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GPS devices, I’ll bet Coach Kubatzky’s next paycheck on this!

On what exactly? On the fact that your GPS watch will nearly never say the same distance that you just raced. Why is Humphrey so fired up, you ask? I’m not really, but I just answered an email from a very fast woman I coach who is insisting that she alter her marathon goal pace so that she can account for Boston being a long course.

We’ll live and die by our GPS watch, but not think twice that it’s not 100% accurate.

Now, I am not really that fired up. For one, we were really splitting hairs about the actual pace- it was a matter of 1-2 seconds either way. However, what worries me, is that she is accepting that her GPS is more accurate than the standardized certification process for race courses. That she is more willing to say that one of the biggest marathons in the world would be up to 0.25 miles long, rather than think that her GPS might just be a little bit off. What is really troublesome is that her thoughts are so common in the running world. We’ll live and die by our GPS watch, but not think twice that it’s not 100% accurate.

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Here’s a couple articles I found doing a quick Google search:

With all of those articles, and I just picked a few, there’s no need for me to go into the measurement and the process. I can tell you- I’ve run though downtown Chicago, Boston, Manhattan, and other cities. Heck, the first mile of the Chicago Marathon goes down a hill and under ground for about 200-300 meters and my GPS loses signal there every single time! You have satellites trying to pick you up between massive skyscrapers and it’s bound to be off at least a couple feet. We all know that a couple feet here and there, over the course of 26.2 miles can add up!

So what do we do? Well, as much as it pains me, coach Mike Morgan offers up some advice that he uses for his marathons. I have adopted this for the last couple I have done, too.

  1. Turn the auto lap off! Take your splits manually. I really like this. That way you aren’t getting a buzzer where your GPS is trying to tell you where the mile mark is, rather than where the race is telling you where the mile marker is.
  2. I’m referring to Garmin here, because it’s what we have. I use two screens I can see. The first shows my lap pace and lap distance, I use that really more for a mental trick towards the end of the race- I can see how close I’m getting to the next mile and can convince myself to focus on maintaining my pace for that much longer. The second screen shows my average pace as one big number. Sometimes I’ll just flip to that so I can focus on keeping that average pace within my goal pace. Again, this is more of a mental trick than using it for measurement purposes.

Is doing this 100% accurate?

Well no, because I’m starting off with a device that’s not going to be perfect. What it helps with though is fighting that deflation feeling of hearing my watch lap buzz 50 feet before the mile marker sign and then 100 feet, then 150 feet… I know how deflating that can be to your mental state, which directly leads to slowing down and being frustrated. Nothing worse than having that feeling for no reason.

Alright, I’m getting off my soapbox. As always, thanks for reading!

Luke

 

 

2014 Chicago Marathon

Where do I start? Maybe with a unified slap in the face from all my athletes that I tell to be conservative in the first half!

High Expectations:

I ran the Houston Marathon in January after barely surviving the worst winter in recorded history of the universe. The result was a very respectable 2:16:34, a Olympic Trials qualifier and a new lease on my career. Since January, I had been healthy, run some decent times, and felt able to take on a challenge for a big fall marathon.

The training segment itself went very well. It was the most consistent segment I had had in a long time. For instance, my average weekly mileage was about 95 miles per week for the 12 weeks leading into Houston. The 12 weeks leading up to Chicago was about 115 miles per week, on average. I was hitting workouts that I hadn’t in a long time. So, I thought I was really ready. In retrospect, I was ready to vastly improve upon the 2:16:30 I had run in January.

 

The race itself:

At the end of the day, I was simply out too hard. I just don’t know if I was ready to run 5:03-5:05 pace yesterday. However, looking at results, I don’t know how different I could have played it. The group I was with was 1:06:49 (I probably should have been 1:07:15-1:07:30). However, looking at results, I had the group I was with, or be at 1:08 something. That would have been slower than my first half at Houston. The last thing I really wanted was to be in no man’s land for 23 miles. I’ve done that enough to know that it is miserable, especially if you are fighting the wind.

The second half was brutal. I don’t know if I truly hit the wall, because I was still coherent. I just couldn’t move my legs. And after seeing my pace fade, mile after mile, I just think the motivation was slowly fading along with it. It was plain old, TOUGH. The end result was a 2:18:13 and a tough day at the office.

