Monday, December 31, 2007


4136 miles for 2007, up from 4071 last year.

Since the coach is keeping me in single digits I logged another 9 today, and aside from a lot of hacking I felt like I barely touched the ground. I hit some trails in Sabino Canyon just to keep things slow, and enjoyed every minute of the run. It was a nice feeling to keep for an hour on the last run of the year. I wish you all no injuries and lots of PR's for 2008.

Training: 9 miles, 1h4m, 6:57 pace. Trails, trails trails

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Two Weeks

I think Mystery Coach is taking another week off, so I doubt there will be an "Ask the Mystery Coach Monday" tomorrow. Get those questions in for next week at mysterycoach AT gmail DOT com. In the meantime, here's how my week went:

Mo: 12 w/7x800, 2:29-2:33
Tu: Christmas goose-egg
We: 14 moderate
We: 6 easy
Th: 14 easy
Fr: 10 w/6 at 6:00 pace or so
Sa: 17 w/10 at 6:39 pace, 6.5 at 5:58 pace (blah)
Su: 9 easy
Total: 82

Well, it kind of looks like a taper if you take out the crappy day I had on Saturday. In a perfect world I would have made the 17 miler into 20 and finished with a smile on my face, but it didn't work out that way. I also would have made today's run 12 miles, but Mystery Coach laid down the law about backing off on the miles until this sinus/cold/congestion/(infection?) thing is gone. Saturday night seemed to be the worst of it, so hopefully I'm on the mend already.

I appreciate all the "rest and recover" comments, and I agree with the advice. Aside from the 800's and the back to back workouts, this really was an easier week than the last 8, with about 20% cut from the usual miles. I have a feeling the body will appreciate the cut in volume more once I'm feeling better, and today's easy run was a good start.

Training: 9 miles, around 1h4m, 7:05-ish pace
Total miles for the week: 82 in 7 sessions

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I blew it today. The schedule called for a 20 miler with the first 10 at 6:45-6:50 pace, the next 5 at 6 minute pace, and the final 5 at the same or faster. It didn't end up going to plan.

I've been dealing with some sinus/bronchial issues this week, and I think I finally just pushed a little to hard. Yesterday's pace run went fairly well, especially with the legs, but the lungs did feel taxed towards the end. It's usually the other way around, so I probably should have taken it as a sign.

This morning I was at an immediate disadvantage with sinus pain and congestion, but it was compounded by going to a Calexico concert and not getting to bed until midnight. I figured I would take the run out without worrying too much about the pace for the first five miles, so I was surprised to be down to 6:40 pace when I looked at the watch after about a half hour. The legs were moving fine, but I felt a bit light-headed and my breathing felt shallow for the relatively modest effort.

When I got back to the house and stripped off the pants, hat, gloves and extra shirt (it was 30 degrees), I felt a huge pull from the body to just quit the run right there. A quick bathroom stop and a swig of Gatorade didn't make me feel any better, so before leaving I told Kiera that she might see me again in a few minutes if things went south.

I rolled out of the driveway and made my way uphill to the track to start the effort, since it seemed to help with my motivation yesterday. Mile one in 5:56 and I think I have a shot, as I'm running relaxed again. Mile two and three in 5:58 and 6 even, and I'm starting to feel it just a little in my upper body. Mile four in 5:58 and I run off the edge of the track to battle the rest of it on the roads. I'm feeling bad in the lungs now, and I'm hoping a change in the scenery will help. The legs still feel great, but the breathing is shallow and labored through mile five. I head down towards my one mile loop and the heart starts feeling like it's fluttering. My body just feels wrong, there's no other way to describe it. I'm still on 5:58 pace when I make it through the sixth mile, but I feel like I'm marking time before the inevitable now. It's here I remember the marathon run a few weeks ago, and I'm confident I never felt as bad during that run as I do at this moment. At 6.5 miles I turn a corner and start the uphill section, and the plug pulls out of the wall. I stop and put my hands on my hips, wondering what the hell is going on.

I'm already going to be pushing it to make it to work on time after a late start, and I'm left with the choice of running a few easy miles while stewing about blowing the workout or jogging it in straightaway so that I can start recovering. I choose the latter.

In the shower I notice the legs don't feel taxed, which is a small comfort. The same goes for now while I'm typing this, which is when the legs are usually smarting a bit after a hard effort. Maybe it was just a Sudafed-sinusitis-clogged lung induced meltdown. It's easier for me to think that than to consider the alternatives that a runner with a hyperactive imagination can muster at two weeks out from a goal marathon.

17 miles, 1h50m, 6:24 pace, 1st 10 at 6:39 pace, then 6.5 at 5:58. Kablooey

Friday, December 28, 2007

Freak on the Track

When an older gentleman started his walk around the track in bulky sweats, a muffler, mittens and a furry hat I knew it was coming. Sure enough, he gestured to the idling police car in the parking lot nearby and said, "I think he's here to take you away for wearing shorts." "I still have gloves on" was all I could think to say.

We don't often see 27 degrees on the thermometer in Tucson, but that's what it read today as I pulled pants over the shorts, donned a long-sleeve over a short sleeve, and put on the hat and gloves. I had six miles at 6 minute pace planned as day one of my last back to back workout pair, and the infield of the track looked like a yard sale after I had systematically ditched all but the short sleeve, shorts and gloves after three miles of warm up. I guess my body just runs warm.

