easy miles, 37:30, 7:30 pace

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Good Tired

Thanks for all the comments wishing our daughter well. She is recovering remarkably quickly, and today she is happily back at school.

As for me, it's been nose to grindstone with work and running. Sleep was minimal Sunday night thanks to our son confusing night for day, which was tough after the long run. As a result I cut Monday's run to 13 miles from a planned 14, and I spent the rest of the day struggling to keep my eyes open. Last night was much better, and as a result I enjoyed tackling a series of hills over and over around Sabino Canyon this morning. While I didn't have the gumption to sprint up any of them, I was able to hold pace and work on flattening each one out without losing too much momentum. Hanging out in the Canyon that long also revealed a total of 6 deer, which is pretty good for that locale.

After about 10 miles I could feel some fatigue, but it was the good kind of tired where the body knows it's up to the challenge. I hate to admit it, but I absolutely love this kind of training when I'm healthy and when the weather cooperates.

Sorry for the absence of "Ask the Mystery Coach Monday". It will return next week, so keep those questions coming to mysterycoach AT gmail DOT com.

Training: Today, 16 miles, 1:49:40, 6:51 pace
Yesterday, 13 miles, 1:32:25, 7:06 pace

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Long, Long Week

Thank goodness the wife returns this afternoon after being gone all week. Kiera has the amazing ability to fly into a different time zone just before one or both of our kids take ill. This time it was our daughter Haiden who managed to catch a lovely disease called Henoch-Schönlein Purpura, which is some sort of autoimmune vasculitis. Her legs swelled up below the knees and were covered gruesome-looking purple splotches, and she suffered some painful bouts of arthritis that kept her from walking for short spells. She's certainly on the mend now, and I tried to keep the sickness quiet for as long as I could to keep the wife from worrying too much. I am worried about residual kidney damage, but we'll have some follow-up testing done to hopefully alleviate my fears. Kiera's mom has been a lifesaver this week, taking care of both kids so that I could continue working as the gallery I work for prepares for our biggest show of the year.

Nothing makes me feel as helpless as when one of our kids is sick. Carrying our five-year-old into the doctor's office because she was unable to walk the distance herself was terrible, and I'm so glad she's starting to feel better now.

As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult week on the mental side. I feel very lucky to have been able to run as much I have, and I have Kiera's mom to thank for it. Here's how the week went down:

Mo: 12 easy with Lucas
Mo: 5.25 easy and very slow
Tu: 14 w/4x30 second hill sprints, 1 mile at 5:55
We: 14 miles
We: 5 miles
Th: 12 miles
Fr: 14 miles, very hilly, 1x30 second hill sprint
Sa: 10 w/7 miles around 6:20 pace
Su: 22.25 miles
Total: 108.5 miles in 9 sessions

I skipped the accelerations/strides this week, mostly due to running later when the track is off limits. I also only did one day of hill sprints instead of two, but I blame that on freeing up Saturday for some faster running. The long run went well today, mostly because I had my friend Scott along for the first 15 to make the time pass quickly. The last 7 took a little willpower, and when the Garmin went on the fritz at 21 miles I took it as a sign to run it in for 22 instead of flogging myself any longer.

The past two weeks have really felt like Lydiard base training, and putting in some longer single runs has done wonders for my confidence. It's a long road, but I feel like I'm getting stronger again.

Training: 22.25 miles, 2:33:30, 6:53 pace

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Out of the Pace Rut

Mystery Coach emailed a suggestion to quicken the pace and shorten the distance a bit today, which finally lifted me out of the daily 6:50-7:10 paces I've been running since the miles have increased. This kick in the butt worked, as I came home from the run feeling worlds better than when I left.

The goal was 7 miles at 6:20-6:25 pace, and after a too-quick first mile of 6:12 I settled in with 6:22, 6:19, 6:20, 6:20, 6:19, 6:19.

Again, I'm crunched for time so that's all for now. Long run tomorrow to hopefully put the cap on a good week.

Training: 10 miles, 1:07:02, 6:32 pace, w/7 miles at 6:12, 6:22, 6:19, 6:20, 6:20, 6:19, 6:19. Feeling good.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Just the Minimum

Right now I seem to have time to either run or write, but not both. Hope your runs are going well.

Training: Today, 14 miles, 1:36:55, 6:55 pace, felt good
Yesterday, 12 miles, 1:25:00, 7:05 pace, felt tired from the double the day before

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Those Guys

Thank you dear readers for the various solutions posted in the comments for how this Mac user could indeed watch the U.S.A. men's Olympic marathon trials after all. It's taken me about four days of watching it for minutes at a time in the corner of my screen while working on other things, but I'm finally through it.

Those guys. Words like "dedication" and "mental toughness" will be thrown around by me and others about some of the performances on Saturday, but I don't know if they do justice to the efforts of those runners. Seeing the wives, children, family and friends surround and embrace these runners, and noticing how much they seemed to admire and respect their competition probably had the greatest effect on me.

