Wednesday, January 31, 2007

From A to B

I spent the last four miles of my run this morning thinking about this post by Mystery Coach. The post shows a model illustrating how the various muscle fibers are recruited over the course of a run, and how both the length of the run and the intensity affects the number of fibers that are activated and conditioned. Here's a refresher on the model, as posted by the coach:

"Below is the model which represents one dozen muscle fibers in your leg, they are stacked in five levels. The five levels represent the effort required to recruit the fibers to do work (run), "A level" being the easiest to recruit and "E level" the most difficult. The individual fibers have different endurance levels which vary depending on how well your training program is designed. After the model are some assigned values which represent an average runner.
The model:


Fibers 10 - 12 Low endurance worth 2 miles
Fibers 7 - 9 Medium endurance worth 4 miles
Fibers 1 - 6 High endurance worth 10 miles

Note that even though two fibers have the same endurance (example: fiber #1 and #6), it will require much greater effort to use the fiber on the next level up (#6 on level B)."

The coach mentioned once that he believed American runners probably had the best conditioned slower twitch fibers (this is not a compliment as the over-conditioning of these lower fibers comes at the expense of not doing enough for the higher number fibers), and a look at many of my 8-10 milers over the past month without any real emphasis on pace shows me spending quite a bit of time running over the same roads while working the same lower muscle fibers. Today I tried to jump up to that second row of fibers (B), and while I was still on the same roads I found myself circling for more laps than usual.

For some reason the Garmin went haywire during my first two three mile loops, but a check of the elapsed time showed that I had averaged somewhere between 6:40 and 6:45 pace. This was encouraging after noticing how slowly I was crawling during the first mile. The watch finally synched up for the last 8 miles, and while I had no problems getting to 10 I definitely could feel the effort of the last four miles. I could still move at the same speed, but I definitely needed to focus more to keep up the momentum. It seems that fibers 6-8 are still a bit sleepy, though it was nice to wake them up. Heck, number 9 might have even joined the party at the end.

By the time I reached the garage I'd averaged 6:37 pace for the last 8 and 6:41 pace overall. I'd like to think that in a few weeks I'll feel the same or better, but with paces closer to 6:30 per mile. Tomorrow will be an easier effort in order to be ready for my triumphant (ha!) return to the back to back workouts I enjoyed so much during my marathon build. The coach and I feel these workouts were the key to me building stamina, which is something my last two mile splits during the 10K Sunday indicate I'm in need of.

Training: 14.6 miles, 1:37:05, 6:41 pace

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nose, meet Grindstone

"Think optimum training, not maximum training." -Mystery Coach

Through trial and error over the last 18 months I think I've found where my "maximum" is, but I'm still honing in on exactly where "optimum" falls. What can't be hidden is in the log. The runs have gotten shorter, too short on many days. While it's tempting to blame my short-term achilles issue, the fact that I was sick and the need to recover between anaerobic sessions, somewhere along the line the runs got shorter and have stayed that way.

When I'm feeling good it's easy for me to set a minimum for runs. For quite awhile I knew as I ran down the driveway that I would put in at least 10 miles before touching the garage door again, and much of the time I would add on 2 to 6 more miles depending on how much time I had. Somewhere along the line 10 became the new average rather than the baseline, and soon after that I found myself only heading out for an hour or so on many days. Before you know it, I'm counting only 90 miles run during the past two weeks. I got sick but I feel I also got a bit complacent.

Awhile back I emailed Eric with some unsolicited advice about keeping an eye on how his endurance was holding up once he started running faster paces. I mentioned that in my case I could tell my endurance was slipping once I started wanting to come home early during longer runs and stopped wanting to add miles. I feel it's time for me to take my own advice. With three weeks until my next race I have at least two weeks to get back to enjoying being out longer in the morning, and while it might bite the legs a bit at first I'm hoping I'll get used to it again quickly. Hopefully the confidence in my endurance will return with more miles under my belt, and I'll be itching to race again when the 5K on February 18 rolls around.

This morning's run was something the coach calls an exchange workout. After finishing it I think the name refers to exchanging the almost recovered but slightly sore runner who started the run for the very tired and in dire need of coffee runner who finished the run. A late-evening training discussion over a few beers is perhaps partially to blame, but the three mile effort of two alternating sets of .75 miles at 6:00 pace and .75 miles at 5:30 pace had me on the ropes for the last 1/2 mile. The good news was that the two sets at 6 minute pace felt easy and very aerobic. The bad news was the 5:30 pace sections had me sucking air and flailing my legs like I was trying to top the first mile of my last 10K. I was quite glad to stop after three miles of this and take my heart rate, and a quick jog back to the house found me at 10 miles and left me two minutes to change clothes and drive Haiden to school.

Tomorrow it's a few more miles before touching the garage door.

Training: 10 miles, 1:05:40, 6:34 pace, w/3 mile effort .75 miles at 6:00 pace, .75 miles at 5:28, .75 miles at 6:02, .75 miles at 5:32 pace

Monday, January 29, 2007

Three Weeks

I have two low-key 5K's coming up, one on the 18th of February and another a week later. This leaves me three weeks to get my act together after what has been a difficult two weeks. Here is the damage from the last seven days:

Mo: 8.5 miles, 6:52 pace
Tu: 9.5 miles w/7 mile progression from 6:15 to 5:50 pace
We: 8 miles, 6:48 pace
We: 6.2 miles, 7:05 pace
Th: 8 miles, 6:45 pace
Fr: 8 miles, 6:59 pace
Sa: 6 miles, 7:09 pace
Su: 10 miles, w/10K in 34:49, 5:36 pace
Total: 64 miles

This sad total and poor race result come on the heels of a 26 mile week where sickness and an achilles issue saddled me with a fair amount of depression. Frankly, I'm more than happy to put these two weeks behind me.

A few emails with the coach have us on the same page with regard to what comes next. The fact that what was an aerobic pace is now anaerobic indicates I've dropped some endurance over the past two weeks, so for the near future I'm back to what has worked that system well in the past. The simple fact that I was able to hold 5:30 pace for 10 miles and 5:23 pace for 8K in the fall with no speedwork shows that speedwork alone won't help me when I'm running 5:36 pace for 10K. I don't think it will take long to get back what I've lost over the past few weeks, and hopefully by the time the nex race rolls around on February 18 I'll have gotten the step back.

Training: 8.66 miles, 59:53, 6:55 pace

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Slow Leak

At least the kids' race went well

6th place and a 34:48 or so for the 10K today, more than half a minute slower than last year. As I feared, the second half of the race really bit me hard. I felt like a car pushing ahead with the same power, but getting slower and slower as more air leaked out of the tires. My hopes of finding and holding a good group towards the start rewarded me with a stupidly fast 5:13 first mile, which certainly contributed to the suffering later on in the race. I was still behind Lucas and Shane at this point, both of whom I had pegged for running 5:20-5:30 for the first mile. By mile two Lucas had dropped back, and I found myself fighting into a headwind to gain on places three through five, who were just a bit out of reach. Mile two passed in 5:37, and now I was gaining on the three in front of me. Somewhere during the third mile I passed number five and started gaining on four, but after perhaps a minute the runner I had just gone by quickly surged ahead again. When he passed the runner in front of me the two of them started to power away with a sense of purpose. At this point I was stuck in the gear I was in, though I desperately wanted to tag along, and the 5:39 for the third mile started putting me into oxygen debt. From here we finally turned out of the wind, but while I was still chasing the legs started to fill up and the breathing got very shallow. A 5:35 for the fourth mile found the runners in front of me still gaining, and any hope of making top three evaporated. A turn back into the wind and a gradual uphill had me suffering for 5:48 for the fifth mile, and while the lights began to dim I really didn't want to go over 35 minutes. The runners ahead were still strung out in a line with everyone slowing down, but I still couldn't gain as we turned onto a curving street in a small neighborhood to finish the 6th mile. When I finally turned out of the subdivision I was greeted with a 5:47 split for the final mile and a tough last straightaway into the wind and then finally the finishing chute.