While disheartened, like we all are after a tough one, I still wanted to find the takeaways of this experience. So, here you go:

 

My takeaways:

  • You have to be conservative when riding the fine line of trying to run a great race
  • If you want to hit a home run, you have to know that there’s an increased chance of striking out
  • The fitness you gain from being consistent for a very long time (more than just one segment) is crucial to making big jumps in performance
  • Be patient and have faith in what you are doing. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, you’ll never be successful.

 

I made a somewhat calculated risk and it didn’t work out. In hind site I should have done things a little differently. However, I do think that all the advancements I made in training this segment will only be beneficial the next time around. And, you know, sometimes you just need a good reminder of how not to do things. They are painful lessons to be reminded, but so very valuable!

 

What l wanted to add yesterday: Why despite good training, I wasn’t quite ready:

One thing I wanted to discuss with all of you yesterday was why I probably wasn’t quite ready to run what I set out to.

 

  • Long runs: when I’m really fit, I’ll be able to get close to 1:50-1:52 for 20 miles. The same type of effort was about 1:55 for this segment. When we had hard miles at the end, I struggled. That was a big sign that the strength wasn’t quite there yet.
  • So, my general endurance was good, but the strength wasn’t really where it should have been. To me it does really make sense after looking back.
  • For instance, I finally could handle 120+ miles per week on a consistent basis for the first time since the last Olympic trials. For me, that’s a big deal. Basically it means I’ve had 3 years of reduced mileage and consistent training. I simply had lost a little bit of those gains I had worked for over the years. Not much at all, but enough to have a pretty decent impact. It seems silly now to think that it’s all going to come back in a 12 week segment. Now, if I can do that a couple more times I think that I would be right there again.
  • Goal MP never really felt comfortable. It always felt that I was right on that edge. If I would have backed it down to 5:08-5:10/mile, I would have felt much better and I think something around 2:15:30 would have been much more reasonable.
  • Again, I truly think that another segment backing up this segment will maybe not make 5:03 pace feel good, but 5:05 pace would feel a lot more comfortable. Another consistent year and 5:03 pace seems more reasonable.

 

 

 

Tapering?

There are a few different theories on taper and it’s something we screw up pretty easily. Many people complain that the Hanson Methods don’t allow a taper, which I don’t agree with. We do taper, We just don’t follow a plan that takes drastic measures. Tangent: I feel that those who have to make severe cuts to their training will often have to, in order to compensate for a training segment that was too long, too intense, or both.

Back on topic:

The point is that we often mess the taper up and we over-think it. Here’s a good blog post from Steve Magness that supports our ideals and can maybe explain it better than I can alone:

Marathon Speed: Part I

I’ve been meaning to do a write up on marathon speed for some time now. Now, as I actually begin writing, I realize that there is a lot to cover here and will require a few parts to it. Otherwise, I might as well add another chapter to the book! The trick here is to figure out the best starting point!

Lydiard and Periodization

The best place to begin is with some thoughts on Lydiard and periodization in general. People describe Lydiard as a linear periodization, best represented by the pyramid we’ve shown before.

The foundation is slower, easy running. Over time you add faster and faster work until you are able to incorporate very fast repeats (faster than mile pace). Supplemental running like hills and strides are done nearly all the time. But where does all of this fit for the marathon? Even Lydiard put in his writings that his marathon runners wouldn’t go past the 5k/10k type of intervals during marathon training. To me, this points out a very important aspect of speed work or speed development. Speed training is relative to what you are training for. However, it also raises another question, if this is the case, and we are should be training our most race specific aspects the last several weeks, is the Lydiard pyramid the best way to go about. So this brings about a few things that I wanted us to think about with Lydiard and periodization.

  1. What type of periodization is best for the marathon, Lydiard’s linear where systems are stressed systematically? OR, do we take a non linear approach, where all systems are stressed to some degree over the course of the training block?
  2. Many coaches take Lydiard’s pyramid very literal and do step beyond the 5k or 10k “threshold” for their marathoners and put very high lactic workouts near the end of the training block, when we are “supposed” to be focusing race specific work.
  3. Some coaches criticize our program because the speed is in the beginning of the program because of the idea that the lactic work puts too much stress on the development of the aerobic system.
  4. With all of this, how would I classify the Hanons Marathon Method? Linear, non-linear, something else?

