Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hi Mystery Coach

I have ambitions of running a marathon later this year and would like to go sub 3. My current PB for 10km is 40:22 which using the calculator you had in your previous post would suggest a time of approx 3:10. Given that previous training has been focussed on either triathlon or 10 km my questions are as follows:

1. Am I better off spending a year or two bringing down the 10 km time (around 37 or 38)? With this in mind would you suggest doing a stamina / conditioning phase similar to a marathoner with a different speed phase?

2. Or with Marathon Conditioning and Training would I be able to achieve the sub 3?

Thanks for your help.
Adam Marks

Adam, What is preventing you from running a 37-38 minute 10K now? It is stamina and efficiency. I have had runners train for a marathon with an emphasis on one very long and one moderately long run per week (other days were light or cross training). What surprised these runners was the improvement in their 5K times in the 2-3 months after the marathon (we had added speed back in after they recovered from the marathon). One runner went from 23:12 to 20:57 (He had been stuck in the 23s for a number of years). This exact scenario is how Arthur figured out to add the 10 weeks of Marathon running to his program. Once you develop the stamina for long distances it does not disappear quickly. You'll need the stamina for a sub 3 and it will pay dividends for a long while afterward for your shorter races.

Dear Mystery Coach,

I am a 44 year old male runner looking for a 3:20 or better marathon this fall. All of my previous marathons have played out like a recurring nightmare – crash and burn anywhere between miles 17 and 22 – which shouldn't come as a big surprise as my training has lacked consistency and direction. In preparing for this fall I am taking a new approach – new to me, that is. For the next 26 weeks or so I am running for time only (1 hour min. weekdays, 1.5 hours min. weekends), without regard for pace or distance, but rather by perceived effort. About 12 weeks out I will begin MP specific training. My question is this: How do I keep from going ‘stale’ or falling into a rut over the next 26 weeks? I try to mix the effort up a little here and there but am afraid to push too hard too early for fear of injury.


Marc, Your program of "1 hour min. weekdays, 1.5 hours min. weekends" is not varied enough for good recovery and good stamina development which because of lack of observable progress will lead to that "rut" that you are trying to avoid. First take two days and make them and keep them easy and short (20-30 minutes, perhaps Monday after your long weekend and Friday before). Now take those extra 60-80 minutes not used on those two 1 hour runs and gradually add them to one of your long runs on the weekend (building to a 2:30-2:50 over the first 14 weeks, a pattern you could use (in minutes); 90, 110, 100, 120, 110, 130, 120, 140, 130, 150, 140, 160, 150, 170). To check your progress every other Wednesday run a steady (not a time trial but just a bit faster than you run during the week (don't try to run faster you'll naturally speed up as you become more fit)) 30 minute run and measure your heart rate 1 minute after you finish. If you are recovering and progressing the heart rate should drop more quickly as the weeks go on. Don't be afraid to take extra easy days and mix up the schedule and you'll avoid that "rut"

Mystery Coach,

I am following Jack Daniel's Marathon Plan A and I am curious as to something about the last phase of the program. He has no VO2 max sessions at all in the last month and actually none since the 6th week of the 18th week program. Why would this be? That seems to be very out of the ordinary from what you did with Mike and what Pfitzinger does as well.

Thanks again for your willingness to answer my questions, I really appreciate it.


Chris, There is not much difference between different forms of speed training. You create a greater demand (on the inside of the muscle fiber) by running faster than you can currently supply oxygen, this in turn increases the efficiency of the fiber getting oxygen across the muscle wall (this is the icing on the cake so to speak). For a complete explanation see this previous post
Arthur's Speed work


Marc said...

Mike and Mystery Coach - Thanks so much for offering this weekly forum! Very useful.

Chris Field said...

So any faster than MP running (in Daniel's program there are only continuous 2-3mile tempo runs the last month) is enough speed to sharpen before the race?

Mystery Coach said...

Chris, The tempo runs are fast enough (tempo runs according to Coach Daniels are equal to the pace of a 50 minute race). Running at that speed will lower the oxygen in the muscles to get the change you want. Don't forget that getting oxygen into your muscles is only part of the equation, things like bio-mechanical efficiency and fuel efficiency will play a bigger role.

Chris Field said...

Great, thanks for answering. It really helps to see some of the science behind why one coach chooses one route over another.

Mike said...

Hi Mystery Coach. Sorry to jump in a little late here, but I just got a copy of 'Running w/ Lydiard'.

For his Middle Distance program, he has under the category "For as long as possible" (which I take to mean "base phase") a 5k time trial and a 10k time trial EVERY week. This seemed to conflict w/ his base phase teachings elsewhere in the book.

I imagine I'm just missing something - I can't believe he wants us doing two tough time trials per week every week during the base phase. Could you please let me know where my misunderstanding is? (or does he really want two time trials per week - yikes!)

Michael said...

Mike, does this look familiar? I can only dream of running in an area that dry:) Happy training...

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