I didn't want to hassle with traffic after my late start, and since school is out for the holidays the track seemed like a good place for the run. I ran the first 1600 by feel, and when a 5:46 resulted I started concentrating on the watch. 5:57, 5:58, 5:57, 5:57 and 5:57 followed, which probably equates to close to 6 minute miles when you add the 10 meters. I felt very smooth until about 1800 to go, but I attribute this to smelling the barn and wanting to get back to the house.

Good day. Tomorrow's last long pace workout will tell the tale though.

Training: 10 miles, 1h4m, 6:21 pace, 6x1600 steady at 5:46, 5:57, 5:58, 5:57, 5:57, 5:57

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Eric is Back

This blog is no longer his forwarding address. Check him here. Looks like his new blog format leaves plenty of room for google-ads.

As for me, I'm still doing the running thing. My good friend Jason is back from his 5 month odyssey in India, so I was happy he showed up last evening for an easy 10K run with the Running Shop gang. He and Duncan should compare infections sometime. Jason also joined Lucas and me for part of the run this morning. Kiera enjoys both of these guys, so she pulled out the stops with her banana-nut-chocolate chip muffins. Perfect morning.

Training: Today, 14 miles, 1h39m, 7:05 pace
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles in 43:20

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Zero for Christmas

When I asked Mystery Coach about scheduling runs for this week he suggested I just put my feet up on Christmas. As the father of the two kids featured in the video one post down I knew that would be impossible, but I did take a zero for running on the day. Our family had a great holiday, and I hope all of you out there can say the same.

On Monday the coach gave me the option of 3-4x1 mile around 5:20, 8-10x1000 on 3:17 or a quicker 6-8x800 at 2:32. During the three miles of warm-up on the way to the track I couldn't decide, so I left it up to the legs to choose. I ran the first 400 as fast and relaxed as I could, and when I came through at 75 seconds I was on pace for the 800's so I just went with it. 2:29, 2:32, 2:30, 2:32, 2:31, 2:33 and 2:32 followed, all with easy 800 jogs in-between. The legs had a fair amount of snap for the first 4 or so, but it took some concentration to stay on pace for the second 400 of each. Mid-way through number 6 I figured I was done, but rode it out and jogged through the recovery just to see if I could give a 7th repeat a try. I jumped off the line and made it through about 500 before easing just a little as the legs really started to burn. Seven would have to do for the day. On the bright side, the two miles home felt much better than it has after the last two interval sessions, and I knew I would have a full day to recover without a run planned for Christmas.

This morning I slept until the kids woke me, and as a result found myself crunched a bit for time when I finally made it on the road at 7:40. The run found me feeling good and fairly rested, though I'm starting to think I need to stretch after interval sessions given the residual stiffness in the hips and quads. I could blame the stiffness on wearing shorts in 30 degree temps, but I don't think that really affects things too much after I'm warmed up. I made it through the rest of Volume Two and half of Volume Three of Legendary Hall & Oates (yes, this incredible duo need three full volumes to accurately chronicle their "hits"), but since I've started watching "Flight of the Conchords" on DVD I can no longer listen to Hall & Oates without laughing just a bit. The video below is from the pilot.

On a serious note, I was glad to see the pace drop naturally today after taking a day off. Spending the run speeding up and still feeling comfortable makes me think I'm slowly making my way back to the inside of the recovery curve.

Training: Today, 14 miles, 1h34m, 6:41 pace
Yesterday, 0
Monday, 12 miles, 1h28m, w/7x800 (800 recovery) in 2:29, 2:32, 2:30, 2:32, 2:31, 2:33, 2:32

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Thank you Mystery Coach, thank you readers, and thank you family for continuing to put up with this (and me).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Let's Call it a Week

Easy, cold run in the dark this morning. Listening to the legendary Hall & Oates keeps the pace slow. Off for a day-trip to do Christmas with the folks and family. Here's how the week ended up-

Mo: 12 easy
Tu: 12 w/10x1000 on 5 minutes around 3:17
We: 16
We: 6
Th: 10
Fr: 12 w/7 at 6:01 pace
Sa: 22
Su: 12
Total: 102

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Training: 12 miles, 1h28m, 7:18 pace

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ramp it Up

I listen to Mystery Coach, which is why I sometimes don't listen to Mystery Coach. He's mentioned in a few emails that since he isn't standing on the infield while I'm doing a track workout or running alongside me during longer efforts that his coaching paces or distances can be changed depending on the circumstances and how my body is feeling. In other words, I'm supposed to use my head a bit.

For track workouts this is an easy deal, as when I'm able to settle in and run relaxed I don't mind if the splits are a bit off in either direction. I try to listen to the body and make what I hope are appropriate micro-adjustments, which in turn hopefully give me the right stimulus. Where it gets more difficult is during the long runs, as I fear I end up running either faster or longer (or both) for positive mental reinforcement rather than any real physiological gain. I like the feeling of starting to tire half-way through or so, then dealing with that fatigue while speeding up through the end of the run. I'm just talking about a few seconds per mile or so, but it's enough to drill the episode into my head: "I'm getting tired but I'm getting faster, and when I'm done there's still more in me." I imagine this gray area of fatigue in the middle or latter stages as the hang-time between two distant take-off and landing ramps. With enough fitness I can focus on just maintaining my trajectory in the air and be confident that I'll make the landing. Miles 20 to 26 of the marathon in a nutshell.

