Monday, January 14, 2008

Ask the Mystery Coach

Instead of a question this week, a review of Mike's training and yesterdays race performance in question and answer format:

How did Mike do?

Using his 1000 meter workout on December 18th (10x1000 on 5 minutes at 3:21, 17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 17, 16, 17) and his 800 meter workout (7x800 (800 recovery) in 2:29, 2:32, 2:30, 2:32, 2:31, 2:33, 2:32) on December 24th indicated a time between 2:36.21 and 2:37.23, so his time was just a little off what the workouts indicated.

Mike said he expected better, what happen?

Our original goal was for sub 2:35 and although the workouts were indicating 2:36-2:37 3-4 weeks before they also indicated some underlying fatigue ( see his comments in his log: "Dead tired for cool-down, no snap in legs", "A little burnt for the last two but the jog home was nice"). Since we were in the taper phase these were not good signs. It was around this time that Mike came down with a head/chest cold. This lead to a cut short back to back with fatigue ("stopped 3 miles early, felt crummy") and a cut short 1000s workout ("Stopped after 7.5 instead of doing all 10, lungs and system felt stressed"). Even though we tried to ease off to combat the illness it showed up at the beginning of the taper causing the taper to be just break even instead of gain. The last back to back and 1000s workouts should have been easier that the previous ones because of the taper but as you can see they were not.

OK, I'll stick out my neck and say that in my opinion the Tucson marathon hurt you over the last few miles, and probably cost you your time goal. (Thomas)

It may have but it also could have been returning to speed workouts or high mileage too soon after that marathon but in any case we were playing catch up on the recovery cycle. This is what most likely lead to the infection/cold.

What did you learn from this build?

Mike definitely responds very well to higher mileage and will be using the same levels in the next build. We have his speed workouts very well correlated to his racing fitness (His 1000 workout before the "training" marathon indicated he was in 2:40.00 shape).


Chris Field said...

Good stuff. I'm interested in learning more about the 1000 on five minutes and how accurately they predicted Mike's marathon condition.

Does this only work when the workout is done every week during the build or can one session show the shape someone is in?

How would the timing work for, say, a 3:10ish marathoner?

by7 said...

I followed with passionate interest the reports on the progress of the training, so Mike's disappointment struck me.
To bring the case to a more general discussion, I would like to offer my personal opinion:

1) it was a mistake to run the Tucson marathon, but only a slight one
2) the real mistake was not taking it easy after the marathon and do not allow time to recover ...26 Miles are always 26 Miles..
3) but the real root cause is that Mike "chased" the Mileage at all cost and all those miles damaged the performance in his key workouts: if you read back, most of the "critical" workouts were not too good because Mike was tired or still recovering from the day before.
After Tuscon Marathon I was 99% confident that Mike was going to hit easy 2h35', but later he begun to struggle at every key workout and still "hammer down" miles the following days. So I personally started to feel that he was overburning.
Probably for him today running 100 Miles are still too many, considering the work/family commitments. He must save some freshness for his key workouts.
On a more positive note: I believe that if he takes 2/3 weeks recovery and 1 month of "specific" training for marathon (long tempo run, MP, long runs with MP sections), he can make a fantastic marathon in mid/late March and hit easy the 2h35'

keep on ... I love the passion and intensity that you put into running

Mike said...

I agree with the coach on the strengths and weaknesses of the last build, but I also think it's hard to determine exactly what led to me getting sick a few weeks out. With two young kids and a job that puts me in contact with a lot of people, there's no shortage of swims in the petri dish. The Tucson race did probably bring down my immunity for a few days so I can't count it out (especially given the timing).

Overall, I would honestly say that my body felt better on the starting line of the Tucson marathon than it did in Phoenix, so I would also agree with the statements that the taper was more about breaking even or playing catch up rather than supercompensating and making more gains. If Tucson were a more honest course, and if I hadn't had 90+ miles in my legs from the six days before, it might have just been better to have gone full-bore there while I felt good.

In hindsight, the last (shortened) back to back combined with the last set of 1000's seemed to be the writing on the wall.

Anonymous said...

I'm still impressed with the race. may not have been your goal, but to be that close to a pr and be coming off being sick... It can't go down as a bad day and it looks like you have a lot of take-aways.
I noticed you looked a lot different at 5 than 6.2. you looked a bit more tired ... not just that you were focused. you looked really fresh at 5.

there is a $25 discount for next year if anyone is interested. enter "rock6" and enter by 1/19.

-dusty (cant login from cell)

running faster with the ALIEN LIZARD said...

mike,you already had fantastic endurance,would cutting right back on the mileage in the last couple of weeks and doing sharpening work not payed better dividends.i think you have lost sight of ARTHUR LYDIARDS original teachings.
dare i say it but i think you have become over obsessed with high mileage at all costs.

Thomas said...

I'm flabbergasted once more how accurately the Mystery Coach can predict times.

Eric said...

My .02--Tucson was a self-indulgence that cost you a 2:35:xx.

The mileage is not a problem. You handle high mileage very well, and you seem to respond well to it. Also, if you had been in a position to benefit from a period of forced recovery (i.e. you didn't run Tucson), getting sick would have been a good thing. To say nothing about whether you would have gotten sick at all.

The real problem is that you grossly misjudge your recovery ability on a regular basis. However, I don't think you could bring yourself to dial back your effort 10-20% from what you think is an appropriate pace on non-workout days. You seem to be hell-bent on outrunning your recovery.

