Thursday, January 31, 2008

Easy, a Bit Less Easy, Easy

Just turning the wheels this week and trying to finish the recovery from the marathon three weeks ago and the 10K this past weekend. Started the week very easy, then gradually started introducing a few short bursts (hills yesterday and strides/accelerations today). A gentle long run will end the week. Hope you all had a good one.

Training: 2/2, 8 miles, 57m, 7:08 pace, w/8x300 jog, 100 sprint
2/1, 8 miles, 53m, 6:40 pace, w/2 hill sprints
1/31, 8 miles, 55m, 6:59 pace
1/30 pm., 6.2 miles easy in 44m
1/30 am., 8 miles, 53 minutes, 6:40 pace
1/29, 8 miles easy, no watch
1/28, 10 miles, 1h13m, 7:15 pace

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

Friday, January 25, 2008

Just Race

Man, that's some grey hair I've got there (I'm the smiling guy in the middle wearing bib #430)

As we hit the split buttons on our watches at one mile in, my friend Toby turns and says, "That can't be right, can it?" I'm intentionally running this race blind, trying to stay in the thick of it and trying not to get the jitters from whatever pace my pack is running. "I have no idea, so please don't tell me," I say between breaths.

Thanksgiving was my last short race, so I was really ready to get back in the ring and suffer this morning. While a P.R. would be nice, what I really wanted to do was put myself in the mix and see how many people I could beat. That smile on my face was a grin of anticipation, and I wore it pretty much from yesteday afternoon until the gun sounded at 9am.

We shot off the line, and by the time we were 800 meters in my friend Jason had taken a bit of a lead. A small pack materialized behind him, and I found myself in the grey area just behind them and just in front of the next pack. I knew we were running fast (for me at least), but I knew I'd have more to motivate me if I put myself into the first group. With a quick burst I was there, and by the time we hit the one mile mark where Toby and I had our conversation we had already burned a few runners off. I managed to step on two different runners' heels during the first two miles, but thankfully no one pushed me off the road.

I could tell we were slowing during the second mile, as the deck kept shuffling as runners started to make small moves both up and back. I got smart here and resisted the strong urge to push to the head of the pack to keep the pace honest, as I knew from experience that someone would put the clamp down soon enough. As we headed into the third mile a few at the front of the now smaller pack started to stretch their legs, and while I fought to stay on the tail we ended up stringing out into a long line. I was feeling it now, and the springiness I had in my stride early on that allowed me to follow the moves was starting to vanish. I put it into the highest gear I could manage here and just soldiered on, bringing one or two back only to find two others passing me.

During the slightly uphill fourth mile I could see the race taking its toll ahead of me. Heads were bobbing from side to side, and the pack I had struggled to stay with early were just single runners here and there. I passed a few more here and watched a runner in front of me abandon the race. I felt sorry for the guy, as he looked much leaner, younger and faster than me. When you allow yourself to drop out 2/3 through, it just makes it tougher on you to stick it out the next time.

We finally made the right turn onto Broadway and left the uphill behind us, and soon mile marker 5 was in sight. Another split to agonize over later, as I still had absolutely no idea on the time or pace. Just after the marker James comes up and passes, which puts me another place back in our Grand Prix. This stings, as I was just getting excited about making up more ground on Catlow, who promises to be hard to beat in the series. I stay as close as I can to James, but he's accelerating now and gets around Catlow. Now I'm battling it out with a high school runner as we try to keep our heads on straight while chasing Catlow and James ahead of us. When we make the final turn and approach the 6 mile mark, someone calls out 33:35, which wakes me up. I know sub-34 is now pretty much gone, but I grit the teeth and dig in for all I'm worth, finally dropping the high school kid as I do. I can touch Catlow's back as we cross the line, but he's there first.

34:14 for 9th place according to the results, but I think they're a little slow since I was two feet behind 8th place but they gave Catlow 34:11. I thought I had tied my PR, which isn't too bad given the time of the season, but apparently I was 3 seconds slower. I know Mystery Coach was thinking 33:40 or thereabouts, so I'm a bit bummed I couldn't live up to his prediction.