While the cool-down was delayed when the kids discovered the post-race spread included pancakes, I was able to get in two miles with Lucas, Blax, Shane and Logan. It seemed no one had their best day today, but given the circumstances of the last two weeks I'm not that upset.

I do need to cultivate a better sense of pace early on in these races, as the first mile definitely cost me. In hindsight I should have taken the coach's advice and gone out at 5:35 pace, though the thought of being so far back in the pack honestly frightened me.

It was great having the race be a family affair with Kiera and the kids, and I was lucky enough to help pace both Haiden and Finn in their respective races after the main event. Both finished second to last, though Haiden did win a tube of play-doh and a bag of m&m's for her efforts. Finn only ended up with a scraped knee, but like his dad he's defiantly shaking his fist and crying out "Wait until next year!"

Well, he was thinking it at least.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


34 minutes really isn't a long time when you think about it. Take out the first two miles of the 10K, where it's too early to really be suffering and it's down to 23 minutes. Take out the last .2 miles, where the body feels and responds to the magnetic pull of the finish line and it's down to 22 minutes.

22 minutes really isn't a long time when you think about it.

Training: 6 miles, 42:54, 7:09 pace, nice and easy with 4 x 100 meter strides. Feeling pretty fresh today.

Friday, January 26, 2007


The sad but obvious truth is that it's nearly impossible for me to improve my time each year for each race I do. That being said, through some luck, accumulated fitness and good coaching I've managed to do just that in the 5K, 8K, 10K, 10 mile, half marathon and marathon over the past 12 months. All but the marathon bests were on the same courses run for my last best marks, so for comparison's sake this model works. Certainly having soft marks at most of these distances helped, but I've taken a certain amount of pride in the fact that each time I took the line over the past year, with the exception of the marathon in June I've showed up with greater fitness than at that same time the year prior.

Until now. The one-two punch of trying to come back too soon after my December marathon and the additional setback of getting sick last week have put me in unfamiliar territory. A progression run earlier in the week showed that I started to go anaerobic around 6 minute pace, which was a bad sign as far as my race fitness goes. The 8x150-200 accelerations I did yesterday didn't do much to ease my mind either, as I felt pretty clunky while getting up to full speed. Once there, I just didn't feel very fast or relaxed.

With all this in mind, my original goal of going between 33:30 and 34:00 for the race this weekend seems a bit out of reach. Last year I averaged 5:30 pace for a 34:11, which I somehow ran two weeks after the Phoenix marathon. While I know I can hold my original pace plan of 5:23-5:28 for 5K, I'm worried at this point about what will happen during the second half of the race. Going for it early could certainly lead to a meltdown, but not racing aggressively just isn't my style and could put me at a mental disadvantage early. The coach guesses my fitness as closer to 34:30 at this point, and the data certainly supports this. However, going out at this pace and watching runners I consider near my ability slowly get further and further up the road would be difficult.

The wildcard is my ability to suffer. Through running enough races I will give myself some credit in this department. I don't mind hurting, especially if I can sense similar suffering in the runners I'm trying to beat. In many other situations I would easily consider myself a coward, but during the last 1/3 of a race, when I can feel my body burning, I know deep down that I can swing the handle on the faucet spewing the scalding water and turn it off as soon as I cross the line. It's one more reason to speed up before allowing yourself to slow down.

I'm glad I still have some time to decide on how to take things out come Sunday morning.

Training: Today, 8 miles, 55:40, 6:59 pace
Yesterday, 8 miles, 53:43, 6:45 pace, w/8x150-200 accelerations
Wednesday pm., 6.2 miles, 43:20, 7:00 pace

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Axiom Number One

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

Yes, This axiom causes the "chicken and egg" discussion with runners and coaches when presented but it should be looked at not as a logical statement but more like a koan , It changes the prospective from your mind telling your body what it should do to letting your body tell your mind what it is doing. Yesterday I asked "What Mike should do next?", each answer had a perspective on training that they had experienced or learned about. It is very difficult to convince runners what they did today is a reflection of the previous workouts that they did and should be the mirror for future workouts. To give an example read the following post:

"No pressure no diamond

What a great quote. With 22 weeks to go, I'm still focusing on base mileage, but I've learned from my lengthy winter cycle that base doesn't mean slow. Not always, anyway. Lo and behold, when you regularly include some threshold pace and strides during the base phase, your overall efficiency and paces improve across the board.

I noticed that this morning. I was able to comfortably run 18 in about 1:57 with the last five in 29:44. I need to go back through my logs to quantify this, but subjectively my sense is that I was a complete idiot not to have included some higher-end aerobic work in my winter build-up. It may not have cost me anything...hell, maybe it saved me from injury. But I can say with certainty that it is extremely uncomfortable both psychologically and physically to struggle through the month or so that it takes to comfortably do a marathon pace workout after running so many slow base miles. It's easy to get frustrated if you don't know what's coming."

Now this person learned something about training ( much the same way Arthur did) but still needs convincing that an evaluation (time trial) run was needed during the base phase. Proper training is not about numbers, it is about analyzing how the workout felt then responding to what the workout is telling you. Every workout (even the easy or morning runs) is an evaluation of where you are and where you want to go. Arthur understood this very well and in almost every speech he gave, talked about reading your body and not the numbers in a schedule.

Yesterday's workout for Mike was a test which to me as a coach indicated that it was too hard (they were my goal times that Mike tried for). So what did it say? First that he slipped into oxygen debt at a pace that before the illness was a steady state pace. If it was a steady state run then a fast 2 mile trial would be scheduled for tomorrow, but since it was an oxygen debt pace easy running and 200 meter strides ( for leg turn over will be used). Mike will know the pace that is fast and relaxed better than any numbers that are written down. So look at your logs, study your reactions to the various types of running, they are your key to running well when you need to.

Bouncing Back

Devil wind this morning in Tucson, which made for an uncomfortable recovery run on the full Slow Down loop. It was one of those days that found me alternately sweating or freezing depending on which direction I was running, but looking at what others are facing this time of year I can't really complain. The job today was to get myself feeling good again after what turned into a hard workout yesterday.

I tried focusing on technique at slower speeds today, borrowing from an old article on running form by Bill Bowerman and some advice from Gordon Pirie (both kindly forwarded on by the coach). I'm working on keeping my hips and body in line over my legs, and I'm fighting over exactly the right way to land. I find when I land with my knee bent a little I wind up off my heel a bit and a little more mid-foot, which does tend to help me spend less time with my feet on the ground. Bowerman and Pirie are at odds with each other on footstrike, with Bowerman indicating that a light heel strike is natural while Pirie argues it is never acceptable. Lydiard and Bowerman certainly seem more in agreement with each other on form, with more of an emphasis on a straight-legged and forceful push-off. While they both write about "running tall", it's interesting to note Pirie's analysis that a runner with proper form will often appear to look shorter than other runners with incorrect form but of the same stature. Fun stuff.

