Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Still Learning

Back on the track for 5-10x1000 this morning, starting each rep on 5 minutes. Unfortunately, the wind buffeting against the house woke me before the gurgling of the coffee maker could, which meant it would be a long morning. Oh well, better today than during Saturday or Sunday's workouts.

An email from Mystery Coach made it clear that rather than an arbitrary number, the paces would depend on me finding and holding the appropriate effort, and that I should quit when I felt I had enough, be it five or all 10 repeats.

With the very strong cross-wind it made sense to run strong through the difficult 200 and to cruise and relax through the aided 200 during each lap, and since I was starting the even-numbered reps into the wind my guess was that they'd be a bit slower than the odds.

3:17, 3:16, 3:14, 3:16, 3:14, 3:14, 3:13, 3:15

Instead of checking every 200 or 400 to see what the pace was I just ran each by feel, trying to tune in to the feeling I had two weeks ago while running 3:22 or so. The wind was obnoxious, but the on-off rhythm it necessitated made the run an interesting challenge. After getting through number six feeling pretty smooth, I started fighting against the headwind to keep up the momentum on number seven. By the time I finished the first 400 of the eighth rep I knew I'd be calling it for the day, and after seeing the time slip back a bit when I finished the deal was sealed. The heart rate was at exactly 120 when I timed it for 15 seconds after resting one minute, which is hopefully a sign I didn't stick it out for too long.

This week and next week are without a doubt the most dangerous two weeks in my preparation for New York. I feel like I have about all the fitness I'll muster for this training cycle, so the natural inclination is to use it. During this period the sounds of fatigue can still be audible, but they can often be muted by the noise coming from adrenaline and a general sharpening up. I'm trying to tune in to them, but it's obviously getting more difficult. The first mile of th 8K two weeks ago is a good example of this, as was the fast start to last week's 7 mile effort. In both cases I probably could have gotten the same or more out of less, and recovered more quickly to boot. I don't think I'm doing myself any favors when I dig in too hard, too soon during workouts or races, and it's certainly a habit that can prove disastrous when carried over into the marathon.

I need to be more mindful of easing into the workouts. Perhaps more importantly, I need to remember that just because I'm in the kind of shape that will stand up to punishment, I don't necessarily have to push things to the edge in order to see gains at this point. I think Lydiard's sharpening is more about bringing the fitness you already have to the surface while getting the body rested and fresh. rather than just blindly piling on intensity because the body will take it. Mystery Coach has certainly told me as much, but as he's mentioned, he's not the one running the workouts.

All right...I wrote it, now I just have to do it.

10/15/08
8 miles, w/8x1000 on 5 minutes in 3:17, 3:16, 3:14, 3:16, 3:14, 3:14, 3:13, 3:15
Sleep: 7h 8/10
Legs: 8/10
Weather: WIND

10/14/08
12 miles, 1h25m, 7:05 pace
Sleep: 7h 8/10
Legs: 7/10
Weather: Very nice

9 comments:

Michael said...

Good post, workout and analysis. It's nice to see you taking stock and being conservative or at very least aware of yourself heading into the race.

Ewen said...

Thanks Mike, good advice in those last two paragraphs.

I like the Mystery Coach option of stopping when the body says so, rather than doing a fixed number of repeats.

I had a chuckle at your election cartoon - we're in the midst of a local election here, and every light pole has a "vote for me" sign on it.

by7 said...

good self-awareness of the risk of pushing too much right now.
As you know, Mike, I am in the same situation and honestly I decided that it is not worthy to try to "squeeze" anymore...
we run for 4 months in a hot summer and the only risk now is being carried away by the cooling weather and just getting exhausted before Nov 2nd..
take it easy ... only 15 days to go..

larry said...

"As far as race pace and execution goes, it will be the usual mix of starting a little conservatively..."

RNR Arizona 2006: 1:17-1:22
RNR San Diego 2006: 1:17-1:26
CIM: 1:17-1:20
Twin Cities: 1:19-1:29 (HOT, useless data point)
RNR Arizona: 1:17-1:20

Was 2:34-5 pace "conservative"? Those first halves were seemed fairly optimistic to me, though certainly within reason. Mike has never been in shape to threaten sub 2:30 (yet!) and has never gone out at a stupid pace. However, 2:34-5 seemed like the 'best case scenario pace' before you bring stupidity into the equation. I would call that "optimistic within reason" but definitely not conservative.