When I look at the splits it seems the first mile did me in, but damn it was fun.
5:13, 5:39, 5:20, 11:19 (2 mi.), 5:32, 1:05

Training: 1/27, 11 miles, w/10K in 34:11, 5:13, 5:39, 5:20, 11:19 (2 mi.), 5:32, 1:05.
1/26, 6 miles, 6 miles, around 7:15 pace
1/25, 6 miles, 51m, 8:35 pace
1/24, 10 miles, 1h12m, 7:07 pace
1/23, 7 miles, 2 miles in 10:28
1/22, 5 miles
1/21, 8 miles
Total: 53 miles

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Taper, Marathon, Taper

On Monday I stretched the legs out during an 8 miler with 8x300 jogs, 100 accelerations/sprints, just to get the legs used to the idea that they're going to have to start moving faster for the spring race season. While I felt a bit rusty, it did feel good to shake the cobwebs a bit. I followed up with an short and sedate five miles yesterday before emailing Mystery Coach to ask about a possible workout to sharpen up before the 10K on Sunday.

After the Twin Cities marathon in October I found myself in a similar situation, with a race scheduled two weeks afterwards. Last time the workout preceded a 10 mile race, and I think now that I probably left too much out there with this in the log:

"12 miles, 1:16:02, 6:21 pace, w/2.5 mile effort at 5:54, 5:45, 5:44(.5), 10 minutes easy, then 3x1 mile in 5:32, 5:24, 5:13 (.75-1 mile rest)"

At that time I just wasn't recovered enough to handle the volume, and I think the workout probably did more harm than good.

This time Mystery Coach advised an easier two miles at 10:32, either run on the roads or as relaxed 79 second quarters on the track. I put on the new flats and decided to finish breaking them in by doing the workout on the oval at the nearby junior high. After a three mile warm up and a few strides I got to it, and the first mile went by with four laps at 78 seconds. The coach's email mentioned that I should definitely bag the workout if the legs felt like they were filling up from the effort, so I started paying attention as I started into the second 1600. After two more 78's I started feeling the effort, but the legs were still in it so I continued on to finish with two last 78's.

All things considered, I'm feeling pretty good this week. By keeping the miles low and adding shorter bursts of intensity I'm hoping the body treats this week like a continuation of the marathon taper (I know, it's a lot to ask). I'm pretty confident the endurance is pretty well capped off, so a little sharpening and a lot of rest might bring me around enough to not embarrass myself Sunday.

Training: 1/23, 7 miles, around 50m, w/3200m in 10:28 (all 1:18 quarters, spooky)
1/22, 5 miles, 34m, 6:58 pace
1/21, 8 miles around 7m pace (Garmin futzed out)

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).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sick Boy

Our son Finn just can't seem to catch a break this week. He's been running a fever for days, and while he's done throwing up it seems now that he's getting a few molars. As a result sleep has been sorely lacking this week, and I've never been more grateful to be recovering from a marathon rather than training for one. Here's how the week went down:

Mo: 0
Tu: 5
We: 6
Th: 0
Fr: 5
Sa: 8
Su: 8
Total: 32

Everything was pretty easy, with the exception of a few accelerations and a few quicker miles while breaking in some new racing flats. Next week is all about getting ready for a 10K on Sunday. Yes, it will be two weeks after the marathon, but unfortunately I don't write my club's race schedule. I don't expect a miracle, but I think if I can keep recovering I should still be able to be in the mix a bit.

Training: 1/20, 8 miles, 59m, 7:21 pace, lots of trails
1/19, 8 miles, 55m, 6:56 pace

Friday, January 18, 2008


"By7", let's do you first. Your comments on my training and recent race results follow:

"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'"

"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."

"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."