Training: 8 miles, 54:02, 6:48 pace

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

"This Should Feel Easier"

I kept thinking this to myself as I rounded the turns of my one mile course while trying to edge the pace down each mile by four seconds as instructed. I was to start at 6:14 and end up at 5:50 for the seventh mile, then follow with a 1200 as fast as I could manage. I wanted to blame the heavy trainers or the extra clothes to handle the cold (well, 29 is cold around here), but I'm sure last week's illness and the resulting dismal training is to blame. By the fourth mile, which was close to 6 minutes I started to feel my breathing getting ahead of me. The legs felt stiff and my stride felt chunky, and I just couldn't relax and enjoy the effort. I remembered my 7 miles around 6:06 pace two weeks ago, and while today's workout wasn't really any harder I was definitely suffering more. By the end of the 6th mile I was about to call it, but the last 400 downhill put me back on pace. Mile 7 was the same way, though my breathing was certainly heavy enough at this point that I knew a 1200 was out of the question. I had imagined before I started the workout feeling like I was holding back for all 7 miles, then surging forward with a 1200 at about 5:05 pace or so. Instead, I had struggled just to finish the first 7 miles and was now standing in the dirt taking my pulse. A 152 confirmed I was working harder than I should have been, though by a minute the pulse was down to 120. After a half mile of jogging I decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt the 1200, now that I had my wind back. This ended up with me going completely anaerobic within 200 meters as I sprinted like a nitwit instead of slowly building into the effort. Finally, at just over a quarter mile I realized I was completely over the edge and just called it. So much for the data collection, it will have to wait for another day.

I don't imagine this would bother me so much if not for the fact that I have my one shot at a 10K best coming up on Sunday. Two weeks ago it felt like I was moving up the ladder at a good amount of speed, and that by the time the race came around I would have three weeks of progressively faster and more relaxed running in the bank. Now I feel like I'm back in that first week, and I have to wonder about just how fast to go out come race day.

The other issue is my achilles, which I'm keeping a close eye on. It was fairly sore the day I got sick, and it's felt tight enough towards the end of my last few runs that I'm probably running more conservatively than I have to. The coach had originally planned 200's today, but made the switch to the 7 mile effort plus a 1200 after hearing the achilles might still be an issue. While I think I'm out of the danger zone, I would rather be a little cautious right now at the beginning of the season rather than be nursing an injury all spring long.

My wife Kiera posted about her own trail run in the snow yesterday on Angie's blog. Kiera and Angie often run together on the weekends, and Angie also has some nice photos of the recent snowfall in Tucson.

Training: 9.5 miles, 59:14, 6:15 pace. 7 mile progression: 6:11, 6:10, 6:06, 6:01, 5:54, 5:52, 5:50, followed by aborted 1200 (400 or so)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Indulge Me Here

We haven't had snow here in Tucson, Arizona since 2001. The flakes began to fall late last evening, and while it was nice I was sure there would be nothing left of it come morning. Much to my surprise I was obviously wrong about this, which gave me the opportunity to enjoy a run in conditions I will most likely see again in Sabino Canyon. Lucas gave me a call early, and we decided to meet on the road that crosses through Sabino Canyon. The first picture is the trail I ran on to meet him, which I would eventually travel three times during the course of the run. Before crossing paths with Lucas I took the second shot of the cactus. Lucas had his camera too, and while we kept the pace as honest as we could over the good sections of road, we did have to slow down through some patchy sections of ice.
Before moving out of the canyon I snapped this photo from my favorite vantage point in the canyon. At this point the clouds were starting to move in, so I was glad to have gotten in a few shots while I could still see the mountains. From here Lucas and I headed down from Sabino to my usual routes around some of the neighborhoods close to the house, and somehow this shot came out as I ran behind him on the trail next to Sabino Canyon Road.

This run was breathtaking for a guy who is used to suffering through eternal summers, and I won't soon forget it.

Training: 8.6 miles, 59:13, 6:52 pace

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Snow Day

Spent much of the day playing in the snow on Mt. Lemmon, which sits at 9000 feet high above Tucson. Haiden has seen snow before but doesn't remember it, so this was pretty much a first for both kids. She and Finn had a blast checking out this foreign white stuff, and looking out towards the backyard now it looks like the snow followed us home, which is a once in a blue moon occasion with our climate. This was a special day for the whole family, and I enjoyed feeling good the whole time after having a difficult week.

Later, since I skipped my chance at a morning run, I was forced out into a lovely mix of rain and wet snow in the late afternoon. Seven soggy, cold miles followed, but at least I wore a few layers this time.

Make sure to stop over and congratulate my pal Phil on finishing his first marathon. Phil is one of my daily stops in blogland, and it's been a joy following his progress over the past year.

Training: 7 miles, 47:15, 6:45 pace

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Don't be a Baby

I woke up this morning when Finn groused at 5:30 and thought to myself, "I want to go for a run". This hasn't happened since Sunday, even though I ran on Monday and stumbled through 4 miles on Thursday. Since taking ill Monday night I've woken up most days feeling like I'm buried beneath a pile of concrete blocks and construction rubble. Just getting out of bed has been a chore, and while the worst bits of the sickness eased after a few days, the gastrointestinal system just has not been cooperating while I've tried to resume normal work hours.

But like I said, today was different and for that I am thankful. Yesterday's rain left behind cool temperatures, big puddles, and a low banding of clouds that swallowed the Santa Catalina mountains that contain Sabino Canyon. I followed most of my Slow Down loop at a relaxed pace and enjoyed the eerie quiet that finds the desert the morning after a storm. The condensation hanging on the cacti and succulents combined with the recent freeze damage muted the usually shocking deep winter greens to a minty hue, and the reflected greys and blues from the clouds in the many puddles along a trail in Sabino Canyon gave the desert a dulled silver hue. I found myself in the middle of all of this, loving every minute. Five cautious miles became six, and six became seven before I found myself back at the garage door.

On being sick: I am a big baby. Thank you dear readers for being kind and supportive instead of telling me this, but know I realize this now. If you end up stricken by a similar malady, here is what NOT TO DO-

1. Eat. Jeez, we eat a lot, or at least I do. By trying to force myself to eat before I was ready in an attempt to gain my strength back I just caused my body and digestive system more grief. I ended up losing about 5 pounds, but most of it was due to dehydration. Oh, this leads me to number two-

2. Stop taking on fluids. I simply never wanted to drink. I wasn't thirsty, and when I did drink I felt bloated and neauseas, so I ended up not drinking nearly enough. By the third day I was pretty seriously dehydrated, which I feel really takes an additional toll on an already taxed system. Just drink, even if you feel crummy doing it. If you throw up, hey, it's only water anyway so it's usually not so bad. Beats the dry heaves.

3. Pretend you're not sick. This one is pathetic and very Junior High, but the thought of missing two days of work stressed me out so much that I believed just sucking it up and going to work would help get me through it sooner. I showered, shaved, dressed, tried to eat, then spent two minutes leaning on the couch trying not to collapse after putting myself through that amount of effort. I then called in sick and slept for 5 straight hours.

2. Pick your shot (or announce your comeback). When I said "It's all downhill from here" a few days ago I was whistling past the graveyard. Comebacks or a return to form are like new jobs: get two good weeks and a paycheck in the books before opening your mouth. Note: A personal best at 10K equates to a paycheck for the purpose of this metaphor. 50K trail races work too.

4. Be a baby. By Fridy I was feeling quite sorry for myself, and I was pretty despondent about just about everything in a very selfish way. Then while on the computer I found this article linked on Let's Run with the words "If you read one thing this week this should be it" next to it. Next to a story like this, the woes of a runner sidelined by a virus for a few days and his crowing about all the suffering he's gone through makes him sound like...well, a big baby.

Don't worry, I still like babies, just not 35-year-old ones harboring an unreasonable fear that four days of sickness will eliminate two years of training. Here's what I should be worrying about: the stories I missed reading to our kids, the promised night at Chuck E. Cheese I had to postpone, and whether or not the snow will still be on the mountain when I'm well enough to take the kids to Mt. Lemmon. Life is bigger than running, but it's better with running. Whatever I've lost (if anything) I will get back and then some with time, training and intelligence.

Training: 7 miles, 49:21, 7:03 pace

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Day Too Soon

Four slow miles this morning, and while the fog is lifting I still feel a bit like a creature is clinging to my back, digging in with its claws, and slowly sucking the strength from my body. I didn't feel this way when I started the run or I wouldn't have gone, but as I sit slumped in my chair hours later staring off into space it's obvious I haven't totally licked this yet.