Ok, great stuff to think about! Let’s jump in. I don’t know if these will be answered in order, but I’ll see what happens. As far as how Lydiard’s linear style periodiztion goes, I truly do believe it will work for everything 10k and under, 100%. I would say I am at about 95% of being completely sold on it being the best marathon style periodization. My major hang up for the linear style progression is the practicality of it for the recreational and even competitive athlete. Why? Because it would force people who aren’t training for a national meet or a world championship type race to sacrifice a lot of time with sub-par and under-trained races in order to reach their peak racing fitness. In short, their optimal racing window would be a very short window of a few weeks over a couple periods a year. That’s a very tough sell to many runners.

With that said, how can we still promote long term development, but not force ourselves into a situation with a very limited window of opportunity? That’s where the non-linear approach comes in. My basic understanding of how this works is that you have your training block of a few months and within that block, all training stresses are appropriately stressed. However, it’s not like you do this through the entire training segment. For instance, your last six weeks would truly be dedicated to marathon specific work, but you may have 2 or 3 “speed” type workouts sprinkled in there. I’ve seen a lot more of this type of periodiztion come up in discussions. To me, it makes sense for pretty much every level of runner. This type of training model allows runners to be but a few weeks away from being able to run well at many different distances. Long term development is stressed by :

  1. racing different distances and
  2. trying to improve at primary distance from year to year.

With all of this said, where would I say that the Hansons Marathon Methods fit in?

That is a two part answer.

First, with the schedules you’ve seen in the book, I think it’s a hybrid of the linear and non-linear styles. This is because there is a dedicated block of “speed” in the beginning, without much emphasis on speed late in the training block. You have to look at this way: These schedules are designed to work for a high percentage of people, so we have to put things in a way that will make most people successful. So in this case, we don’t want people to sacrifice speed throughout the segment, but we don’t want them to be doing speed all through the training, either. For many people, that would put them in that “acidosis” state and hamper their development. So, it’s really trying to make one style work for a large number of people.

On the other hand, coaching an individual, then we can tailor the schedule specific to you. Here, we would be a more non-linear approach to the marathon training. Personally, I probably wouldn’t make you do six straight weeks of speed intervals without a break in there. Would the majority be in the beginning of the schedule? Yes, the focus’ would still be the same, but we’d insert occasional workouts that would make sure all systems are stressed.

So to answer a couple of the numbers above. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Lydiard works, non-linear works. It truly does depend on the runner’s situation and what we are trying to accomplish. Hansons philosophy? Definitely leans towards a non-linear approach with our coaching clients, while the beginner and advanced programs that many people are familiar with, lie somewhere in the middle. Is there a reverse-linear model?

We are really left with why the speed is in the beginning of the block for the marathon training and why I don’t feel that the runner goes into “acidosis” by doing this. However, this post is now over a thousand words, so we’ll leave that for part II.

As always, thanks for reading. Hopefully, this begins to shed a little more light on why we do things just a touch differently for the marathon.

-Luke

 

Marathon Long Run

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In this episode, we discuss the long run, as it pertains to the marathon. We touch upon why the long run for the general schedules is 16 miles and how to adjust accordingly to your own training level.

If you’d like to follow along, I have the presentation in PDF form: Marathon Long Run

Thanks for listening! Please email us with any training topics that you’d like discussed at [email protected]

Hanson’s Philosophy

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This consists of what I would describe as the pillars of the Hanson philosophy. While we do certainly go into length in our books, it is so important for anyone that is using the system, or even thinking about the system to have a full understanding of why the training is the way it is. Ok, so let’s just jump right in!

What is our goal with marathon training? Well, yes, it is to finish as strongly as possible. Thanks to all the smarties out there 🙂 Let me rephrase, what is our end goal from a training standpoint? From the Hanson view it is to develop a high level of marathon readiness through the concept of cumulative fatigue.

Cumulative Fatigue: The development of fatigue through the long term effects of training which results in in a profound increase in running strength. In other words, it’s not one workout that makes you tired. Not one sticks out as being “the one” but rather you are fatigued/tired from the daily grind. The important aspect here is that you aren’t training too hard so that you are in a hole that you can’t get out of. And there it is, how do we train hard, but avoid overtraining. Well, Charlie, let’s find that golden ticket!

My winter marathon experience: near debacle to salvation

I’ve been running marathons for some time now, for about a decade. However, since 2011, running has been tough. I broke my foot and femur, dropped out of the US Olympic Trials, and just struggled overall to get my own running back on track.