May of 2004 was the last time I ran a marathon without suffering through what I'll call bonking for the last 6-8 miles of the race. I faded horribly and lost big time during marathons in January and June of '05, January of '06, June of '06, December of '06 and October of '07. The amount of time I lost when this inevitably occurred varied from 2 to almost 20 minutes. I'm still not certain if some of the problem was psychosomatic-performance anxiety-mental fatigue, a fueling or fuel management issue, gross pacing errors or over-estimation of my abilities, or if I was simply not addressing my specific training needs with my running. The Tucson marathon, scheduled five weeks out from the Phoenix marathon, offered me the opportunity to break the cycle with a low pressure training run. Yes, in hindsight I ran a bit too aggressively. However, in all honesty I wouldn't change things. I came out of that race with a huge boost in confidence, and also a better understanding about how a conservative start could pay big dividends during the last ten miles. I believe these factors helped me run a better race in Phoenix and got me "over the hump", so to speak.

Now let's get down to it. Just for the record, I'm not you.

As a former coach you should know this. Just because you've shown us in your blog that you break down easily and often injure yourself when running moderate miles doesn't mean that the same thing necessarily applies to everyone else. I've averaged about 80 miles per week during the past two years, which includes holidays, vacations, down cycles and sickness, so to accuse me of "chasing mileage at all costs" is nonsense when I'm only averaging between 100-120 miles at my mileage peak. 1/3 more mileage during peak load over one's yearly average isn't pushing it.

My "critical" workouts actually came off quite well with the exception of the period where I was sick towards the end. I think Tinman has you a bit brainwashed with the adamant adherence to "CV" intervals and "big workouts". You seem to be a bit obsessed with interval times and distances, without really understanding that the actual stimulus counts much more than just the minutes or seconds.

Recovery is very dependent on the individual, both in duration and intensity. Easy is easy, sometimes at 6:59 pace and sometimes at 8 minute pace. I time it to leave myself a trail, but quite honestly for all the grief I get sometimes I second-guess posting it.

You did well to run your 2:38, but honestly you seem pretty arrogant about knowing what I've done wrong in my training. Perhaps you would do better to wait and better your own performance first.

In Arthur Lydiard's "Running to the Top" Arthur says he often tells young people, "Look, last year, you ran the best race of your career. Everything went right and you performed at your very best. Now, if you know why that happened and you put your training plan together properly to reproduce that peak performance again on the day of the first race you want to win this season, then I would say you know something about training. Until you can do that, you don't know a damn thing about it. You are just a good athlete who, one day, without realizing why it is happening, will run a good race." I look forward to your next attempt.

End of rant. I've taken it easy this week, skipping Monday, then putting in 5 easy miles on Tuesday and 6 on Wednesday. Wednesday night Finn came down with a virus, which meant a boat-load of vomit, four changes of bedding, and next to no sleep for anyone. By the time Thursday morning arrived I was in no mood to run, so it was nice not to need to. Last night Finn only made a few wake up calls and stayed in his original pajamas, so I felt good while trying out the new racing flats for 5 miles.

Training: 1/18, 5 miles, 34m, 6:42 pace
1/17, 0
1/16, 6.2 miles easy in 43m
1/15, 5 miles, 37m, 7:20 pace

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).

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Stuck at 2:37

2:37:40, 30th place, a few seconds shy of a personal best.

Perfect conditions and an honest course, so I have no excuses. The urge to sprint in hopes of gaining a P.R. by a few seconds just wasn't with me, as I had loftier goals for the day.

The splits on the race site are fairly accurate and tell the tale:
10K, 36:56, 5:57 pace
half, 1:17:40, 5:56 pace
20 miles, 1:59:18, 5:58 pace
26.2 miles, 2:37:40, 6:01 pace

While I started conservatively (which was my plan) with a few miles between 6:00 and 6:10, I never really felt great as I eased into goal pace. At halfway I was on pace but already laboring, so I stopped checking splits and tried to run just on the brink of within myself. By 20 miles I could feel the stress and the legs were starting to go out from under me, but if I kept the pace moderate I could keep going forward (I was still catching people here who were paying for faster starts). The last 5K found me bleary, weary and on the edge of knocking into cones from fatigue, but not the hard bonk I've suffered through in the past. For this I was very grateful.