Those guys. Aside from a sub 2:22 or better on the racing resume and possibly a spot on the starting line in Beijing, we're not so different. We love our families and we love our sport. Every time we lace up the shoes and head out the door we give ourselves the chance to make ourselves better and stronger, just like those guys. And just like those guys, none of us are immortal.

I didn't know Ryan Shay, but I admired him the same way I imagine most runners did- From afar through news stories, second-hand accounts and message board posts. I saw him only once, at the inaugural Phoenix Rock and Roll marathon where he won the half in 1:04. He looked fast and intense, that's all I remember. Reading about him after the tragedy made me admire him more, which sadly is often the case.

Shay's death at the trials occurred the same day the gallery I work for held a memorial service for an artist I've known since I began working there in 1989. Unlike Ryan, who was in the prime of his life, this gentleman was in his mid-80's and had suffered heart problems over the past few years. He knew the end was coming for months (perhaps a year), and he was able to make peace with and say good-bye to most of his friends and family. It was his request that we had a "party" for him after his passing instead of a somber memorial, but like most of these events it was more somber than it was joyful as we remembered this remarkable individual.

Various speakers at the service commented on how their wish was to be remembered in the same way this artist was, in a room full of friends, family and admirers. The first few times I heard this I thought it sounded incredibly selfish, but the more I thought about it I realized this wasn't the case. They were simply stating that their lives had been touched and made richer for the experience of knowing this man, and that their wish was to be able to give the same experience to those they know and love.

I could not sleep Saturday night as I thought about these two men. While each was so different from the other, both had great passion for what they did and both men should be admired for working so hard to achieve their dreams. Those guys.

Training: am., 14 miles, 1:36:55, 6:56 pace
pm., 5 miles, 37:30, 7:30 pace

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Schedule This

The wife is in Chicago for the week, work is nuts and our daughter is home again from school after her fever returned yesterday. Thank goodness for kind and loving in-laws taking up the slack and coming over early enough for me to squeeze the daily runs in.

Look forward to short posts and hopefully long miles from a frazzled dad this week. Crazy hills today with my new "Quadruple Butt-Kicker Loop", featuring four different steep hills for 30 second hill sprints. Tried a bit of marathon pace but after a mile thought better of it and jogged the rest of the way instead. Snuck in an easy 5 miles last evening to get ahead on the miles before Kiera left this morning, and ran a nice, easy 12 with Lucas Monday.

Training: Today, 14 miles, 1:37:46, 6:59 pace, w/4x30 sec hill sprints, 1 mile at 5:55
Yesterday pm., 5.25 miles, 7:36 pace
Yesterday am., 12 miles, 1:23:58, 6:59 pace

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Mystery Coach,

Long time reader / first time writer. I was wondering what you typically prescribe to your runners for marathon recovery. Being an avid reader of Mike's Blog, I understand that Mike ... may be on the faster side for recovery. Since my marathon, I've been trying to listen to my body, but I'm afraid I may have felt better than I actually was, because 3 weeks after the race my body feels very run down. I've decided to take a week off completely from running. So what do you prescribe for your average marathon runner for the 3-4+ weeks following a marathon?

Thanks in advance,

Bob, Recovery is perhaps the real "secret" to the Lydiard program. First in the case of marathons most runners underestimate how deep the fatigue goes after racing a hard marathon. This combined with the fear that all the hard training benefits will disappear if they take a day off causes symptoms like you are describing. Mike had a similar experienced after his marathon in December of last year (you might want to go back and read his posts during the 4 weeks after the race). For marathon recovery first take 5 or more days off with some light exercise like walking until any muscle pain is gone, then for 2-3 weeks after that shorter easy runs (with days off as you feel you need them). After this initial recovery stage you can add a longer run back in and maybe some half effort speed works. It is important during this stage to evaluate how you are reacting to the long runs and speed workouts. They should not be forced (there is deep down recovery still going on). It might take 3-4 weeks of this to get to the point where you are ready for hard training again.

One point that is often missed when discussing Arthur's training plan is that his conditioning period of marathon training is to help runners recover from the hard speed work and racing. This 2-3 month period is very important for allowing the overall stress response system to recover. The miles condition you while allowing the "fight or flight" system to recharge so that during the next build for racing it can respond strongly instead of being fatigued.

Hi Mystery Coach,

I was wondering what role diet plays in your marathon training programs. In particular, how vital a role do fats play in the availability of fuel.

Thanks in advance,


Blair, One advantage I have is I'm married to a Registered Dietitian and have seen first hand what works and does not work. When you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Eating within a half hour of finishing a hard run or volume speed workout gives a very big boost with recovery. Something like chocolate milk with a 4 grams to 1 gram ratio of carbohydrates to protein is a very good recovery drink then a light meal shortly after that.

