Monday, February 9, 2009

Monday.. rambling thoughts + 7 miles with strides.

pm) 7 miles as easy as I could jog with 4 X 30" strides at the end..

I am officially a coached athlete. My coach sent my schedule last night and I penciled all the workouts in to my training journal. I have 60 miles of jogging this week with a fairly brutal hill workout tomorrow: 4 X (60"/ 90"/ 60") on 60" jog back down rests.. This adds up to 14:00 of hill interval work. Friday is 4 X 6:00 at half marathon pace/ effort. I will be using 5:30 per mile as my 1/2 marathon pace if I run it in Boulder, I'll go by effort if I run it up here at 8500ft altitude though. I'm still on the fence in regards to how much I need to slow down my pace as the altitude increases. Everyone I ask- and I've asked a lot of people- have different theories on this.

I have received several great e-mails from my own athletes supporting my decision to hire my own coach. I really think that the combination of me constantly thinking about my athlete's training on top of my own has worn me down. It's a never ending thought process of training schedules. It's the first thing I think of when I open my eyes in the morning and it's the last thing I think of when I close them.. Simply having my coach send me my week schedule is like a weight lifted off my shoulders and allows a little more free space in my head. He has run a 1:04 half marathon and a 2:16 marathon so I feel good about placing my own fitness in his hands. It feels weird though to see another coaches schedule and I am fighting the urge to add workouts and question the process.. but fight I will, it's what I do best.
My first race is a 7K on March 15th... 7K?? What the hell is that? I remember winning a half marathon that was on Vancouver Island in BC back in 2000. It was all marked in kilometers and I was clueless. "Wow... I'm at 11K. Huh?" Trying to do the conversion when your suffering is a funny thing. But I digress...
I have my hopes up that I will finally be guided to some consistency in my jogging. I'm well aware of my inconsistent training history and it's frustrating.... and not such a simple thing to remedy on your own. I firmly believe that one of my only genetic gifts is my durability so I have tried to exploit this with simple hard (too hard) work. And as I have alluded to recently I need to redefine what I think is hard work. Rather than use my training log total mileage I want to shift my thinking more towards pace.
This may turn in to a long post..
I was reading an article on the concept of 'base' and how much is carried over from year to year. The idea that a 'veteran' needs to retrain their base every season may have some underestimations involved. I think that the definition of base for a veteran is different than it is for a beginner. I'm in my 12th (?) year of training huge volume (my biggest week for Ironman training was 49 hours... that could be called 'huge' I think). When I was 11 years old I won the Kansas State Games mile and went on to pay for college with my legs earning a couple All-American honors in track. These are things that I should take in to account when I consider my base fitness. I also believe that a runner- hitting high volume- does not break down their aerobic fitness when the percentage of aerobic work is considerably higher than their percentage of hard work. For example- If I get 80 miles of running per week and I push to my LT for 4 miles of that... I am still training my aerobic fitness for 95% of the time! This is huge. when I first started hanging out with GZ he questioned the exclusivity of MAF training and I think he was more intuitive than me and more correct than me. For a pure runner I am starting to believe it is critical that they do not focus solely on MAF/ Zone1/ easy running. Even when an athlete gets very fit and their MAF intensity has become quite fast- they are erring in not developing more specific muscle strength that is needed to race. They also lower their lactate threshold. My mistake has been carrying the Ironman mentality over to the marathon when they are truly different sports altogether. The requirements to run a 2:50 Ironman marathon do not have much at all in common with running a 2:20 marathon. The metabolic requirements and the muscular demand is at opposite ends of the spectrum. As Lydiard preached, steady state intensity is where it's at. And steady state IS NOT MAF. Here is how coach Greg McMillan defines steady state: "Steady-state runs were once a staple in the training programs of U.S. distance runners but somehow fell out of favor. Runners now seem to have only two speeds, slow and fast - no in-between. But the steady-state run is one of the most beneficial types of workouts.... The appropriate pace range for steady-state runs is between your 30K and half-marathon race pace. Your heart rate will likely be between 83 and 87% of maximum and the runs should last at least 25 minutes and can go as long as an hour and 15 minutes.". Lydiard's idea of training- as you can see and imagine- was not based on moderation. Nor should it be for a runner and as I have switched from the Ironman to the marathon this has become quite clear. Most of the coaches that preach MAF have never trained for, then raced, a marathon. The marathon at "the pointy end of the stick" is about developing your lactate threshold as high as possible, then building your 'steady state' or your AeT pace as close to your LT as possible. In that order.