Am I over-thinking it? Probably. Am I over-doing it? That's a more appropriate question, and one the coach is probably mulling over when he tells me to proceed with caution.

This morning the coach had up to 20 miles in mind, and mentioned that 7 minute pace was plenty fast enough. At 6am it was still only 28 degrees, so I wimped out and pulled out all the stops with my blizzard-wear (hat-gloves-tights-two shirts) and hit the road while it was still dark. I kept the pace relaxed, and things went well on the convoluted loop that took me down to my brother's house for a glass of water at 11 miles before meandering back towards home. At mile 16 I was starting to tire as I climbed up through Gut-Check Alley, then a stiff side-stitch came on to make things worse. When the stitch finally let up at mile 18 I could see the landing ramp as I started feeling better, but then I made the mistake of thinking about the 20 miler last week and what will probably be another 20 miler next weekend (two weeks out from the marathon). Stopping at 20 three weeks in a row just didn't sit right from a confidence standpoint, so I pushed the ramp out another two miles. "There's still more in me", I thought. Here we go again, bear with me coach.
Training: 22 miles, 2h30m, 6:49 pace

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Recovery Curve

Mystery Coach advised seven miles at 6:06 pace for this morning, and after an easy ten miles yesterday and the gift of sleeping in until 6:30 I felt I should have no problem with the paces. Since I was out on the road fairly late I decided to give the track a go to avoid traffic as much as I could. For some reason school is still in session here, which of course meant I was trespassing. Luckily for me no classes were on the field when I showed up, so I got down to business after three miles of warm up.

I tried running the first 1600 by feel, but when I came through at 5:55 I knew I had to keep a better eye on the splits. I continued on into the second mile and came away with a 6:02. Again I went back to running by feel, but when I caught a glimpse of the boys' P.E. class heading towards the field for flag football I pushed the final 200 for a 5:59 to get out of the way before the teacher could pull me aside for another lecture, which I managed to avoid.

As I ran off the track and out of the parking lot with the tempo still up, I could feel a little stress during the fourth mile as I ran uphill for an out and back stretch. The pace hovered right around 6:02, so I worked on keeping the same speed while relaxing on the downhill portion. With two miles to go it started to feel a little like work, and when I finally hit the watch after the four mile stretch on the road I was happy with the 6:02 pace for those miles and even happier to be done.

I do notice that this week is finding me a little sluggish on the runs when compared to last week, though I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I might have swung a little outside of the recovery curve with the miles and efforts of Friday through Sunday last week, and it will probably just take a little more time to get back on the right side of things. I'm still able to handle the efforts, but I'm feeling a bit less graceful and relaxed when I do. No, I never feel all that graceful.

Tomorrow is the long run, which I've been cautioned to take it easy on by Mystery Coach. The goal is simply to finish it feeling like I have five or more miles left in me, or at least that's how I'm approaching it.

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1h17m, 6:28 pace, 5:55, 6:02, 5:59, then 4 at 6:02
Yesterday, 10 miles, 1h11m, 7:06 pace

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Remember Tired?

I've gotten a bit reacquainted with it myself the past two days. Yesterday's repeats were fine by split time, but the legs definitely lacked any snap. Today I headed out for an easy longer run and felt the same way. The adductors were a touch sore from trying to bring the legs through quickly yesterday, and in general the legs just didn't have any drive. I didn't push the pace at all, but instead just focused on getting the time in.

Two days of dead legs is a bit of a warning sign, so tomorrow's goal will be running easy enough to be ready for a pace workout on Friday. If the legs don't feel like they're coming back during the first five miles or so I'll cut things short, which might not be a bad idea considering I'm scheduled to work on Haiden's school's irrigation system at 7:15am.

I certainly don't feel like I'm teetering on the edge of a breakdown from the training, but what Mystery Coach says about staying ahead of the recovery curve is occupying my mind.

Training: am., 16 miles, 1h51m, 6:58 pace
pm., 6.2 miles easy around 7 minute pace

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Just the Facts

I had the choice of either 4x1 mile repeats or the now infamous 10x1000 on 5 minutes workout, and I chose the latter to hopefully kill the memories of a similar workout last week. This week I was shooting for 3:19's instead of last week's 3:21 target, and when I ran the first one by feel and managed 3:21 I figured I was possibly in trouble. The legs still felt pretty sluggish from the miles and workouts last week, and I found myself wishing I had taken an extra easy day before trying the workout. Still, when my 1:38 rest was up I was back at it, and the resulting 3:18 felt much better. Three reps at 3:17 followed, and with half of the workout in the bag I wondered if I'd make it past 8 as the legs still didn't feel smooth. Still, when 6, 7 and 8 all went by at the same 3:17 I had to stop wondering while I sucked it up for two more. I noticed the heart was still beating a little fast for number 9, but a 3:16 at the same effort showed I probably had the last rep in me after all. 3:17 followed, but the breathing on the last 600 of it showed I was definitely done.
Three slow miles back to the house followed, which brought the day's total to 12 miles.

This week the training does back off a little, which for me means skipping a double or two and making sure I go slow on the easy days. Last week was an all-time high for me mileage-wise, so I'm not too surprised to find the recovery a little slow this week.