My femoral stress fracture was in June of 2013, just when I thought I had figured out what my problem was. It just shows that sometimes you gotta ride out the storm, even if it seems like it will never end! Long story short, it healed and we (my coaches and I ) started to try again. However, in order to move forward, I had to accept my diminished capacity and basically start over. So the plan was to build my mileage, do reduced workouts, and stay healthy! The Chicago marathon ended up being my goal focus for the fall, not to race rather pace my teammate mike Morgan as far as possible. I was able to take him through 14 miles at 5:05-5:06 pace so it was a success. There was improvement, consistent training, and I was healthy!

After a lot of thought and discussion with my coaches, we decided to continue to build on the momentum and train for the next marathon that made sense- Houston in January. We thought we’d be ok, because December is usually still pretty decent here in southeast Michigan. Of course, this would be the winter of the Polar Vortex.

Training for Houston went really well, until December 23. Then the “avalanche” opened up. I remember the day because it was the day of my Simulator workout (26.2 km at goal MP). We drove to the course where I was going to run, only to find it a sheet of black ice. For those of you who don’t know what black ice is, it’s basically asphalt that is frozen, but it looks like it’s just the road. Talk about a work hazard. So throwing up a Hail Mary, we drove to a parking lot loop about 20 minutes away. Luckily the loop was clear and the biggest workout of my segment could take place. It was cold and windy, but it had to be done. There really wasn’t any wiggle room on this one with Christmas and the travel to different places coming up. So, we did it and for about 18km, it went really quite well. The last 8km though, was a completely different story. Everything caught up to me and I am pretty sure I ran 6:00 miles for the last few km’s. However, I finished it and thought I would shake it off.

From that afternoon, of December 23, all the way to the afternoon of the 29th, I felt off. Not really too sick, but off. When my family and I got home from my parents house on the 29th, it was like somebody flipped a switch. I was down for the count. Over the next three days I thought it was all over. I lost nearly 10 pounds, was malnourished and dehydrated. To add to the scenario, it was the coldest air temperatures I had ever been in (below zero before the windchill) and the snowiest/iciest since I have lived in the Detroit area. “Great” I thought. Here we go again.

So, December was finally over and January blew in with a direct northerly wind, straight from Santa’s workshop. After regaining some strength, I decided I was sticking to the treadmill for the few days before I left to finally get to Florida. When I got to the Sunshine State, it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders- literally, because I didn’t have to run in my snowmobile suit! Seriously though, it was a game changer. My mood lifted and runs were instantly easier. I was convinced that I could now at least have a same day finish at Houston.

When I got to Houston I was in a precarious position. I was really fit at the beginning of December, but with everything that had happened, who knew anymore. Kevin and I talked for about 5 minutes at 5:30 AM on Sunday. The basic conclusion was to err on the side of caution. To the athlete’s I coach- I followed my own advice I always give you. I was at a point where if I were going to have a successful day (which at this point meant to a) finish and b) get an Olympic Trials standard out of the way) then I had to put myself in a good position at half way. What I mean by that is to a) be fast enough to even have a chance at a Trials standard and b) to be slow enough to have the opportunity to at least maintain my pace.

The morning was perfect- about 50 degrees, some sun, and barely a breeze. The course is very nice. Pretty flat, but a few little rollers in the second half. I actually prefer this because it breaks it up a little and they aren’t significant enough to really take anything out of you! I was lucky enough to find myself immediately in a small pack. Fortunately,one was a former Hanson’s-Brooks teammate and an athlete I coach, Tim Young. It was the perfect scenario for me!

The first half was low key and uneventful. I was completely able just zone out and wait until I absolutely needed to focus on the race. My 5k splits were 16:08 (5k) 16:12 (10k) 15:58 (15k) and 1:07:56 at the halfway mark. Tim and I came through the halfway mark and I said, “Well Tim, the good news is that we can run 1:10 for the next half and still qualify!” He laughed, and said, “Thanks, boss.” By then our group was down to 3 guys and the group ahead of us was feeling the consequences of going out way too hard for where they were at, fitness wise. Again, it was a perfect scenario.

Tim and I continued on, though I had to keep calming Tim down. He was really fit and itching to make a go for it. I held him back because I had ruined a lot of my own potentially amazing races between miles 14 and 20. We kept right at pace with 16:05 and 16:08 5k splits.

At this point, between 35 and 40 kilometers, I slowed down. It was my slowest split of 16:28 for that 5k. I’m not really sure what happened. I was feeling it, for sure. There’s no real way to completely avoid that feeling of, “oh man, I still have a ways to go.” However, I didn’t crumble. Mentally, I was still making coherent thoughts to myself, but I panicked a little bit. It had been so long since I had run a marathon that I just forgot how that feeling is.