Still, I'm thankful for the run after two days spent staring out the window, with my only exercise being one walk to the mailbox and washing a sink full of dishes. You know when I'm calling washing dishes exercise just how low my energy level has been. Today is my first attempt at normal waking/sleeping hours and a regular meal schedule. So far, so good.

Thanks for all the well-wishes, I appreciate it. I think it's all downhill from here.

Training?: 4 miles, 7:40 pace

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


"No, he even called in sick to work today. He hasn't even tried to go for a run. He probably knows I would kick his ass if he did."
-Overheard phone conversation yesterday between my wife and a friend.

The good news is the achilles feels absolutely fine. The bad news is it's probably because the most I've done on it between Monday night and right now is wander from the bed to the bathroom, to the faucet, and to the couch. I hate to admit it, but I am sick. I'm trying to get the motivation to go to work, as it's quite busy there and I feel terrible about not being there to help, but I just don't think I can even drive there. I could go on and on about how crummy I feel, but frankly I'm just too tired and no one else really needs to hear it, as this sort of thing eventually happens to all of us. I haven't been able to keep up with other running blogs, as I just can't concentrate for long, but I hope you are all doing well.

I've felt this sickness creeping on for a few days, and I think it's probably the same flu our son Finn had. No run yesterday, no run today. I'll check back in when the fog lifts a bit.

Training: Today, 0
Yesterday, 0

Monday, January 15, 2007

Yellow Light

For some reason the left achilles acted up this morning. I think the cold temperatures yesterday and today might be a factor, as even though I waited until 9:30 or so to run this morning it was still only 24 degrees. Since the achilles felt tight and tender I eased into the first few miles, hoping things would get better. I had originally planned on doing 6x1 minute or so of hill sprints, but I figured that type of work would put even more stress on the affected area. Instead I ran the same 6x150 accelerations up to full speed on a nice dirt road by Sabino Canyon. These didn't seem to hurt as much as the easy running, and I actually felt better while running the last few miles.

It's been a few hours and I can still feel some soreness when I stretch upwards with the toes, so I'm a bit bummed. Tomorrow is a scheduled 5K evaluation trial, which I usually do in my lighter shoes with the lower heel height. If I wake up and feel the same way, I'll most likely take a zero and push the rest of the schedule back a day. Hopefully this is just a side effect of the cold, and by tomorrow all this worry will have been for nothing.

Training: 8 miles, 57:13, 7:09 pace, w/6x150 accelerations up to full speed. Grrrr

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Nice end to the week this morning with a 17 miler followed by Kiera's newly famous apricot creamcheese coffee cake. There were only three of us covering the hilly route, and while the starting temperature was a frigid 25 degrees, it was a perfect day for running. It was fun picking the brain of the three-time Olympic marathon trials qualifier who was along for the miles, as at this point in my life (age 35) I take a keen interest in runners who are able to prolong the years spent at close to peak fitness.

While we didn't blaze along as quickly as we had during the last two runs, I enjoyed staying out for an extra 30 minutes, and I felt like I was getting stronger with each passing mile instead of feeling broken down.

I'm fairly happy with how the week went-
Mo: 8 in the morning w/6x150 accelerations
Mo: 4 easy in the evening
Tu: 8 w/5K trial in 17:00 in the morning
We: 13 miles at 6:37 pace in the morning
We: 6.2 miles easy in the evening
Th: 9.5 miles, w/7.25 mile effort around 6:07 pace
Fr: 9.25 miles easy
Sa: 10.5 miles w/15x400, 400 recovery, mostly 77's
Su: 17 miles at 7 minute pace
Total: 85 miles in 9 sessions

Have a nice weekend everyone.

Training: 17 miles, 1:58:30, 7:00 pace

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Check the Ego

When Mystery Coach accepted my invitation to become an author on this blog I realized I really needed to check my ego in order to get the most out of his advice and out of my training. It became more important than ever for me to be honest and forthcoming about the bad days, which are never very fun to write about, in order to give the coach the feedback he needs to fine-tune the training in an appropriate way.

Another source of pride for me before the coach came along was my ablility to run hard workouts. While following the Lydiard model on my own I often found myself running some tough efforts, then writing afterwards about split times and comparing them to what I saw other runners doing.

After my 7 mile up-tempo run on Thursday the coach came up with a unique way to challenge my ego, which involved running 400 repeats today without looking at the splits. The recovery was to be a jogged 400, and the reps were set at 20 or as many as I could before I felt I’d had enough.

Three things about me and intervals-
1. I like knowing what splits to shoot for
2. I like knowing how fast I’m going
3. I like to know when to stop

This workout plays against all three, and it forces me to make a new list of guidelines for running intervals based on some of Arthur’s principles of speed-work mentioned by Mystery Coach yesterday.

1. Run as fast as I can while staying relaxed
2. Don’t worry about missing splits, worry about holding good form
3. Learn to stop when I’ve had enough

After two miles around the playing fields adjacent to the Catalina Foothills High School track I changed shoes and got ready. I thought for a second about how to approach the beginning of the workout, knowing that blowing up early would doom me to 7 or 8 reps instead of closer to the full amount. I also thought about running too slowly and reporting back a series of 85 second quarters, a distinct possibility since I wouldn't be looking at the watch during any of the efforts. Talk about bruising the ego.

The first few reps felt invigorating in the cool, 40 degree air. A breeze across the track pulled on me for about 150 but gave the same amount back, and I immediately felt like I was running with less "clunk" than I did for the 200's last week. Instead of the 66 Dodge Dart I felt like then, I had become...well, maybe a late-90's Ford Taurus. In other words, better but still far to go. Not having any idea of how fast I was running was annoying, but it did keep me from forcing things in the final straight from rep to rep.

As I racked up the repetitions I listened to both the legs and the lungs, and by number 11 I could feel the breathing getting very heavy just after entering the last turn. With the next rep the lungs started revolting right at 200, and when I finished the interval I felt like walking the first part of the 400 recovery instead of jogging. On number 13 the legs started to give out of the first turn, followed quickly by the lungs. At this point I knew I was close, but not seeing the splits get longer made it a bit tougher to know when to call it. Number 14 was tougher, and mid-way through 15 I knew I was finishing the last rep of the day. The legs were feeling the burn at this point, and they just didn't empty back out on the following recovery lap.

During a one mile cool-down on the grass I wrinkled my brow and skeptically checked the splits, expecting the worst of course.

77, 77, 77, 77, 79, 78, 78, 79, 78, 77, 77, 78, 77, 76, 77
Most of the recoveries were 1:50-2:00.

Spooky, isn't it? I guess I was in more of a rhythm than I thought, and while I would have liked to have made it to 20, while eating breakfast later the legs reminded me that I probably quit at either the right time or one too late. All in all a good day and a fun experiment.

Training: 10.5 miles, w/15x400, 400 recovery
Yesterday, 9.25 miles, 1:06:16, 7:10 pace

Friday, January 12, 2007

Arthur's speed work

Arthur probably caused the most turmoil in the minds of runners when he talked about speed work (the anaerobic capacity type not the leg speed type). How many? "Until you're tired" How far? "From here to that tree" How fast? "What ever feels hard" Not exactly the clean mathematical precision of a physiologist's 5 X 1000 Meters at VO2 max velocity with 500 meter jogs. Yet, while working with runners over the last thirty years Arthur's method produced superior results.