Thanks to Mystery Coach for the post yesterday, I hope you all had time to read it. What I really need to focus on from the post can be summarized by Lydiard's words on not going overboard with the anaerobic training and undoing all the work that's already been done to bring up the speed and efficiency of the steady state.

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1h27m, w/10x100 on 5 minutes at 3:21, 3:18, 3:17, 3:17, 3:17, 3:17, 3:17, 3:17, 3:16, 3:17
Yesterday, 12 miles, 1h27m, 7:10 pace

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

With the holidays quickly approaching no questions came in this week and I'll be away for the next two weeks, even Mystery Coaches take vacations so everyone have a healthy and good holiday season. To give you something to think about for a productive and rewarding New Year a few quotes from Arthur from a 1970 talk he gave in Washington D.C.:

When I talk to athletes I always try to impress on them that no one really knows their capacities until they study middle distance and distance running and probably not until they start to apply themselves. I have seen too many good runners develop from more or less "no hoper"

I have always said that when you are training for middle distances and distances the aim should be to develop efficiency and stamina. I realized a long time ago, that it was not speed that we wanted, but the necessary stamina to maintain the necessary speed over distance, So, this is why I started training my athletes over longer distances.

I believe in doing things gradually so when we started to do anaerobic training, I used it gradually because you have to realize that when you start to do anaerobic training, you don't necessarily stimulate your body metabolism to become more efficient. You must be careful not to undermine your body metabolism. This is why lots of people can, through racing too much, wear their condition down. Now, we have taken all of this trouble to build up our condition to get our steady state high. not to upset our nervous system, or any other system in our body but to keep it in good condition. So, if we go out and do a lot of hard anaerobic training we are going to risk pulling our condition down before we can get our speed back, before we increase our capacity to exercise anaerobically or before we can coordinate it. So we have got to bring the speed back and we must increase our capacity to exercise anaerobically and then to coordinate it.

These time trials are the key to balancing your program and to help find the weaknesses of your athlete. So, for instance, if you have two athletes who are 3 milers and even if you go through all of this training, you will still find natural abilities showing. In other words, if a man has good natural speed, all together he will have a certain advantage if he is one of these nervy people who leaves the mark fast and hangs on, or the other type of fellow who couldn't go early and hangs back. You will find these abilities still predominant. You have to realize we have athletes who aren't sharpened; they haven't raced over middle distance or distance. In this period I started to sharpen them and put them over, say the 3 mile. If these boys had run 3 miles the previous year and their best time was 14 minutes, I would tell them to go out and run evenly and strongly, bearing in mind that you are not in racing condition. You are not really sharpened properly but run evenly and strongly and come in pleasantly tired. So they go out and come in about 15 minutes which is usually about what this first trial will show; about a minute or 3/4 of a minute off their best. you will still see that the athlete who goes off fast, the nervy type, will lead early, and the other guy will be hanging back and coming home strongly at the finish. From this we have a time and we know the condition of these athletes at this stage; we now have to sharpen then and we have to race them. Now, if I have an athlete who is showing signs of running off quickly at the start, and tiring at the end or the other athlete who is coming on at the finish but he couldn't go early, well, that latter athlete who couldn't go early and is coming on at the end, I would give under distance races. And, the other fellows who were going well at the start and dying at the finish. I would give over distance races. I started to coordinate it this way.

Another mistake I see made by athletes throughout the world is when they do reach this peak of satisfactory fitness, they continue to do hard training. You must realize you have trained hard to reach this peak of satisfaction, and now you can maintain it for a long, long time. The hard training is finished. It is hard racing you have trained for, not to be a trainer.

I have rushed through things here to give you an indication of my observations and the simple way I trained athletes. There wasn't anything very complicated. It was simple but I always tried to exercise control. I always tried to make my athletes understand clearly why they were doing something.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Downhill From Here

I'm sure Ask the Mystery Coach Monday will be back next week, but to make sure send your training questions to mysterycoach AT gmail DOT com. In the meantime...

The week that was:

Mo: 12 miles
Mo: 5 miles easy
Tu: 10 w/9x1000 on 5 minutes
We: 15 miles
We: 6.2 miles
Th: 14 miles
Fr: 13 miles w/7 at 6:06 pace
Sa: 20 miles w/10 at 6:01 pace
Su: 15 miles
Su: 5 miles very easy
Total: 120

I keep getting stuck at three doubles per week, though I can sort of blame the weather and Modest Mouse for me not pushing it to four. Saturday and Sunday ended up being 20 miles apiece, so I'll be starting next week with a slow and easy day. I'm still feeling full of running, which I take as a good sign. Next week starts a steady decline in the miles over the last four weeks of preparation before Phoenix, though some more specific speed-work and faster paces should still tire me out plenty. Hope everyone had a good weekend.

Training: pm., 5 miles super easy

What's Cookin'?

...A big, messy pot of endurance, that's what. Today I could feel some of the benefits of the last 7 weeks of training, and it felt good.