Haiden and my parents were able to see my finish, and I enjoyed Dusty and her cheering section around mile 5. While I'm disappointed with the time, I definitely raced smarter than I have in the past, and I feel like I learned a bit about adjusting to circumstances on the road instead of just ignoring them and barreling through to the inevitable breakdown.

5:59, 6:07, 5:54(short), 6:11(long), 5:33( very short), 5:54, 5:52, 5:52, 5:50, 5:58, 5:57, 5:49, 6:01, 5:54, 6:01, 6:08, 6:04, 6:02, 5:59, 6:04, 6:11, 6:02, 6:19, 6:10, 6:06, 6:12, 1:19

No trainwreck, just a good lobster in a pot slowly realizing his fate.

Thanks to Kiera and the family for putting up with my nonsense, and thanks to Mystery Coach for guiding it. Thanks to you for reading it and for all the support.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Away I Go

#1019 is my bib number and with luck you'll be able to track all the runners live at beginning at 7:40am tomorrow for the Phoenix marathon. I'm off for the two hour trip to Phoenix now with our daughter, who is much more excited about seeing her Grandma and Grandpa than she is about watching her dad finish the big race. Thanks for all the well-wishes, I'll check back in when I can.

Training: Today, 4.5 miles in 32 minutes
Yesterday, 5.5 miles, 51m, 7:15 pace

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Ran an easy 10K with the Running Shop gang last evening, which meant no morning run for a change. This is probably the first time I've done this run with fresh legs, so I enjoyed the feeling of having something extra and not using it.

Today the coach suggested a few faster miles, so I traced most of the slow down loop and put in two miles right at 5:50 pace towards the end. I'd like to say it felt incredibly easy, but for some reason I could still feel the effort a little. It did feel better towards the end, which I took as a good sign.

My friend Scott was the only one who mentioned the article in the paper on me the other day, so I guess that either says something for the Tucson Citizen's popularity or something about mine.

Training: Today, 7.5 miles, 48m, 6:40 pace, w/2 miles at 5:49 pace
Yesterday, 6.2 miles in 43:20 or so, very easy

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Slow News Day

Makes me miss the beard

The author is a good friend to Tucson club runners, and I enjoyed speaking with him. Just for clarification, I've been in Tucson and at my art gallery job since 1989 with the exception of a year and a half in Portland, where I met my wonderful wife. For you locals that might remember, the triathlete in the story was Kelly Thompson. He actually spoke to Kiera's class though, I don't remember her working on him (though she probably wouldn't have been opposed to it). Those 40 pounds put me at 213 lbs at 6'2", and I don't miss them nearly as much as the beard. I plead guilty on the Hall and Oates and make no apologies.

I'm glad he got Arthur Lydiard into the story, but the thing about not being worried about running a set amount of miles was my attempt to downplay the false reputation Arthur gets as an advocate of long, slow distance.

Yesterday the legs felt amazingly good, and I ended up putting in 6.5 miles at an easy but quicker than usual pace. Today was a taper workout to simulate the first 30 minutes of the marathon this weekend. Mystery Coach suggested 10 minutes around 6:15 pace, then 10 at 6:10 and the remainder at just slower than race pace. These paces weren't set in stone as much as guidelines on how to progress through the run. I intended to do a mile of warm up, but when I saw I was at 6:30 pace a half mile into the run I decided to up the tempo and get right to it. I checked the pace every five minutes or so, and gradually saw my average drop from 6:18 at the end of the first mile to 5:58 overall when I finished the 30 minutes (5.1 miles or so). The lungs are feeling quite good, and while I wanted the legs to feel just a little better I guess I can't complain. I was supposed to put in 3x1000 on 5 minutes by feel afterwards, but since the track was off limits with school back in session I opted for a few half mile efforts on the road. The first one put me at 2:23, but by the end I was starting to feel it. I opted for one more in 2:28, then jogged it home when it felt like I had worked hard enough. I'm through with the second guessing at this point.