To give you a model that you can put your finger(s) on, take an empty clear plastic bottle (without the cap), drill five one-eighth holes around the outside. What you are holding is a model of a muscle fiber at the end of the conditioning phase. Since the during the conditioning phase the pace has been slow relative to racing speeds the five holes represent the speed in which oxygen crosses the fiber wall. Fill a sink with water and push the bottle down to about the neck level. That water running in represents oxygen rushing in to the demand of the mitochondria on the inside. The mitochondria use oxygen which lowers the pressure of the oxygen inside the cell. The faster you run the greater the demand ( at conditioning paces the oxygen is 50% the level of the outside of the fiber, at a very fast pace it drops to 2%). Notice that when you pushed that bottle down that the water came in at a slow rate, just like the oxygen only needs to flow into the fiber at a slow rate to meet demand during a long run ( plenty of oxygen so no oxygen debt). The goal of the conditioning phase is to lay the pipes ( capillaries) for a good oxygen supply and to produce engines ( mitochondria) in all the fibers ( hence the need for volume running).

So what happens during speed work? Since the demand is greater on the inside of the fiber, the fiber opens more holes ( drill ten more holes and note the speed of water coming in), it also develops buffers so the mitochondria can continue to work in an acidic environment and it develops holes so lactate can flow out (and be processed by other parts of the body). If you lift the bottle out of the water it will empty very quickly (lactate removal). You run a repeat; oxygen flows in, you jog a rest interval; lactate flows out. It only takes 4 to 8 weeks to develop the fiber so that it takes in oxygen at its maximum rate and removes lactate at a maximum rate. All it takes is lowering the oxygen level inside the fiber, let it recover ( it really does not matter the length of the rest interval but longer is better so the volume of work can be higher)

Arthur constantly warned against running too much volume, too fast, too soon. By doing a small amount, not too fast at first you'll stimulate the greater number of holes without overwhelming the internal environment of the fiber. This is where he recommended 4 weeks of preliminary speed work at the bottom of the hill ( a little bit with long rest every 15 minutes). Only after this initial stimulation did he move on to greater volume but again not too fast to allow more time for the holes to develop to maximum. It was only then (after the fibers developed their maximum transfer and removal rate) that the very fastest coordination work was added. Now the fibers could handle the load of very fast running. Runners constantly ruin their good condition by doing too much too fast too soon. As you can see by running by feel with the above model in mind you can achieve the effect you want without forcing any of those "perfect" interval workouts upon yourself.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Old Habits, Old Landmarks

While I missed our son Finn throwing up three times while I was working, running and eating away from home yesterday, Kiera and I shared the burden of him waking up several times last night. We did get a nice, quiet stretch between about 11 and 4:30 though, so it could have been much worse. Our daughter Haiden also seems to be fighting something, though in her case it's an infection while Finn most likely has a virus. Both of these kids should have pretty tough immune systems if they ever make it to age 5.

Between the rough night, the 18 miles run yesterday (6 in the rainy evening), and the fact that my Garmin was out of juice I had a litany of excuses to skip or delay the 45 minutes scheduled today at 6:18 pace. Instead, I brought out the stopwatch and headed to my (just over) one mile course. After jogging for about two miles I found the spot where the porta-potty was (pity, it's gone now). Lucas and I ran one mile repeats here back in November, and we had marked the quarter miles at that time. I knew the driveway 30 meters back from the old bathroom was the one mile mark, and while I had a general idea where the quarters were, I was sure the markings were long gone. Since I had a late start I headed off and hit the watch, trying to remember what 6:18 pace felt like. I rounded the first corner and was approaching the driveway I remembered being around 400 meters when I saw the old folded up styrofoam plate we'd used to mark the quarter mile. 1:30 on the nose. I rounded the second turn and approached where I remembered the half mile mark falling, and sure enough I could still make out the deep line carved in the dirt by Lucas's toe. 3:01, close enough. Another turn found me in the middle of the uphill section, and while the aluminum can from November was MIA I picked a sign pounded into the dirt that I figured was in the same place. 4:35, not bad considering the uphill. When I hit the final driveway to mark a mile the watch read 6:07. I continued on and re-started the watch when I hit the porta-potty spot again.

This went on for 7 miles, with the next six in 6:05, 6:06, 6:08, 6:07, 6:06, 6:07, then a final quarter in 1:29 to get close to the scheduled 45 minutes. After jogging 30 seconds the pulse was 142, then down to 120 after 1:30. I only felt the effort on the uphill second half of the 6th mile, then again at the same point on the last mile. After a short cool-down it was back to the house where I had to race to make it to work.

I know 6:18 was the plan, but I guess wearing a groove in the pavement around this course by spending 8 weeks or so running 6-7 miles around 6:04 pace made an impression on the neuromuscular system. I found myself putting the brakes on towards the end of each mile to keep from dropping under 6:05, and for most of the workout I had the same feeling in the body and lungs that I had throughout my fall training: steady, uptempo, but controlled. I knew I was fatiguing a bit, but I had no doubts about being able to hold the same pace.

Tomorrow I have "easier long recovery, 60-90 minutes", and I plan on going on the slower and shorter side of this. While the body is starting to hum, I know the last two days have taken a toll, and running faster than I should have will most likely catch up to me. That being said, I trust the body at this point when it wants to go a little fast. The flip side to this is to trust it when things go the other way and I find myself behind the clock by a similar amount. I'll fall off that bridge when I come to it.

Training: 9.5 miles, w/7.25 mile effort

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Trial of Trials

There have been a few comments on the 5K evaluation trials (I won't call them time trials anymore to save some confusion) yesterday and last week. When I posted yesterday in the comments that I was wishing the 5K had been broken up into mile repeats, which would have made the workout much easier, the coach sent along some of Arthur Lydiard's words on the purpose and usefulness of these workouts for both evaluation and sharpening/coordination during the racing season. The following is a bit of Arthur's text from the coach's email, it's long but I think it's interesting-

"Something I learned years ago, if you give your body a job to do often enough, you can accustom your body to do it. This also applies to running distance on a track providing control and progressive intensity so you can accustom yourself to it. So, in this period I also used these time trials. Now maybe I worded this wrongly; it is a matter of seeing how fast an athlete can run but it is poor for coordination purposes. If we get an athlete to run over 5,000 meters, say two, three or four times a week at regulated speed and gradually increasing the tempo as he sharpens. As his body sharpens, and as he races and develops racing with it, we are starting to improve him very rapidly. As I said before, you can very quickly develop this ability and its dependent on the height of our steady state.

Now these time trials are very important and I think that back in 1960 I had a distinct advantage because in those days everyone was using the Gerschler type of interval training. They had accustomed their athletes to running around the track and having a short rest spell. Even before Rome, the coaches were starting to be aware of the fact that their athletes had weaknesses and they had accustomed their athletes to running so far, then they required a rest spell. They were running maybe 400 meters fast and a 400 meter jog so they then cut the interval down to 400 meters fast and a 200 meter jog. They got to the stage where they had an athlete running across the track doing 400 meters fast and 110 meters slow. In those days I used to say I don’t know why they have an interval at all. Why don’t they do what I do with my athletes, make them run all the way? This is what we were doing, running all the way at regulated speed.

So here they had athletes against mine in Rome who were accustomed to having a rest spell during the race whereas my athletes could run all the way continuously without a break. They could run strongly and evenly all throughout the race. And this is why I was able with Halberg in Rome to get him to spring away with three laps to go in the 5,000 meters. I knew that the athletes he was running against would want a breather somewhere with about three or four laps to go. The pace would slacken and they would want a breather because they were used to it. This is the way they were trained. They were used to this breather that built up their reserves just to come in fast. While they were having their breather, I taught Halberg to put in a 60 second lap, if he could, because that was their weakness and that was his strength. You couldn't do that now because everyone is doing his own type of training and they are coordinating them better.

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, altogether 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 tine was 14 minutes, I would tell then 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 them  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.