When our 2-year-old got up early I snuck him out of the house quickly to allow the girls to sleep more (wife and 5-year-old daughter that is), and we spent some time at the muffin place reading the paper and scarfing pastries. By the time we returned home and hung out with the rest of the family it was getting late into the morning, and with the back to back workouts plus an extra five miles last evening I really didn't feel much like running at all. Still, I told Kiera I'd stay out for at least 10 and up to 15 if things went my way. For the first five it was slow and taxing as I did my best to take it as easy as I could. I hit the hills in Sabino Canyon and ran some neighborhood loops, still thinking I would probably call the run at the minimum miles. Soon enough eight miles turned into nine, and when ten came around I felt like the legs were just getting into the swing of things. I ended up getting in all 15 and returned home with some spring in the legs.

Bigger single runs really do seem to be paying dividends now, and with one month to go until the marathon it's a matter of trying to bottle that elusive feeling of getting stronger after the first hour of running.

Training: am., 15 miles, 1h45m, 7:00 pace

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Scraping Bottom

Day two of the back to back workouts, and unfortunately I'm dealing with either a cold or just some major congestion. We've had one kid or the other sick fairly often this fall, and I'm sure my immune system was ripe for the picking after the marathon practice two weeks ago. So with a heavy head I hit the road with a plan of 10 miles at 7 minute pace followed by another 10 at 6:09 pace.

Tucson had its first freeze of the year this morning (yeah, we're lucky like this here), so I went all out with the winter wear for the first 9 miles before stripping down to shorts and a shirt once the sun crept past the mountain tops and took the temperatures into the upper 30's. The last mile of warm up brought me to the track, where I figured I could work on holding good form while keeping an eye on the early splits. I wore my Garmin and hit the lap button every four laps to get a 1600 split (I know, not a real mile but humor me) for the first five "miles", and got some interesting feedback. For those who like to call us Garmin Weenies, here's some ammunition for you. The first number is my split for each of the first five 1600's, the numbers following in parentheses indicate what the Garmin reported as my pace per mile and distance covered.

5:57 (5:46, 1.03)
6:01 (5:49, 1.04)
6:00 (5:57, 1.01)
6:02 (6:05, .99)
6:01 (5:58, 1.01)

It did seem to "learn" a bit the longer I stayed at it, but overall the Garmin was a bit optimistic about the pace and distance, which I blame on the curves more than anything. It's an imperfect tool, but it's also quite handy. I would have stayed on the track for the duration, but after five miles of this I realized it just wasn't much of a marathon simulation unless I got out on the roads and dug in for the last five.

I felt smooth and comfortable for the first five miles, so I didn't worry too much about the paces being a bit faster than planned. However, once I got off the track and climbed a bit of a hill, I could feel a bit of stress when I tried to hold the pace right around 6-6:05 per mile. By mile 7 I began to really concentrate, and here the legs started to feel heavy. Instead of rolling through on their own, I began to feel like I really had to pull them through each stride. Mile 8 was about the same, and it was only during mile 9 that I started relaxing a little bit. I knew at this point I could keep the gas pedal where it was, and while I was definitely working the legs and lungs knew it would be over soon.

I reached the door at 20 miles even, and after drinking some gatorade from a bottle I'd stowed outside I could feel he body lose its impetus. Any hope of two junk miles of cool-down evaporated, so I spent a little of my extra time coughing myself silly and blowing my nose until it was beet red. No, I don't like feeling under the weather.

I did sneak in an extra 5 this evening, though I noticed the first two were about as slow as I run. I felt a bit better by the end aside from a pounding in the head, but hopefully some Sudafed will take care of it.

Tomorrow calls for as many slow miles as I can travel, then I'll close the book on the week. Thanks for reading

Training: 20 miles am., 2h09m, 6:28 pace, first 10 at 6:56 pace, second 10 at 6:01 pace
5 miles pm., 36m, 7:27 pace

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Santa Doesn't Do Livestock"

Zoo Lights with the family

The planned double evaporated in favor of taking the family to the annual zoo lights. Haiden enjoyed talking to Santa (no, not the inflatable one above) and asked for a family of bunnies. Last year it was a pony of course, to which my wife (who took the photo avove) responded, "Santa doesn't do livestock."

I took advantage of the extra rest and pushed the back to back workouts up a day, which meant 7 miles at 6:09 pace this morning (specific, eh?). Since I'm having a hard time meeting the mileage target this week I extended the warm up to four miles, but even so it was still completely dark when I started the effort. From the start I found myself a little ahead of schedule, so it was a matter of constantly dialing back a little every half mile or so when I looked at the watch. This of course feels much better than having to chase the pace, so I'll take it. The miles ticked off between 5:59 and 6:05 for the first three, slowing on the inclines where I would start to feel the effort in the lungs when I would start to labor a little while sucking in the cold air (by my standards 37 degrees is cold). By the time I was finishing mile 7 I was at 6:06 pace overall for the effort, which ended up having a little bit of a net downhill. I did feel like I had three or more miles in me, which is good considering I have 10 on the schedule for tomorrow after running 10 easy miles to warm up. I'm just hoping those three seconds I inadvertently clipped off from each mile today don't come back to bite me then.

Training: 13 miles, 1h27m, 6:42 pace, w/7 mile effort at 6:06 pace

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mike Runs

Yes, more of the same I'm afraid. Time has been minimal for blog reading and writing, so here are the goods for the past two days:

Wednesday: Got a late start after getting to bed at midnight. Calf muscles got a workout the evening before from standing on a forward-slanting floor while watching Modest Mouse perform. Worth the sleep deprivation and the $38. For the run I scooted around my normal loops for 15 miles and just kept things easy. In the evening I met the gang from the shop for another 6 and listened to their stories from Cross-country Club Nationals in Ohio. Very jealous.