I read every entry that you write, and nearly every day for the last six months, I shake my head and say a little "WTF?" to myself. You train each day with a healthy disregard for your own physiology and long term goals.

If your goal is to average 6:48 pace for 100+ miles week after week over a load of hills, and to run every rep of every workout two seconds faster than the coach asks, then keep doing what you're doing.

But, from reading your blog over the last couple of years, I got the impression you were trying to run a fast marathon.

Training to make yourself feel good and training to achieve a goal are mutually exclusive in your case. You won't run a 2:35 until you train like the 2:38 runner that you are.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mike,If ther was a prize the the hardest trainer then you would deserve it.Many of us have make the mistake in the past of giving it 100$ in training only to find that you can only give 70% on race day!
Eric speaks with great wisdom,hope you will heed his advise,because we all want to see you move on to the next level and smash your p.b's

Vince A. said...

And consider the advice from a 72 year old veteran marathoner (100 plus marathons)that I spoke to last week - "...and your race result will depend on how you feel on that given day, when you wake up". So maybe that's a four minute swing and can equally well explain the variation from projection.

Anonymous said...

Eric's comments may seem a bit harsh but he is on the money. This is probably not what you want to hear.

Dusty Row said...

I think every one is being very hard on you,I think you ran the best you could on the fitness you had.the problem is you don't have enough have to improve your 10k time down to 30 - 31 mins if you want to run a 2.30 marathon.I don't think you are training the lydiard way anymore i think your coach has lost the plot!

by7 said...

I would tend to disagree with the issue of the lack of speed. to run in 2h35', it is enough to be around 33'30" for 10k and Mike is there.
I must say that the best synthesis is the "harsh" answer from Marc.
Mike has "felt too much in love" with his own training and forgot that the purpose is not to run strong every day but to be ready on race day.
too many hard "easy runs" and poor recovery sealed his fate.

Eric said...

Like by7 said, speed is not an issue. The 30-31 minute 10K would put Mike in the 2:23 range for the marathon.

You are correct about one thing, Dusty, which is Mike ran the best he could with the fitness he had. The fitness he achieves in each build is limited by the lack of recovery in his training.

This most recent marathon was Mike's best to date. I can imagine this same training cycle done again without the marathon distance 'training run' (at 95% of race pace), and a completely different result.

As far as Mike's coach having 'lost the plot'...well, you're clearly out of your depth.

At the end of the day, Mike decides what floats his boat. Training hard obviously makes him happy, and if training hard is the goal, I'm 100% supportive. Cheers.

running faster with the ALIEN LIZARD said...

i still think its amazing that you ran 3 marathons so close together and came out with 2.37.
it was hard to pull thinks round once the heat destroyed your chances in the 1st marathon and you were going into unknown territory with your other 2.
you showed a lot of guts and determination to get what you wanted and i think if you take eric's advise
you will reach your goal of sub 3.35.
keep on running

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike, you got a nice mention in the Tucson Citizen.

Remember its not all about the finish time. Its about the journey too.

I ran 3:01 in Boston last year and I'm working my *ss off to go sub 3 next time.

Its hard, its a challenge, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Keep at it you'll get where you want to go or at least have an incredible journey along the way!

Take care,

Mark in New England

Paul said...


Good performance. Definitely nothing to sneeze at (pun intended). I think that not sprinting over the final half mile will leave your legs feeling less like they've raced a marathon and more like they did after Tucson. Hopefully that means you can get back on the training horse without missing a beat (even if it is a Hall & Oates beat).

Marc said...

So, do training horses eat Hall and Oates, or just the Oates?

Greg said...

Very interesting stuff. I'm actually surprised to hear that your 1000 workouts were pointing to a 2:38 marathon. I thought you were looking at something much faster than that.

If I know anything, it's that you'll be back out there working hard for your next marathon. Hang in there Mike.

You inspire many of us.

by7 said...

the issue of the "marathon prediction" is quite interesting.
From his workout, I think Mike was ready to run in 2h35'.
In his 1000m interval, he was hitting "easy" sub-3'20".
For comparison, I recently did a 2h38' marathon and my 1000m interval were more in the 3'20"-3'25" range.
Probably he should have taken part in a 10k/HM race 4/5 weeks out from the marathon and really push the ball to understand the actual levle of fitness in racing conditions (eg: mini taper).
Anyway, we welcome further comments of Mystery Coach on the subject.

Mark said...

Thanks to Mike and Mystery Coach for sharing their words of wisdom.

Personally, I felt the 2:40 marathon before was too much and too close. I just shook my head and asked, why? But, I've been there and done that myself at the same age, despite being told otherwise.

Your race splits are very good for even pacing;I take it that work's best for the Phoenix course.

It seems illness, getting sick, is a larger factor than injury in your running. What do you think?

Question now is what does the 2:37 marathoner "change" to break the 2:35 mark?

Mike said...

Hey by7 - If I recall you mentioned you do use Daniels' Running Formula and you stated you're at a VDOT of about 65. That would put your 1000m's of 3:20-3:25 at Threshold pace - is that right?

Reason I ask is that Daniels typically recommends about 1-minute between intervals here, is that what you were doing? Mike was going about 3:17 per, but on 5-minutes so his rest time was almost 1:45.

You guys ran about the same marathon time, so is it possible the difference in 1000m times (3:17 compared to 3:20-3:25) is due to a longer rest period between efforts?