Monday, January 21, 2008

Ask the Mystery Coach

Last weeks post generated a number of comments and questions on the use of workouts to predict fitness levels and racing times so this week will follow up on those questions.

How do you predict racing times from workouts?

I'm sure most runners (especially marathoners) have heard of Yasso 880s (a 2:45 marathoner should be able to do 10 X 880 yards in 2:45) but probably not Viren 200s ( a 35 minute 10K runner should be able to do 20 X 200 meters in 35 seconds with 70 seconds rest (Viren could run 20 X 27.4 with 60 seconds rest when he was in sub 27:40 10K shape)) or the 1000s (at about 4-5 mile race pace) starting every 5 minutes yet they are all based on the same principle. There is a direct relation between your work capacity in a workout and in a race. This principle although understood by coaches and athletes for a long time was explained in the book "Computerized Running Training Programs" (1970) by James B. Gardner and J. Gerry Purdy. Their running calculations are more accurate than Daniels' Running Formula or McMillan Running Calculator.

Each runner has a relationship and by keeping a log of your workouts and what your performances you can know what condition you are in at any given time in your training. When working with runners I set up a personalized normal performance curve and derive the workouts from it. Each runner has a different relationship between their workouts and their race performances. Mike tends to have quicker recovered between workouts than most runners so his 3:17 for 1000s may look faster than someone who has slower recovery from day to day and runs 3:28s yet both could be in 2:37 marathon shape. The slower recovering runner might benefit more from a taper where as Mike responds better to a shorter less drastic taper. These are individual traits that the workouts have to be adjusted for. Working out at someone else level is a recipe for failure. If nothing else remember this Axiom:

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

What about anaerobic threshold workouts?

There is nothing special about anaerobic threshold workouts except they are slow enough to do enough volume speed work. In fact studies have shown that even short repetitions like the Viren 200s when done in volume (20-60 minutes total workout time) improve running performances to a greater degree than threshold workouts. Any type of a speed workout can be used as long as it is 20-60 minutes long (and this is also why 4 mile-10K races are good speed developers for Marathoners)

The only thing that matters is the bio-mechanical efficiency and chemical efficiency of the runner. (this is where volume training comes in and it takes years to develop fully).


Mike said...

Mystery Coach - It is my understanding that in order for these workouts to accurately predict performances, the athlete must first be "properly endurance trained" for the specific event.

If the athlete is not yet endurance trained I imagine the workout would then predict what he "could achieve" in the distance event once properly trained? For example - if he can complete the Yasso-880 workout at the 2:45 pace, then he theoretically "could" run a 2:45 marathon once his endurance was at an acceptable level.

Reason I ask is that I'm a new runner whose aerobic fitness is WAY behind my speed at this point. So, I can hit much better times in these kind of "workouts" but couldn't possibly run the times at the longer distances that these "results" would predict.

Also, I'm trying to increase my weekly mileage to build endurance. However, I have little to no pronation (meaning my feet are very poor shock-absorbers) So I have to be very careful about adding mileage. Any general advice for non-pronators in regards to how to go about increasing mileage?

BTW - this really is an excellent forum. Thanks a bunch to Mystery Coach and Mike for providing this tremendous resource.

Mystery Coach said...

Mike, From your blog I see you are just starting out and used to have a good turn of speed.

You are correct about being endurance trained first but all parts of training should be touched on during the year. Don't miss out on the hills (both up and down) or the classic sprint training workouts, just work into them gradually. Once muscle fibers have been activated they become much easier to condition. Every couple of weeks work on a longer run to help start condition those fibers with less stamina. This will help with you increase your mileage more easily.

Without see you run it is hard to make a recommendation in regard to increasing mileage except that gradual increases will give your legs time to adapt.

Good luck on your training.

Grellan said...

Mystery Coach,

I have been training specifically for marathons since I started running 2 years ago. However I come nowhere near my marathon prediction time (at least 10 minutes out) based on my shorter race times (5k to 15 miles) using YASSO 800's, McMillan, Daniel's Running Formula and now

My predicted times at all the shorter distances are pretty much in line (give or take the nature of the course i'm running and my form on the day)

I know it may be partly due to peaking at the right time and how I feel on the day but my marathon time never appears to allign itself with my running ability at shorter distances. Maybe I have to give it more time as I am a relative novice in running terms.

I know you can't be specific in your reply as I haven't given you much info to go on but your general thoughts on the matter would be appreciated.



Mystery Coach said...

Grellan, I pick:

"Maybe I have to give it more time as I am a relative novice in running terms."

You have made very good progress over the last two years and since you have just improved your 10 mile time I would say that your stamina is on the upswing.

Even long time world record runners like Haile Gebreselassie don't have equal performances initially. In fact Haile said he needed more 3 hour runs so that his muscles would respond to the marathon.

By being consistent with your long run (and maybe adding to it) your performances will line up (sooner than you might think)

Marc said...

"The only thing that matters is the bio-mechanical efficiency and chemical efficiency of the runner. (this is where volume training comes in and it takes years to develop fully)." - Mystery Coach (my emphasis)

This is something that I am finally coming around to after several failed marathons. While, intellectualy, I have known this to be true for some time now, it has taken until now to fully accept and implement the volume approach to training. Runners can be a stubborn lot.

Thanks for the great info!

Grellan said...

Thanks Mystery Coach. It's reassuring to know that I'm heading in the right direction (more or less).

I had certainly though about increasing the duration/frequency of my long(er) runs during my current marathon preparation. Even toyed with the idea of running longer (24+ miles) and slower just to build up the endurance.