Thursday: Hit the road late again after Finn woke up an hour earlier than planned. We hung out, read and played with Little People until Haiden and Kiera finally woke up later. Once again I was crunched for time, but I managed 14 miles. The legs felt it a bit today, and I was definitely a little fatigued from either the intervals on Tuesday or a combination of the intervals, the concert and the double on Wednesday.

I'm still shooting for making this my highest volume week, but the weather early this week has left me playing catch up while simultaneously trying to stay ahead of the recovery curve. Yes, that last sentence did sound like ordering the vegetarian taco with extra bacon.

Training: Today, 14 miles, 1h38m, 7:06 pace
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles around 7:05 pace
Yesterday am., 15 miles, 1h43m, 6:54 pace

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Voice Of Reason

The skies were starting to darken and ominous clouds floated above Sabino Canyon. Instead of getting in a second run while the getting was good, I kept my word and dragged out the new trail-a-bike for some practice with Haiden. Gone are the days where she would fit in a seat suspended above my bike's rear tire, so we're on to the next step with a one wheeled contraption that attaches to the back of my bike. It has handlebars, pedals and a normal seat, but an arm fixed with a clamp replaces the front tire. Haiden manages well enough on it, but if we ever want to take it to school we need to get in some more practice first on more seldom-traveled roads.

Upon our return I changed into running clothes while Kiera cooked a pot of chili, but as I grabbed my watch I heard the thunder rumbling and saw the first flashes of lightning. The rain started out calm enough, but as I looked out the window I made the mistake of saying "Do I really need this?". I've spent several mornings recently running through the rain, and I guess I'm a bit soft for it. My wife was quick to answer my question with the obvious response. "No."

I waited a few minutes, then I heard the hail and wind buffeting the house. I decided to sit down and eat chili instead, and I could sense Kiera was happy to see me being reasonable about this sort of thing for a change. Thank you Voice of Reason.

Later on, with the kids in bed and the rain down to a soft drizzle I announced I was heading out. "Your behavior continually amazes me", she said (tone indicating this isn't the good kind of amazement). Five easy miles followed, and I felt a bit smug and satisfied for getting it in. I'm a small, small man.

This morning called for another dose of 10x1000 on five minutes at no faster than 3:21, and unfortunately I could hear the rain pounding the house over the gurgling of the coffee maker gurgling. Low 40's, a stiff breeze and big raindrops. I asked last night's question softly while staring out the sliding glass door at the conditions, but unfortunately Voice Of Reason was still sleeping in the next room.

I'll make this quick.
#1. 3:21, Lane 1 is a moat. Shoes soaked, shorts are sticking, still too dark to see the biggest puddles
#2, 3:19, See number one above, but there's a decent sized tree off this side of the track where I can get some shelter from the rain and wind while I shiver
#3, 3:18, Still too fast as I'm getting through the first 400 around 77 in an effort to warm up after standing around for 1:40. No tree on this side
#4, 3:23, Force myself to slow down on this one, remembering coach's "no faster than 3:21, your legs will thank you later this week" email. Thank you tree
#5, 3:20, Sun is up enough to see the reflections in the puddles, still can't see the watch
#6, 3:21, Numb fingers turn into numb hands, I can see the watch now. For a few seconds I feel like a bad-ass for doing the workout in spite of the conditions. Tree=good
#7, 3:22, Numb forearms now and I've lost the adrenaline rush. Hope to get through 8
#8, 3:22, Bad feeling in pit of stomach (voice of reason or chili?). The tree is leaking
#9, Step into the infield after 600 on 1:59. The body said STOP...NOW.

Grabbed the long-sleeved shirt that I balled up and stored on one of the giving tree's limb, shivered two miles home.

Still trying to figure out if this was a good idea or not. Hopefully Voice Of Reason isn't reading today, as I think I know what she would say.

Training: Today, 10 miles, 1h14m, w/8x1000 on 5 minutes at 3:21, 3:19, 3:18, 3:23, 3:20, 3:21, 3:22, 3:22, 1x600 in 1:59
Yesterday pm., 5 miles, 37m, 7:25 pace
Yesterday am., 12 miles, 1h26m, 7:14 pace

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hello Mystery Coach,

I just came across this quote from Haile Gebrselassie after his 2:04:26 WR in Berlin this year:

Last year my problem in Berlin was with the last part of the race, I decided to run only endurance and I stopped running speed work completely. Since last year I was just focused on endurance, three hours, three-and-a-half-hour long runs.

Is Gebrselassie a physiological freak who does not need speed work because his natural pace is fast enough to break the world record, or is there a lesson in there for the mere mortals amongst us? I'm also thinking of the likes of Ed Whitlock, who apparently does nothing but slow running in his training (granted, things may well be different at his age).

I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Thomas, Looking at parts of training programs often gives the wrong clues on what works. Let's review what else is part of the picture in their training.

Here is a list Haile's races before his marathon record (at least the ones I heard about).

22 April 2007 - Raced 18 miles of London Marathon (dropped out)

May 2007 - 10K Track Race 26:52.81

27 June 2007 - 1 hour run World Record Race - 13 mile 397 yards (21,285 meters) (two 28:13 10Ks back to back en route)

05 August 2007 - New York City Half Marathon 59:24 (new record by 2 minutes)

30 September 2007 Berlin Marathon 2:04:26 (New world best)

So on average Haile was racing 2.2 miles per week before his marathon (of the races we know about and not to mention any time trial efforts that we do not).

