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


Michael said...

Sign me up, that said I’m not too far out of a race (as is Mike) and therefore might not be the best candidate. Regardless, if it’s data you need… I’m in.

Mark said...

MC, Thanx for the answer, you can count me in on the data call. I'm off to get a dose of patience.

Love2Run said...

Cool, sign me up too Mystery Coach! I'm just coming off a fall marathon (or 2) and am ready for the build to Boston.