These early races are development races and they are not serious or big competition. As we race and as we sharpen and further progress with the time trials; we can learn very much from them. During the first time trials we didn’t give lap times; after this we have a key to the condition of our athlete for 15 minutes. The next tine trial we can cut down 10 seconds and run them to lap times and we try to keep them running evenly all the way with these lap times. Because they are now athletes who are well conditioned and who haven’t been sharpened very quickly, their times will come down. You say to an athlete, “I want you to run 10 seconds faster this time,” maybe three days after the other one and he will say, “Look, I ran that other one the other day, and I was pretty tired. I don’t think I can run much faster.” You will have to hold those guys back because they will improve so very quickly if they haven’t done a lot of anaerobic work and they have conditioned well. They improve very, very rapidly, just as I said my athletes would do when they went to the Olympics on limited anaerobic work and limited racing. This is the way I used those time trials, always to find the weakness of the athlete by applying certain criteria that I knew the evaluation of. I could strengthen the weaknesses and get coordinated running. It is all very simple but let’s realize it, the Russians don’t understand it. They like their own way better."

In the text Arthur Lydiard is referring to the 1960 Olympics, "where on a hot September day in Rome, within the space of one hour, Peter Snell took Gold in the 800 metres (a new Olympic record) and Murray Halberg won Gold in the 5000 metres. There have been many great moments in New Zealand sport, but that effort is arguably New Zealand’s finest. The two athletes were instantly stars on the global stage and Lydiard, unofficial though he might have been, had become the world’s most respected athletics coach." Here is a link to the tribute page where I lifted this quote.

Anyway, I take the "blind" trial last week to be like the first 3 mile trial Arthur mentions, where he says athletes generally come in 45 seconds to a minute off their racing best. This helped establish the baseline of my current speed (or lack of it). The trial this week where I held 5:30 pace I take to be like the following trial Arthur mentions, cutting down around 10 seconds a mile and running evenly by the watch. Hopefully in the coming weeks these trials will find me running both faster and more relaxed. Thanks again to the coach for pointing out this text by Lydiard.

Today's run was the assigned 80-90 minutes at about 6:40 pace. I worked the average pace down to the prescribed number by the time I finished the fourth mile, and from there the body decided that 6:37 pace worked better. I ran the same three mile loop four times, which has about 125 feet of elevation change per loop. I prefer training with these ups and downs, as it gives me some practice holding pace on the uphills while relaxing a bit on the downhills. I was a bit tired by mile 9, and by mile 11 I was counting the minutes until I was finished, but I was able to hold the same pace through 13 miles without feeling overly spent. Another 10K with the Running Shop gang will give me a good day of miles.

Training: 13 miles, 1:25:41, 6:37 pace

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Getting Tough

Form on the track, guts on the road.

Today it was guts, and I think I'm a bit soft in that category. Come to think of it, I'm not so great on the form either, though hopefully both will come in time. I learned a bit about the body during my second 5K time trial since the marathon: once the wheels start shaking I still have a mile in me before they rattle off the frame.

Tough night last night as our daugther simply would not stay in bed between 2:30 and 3:30. My wife and I took two turns apiece playing bouncer, and when the coffee maker started dripping at 5:30 I felt like I'd just gone to bed. Our son Finn awoke as I poured a mug, and I spent the next hour feeding him breakfast and trying to keep him quiet so the wife and daughter could get a bit more rest. By the time everyone was up and fed it was almost 7:30 and my insides were feeling jumpy. At first I thought it was the coffee, but after it didn't go away with a piece of toast I figured out that it was nerves over the 5K. I was hoping to hold 5:30 pace for the effort, though last week running two 5:36's and one 5:32 had me feeling quite grim.

Four miles of warm up and a change of shoes found me starting from the same point on my one mile course as last week. The course has a rise of about 80 feet, and I think by starting at the mid-point of the gentle incline I have the most success. With a beep of the watch I was off and running, and with my heart up in my throat I passed mile one in 5:28 or so. Mile two found me struggling about 800 meters in, and I was surprised to hit about 5:29 after rounding the last turn and crossing the start point. Mile three started again with about 400 meters of uphill, and I found myself feeling quite cooked. The heart was really thumping and the legs started to get that lactic acid ache. When I finally rounded the second turn and started heading downhill I was amazed to still be at 5:29. This is where the wheels started rattling and the spit started to fly. Any feelings of trying to run relaxed and smooth vanished as I grunted my way to the finish. Mile three passed in 5:29 and the last .1 seemed to take forever. 17:00.

The heart was at 168 immediately following, then 132 a minute after and 120 a minute later. I was actually pleased to see the higher number for the effort, as I take it to mean the body is finally opening itself up to these tougher efforts.

Training: 8 miles, 53:20, 6:39 pace, w/5K time trial in 17:00, 5:29 pace
Yesterday pm., 4 miles at a blistering 8 minute pace while pushing both kids in the stroller.

Monday, January 08, 2007

22 x 3

Easy run this morning following yesterday's fairly strong effort over 13 miles. The only thing to really pay attention to was the set of 6 x 20 second accelerations up to full speed. These would end up being around 150 meters apiece, so I used my usual formula of counting every third stride to run the distance. For some reason I like counting every third footstrike for strides, and counting to 15 this way gets me my 100's. I test this on the track now and again and it's always accurate to within a meter or three. For 150 meters I just added seven counts, which ends up being 66 steps when multiplied by three. Timing it out this ends up being just over 20 seconds, which is the length of time I was after. OK, enough math. I don't know how I got started with this, but it works.

The accelerations found me trying hard to concentrate on a near straight-leg takeoff, which helps in keeping my pelvis forward, which helps me "run tall". Or at least I think it does. The run went fairly well, though I was hoping to get back to the house feeling a little more energized than I did. With some luck I'll get out for another easy four this evening. Overall I do feel good, and I didn't feel the same raggedness during the accelerations that I felt last week during the 200's. Finding dirt for three of the efforts today, coupled with ridiculously long recoveries (1/2-1 mile) could certainly explain this though.

Training: 8 miles, 54:24, 6:52 pace, w/6x150 accelerations to full speed (such that it is)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Don't Drop the Host!

Your wife makes them scones and coffee cake, and there's always gatorade and coffee waiting at the house for them afterwards. Now why on earth would you want to drop the host of the run?

First Jason the Dragon sprinted away from us with about four miles left, then with three to go Shane slowly turned the screw enough to put some ground between himself and Lucas and I. Eventually Lucas drifted back, but I later learned it was only because he stopped to take what the cyclists call a "nature break" and I didn't hear him announce it to me (my heart was probably thumping too loudly in my ears). Still, I finished the 13.25 hilly loop (same elevation I posted awhile back) at an average 6:38 pace, which improves on the 6:45 pace last week and the 6:52 the week before over the same or similar routes. The first mile was at 7:14 and we steadily ate away several seconds per mile. I finished with a 5:58 mile and a slightly bruised ego.

I had some trouble early getting comfortable on this run, as we started cutting the pace down after only one easy mile. My breathing a bit heavy for the first 7 or 8 miles, and I only really started feeling good once we started up the fairly serious hills during the last third of the run. I was a little surprised to have the lungs complaining instead of the legs, but I was happy to be able to finish the run strong (even while watching Jason's then Shane's tailights fade).

This run capped off what ended up being a transition week that ended my recovery and began my foray back into speedier training. Here's how it looked:

Mo: 8.5 miles, 6:40 pace
Tu: 8 miles at 6:45 pace am., 4 miles at 7:30 pace pm.
We: 9 miles w/15x200 in 36-39 am., 6.2 miles at 7:20-7:30 pace pm.
Th: 10 miles, 7:04 pace
Fr: 7 miles, 6:40 pace w/5K time trial in 17:18 (5:36, 5:32, 5:36)
Sa: 8 miles, 6:52 pace, fast finish
Su: 13.25 miles, 6:38 pace, fast finish
Total: 73.5 miles in 9 sessions

The coach has posted a template for what the next few weeks will bring, and he makes some great points about how this week's schedule is based in part on the benchmarks created by last week's time trial and 200's. From my perspective it will be a challenge to not want to jump ahead of where my current fitness is, but I know from experience that overreaching can easily send me backwards (I did this the second week after the marathon by working too hard three days in a row, which probably ended up adding a week to my recovery).