Not only does Haile use races to keep his speed so does Ed Whitlock. Ed used to race 20 times per year ( see Oldest 3 Hour Marathoner )

Last year before one of his marathons last year he said:

"Yesterday's 10k just confirmed that (a) sub 3 (hour marathon) is not on for the 24th. A 40:10 10k does not translate to sub 3 for me. It would have to have been sub 39."

(The race was 2 weeks before his marathon attempt see this thread )

Both of these runners use races to monitor how well their endurance training is bringing them to their peak. You don't have to use races to be able to judge that, time trails or specific controlled speed workouts (like the 1000s) do the same thing.

One other thing that should be noted is that both Ed and Haile both had long careers running short distance races on the track where they set world or age group records before they specialized in marathons. The real lesson for us mere mortals is that to get the best out of yourself training has to be balanced in all parts; speed, distance, hard work and recovery.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Airline to Heaven

The wife and kids were out at the gym, so I came home to an empty house after closing the door on another long run. Coffee brewing, cold pizza and gatorade in hand, and this great DVD on in the background.

"Them's got ears, let them hear
Them's got eyes, let them see
Turn your eyes to the lord of the skies
Take that airline plane, it'll take you home again
To your home behind the skies"

-Airline to Heaven, Woody Guthrie (music by Wilco & Billy Bragg)

I took that airline plane today and enjoyed just about every minute of this run. I put pace out of mind and just trusted the legs on the 11 miles out and 11 back, and ended up averaging 6:35 for the first 18 before the Garmin farted out and I had to reset it. The legs got a bit anxious for the last four, which went by at 6:25 pace. I kept waiting for the bonk after heading out a bit quicker than usual, but thankfully it never came. Woohoo.

Aside from a little soreness coming out in the adductors during the last 5 miles, the body seems to be coming back fairly well from the run last Sunday. Here's how the week went down:

Mo: 10 easy
Tu: 12 miles
Tu: 5.5 miles very easy
We: 12
Th: 16 (tired last 4)
Fr: 11
Sa: 12 in the rain
Su: 22 easy/moderate
Total: 100. Just made it.

I'm really enjoying Mystery Coach's schedule this time around, especially the last eight weeks before the marathon. By putting in a harder/longer workout every other week (8, 6, 4 and 2 weeks out) I seem to be recovering better than I did when I was killing myself every weekend for this race two years ago. I also like the confidence that a weekly 20+ miler gives me, as well as the higher mileage overall.

I'm really looking forward to the marathon in January.

Training: 22 miles, 2h24m, 6:33 pace w/last 4 at 6:25 pace

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Still Here

Yeah, things are a bit hectic. Cold and rainy 12 miles very early this morning so I could spend the rest of the cold and rainy morning volunteering to continue irrigation work at our daughter's preschool. Thank goodness I was able to leave after a few hours to spend the rest of the day at work. Yes, I do get a little bitter on Saturdays. Still, it beats the snow, slush and ice many are already contending with so I'll stop my complaining.

11 yesterday, early again. Need to work on getting a bit more sleep for the next few nights to rest up for what should be my peak volume week starting Monday.

I did update the log a bit (thanks anonymous), though all I had time to do was put the miles per day in for most of it. I'll work on it some more next week.

Training: Today, 12 soggy miles, 1h23m, 6:57 pace
Yesterday, 11 miles 1h16m, 6:54 pace

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Heed the Light Blue

The running has been fairly pedestrian since the marathon on Sunday as I try to heed Mystery Coach's ominous light blue "recovery" shading on the PDF schedule for this week. After 10 easy on Monday and 12 easy on Tuesday morning I decided to meet up with the Workout Group after work and get in an easy 5 1/2 miles before heading out for pizza with the gang to wish our local team good luck at cross-country club nationals this weekend.

It could have been the can or two of Old Style at Rocco's Pizza or the double that day, but for whatever reason I dragged through the last four miles of a 12 miler yesterday. The soreness from Sunday came back at me a bit towards the end, and I finished the run feeling fatigued. As a result I canned the planned second run with the gang that evening and ended up shopping for jeans with my wife (having a brutally honest spouse is good for this sort of endeavor). Yes, I am aware I just wrote that I skipped a run to shop for jeans. This is the price of recognizing a need for recovery and indulging it.

Two pairs of jeans and a good night of sleep later found me on the road for 16 this morning, and it couldn't have gone better. The soreness is gone and I felt like I had my stride back.

Training: Today, 16 miles, 1h48m, 6:49 pace
12/5, 12 miles, 1h23m, 7:00 pace
12/4 pm., 5.5 miles very slow & easy

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

This Should Explain it

Here's your course profile for the marathon this past weekend, straight from the Garmin. It does roll off a cliff with the exception of miles 11 and 12, which were an uphill "out" section before we turned around and rolled back down for miles 13 and 14.

When I asked Mystery Coach about possibly doing the full marathon for a training run instead of the half, he seemed receptive but a bit hesitant because of all the downhill and the possible beating the legs would take. Still, it seemed like a good opportunity to me and I decided to give it a go. The coach offered a few different ways to approach the run, and I favored his suggestion to run up to mile 20 at 6:40-7:00 pace, then to drop the pace to 6:15 or so for the duration. I mentioned that if I felt good earlier that I would possibly drop the pace to 6:15 at mile 15 or 16.