Jaakko Hiekkaranta said...

Hey Tim!

Great to hear about you getting into a coach's hands. Hope that'll make your training reach new heights!

You described the LT first Aet building towards that approach for marathon. How is this different than training for an ironman? I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this since a lot of people seem to expand that way of thinking in to IM training too. I've kinda switched somewhat to that sort of approach since the other way around has screwed my hormonal balance/immune system.

Jaakko Hiekkaranta said...

...sorry I cut my thoughts short above. I meant that for a long course triathlon training where the focus is first on HIMs and then maybe IM later in the season. Also the LT work would be more focused on the bike and to a lesser degree on the run during early season.

Geez sorry this turned into such a rambling :)

Justin Mock said...

Just FYI on that 7K, the course is likely short and the miles are mis-marked. Still a good race though as a fast field shows up.

kerrie said...

um, 49 hrs. a week? kinda huge....i hope to hit that this month, lol.
glad you have a schedule, that may be just what you need in order to put more of your mental focus into racing and not into planning your schedule.

RunColo said...


I've noticed you have stated several times that your Coach was an accomplished runner, fast times, etc.

But honestly do you think that matters much in terms of him knowing how to Coach?

Off the top of my head I think of Bowerman (played football) and Lydiard (never a great runner) and you have two of the greatest coaches ever who didn't do lick as a distance runner.

I use to think that having a Coach who excelled in the sport was superior, but now I don't think that is the case.

I'm a huge basketball fan and most of the great college/NBA coaches were not stars, it seems like when the stars try to Coach they tend to fail, guys like Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, etc.

It might be a poor analogy, but sometimes I wonder if the "star athlete" has trouble coaching because things came easier to them, thus they have trouble telling others how to do it?

Sort of rambling I know.

Lucho said...

Jaako- I'll answer your questions asap.. Mondays are my big work days..

Thanks Justin!

Kerrie- I agree.. I think my head will be much better.

Runcolo- Love the new banner by the way!
I agree 100% with what you suspect. I've made a lot of mistakes in my years which has helped me a ton to be a better coach. If I had it all come easy then I would be less aware of how to work to get good. I had asked a guy/ friend to coach me (Gordo Byrn)not based on his own success as a runner- but more on his life experience and his very good communication skills. I was interested in him helping me based on his obviously good 'coaching' ability. He is very aware of the subtleties of life and also on healthy approaches to success. He is very successful both in sport and in life..
What you're saying, it's sort of like politicians in my opinion..
My coach has coached for a great number of years with success.
I do think that what I am looking for is not someone to hold my hand and tell me WHAT to do.. rather what NOT to do! I need held back and I think simply having an experienced runner to do that is what I need. I hope I don't sound like an ass (as usual)- but I have enough experience and knowledge to sort of skip the basics and I certainly don't need motivation. What I need is more subtle. I want a coach that lays it out to me based on his own experience, I don't need that much contact or feedback. I think I'm not far off from doing ok as a runner- I just need tweaking. Does that make sense?

Matt said...

Does it just depend on one's personalized training schedule
(a coach's program), or should the steady-state run be done more often than not (what a terribly worded question)?

So, for a runner with a max HR of ~188, a run at HR 160 is such a run and can/should be done more often than not?

Geez, I need some coffee. . .

Lucho said...