What really surprised me is how I reacted. I really thought I would have caved in a little bit, but  I didn’t! I saw some of those guys coming back that had went too hard. I was catching them still and I used that to regroup. Looking at my splits, the last half mile was under 5:00 pace! I knew I was a little slow, but I knew I still had a good one going. I just had to keep it together and finish as strong as possible.

I crossed the line and sae 2:16:3x. It wasn’t my fastest time, but it was a race I could be proud of! It was a testament to just staying the course and doing what you can. It was a time that qualified me for my 3rd US Olympic Trials and a time that motivated me. It convinced me that I am still at a high level and there’s so much room for improvment. This race made me so excited for the next few years. I can’t wait to be in LA in February of 2016!

 

Early 2014 Clinics and Group Training Options

We now have our early 2014 clinic and group training options up on the site! Look under “clinics” to see all the options. We have everything from “couch to 5k” for beginners all the way up to Boston Marathon training groups. There’s something for everyone and all are welcome! Hope to see many of you out here at the lab!

Hot Topic 9/20/2013- diet trends

Ok, so I was going to do a Hot Topic on tapering, but I have been working on the nutrition chapter of my forthcoming half marathon book. I was looking over the chapter I wrote for Hansons Marathon Method as well as, doing some casual research in current trends. One thing that struck me was the growing popularity of high fat, low(er) carb diets and endurance athletes. I shook my head at a lot of it, but some of it makes sense.

Forgive me if my details aren’t exact but here’s basically what I know about high fat/low carbs and general eating habits.

1) The idea is that we eat too much carbs (true, but misleading) and that the excess carbs we eat are turned into fat. That part is also true. However, Americans eat way too much crappy carbs- pop, candy, starch, processed junk. That we know. What we don’t eat enough of is fruits, veggies, high fiber carbs. So, while we do eat too much of the crappy carbs, we don’t eat enough of the good carbs. So all that junk is not used and absolutely does turn into fat.

2)  If you eat too much fat, it doesn’t have to convert to anything, it just has to get stored!

3) High fat/low carb has been shown people to lose weight in the SHORT TERM. There isn’t a lot of evidence of long term maintenance.

4) You have to replace what you burn. Unless you train at a fast walk, you are burning both fat and carbs. You have theoretically unlimited stores of fat, while your carb stores can vanish within an interval workout. If you don’t replace what you burnt just to get back to baseline, things will not go well after even a few days.

5) If you focus on high quality food and nutritiously dense food, these things balance themselves out. That means eat lean sources of protein,  eat your fruits and veggies, and stay away from fatty/greasy crap as much as you can. If you can do that, you can take a lot of the guesswork out of your diet.

Feel free to discuss your thoughts below. Better yet, if you have had experiences to share, please do!

 

Luke

Fall half and full training clinics

It’s that time of year again! Time to start thinking about those fall half and full marathons. Hanson’s Running Shops and Hanson’s Coaching Services are again providing their annual training programs for those looking to complete a fall marathon.

The kick off date is June 13 where we will be discussing the program itself, the group runs, and the training. We will be offering regular training clinics along the way and their will be group runs for all the major running days including weekly speed nights, tempo runs, and 16 mile long runs.

Check out the clinics section for all the details and to register: http://www.lukehumphreyrunning.com/half-full-training-clinics/ The cost for the entire program is only $75!!

Remember, if you are a Hanson’s Yellow Team member, you enjoy a 15% discount if you use the code in your members section!

 

One project down…

For over a year, I have been attempting to finish a major project. For those of you who know me, I know what you are thinking- “Which one?” I know, it seems like I have a long To-Do list for the coaching site. Well, I can now say that I have one thing checked off! The semi-custom schedules are done! I know have available for use- 5k-marathon schedules that are based on different skill level. We have from a Just Finish program in the 5k to an elite level marathon schedule. We also have the classic Hanson’s Marathon schedules- yes the one’s with a 16 mile long run. These include the day to day details, workout details, and pace charts. Any schedule is $14.95, immediately available for download after purchase, AND include a 12 month subscription to the members only content on the site. A pretty good deal! Hopefully, anyone who wants a good schedule or coaching can now find an option that fits their needs. To access these programs, follow this link.