Training: Today, 8 miles, 48m, 5:59 pace, w/5 miles at 5:58 pace, then 2x800 at 2:23 and 2:28.
Yesterday, 6.5 miles, 44m, 6:53 pace. Felt too good.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ask the Mystery Coach

Hello Mystery Coach,

I recently began base training for Boston. Below is the first two weeks from
my training log, which is typical of what I plan on doing for the next two
months. I'd like to know what you think of my training thus far, and if you
have any suggestions on how to train more effectively.

mon: 7 easy
tue: 10 w/ 8 hard 600m hill repeats
wed: 7.5 treadmill w/5@MP(9.5mph)
thu: 9.5 easy (7:50s)
fri: 14 steady, hills, windy, tough (7:20s)
sat: 6 easy
sun: 16 easy, blizzard, no traction (7:55s)

total: 70

mon: 6 easy, snowy, no traction
tue: 10 w/ 8 hard 600m hill repeats
wed: am - 8 treadmill w/5.75@MP(9.5mph), pm - 4 easy
thu: 10 easy (7:50s)
fri: 14 steady, dead legs, felt crappy (7:10s)
sat: 8 very easy (8:20s)
sun: 20 easy, very windy, good run (7:50s)

total: 80



Kurt, I'm going to have to answer your question with a group of questions that will help you decide how to train more effectively.

How are you checking the progress of your base level training?

You should have some method of checking on how efficient your base training is going. I prefer a 3-4 mile steady run once every two or three weeks ( pace about 80 second slower per mile than 5K pace or 20 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace) You should measure your heart rate during the run and keep it consistent during your build. If you are progressing efficiently the pace will get faster at that HR and the speed of recovery will get quicker (the time for your HR to fall to 130, 120, 110 BPM). If both of these measures fail to progress evaluate if you are doing too much hard training (the treadmill running at marathon pace or the hill repeats would be the first workouts to modify).

How much "mental" effort are you putting into your base training?

Most of your efforts during the base building phase should low efforts. Read the next passage by Percy Cerutty which explains why "willing" too hard at this stage is counter productive:

THE USE OF THE WILL. I have long said, THE USE OF THE WILL. I have long said, that the real use of the will is a “starter”. That is, to get us out of bed to train, rather than to conduct our training as if it was necessary to kill ourselves by continuous ill—advised effort.

Whilst I, and none better, recognize the need of serious and hard effort both in training and racing, I also realize that an over use of the will to ever-lastingly drive us along, day after day, year after year, can in time, end in nothing but staleness.

True, we must be conditioned to do certain efforts, almost routine, but the over—use of the will in exhausting and punishing “do or die” efforts is to be depreciated,

Very often, those blessed with a powerful will, a will that has been the means of lifting their efforts from the mediocre to class performance, these are the very people who find difficulty in using their will in the reverse direction, These athletes find the greatest difficulty in forcing themselves to take a rest, a holiday. to “give it away” for a week, a month, or a year.

The worse their performances become, the more they aggravate the trouble by “willing”, and by redoubled efforts strive to succeed despite Nature’s warnings and symptoms.

Your hard training (specific and speed type) should only start eight to ten weeks out from your race (with the heaviest mileage and speed workouts from eight until four weeks out. Save your mental effort for that time period.

What specific workout will indicate you are reaching peak racing shape?

This workout whether it is a race type effort ( 3- 6 miles ) or a repetition workout like the 1000 meter repeat workout that you have seen Mike use should be close to what you have achieved before when you have had your best races. By gradually getting to that level sometime in the last 30 to 10 days before the race you will know that you have put all the parts together properly for a good race.

Answer the above three questions and you'll be ready for a good race on April 21st.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Final Week

The marathon is a week from today, and the taper is on in earnest. Here's how the week went down:

Mo: 9 easy
Tu: 8 easy/moderate
We: 8 easy
We: 6 easy
Th: 9 easy/moderate
Fr: 9 w/7x1000 around 3:17
Sa: 14 easy/moderate
Su: 8 easy
Total: 72 in 8 sessions

Lots of easy this past week, and while I was hoping the 1000's would have gone better I guess I can't complain. Enjoy what's left of the weekend.