When it comes to long runs not eating a high carbohydrate meal before seems to eliminate energy level swings during the run. These energy level swings are confused with bonking and not eating before the run helps eliminate them.

Most runners eat far more fat than they need (typically 75 grams or so) but it is very difficult to get to a low fat diet (20% fat) and feel satiated. When some of our runners tried to go too low on the fat they ended eating more Calories and gaining weight because they felt hungry all the time.

Your best bet is eating balanced meals that you enjoy and concentrating on refueling after hard workouts.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Doubles are for Singles

Dishes need to be washed, grass needs to be cut, tree limbs and brush need to be cleared, piles of paperwork need attention. On the plus side, I am caught up on laundry.

Try as I might, I just can't get a handle on running consistent doubles. After work is dinner, after dinner is kids and their bedtimes, and after that I just want a few minutes to play guitar, use the computer or watch a bit of TV. I applaud all you folks with families who can reliably muster the energy for two runs a day, and I hope to figure out a way to join you someday without becoming a walking zombie. Perhaps it just takes persistence.

For you singles out there who take your running seriously, my advice is to get those doubles in while you have the time available. As for me, this week was about making the most of one run a day. Here's how the week went down.

Mo: 10 easy (felt crappy)
Tu: 16 easy w/2x30 sec hill sprints, 6x100 accelerations, 300 jog
We: 15 easy
Th: 14 easy
Fr: 12 easy w/3x30 sec hill sprints, 8x100 accelerations, 300 jog
Sa: 22 miles (while slow, I can't quite type "easy" here)
Su: 13 miles on hilly trails, easy to moderate
Total: 102

I'm happy about the strides and the hill sprints, and it felt good to get a fairly long run in on Saturday. Next week will be more of the same but with a bit more structure, though probably no doubles again since Kiera will be out of town all week.

Hope you all have a good week.

Training: 12.75 miles, 1:30:00, 7:08 pace, hilly, windy trail run on Patrick's Loop in Saguaro National Monument.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bad Day for Mac Users

PC users were the big winners today, as the Macintosh crowd was shut out from watching the live webcast of the U.S. men's marathon Olympic trials. I'm glad I figured this out before waking up at 3:30am to watch, but it was frustrating nonetheless.

Since I couldn't see the race and I had the time blocked out, I started the long run at 5am sharp. Since I've been getting back to Lydiard's original schedules to some extent, I decided to retrace my old, familiar 22 mile route that I traveled often while getting ready for the Phoenix Rock and Roll marathon in '06. I started slow and built into it, but I was a bit nervous about the distance on the out and back and decided to turn around at 10 miles instead of 11. As I climbed back through Gut Check Alley's hills I felt a bit weighed down, but at mile 17 I started feeling good again. I thought for a minute about the guys duking it out in Central Park and the commitment and training it took for them to get there, and I figured the least I could do to further my own cause is put in the extra two miles to make it to 22.

Congrats to Hall, Ritz and Sell on a race well run, and to all the other runners who made the standard and got to compete this morning. Anyone know a place where a sad Mac user can watch the race now that it's over?

Training: 22 miles, 2:32:00, 6:54 pace

Friday, November 02, 2007

Frequency and Duration

Mystery Coach emailed a new schedule last evening and cautioned me against worrying about the higher than usual mileage totals at the ends of several weeks. The plan arrived just as I was comparing a few of the different fatigue models for running. The old school model of muscle acidosis tells of ever-increasing levels of lactate in the working muscles eventually choking off their ability to forcefully contract with excess hydrogen ions. Then there's the competing theory of the central nervous system essentially shutting down the activation of muscle fibers when it senses damage will eventually be done after running what it feels is either too long, too fast (or a combination of both). Daniels, Lydiard and countless others seem to favor the former, while Tim Noakes and more recently Matt Fitzgerald (who penned the "Brain Training for Runners" book I just read) seem to favor the "central governor theory" of the latter (Running Times article by Fitzgerald here). Jason Karp just wrote a nice article describing both theories in the December Running Times issue.

Regardless of the differences in these two models, proponents of both theories use the same two words with regularity when describing optimal methods of combating late-race fatigue: Frequency and duration. Looks like I'm in for a bit of both.

Training: 12 miles, 1:26:00, 7:10 pace, w/3x 30 second steep hill sprints (full recoveries) and 8x100 accelerations/strides, 300 jogs

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stacking Things Up

Finally got that tired, jello-legs thing happening today at 12 miles in. I wasn't slowing down, but the run did start feeling a bit like work. Worked in a bit of tempo from miles 6-9, which felt hard at first but eased after two miles. Fun stuff.

Busy busy, that's it for now.

14 miles, 1:33:10, 6:42 pace, w/4 miles at 5:50 pace