The Marathon Long Run: Part Two

This post is looong overdue (pun somewhat intended). There is a blog post from quite a ways back explaining why the traditional Hanson’s schedules used 16 miles as the longest long run. While, I don’t really want to revisit that debate at the moment, I do want to make good on a promise. That promise was to explain the paces that a runner should be looking to complete their long runs at.

We all have different needs in our training. A beginner may be simply looking to cover the ground and if they can do so without hitting the wall, then that is just a bonus. Meanwhile, someone who is competitive, may find themselves in a race and need to finish as strongly as possible. If our goals are different, then how we approach certain runs should probably be different as well. So, let’s look at what some of these variables may look like.

The biggest question, after “Why only 16 miles?” is “How fast should I run these?” As I mentioned, it depends.

For the Beginner:

The beginner runner has very basic needs, and that is to improve endurance by covering ground. Their biggest obstacle will be the mileage itself, so with this group, my concerns are simple: As slow as you need to in order to run the entire distance. That may be two minutes per mile slower than marathon pace itself. That’s fine, I don’t care. I only care that you run conservatively enough that you can cover the distance. The more improved your fitness becomes, the faster these runs will naturally improve.

Don’t make the first couple long runs on your schedule more difficult than need be. I see so many newbies go out and just start running marathon pace for their long run and end up cutting the run short. The common rationale is that, “If I can’t run it on a regular long run, then how will I do it for the race.” Well, simply, you shouldn’t because you are already fatigued from the rest of the week’s training. Also, physically what you can’t accomplish now, doesn’t mean you can’t in 2-3 months. You just have to be patient!

For the more Advanced (Intermediate):

This group is probably more concerned with performance, or know how much the late stages of a marathon can affect your overall time and want to avoid it! I work with many runners in this group and it can be tricky to balance the long run distance and paces. The mileage of the of the long runs in this group won’t vary much from the beginner, but the overall mileage is a little bit more and there is more structure. This group wants to improve, but is either still new to the event and/or limited in their amount of time to train.

So, if we can’t increase the volume they are training, then we must adjust a different variable in the equation to show positive results. That variable would then be intensity. While I might have a beginner run 2:00/mile slower than goal marathon pace, the next step would be to drop that pace down to 1:00/mile slower. Why does this help this group? Well, as we mentioned, they are already running about what they can handle for mileage, but their is still room for performance improvement. So, a long run at 1:00/mile slower than pace will provide a new stimulus to develop aerobic capacities. Before the stimulus was the actual mileage, now it is the intensity. The mitochondria and associated aerobic mechanisms are now stressed due to the pace- and they are at just enough of a rate where it is a struggle to keep up, but it is manageable. This means that fat metabolism improves, mitochondrial growth occurs, the density of the mitochondria and the enzymes improve. Also, neuromuscular connections improve, along with muscle fiber stimulation. The point here is that adaptation would occur if the runner could improve more, but if the mileage has to be limited (but still an experienced runner), then the adaptions must occur through a different mechanism and this is where pace provides that source of adaptation.

The Advanced and Elite runners

These two groups have similar issues with mileage, except they have spent years maximizing the mileage that they can safely handle. In these two groups, you have to consider that they have truly reached as high as they can on the VO2max scale. I use myself as an example- My VO2max has been between 75 and 77 ml/kg/O2 since I was about 20 or 21 years old. I am now almost 31, so that’s a long time of not improving. BUT I HAVE IMPROVED! Just because your ceiling has been put in place, that doesn’t mean you can’t improve. If the shear volume is maxed, then you maximize how fast you can run with those numbers. You are now asking, “What in the world is he talking about?” Well, we talk about lactate threshold and to a lesser extent, aerobic threshold in runners. Most of us have a fairly good idea of what the lactate threshold is, but the aerobic is the point at which fat/carb contributions for running is about 50/50. The faster you go, the more reliance you have on carbohydrates. Any marathon runner knows that carbohydrates are a precious commodity.

Side Note: This is why I am rarely concerned with what a person’s VO2max is. I want to know VO2max, aerobic, and anaerobic thresholds. More importantly, I want to know the paces run at these thresholds. This way, I can give you practical training advice.

With these two groups I need to build those thresholds. I need to build their mental toughness and convince them that they can in fact run hard even though they are tired.