Training: 13.25 miles, 1:27:50, 6:38 pace

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What's next for Mike:

First I'm going to thank Mike again for his invitation to blog on his site and being brave enough to let me evaluate and post my recommendations online.

For this first post let's look at where Mike is going, and the how and why of the preliminary schedule. This is where if you have a coach he/she should read the next line; during Mike's last build up the schedule changed eight times based on his needs; ( everything from his slow response to certain workouts, getting sick, to his being a super Dad while Kiera was away and not having the time for his hobby). The schedules that I post are based on where Mike is at the moment so when you read them first understand what is the goal and how to get from where Mike is to there (the goal).

A good training schedule should be based on feedback and discipline. One of the strengths of Arthur's system was evaluation of exercise and the discipline to complete the steps before moving on. Jumping ahead to another level before completing the previous one only undermines your condition. It is important to understand where you are and what you should be doing next. When you read the next section on what Mike's plans are take them in the context of what he has done and his next set of goals.

Before Mike's last marathon he decided that having the opportunity to race more often at distances between three miles and the half marathon would be rewarding and might enhance his marathon times. This goal set the basic plan he'll use before the next build up for a marathon. As you can see by his posts during the last month recovery was the primary goal. Last week were a couple of evaluation workouts to see where to start. The 200s and the 5K test trail were used check his base workout levels. From those two test the following schedule was setup: (See one of the earlier post about the fiber model for the discussion on fiber recruitment)

M- Easy run with 6 X 20 second ( 150 yards or so )
accelerations to maximum "relaxed" speed , long (full
recoveries) - to activate all fibers up to #12 and use
them in an efficient coordinated way. ( We can use a
short steep hill here also (< 60 seconds long) working
on high knees, hips forward and good extension.
This is a speed / form development day, not an energy
source development day.

T- 2K-5K Evaluation trial This is where we'll check
how things are going It will test the energy output of
almost all the fibers they are almost all recuited at this pace)
and also see if they are recovering.

W- 80 -90 minute run (Starting at 6:40 pace for now)
works the steady state of the lower fibers (1-6 or so)

T- 45 minute run ( Starting at 6:18 pace) a higher
stress steady state to work the lower fibers ( 1-6 )

F- Easier long recovery (60- 90 minutes)

S- Repetitions ( this first week looks like 10-20 X 400 @ 82
second 200-400 jogs) I'm sure this is the one workout
where most runners go wrong because they try to drag
their condition up ( by going faster like 20 X400 in
75 with 30 seconds rest ), after looking at your time
trial and the 200's your sticking point is getting O2
into the fiber and to the energy producers ( across the
wall). There is no use running faster (or longer) (
the O2 can get in so fast right now). Do as many as
you can at that pace working on relaxation. This will
recuite and make most fibers work.

S- Easier long recovery ( 90 - 120 minutes)

As you can see the goal is to work the lower fibers to increase their efficiency and power output. The upper fibers 9-12 will be activated ( setting them up to be used in the next buildup After this week we'll evaluate on what is expected and a discussion on the next steps.

Strangely Familiar

Slow start this morning after both kids insisted on seeing the wrong side of 6 am. Haiden woke at 4:30 and was convinced she saw a witch in the shadows cast from her nightlight. After calming her down she was up again at 5, and when she woke for the third time at 5:30 while I was tending to a crying Finn it seemed that any hopes of getting out on the dark streets early had vanished.

Surprisingly enough I had no residual soreness from the 5K time trial on the roads yesterday, and the only pain I'm currently dealing with comes from a stubborn piriformis or sciatic issue that flares up if I sleep on my right side. Obviously I've been sleeping on my right side. I spent a portion of last evening after work lying on a hard, plastic ball that belongs to Finn (he doesn't seem to mind). It's about the size of a raquet ball and it seems to help loosen whatver muscles are giving me trouble back there. Having two children jumping up and down on me while I do this can only help, can't it? The strange thing is that while this can be bothersome when I walk, it magically disappears by three steps into a run.

After two slow miles spent working the kinks out this morning I started to feel good. I could feel the pace getting faster from mile to mile, and by the time I had finished mile 7 it was with some hesitation that I backed off for one last slow mile on the way home. I knew I would be on duty watching our two kids and Angie's son as soon as I got home so that Kiera and Angie could get in their own run, so I wanted to be cooled-down and ready for the morning's real challenge.

Looking at the data afterwards I was pleased to see miles 3-7 work down steadily from 6:55 to 6:17. This run found me feeling like I did a month before the marathon, and I'm looking forward to some more serious training in the coming week.

Training: 8 miles, 55:16, 6:52 pace. Miles in 7:34, 7:49, 6:49, 6:55, 6:37, 6:36, 6:17, 6:51. Feeling good again

Friday, January 05, 2007

Damn That Baseline

You've got to start somewhere. The coach advised a blind 5K time trial for either this morning or Saturday, and during most of my slow, 3 mile warm up I was convinced I would wait until tomorrow. I just didn't feel that motivated, and the 7:20-7:35 miles I was running had the legs feeling not sore but sluggish. However, I knew Kiera would most likely be running with Angie tomorrow, which would make the time trial even more "blind" then as I probably wouldn't be able to see where I was going for most of it due to darkness.

With this in mind, coupled with thoughts that I was probably just a bit afraid of a slow result and the pain associated with it, I found myself in the driveway changing into the lighter shoes and ditching the long-sleeved shirt. From there I jogged the last quarter mile to my one mile time trial course, which I haven't covered in anger since November. The watch was set to record each mile, but I was instructed to ignore it until the 5K was finished in an attempt to get an honest baseline of my fitness for the speedwork and racing ahead. In the past I've run 2 mile to 5K trials like this, but I've pretty much just tried to keep a steady pace between 5:30 and 5:35 per mile. Without any idea of pace (which was the point) I would have to gauge my effort early closely to avoid a world of hurt towards the end.

My starting point was mid-way through the most uphill section of my mile, and within 400 meters I had an inkling I'd be cooked early. I was striking the ground harder than I wanted to and I couldn't stop clenching my fists. Soon enough I was on the slight downhill though, and by the time the first mile elapsed I knew I had at least another mile in me. The second mile found me a bit hypoxic by the end of the uphill portion, but this time I was able to relax a bit as I rounded the curve and got to the easier par of the course. This half mile section in the middle of mile 2 was the best I'd feel for the run. As I started the slight climb again to end mile two all the good vibrations vanished, and if left to my own devices I would have quit here after picking up the pace too much in the minutes prior. Still, there was a job to be done, and I thought for a moment about Lasse Viren and the data his coach collected from the 20x200's. This time trial would be the bottom of the chart, and someday in the near future I would laugh at the effort it took to get the feeble numbers I would collect. When mile three beeped I waited 15 seconds or so then watched the watch for the last .1 mile. When it was finally over I stopped at the side of the road and checked my heart rate: 158. After two minutes of spitting, coughing and walking I took it again: 122. I actually felt pretty good after the effort, though I cut the cool-down to one mile in order to get home after stalling earlier this morning.

I checked the damage and uploaded the handy chart. It could certainly have been worse, and I'm looking forward to better.
5K, 17:18, with splits of 5:36, 5:32, 5:36

Training: 7 miles, 46:41, 6:40 pace, w/5K TT in 17:18 w/5:36, 5:32, 5:36, :34

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Viren, 200's and a Lesson in Trust

"Speed comes around quickly, and the stuff that lets you run 33 minutes for 10k is already in your legs." Eric made this comment yesterday after I spent some time lamenting my lack of efficient turnover during yesterday's 200's, and I'm hoping he's right.