That makes perfect sense to me Matt... scary! ;)
Now lets see if I can make some sense... I'm worried that I will sound contradictory here..
If you're a Lydiard guy then yes- you would try run as much as possible at steady state. The new thinking though is that you would build up to the ability to include more and more of this intensity in to your schedule until you can handle it. Then spend a short period doing just steady state before moving on to a structured period (or several short periods) of LT+ (aka: speed) focused work. I don't happen to agree with any of that though and prefer a more Canovian/ Hudsonian approach where you would do a 2-4 week period of transition (very low mileage and easy jogging).. then a 'fundamental' phase where you work both sides of race pace coin. Workouts are focused on either running much faster or much slower than goal pace... then they each gradually converge to meet at the specific phase where all focus is on race pace. So you develop LT... then bring AeT up closer to LT. This is for the marathon though.. shorter races can take a much different approach. I think one of Lydiards claims to fame was coaching an 800m runner? His schedules and philosophies are what most modern running is based on, the guy was THE SPARK or one of the founding fathers. But I think using a strictly Lydiard based program would be similar to buying an ENIAC computer... it was the first computer but there have been upgrades! Running as much as possible at steady state would be a horrendous mistake. My reference to steady state was simply to point out that it is superior in developing marathon specific fitness over MAF training and that exclusive MAF training will yield results as equally moderate as MAF training is (I'm a very good example!). Steady state is very close to marathon pace, just a few ticks off for an 'elite' runner. An elite American runner will only spend maybe 15% of their training volume at goal race pace... and as McMillan eludes to, this may not be enough. Lydiard was on to something that I think is very useful to us now and that is running more at goal race pace may be better than not. Running too much at goal race pace (steady state) may hurt you though if you aren't capable of absorbing it. The Kenyans tend to run very hard very often but it's not smart to try to emulate them. In comparison to the US system of training high school athletes, the Kenyans are moderate in their intensity so it seems American's train very intensely early (interval based programs)while the Kenyans are developing steady state fitness by running below LT for much of their time.. Then once the athletes mature- the Americans are tapped out and the Kenyans are fit as hell and ready to actually work hard. I'm just shitting thoughts now..
Does any of that help?

Lucho said...

Just to clarify- The Canova approach is:
Transition- easy adaptation to volume.

Fundamental- 103-110% of goal race pace. Steady state would fall in here.. Plus high volume at much slower paces than goal pace.

Specific- Focused on 97%-103% of goal race pace with a reduction in volume. Steady state is (possibly, possibly not)slightly harder than true marathon effort.


GZ said...

Very good conversation here on several fronts. Lots here and I need to digest it a bit.

Lydiard's 800m runner was Snell, who won Olympic gold, and is now an accomplish physiologist / sports exercise scientist.

In regards to altitude, my nickel ... I'd generally suggest that you'd do harder workouts low. Everyone seems to react to it in their own unique way. Half the issue for you is that the altitude brings terrain. You are training for a road marathon at an elevation no higher than Denver and I'd suggest doing the work at an elevation no higher than that (for the hard stuff). Otherwise you are just running slower, and working just as hard (or harder).

Short hill intervals might be different though since that is about power stroke.

Sorry I missed you this weekend - this all would have been an excellent conversation.

Matt said...

I'm not even sure what my question was - but your discussion of MAF not quite addressing certain important parts of the runner's development eg., muscle strength/neuro-muscular, and steady-state, on the other hand, doing more of that was interesting. I'm starting to feel last year's base come back and feel I can start to run again. I wasn't wearing a HRM last Thurs, but I did 9+ miles pretty hilly, talking the whole time and went pretty hard (for me), but felt great afterwards . ..until my recovery nutrition failed me and I was wrecked (I noted you did 5 eggs, etc. that day after your run and I knew then i had failed!). But I bet that run was 160, steady, but very manageable. So your discussion of MAF and Steady-state just got me thinking, but like you just said (so yes you did answer my question after all!) it's not as simple as just running a bunch of those.

Man, great stuff. And I agree with everyone, you will benefit mentally from the coach.. . as for your running, like I said, you're going to be scary.