The fast finish:

The fast finish is a long run that is done mostly at a comfortable easy pace (1-2 minutes/mile slower than goal marathon pace). The only difference is, that the last 2-4 miles are done pretty hard. For first timers, it can be as simple as faster than what you were running. So if you were doing your run at 7 min/mile, then finish the last few at 6:45’s. It’s just a harder effort than what you were putting in.

For more experienced runners, it can be the last 3 at goal marathon pace. Sometimes it can be the last two as hard as you can go (Not so hard you blow a hammie, but a few seconds under goal marathon pace is a good effort). The idea is to teach your body that it can maintain goal pace when things get hard. Your legs can react and you can get through the wall. I feel like this run has more to do with mental toughness than physiological gains. It also shouldn’t be done every week. It can really take a toll on your muscles. I would save it for a couple long runs in the middle to late stages of a training segment.

The depletion run:

The depletion run is simple- you run depleted. No carbs before or during the long run. As with the fast finish, I wouldn’t do this all the time. I do it in two different places- the beginning of the segment and the last long run. I do it her because pace is not nearly important as building endurance is. Also, the distances of these long runs will be considerably shorter than the long runs in the heart of the schedule- making them less dangerous to putting us past the point of no return. Here, pace is not incredibly important, other than you will want to keep yourself in check and not run too fast.

Physiologically, what happens is that our glycogen stores will be put under serious distress. When we finish, there won’t be much left. The key here is the recovery part. As soon as you are done, your muscles want to replace, they want to replenish. So, you have to have the fuel ready. As soon as you are done, start taking in the carbs and a little bit of protein. I am talking recovery drinks, sports bars, fruit, whatever you can tolerate and get in. If you cna do this, your muscles will adapt and be aable to not only replace what was lost, but more than it could before. The advantage of this is more glycogen storage. This means you can run farther at a faster speed before hitting the wall. It may meant the difference from being on pace until 23 miles, and being on pace the whole way!

The “hard” long run:

This run I save for few. It’s actually something that I have just adopted into my own training. The hard long run is something that is built into, like an increasing tempo run. I guess hard may be a little strong, but it is certainly a run that takes a conscious effort for an extended period of time. An example 20 miler that I have done would look like this: First 1-2 miles @ 6:00, then 5:50, 5:40, 5:30, and a steady diet of 5:20-5:35/mile for the rest of the run. Now, if my marathon pace is 5:00/mile, then I am spending 14-16 miles @ 15-25 seconds slower per mile than marathon pace. That may seem ridiculous, and it may as well be. However, here is the rationale behind it: We already talked about the aerobic threshold in above sections. Well, the more trained a person is, the higher this threshold becomes. A new runner may experience this at 50% of VO2max, while an elite marathoner may be closer to 60%. What I am saying is that the window of physiological adaptations becomes smaller and smaller. A new runner may run a 5k at 8 minute miles, but a marathon in 11 minute miles. An elite runner may run a 5k in 4:20/mile and a marathon at 5:00/mile. You see? Everything gets more bunched up as you get faster- you won’t have big differences between different paces anymore. So, for me to run a long run 20-30 secconds slower per mile than goal pace is fast, but it is necessary to keep improving these thresholds.

I wouldn’t start out at big percentage of the run being that fast. Again, I would slowly over not only one segment, but several increase your tolerance for these long runs. I reserve these for the middle of the training segment when my long run mileage is at it’s peak.  A vital thing to keep in mind is that I train on a nine day cyccle so I have 2 easy days before my next quality run. I also have the ability to take a nap, access to massage and chiropractic care, as well. I would be very careful when attempting these things. I would certainly time my long runs as much as my other quality runs for the training segment.

Example progression for a training segment of an advanced runner:

Long run 1: nice and easy, 2:00/slower per mile, depletion

Long run 2: moderate: 1-2:00/slower per mile

Long run 3: moderate: 1:00/mile slower

Long run 4: “hard”, down to :30/mile slower for 6-8 miles

Long run 5: fast finish: last 3 miles at goal pace. Majority of run about 1:00/mile slower

Long run 6: :hard: 0:30/mile slower for 10-14

Long run 7: fast finish, last 3-4 hard

Long run 8: hard for most of run

Long run 9: depletion, just put time on my feet

Taper.

The only other variance I might throw in would be for those running traditionally hilly courses- Boston, for example. Here I may alternate overly hilly loops with faster type runs.

Ok, so, hopefully, this will help you decide on your long run paces. As typical, I do not have an easy answer. If it were easy, then we’d all have it figured out! Best of luck with your training.