The coach suggested I re-read an article he sent me some time ago on Lasse Viren's training evaluations. Rolf Haikkola, who was heavily influenced by Arthur Lydiard had a standard workout to test Viren's fitness to ensure he wasn't peaking too early; you guessed it, 20x200. Six weeks before the 1972 Olympics in Munich, where he took the gold in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, Viren ran 5,000 meters in 13:19. The newspapers doubted he could hold onto his form through the Olympics. His coach then had Viren perform a test run where he ended up breaking the world record for two miles with an 8:14 for the distance, which showed Viren was ready. Even Viren was a bit concerned at this point about the chances of his form deteriorating, but Haikkola had a test that showed Viren was still on the way up. He would have his runner perform 20 x 200 meters, measuring his heart rate and time for each repeat. In June he averaged 30 seconds and 190 BPM. In July, before the two mile record, he averaged 29.3 and 186. In August, before the Olympics, Viren was down to 27.2 and 172. "So we had real proof there was nothing to worry about," Haikkola said.

The article goes on to describe the faith Viren had in his coach: "Trust doesn't come from personality", Haikkola says. "It comes from being able to show a runner what he can do. Before Montreal (the '76 Olympics) we gave Lasse the same test. He averaged 28.2 and 182 beats per minute, not his best. His training had been interrupted by a month-long sinus infection that had to be drained six or seven times. So we did another test, to discover what kind of work was needed. He did 5,000 meters on grass by sprinting 50 meters and easing 50 meters, easing and sprinting. 50 sprints in all. He finished in a time of 13:32 (better than all but a handful of runners can do while running an even pace). But his pulse was only 186. In perfect racing condition he would go over 200 after such a sustained stress-ease exercise. His body was not reacting to the stress in an efficient manner. It was obvous that he needed additional speed training, but there were only eight days left before the 10,000 meter heats. It was here that Lasse was different from any other runner I've known. He believed me when I said there was still time. Three days later he was quicker; you could see the difference in the action of his ankles. He was reaching his maximum sharpness."

In my previous cycles it did seem that the speed came around quickly, so I have no reason to doubt it will this time after working the kinks out. As for the part about trust, I agree with Haikkola. When Mystery Coach first emailed me back in June after my difficult marathon in San Diego with some of Lydiard's training articles I wasn't quite sure what to make of him. He menitoned how I probably didn't rest up and recover enough before the race, which seemed to be true after looking over my log. Soon after he became a sounding board for my questions about many of Arthur Lydiard's training philosophies. As time went on he started to make suggestions to steer the course of my training for the fall, and the more I tuned in and followed his advice the more I seemed to improve. Soon enough I found he had the unnerving ability to predict within seconds when I would finish my early fall races given my training paces, recovery, and adaptation to the workouts, even though before the race I felt these predictions were a bit aggressive.

In short, I trust the coach and I highly value his input. In this spirit I'd like to formally thank him for becoming an official contributor to my blog, and I look forward to his contributions.

Training: Today, 10 miles, 1:10:40, 7:04 pace. I let the legs dictate the pace and they wanted to take it easy
Yesterday pm., 6.2 miles at 7:20-7:30 pace with the Running Shop gang. Felt much better at the end than at the start

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Neither Fast Nor Relaxed

An email from the coach yesterday indicated he thought I might be ready to start getting a move on again. He prescribed a dose of 20x200, which is a workout I've never tried before. It was a staple of Lydiard's training, especially in the earlier schedules where it made a weekly appearance during the entire conditioning phase.

I went for a jog last evening to determine whether to do the workout this morning or to wait another day, and by the end of four easy miles at sunset the legs felt like they were just getting started. Wednesday would be the day.

The three reasons for the workout, straight from the coach:
1. Work on form-hips forward, run tall, good smooth pull-back with straight leg extension (not sitting in a bucket)
2. Work on relaxation at speed
3. Work on the internal reduction of 02 inside the muscle fibers so they become more efficient at pulling it across the cell wall.

Still trying to figure out that last one, so I focused on the first two. After a hilly 4 mile warm up I hit the Catalina Foothills High School track. The girls' soccer team was just starting some sort of conditioning practice towards the edge of the field, and they had thoughtfully piled all their crap in lanes 1 and 2. God forbid you should get your duffel bag damp. Soon enough they had splayed out in lanes 1-5 to do assorted crunches and ball-passing drills, so it was determined immediately which half of the track would be the recovery 200 (which of course was the half with the wind at my back). Again, you play on grass, why not do your drills on grass? Phil, help me out here.

Anyway, as you can imagine from the title of the post and my abnormally grouchy tone it didn't go so well today. I had in my mind the coach's formula that 20x200 would pretty much come out to an equivalent 10K time with an easily jogged recovery. The example he gave (which is pretty much me with my previous fitness levels) was a 200 at 34 seconds, plus a 68 seconds for a 200 jog times 20 equals 34 minutes.

As I hit the gas through the first turn I felt a bit rusty, and at 36 seconds the watch confirmed it. While I was able to get the second one down to 35 seconds, that was the only time I'd see those digits together for the whole workout. A sea of 36's and 37's followed, all with around 60-65 seconds of recovery, and when I dipped into 38 for a few beyond 10 I knew the end was near. I had stopped counting and instead waited for the sting in the legs to start materializing in the first 50 rather than the last 50 like the first few reps. With another 38 I thought I felt it, and with one last 38 the knockout was delivered. I stopped after a final 200 easy to see 25 minutes on the watch for 15x200's plus the recoveries.

The one mile jog back to the car was eternal, mostly because it was an uphill slog to get there, and I was thankful to have the run over with. All in all I guess it was a good re-introduction to the fast stuff, and I'm sure I'll get the step after a few weeks of workouts like this. I'm not where I was, but after the last seven days of training I can say with some confidence that I'm on the way up again. I just need to forget about that bit from the coach where this workout shows I'm back to running 10K's at 36 or 37 minutes.

Training: Today, 9 miles, w/15x200 with a 200 jog recovery. Most in the 36-37 range, with a few 38's just to tick me off a bit.
Yesterday pm., 4 miles easy around 7:30 pace

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Cleaning House

I'm trying to get the blog re-formatted, and I'm finally about half-way there. You'll find most of the old links up now, but I'm working on a post that will feature all the links to interviews with and articles about Arthur Lydiard I've been able to find. I'm also working on a post with links to and short descriptions of all the information that Mystery Coach has been kind enough to contribute, so that people can more easily find it. I also need to update the log, though I can only upload that from work.

As for the running, I got out for eight miles on the Slow Down loop and felt good. With some luck I'll get in a second, shorter run before heading off to work for a few hours. The legs keep feeling better, and I'm trying to cover some moderate hills daily in an effort to kick-start the hip flexors. I looked back at the log and noticed that I stopped complaining about them last time a week or so into the hill phase, so I'm thinking running on some inclines will help get them back into shape.

Finn is up from his nap so that's it for now.

Training: 8 miles, 53:52, 6:45 pace

Monday, January 01, 2007

First Run of the Year

The kids weren't too interested in letting us sleep in, which was too bad since this was one of the only days I didn't have to set an alarm. With Kiera and Angie heading out at 10 for a trail run to Seven Falls, my only obligation was getting in a run before they needed to leave.

I headed out for 8 miles under overcast skies to see how the legs were getting along after yesterday's 15 miler. To my surprise things went well, and I was able to progressively dial down the pace as I went along. The clouds did make the Garmin hiccup a bit, so I ended up splitting the difference between what it said and what the MotionBased software came up with afterwards. The graph I posted yesterday was from their site, and from what I can tell it analyzes what you upload from your GPS and draws its own conclusions on pace and distance. While it's more information than I could ever use, the fact that it logs temperatures and altitude gain/loss is pretty cool. Afterwards Haiden and I enjoyed a muffin that was apparently promised to her last night in a bribery attempt to get her to go to sleep.

Child-rearing calls.

Training: 8.5 miles, 56:06, 6:40 pace