Training: 8 miles, 56m, 7:04 pace

Saturday, January 05, 2008

"This is the Long Run"

...What there is of it at least. I hit the road a bit late this morning and was wondering whether or not to make today's or tomorrow's run the long run for the week as I padded along. Mystery Coach is keeping me on a short mileage leash, so I was restricted to 90 minutes or so. Still, if I did the run today I'd be left with a grand 20 minutes when I got home to shower, dress and eat breakfast, which is a bit of a push.

All those thoughts evaporated when I noticed I was really rolling on the downhills, and that overall the body felt great. When I looked at the watch I was down to 6:45 pace at about 30 minutes in, which is when I decided that today was the day for the last long run. The rest of the run felt nice and smooth, and the only time I really felt the effort was at just past ten miles when I ran a steady 2K of uphill before turning around to head home. It was a good day.

Training: about 14 miles, 1h30m, 6:34 pace.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Mixed Bag

This morning I returned to the track for another go-around with 1000 repeats on five minutes. I imagined knocking this workout out of the park after five days worth of easy running, which meant finishing all 10 repeats while working down from 3:20 to 3:15.

3:19, 3:19, 3:16, 3:17, 3:16, 3:17, 3:16, then a last 400 where I ground to a halt midway through the curve to start a second lap. Yeah, that's only 7.

What happened? I was simply done. The legs still felt good, but the lungs started working too hard, the system felt too stressed, and I just felt like I was falling off the knife edge when I started forcing myself through the second 400 of the 8th repeat. Up until that point I had been feeling fine and smooth, with a heart rate in the low 160's immediately after each rep which dipped down to 100-108 after a minute. Things just changed quickly and I bailed out. As I'm finally starting to understand, Lydiard's coordination phase is more about getting the legs and body feeling sharp, and as I was digging in on the eighth repeat I felt like I was crossing the line into putting the hurt on myself.

Am I training to quit? That's been nagging me a bit, but I have to put it out of my mind at this point. I've grinded out my share of runs, especially long runs and back to backs this build, and it's time to back off and hopefully reap the benefits rather than giving in to the temptation to keep punching through the last round. The days where I've pushed through the final repeats have found me generally dragging my way home on the cool down and feeling stiff an sore the next day. Today the legs came back quickly on the mile home, and it was difficult to not extend the cool-down a few miles. I thought better of this when I remembered Mystery Coach's meager mileage target for the week.

Training: 9 miles, 1h5m, 7x1000 on 5 minutes at 3:19, 3:19, 3:16, 3:17, 3:16, 3:17, 3:16

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Time Served

This morning I served out what I hope was the last day of my five day sentence: No runs in double digits, as ordered by Mystery Coach. After feeling iffy on Friday and then bombing Saturdays last back to back workout, Coach lowered the boom and forced me to nip whatever has been ailing me in the bud. I dutifully agreed and only added one 6 mile double to the mix, so hopefully its apparent now that I'm taking my need for recovery seriously before the marathon on the 13th.

The good news is that the legs are feeling fresh, and at last the head is clearing out. This morning found me holding back (like two days ago), and it was a fight to keep the run to 9 miles while I was feeling so good.

Training: Today, 9 miles, 1h, 6:35 pace. Good good good.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Devil Wind

Crazy windy for the past two days, so I guess I'm glad to be putting in mellow runs. Yesterday the legs pulled me along at a good clip, and today I had a nice run on a mix of roads and trails with my pals Jason and Lucas. We opened the front door to the smell of Kiera's coffee cake and scones. Yeah, I'm a lucky guy.

To counteract the "double" from the oven this morning I'll be putting in a double today by joining the gang for an easy 10K this evening.

The lungs and head are finally draining out, so I'm starting to feel better. Crazy at work so that's all folks.

Training: Today, 8 miles, 56 minutes, 7:10 pace
Yesterday, 8 miles, 54 minutes, 6:45 pace