Note, (a little semantics here) I am defining "optimistic" in the marathon as everything going according to plan...not better than the plan, just according to the plan. It is so hard to get everything right in the marathon that it is optimistic to assume that a plan will work perfectly, whereas in the 5k "optimistic" might be your dream time while "conservative" might be right on goal pace.

Chad in the AZ Desert said...

Nice job with that workout in spite of the wind. I think that writing down what you are trying to accomplish these next two weeks is a great idea. It makes that priority to rest and sharpen more specific. Good luck!

Mike said...

Thanks for the comments, all. Larry, here are the first five miles of splits for the past three marathons:

CIM, 12/06: 1:17-1:20 (5:58, 53, 51, 5:56, 5:52)
Twin Cities 10/07: 1:19-1:29 (HOT, useless data point) 6:11, 6:03, 6:00, 5:58, 5:58
RNR Arizona 1/08: 1:17-1:20 (5:59, 6:07, 5:54(short), 6:11(long), 5:33( very short)

I never said I EXECUTED these plans well (haha). I'll have a heart to heart talk with Mystery Coach regarding what I can realistically expect for NYC, and from there it's up to me to ease into the first three miles before hitting and keeping my planned race pace by the fifth mile. We planned this for both Twin Cities and R'N'R AZ (the two most recent races), and I think I'll be able to do a better job at executing this time around.

Honestly, I think a positive split of one minute is indicative of a well-paced race, as the cumulative stress over the first 2/3 of the race makes running the last third at the same pace more difficult (cardiac drift, eccentric muscle damage and heat build-up in the body).

Your point is taken, and given the choice I'd rather be conservative and not lose a minute between mile 18 and 26 rather than be "optimistic" and find myself paying the price at the end. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I've never finished a marathon wishing I'd run the first 10K faster.

Abadabajev said...

Very good post.

I don't necessarily have to push things to the edge in order to see gains at this point. I think Lydiard's sharpening is more about bringing the fitness you already have to the surface while getting the body rested and fresh. rather than just blindly piling on intensity because the body will take it

Dusty said...

I think you are right to do the workouts (at least some times) on feel only without checking the pace. My coach has had me to some timed efforts exactly for that reason. I believe you are also right to not push as hard as you are able this close in. Save it for the day that really matters. You are going to do great. I'll be cheering you on in spirit!!!

By the way - I notice a LOT more election signs out (Phx) than in Texas. Maybe we don't have as many minor races going on at the same time. Also, TX is so dang republican that when I go to the ballot box there rarely is someone from another party against them. Bums me out - there should always be someone to run against to give a choice.. hence the reason you vote!

larry said...

"I never said I EXECUTED these plans well (haha). I'll have a heart to heart talk with Mystery Coach regarding what I can realistically expect for NYC, and from there it's up to me to ease into the first three miles before hitting and keeping my planned race pace by the fifth mile. We planned this for both Twin Cities and R'N'R AZ (the two most recent races), and I think I'll be able to do a better job at executing
this time around."

Just to clarify, it was not my intention to Monday-morning-quarterback the previous results. I just didn't think a 1:17:xx half split is "conservative" for a runner in 2:34 shape at best. Given all the long tempos at 5:5x pace that you accomplished in the middle of some hefty mileage weeks, rolling through the half at 1:17 was not a bad strategy without the benefit of hindsight. Again, maybe this is a semantic issue, but I do think that how one perceives their pacing along the continuum of conservative, to aggressive, to stupid, will shape your mindset for how you deal with wind, packs, and hills in the middle of the race that force you to make critical decisions in the heat of battle that might take you a little above or a little below your ideal finishing pace.

Bringing this back to the blog post of the day, I am certainly interested to see how the "new" peaking strategy works now that Mike is in good form. If I remember correctly, Mike was struggling a bit last fall so it was hard to get a real gauge on whether replacing the super fast intervals with long recovery used previously in the peaking phase with the 1000s around 8-10k pace would provide that robustness in the last 10k that had been missing in the marathon. So maybe it ISN'T simply a pacing issue, but also an issue of finally settling on the right mechanism to peak optimally while maintaining full aerobic strength. When you do all those fast intervals at 3k-5k pace, you feel invincible and marathon pace feels like a walk (making it hard to hold back in the first 10k), but the engine might conk out when you hit that aerobic netherworld at 20 miles. Maybe with the fastest running being done around 10k pace, marathon pace won't feel quite like a jog, making it easier to settle into the right pace early and thereby setting up the final 10k.