Here go the splits-
6:17, 6:19, 6:26, 6:19, 6:15, 6:09, 6:11, 6:03, 6:14, 6:14, 6:35, 6:30, 5:56, 5:56, 6:08, 6:04, 6:07, 5:56, 6:08, 6:03, 6:02, 5:55, 6:05, 5:58, 6:02, 5:49, 1:03.

Yeah, so much for the plan. It was slightly overcast and a cool 40 degrees at the start, and when the gun sounded I just rolled off the line and fell into a comfortable stride. The first mile has quite a bit of downhill, so I figured I would be a little fast. When I came through at 6:17 and saw 15 or so ahead of me I actually laughed out loud. For the life of me I could not figure out how NOT to race a marathon. I felt no nerves or pressure, but for some reason I was full of energy. I tried to slow down a bit, and when the second mile flew by I made a serious attempt at slowing down for mile 3. After only giving back a handful of seconds, I decided to just forget about pace and to try and settle into a good long run rhythm.

About this time Susan Loken came up from behind, and I started talking with her a bit. It turns out she was on a training run as well and had also blown her workout by trying to help some other women in the field to qualify for the Olympic trials (she's already in with a 2:41 at the 2006 Phoenix Rock and Roll for a PR). She was set to drop out at 18 and since she was running ahead of her planned pace we worked together at a converstional pace as we discussed family and training. No, I don't remember 6:10 as ever being a conversational pace, but for some reason it was happening today. Susan is 43 and raising three boys with her husband while chasing the Olympic dream and running within a minute of the A-standand for women in the marathon. Next to her I'm a slacker.

We finally parted ways on the only significant uphill section of the race, and as I made my way back down the same hills we'd just climbed I passed through the half-way point. After two fast downhill miles at 5:56 pace my body seemed ready to maintain the effort, so I made the decision to ignore the splits from that point on and just run comfortably hard. Months of back to back runs ranging from 6:15 down to 5:50 have left their impressions in the legs, so I just let them do their thing.

At mile 18 I was still feeling great, and when the volunteers offered gels at 20 I declined. I still had the two I had brought along in my pockets, and the fuel levels felt fine with only a few sips of water and some sort of disgusting off-brand sports-drink (Comp-1 was the brand, and I'm quite certain it's made in someone's bathtub here in the Old Pueblo). Mile 23 and I know I'll only get faster before finishing. For someone who seems to routinely crack around mile 20 this is a fantastic feeling. At 24 it's still smiles for the volunteers, but at mile 25 I can see a runner among the slower half-marathoners up the road. He's dying, and I think for a bit about not putting it into the red for the sake of beating him. I make the second to last turn and see all of my running friends on the corner. "He looks bad, you can get him...if you want to." They know it's a training run, I know it's a training run, but I go after him simply because I can. To push the gas and actually get traction during the last half-mile of a marathon is a beautiful thing. I pass him on the final turn and take 5th (or so I thought. Turns out they give him 5th on chip time).

So that's it. Well, except for a dead battery in the parking lot and a trip to Home Depot with my understanding running buds for jumper cables.

Mentally this race gave me a huge boost. While it didn't go exactly to plan, it really helped push Twin Cities out of my mind. Yeah, it was downhill. Yes, the quads are a bit sore and I probably could have gotten just as much of a physiological boost from running slower for the distance. Still, having this run in the bank makes me feel worlds better about the marathon next month.

Training: Today, 12 miles, 1:27:20, 7:13 pace
Yesterday, 10 miles, 1:13:32, 7:21 pace

Monday, December 03, 2007

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hi Mystery Coach, I have used the training schedules from some of Lydiard books but have come into my peak race with tired legs even after running very little during the last ten days like he says. What do you think? Chris O.

Chris, I can think of a couple of things that might be the problem. You didn't say what version of his schedules you were using but if it is one them with the effort tables you might be training too hard. One line that most runners miss is when Arthur says when using the tables is to take the average of your previous 6 best times for a distance. Most runners miss that point and base their speed work on their personal record time. You have to remember when you ran your best time you were probably well rested and in very good shape something that you will not be when training hard and building up. Look at the following chart that shows Peter Snell's 1962 world record buildup:

Note how his racing performances dropped as he trained harder, Arthur always said you can not train and race well at the same time. Also note that the hardest training took place 4 weeks before his peak. Runners that I coach have a hard time believing that the hardest training should be a month out from the goal race and tend to train too hard in the last month. The last month should be sharp and not hard, my thought is that you should be ready to go 10 days out and be anxiously waiting for the goal race.

A follow up note: All the volunteers who responded to last weeks request will hear from me in the next week. If any others are interested 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, December 02, 2007


Opted to do the full Tucson Marathon today as a training run instead of the half. First half was easy and pleasant (got to run with Masters legend Susan Loken for some of it), then worked the second half as a pace run by feel.

I actually really enjoyed myself and avoided the wall. Now off to see "Superbad" with my very patient wife.

Training: 5th place, 26.2 miles, 2:41 and change, 118 miles for the week. Whew.
Yesterday, 8 easy miles at 7:09 pace