Thanks, Tim.

Lucho said...

Several things we need to keep in perspective here.. the fitness and consistent years of training an athlete has, their sport (Ironman VS marathon), and their available training time/ volume. All of these variables will affect everything. MAF still has a great benefit for a newer athlete, an athlete that doesn't want to get tested and needs a starting point, or an Ironman athlete.
Running volume is key here too. You have to tweak percentages based on time available. Professional athletes are not the right choice for most of us to emulate because they are not in the majority. The difference in intensity focus has to vary between a runner hitting 100 miles and one hitting 20. A 20:00 tempo run is quite a different percentage of time between the two..
I have certainly changed, and tried to change, my thinking between last year and now- as I saw my beliefs starting to fail to produce results I had to figure out what the problem was. The over riding principle I followed was MAF based. I'll make a shift and see what happens! I could be WAY off.. but I'll never know until I try.

GZ said...

Tim - I think part of the reason why you whip into shape so quickly is because you have been building that base, as you note, FOR YEARS.

We are all looking for the training that will maximize our investment for this season or in the next 16 week cycle - and that is fine but ... you have been making investments, often at the 40+ hour a week range in aerobic exercise for years. I think it is that investment we see when you go run 6 minute pace at 5000 feet at 105 HR (or something like that).

In other words, for a very short period of time - the best training comes aerobically. But it is like day training - it is short lived and you are eventually going to crash anyway.

Over the season, or in a cycle, a mix of aerobic training, nueromuscular training, continuing to move more and more towards race specific endurance (ala Hudson, Canova, and even Lydiard) is the most effective way.

But, that may even be flawed to some degree over the LONG haul. I have been wondering if the 10000 days approach (or okay, 10 years) for a marathoner is ultimately the best approach, with - as you indicate - 90-95 percent work at aerobic levels. An interesting argument for MAF I guess in a different sort of way. Not sure though. Hell, what do I know?

Would I have changed how I was training ten years ago for a race I want to do this summer? Hell no and I have no regrets ...

Lucho said...

Jaako- This is a somewhat loose explanation. I train more than I read..
AeT is defined as 2.0-2.3 mmol of lactate per liter of blood. This is also close to the maximum intensity that an well trained athlete can race a marathon. So it's marathon intensity. Ironman however needs to be considerably more moderate. I honestly am not sure what lactate levels are during an Ironman marathon! Switching your periods around is a good move- develop base/ then speed/ then race specific fitness..
I think the LT focus should be (or can be) equal on the bike and the run. If you're racing a half IM you will need a high threshold on the run. Look at who crushes a lot of the 1/2 IM's... Olympic distance guys.
To answer the question directly and to the point- not to sound like a smart ass either- the difference between a fast marathon and a fast Ironman is about SIX HOURS.. The training for a marathon needs to have much more focus on raising your threshold, then bringing your AeT up close to LT. Ironman is about fuel and fuel use first and foremost. The faster you can go using the least amount fuel is the key.

Lucho said...

GZ- I will be doing the hill intervals on Wednesday. Because they are only 60"-90" and near Vo2 I don't believe altitude will play a major role in the quality. Because they are going to be up a ridiculously, vommitously steep hill at max effort my muscles will get ample work load. I'm going to do the 4 X 1 mile at Monarch on Saturday though. No way would I attempt those (yet) up here. If it was flat, I would try it. But the longest truly flat section of road I have found yet is (quite literally) too short for 30" strides!
I think you're correct in needing a mix of training. The long term approach though, I would still say should not be with a MAF emphasis. Like I was saying- the Kenyans are running steady state/ tempo (whatever) a lot.. It's still aerobic so they are getting that benefit, but they are also getting strong, muscularly!

Jaakko Hiekkaranta said...

Thanks for the answer Tim!

I completely understand and agree with what you are saying. In the past I used to train somewhat in that way but always just destroyed my body. So as a peron with pretty messed up hormonal system I just have to train my body with what it handles best, I guess..