Friday, February 18, 2011

Questioning My Training Methods - Putting the "S" in LSD

The recent announcement about Boston's qualifying standards got me thinking about how I'm currently approaching my training. Clearly my goal is the all mighty BQ, but in a bigger picture sense my ultimate goal is to run injury-free for as long as possible no matter what. If going after the BQ, whether the old or new standard, jeopardizes the bigger goal then I am left wondering, "What's the point?"

In November of 2009 I got back into running after a major setback suffered while training for my first marathon, which ultimately did not happen. While recovering (with a calf surgery thrown in for good measure) I not only gained 25lbs, but also had plenty of time to reflect on how I would train once my body allowed me to return to the streets. My decision, in retrospect, was easy to make given my history and ultimately the right one. I began to run based solely on Heart Rate and completely ignored pace. My aim was to do all of my running below 140bpm and slowly increase my weekly mileage throughout the year until I was, hopefully, ready to tackle the Marathon in the Fall of 2010. Given that I made it to the starting line, and also finished the race, I have no regrets about this strategy.

Then, having completed my post-Marathon recovery phase and reached the one year mark since my return, I began to experiment with pace in the middle of November 2010. First, I caught onto the whole turnover rate (cadence) thing and realized that mine was way too slow. As I focused on this aspect of running technique I was shocked at how much my pace improved! What once were 6:00/km training runs became 5:00/km training runs with not that much more effort exerted! Not only that, but I felt like the stress on my body was also negligibly higher.

I also started to sprinkle in more speed work and tempo runs and things have been going well other than for one setback in January where I felt a twinge in my right calf while doing some speed intervals on the treadmill.

Things were moving right along nicely. In fact I continued to surprise myself with my ability to maintain (what is for me) an aggressive pace while increasing my weekly mileage. This past Sunday I really nailed a good long run at a pace that last year I would have thought was only possible in a race situation. But all things come at a price and I've been more sore this week than I'd like. I made the decision after Sunday's run that I would not do any speed work or tempo stuff this week because I could anticipate that I'd pushed a bit harder and would likely be a bit drained. However, I didn't know just how sore I would be.

Now it's Friday and I'm still sore. I ran a nice easy 5km this morning and wore my heart rate monitor for the first time all year to, once again, keep me honest. My average worked out to 133bpm, which was perfect, and I will start using this important feedback tool more regularly. That being said, I also don't want to impair my ability to someday BQ, and I'm still hoping that this Fall will allow me a chance at this most worthy of goals.

All that being said, I've been reading a lot about how slow ones long run should be before it gets to the point that it's too slow to be doing you any good. There is no real consensus out there, but the one thing I am realizing is that working on speed during long runs is an invitation to injury. Therefore, I am going to do my best to stay in the right pace range and heart rate zone from now on when doing my long Sunday runs. For me this works out to a pace range of 4:50 - 5:27/km and a heart rate range of 138-152bpm. Clearly, given my long run this past Sunday as noted above, 4:50/km is much too aggressive at the moment. I was likely well above 152bpm for most of the second half of that run, but I wasn't wearing my monitor so I can't say for sure.

It's going to be tough. Slowing down will take a lot of mental fortitude and I will do my best to ignore my ego, which will constantly be telling me to get going faster, to get under that 5:00/km barrier, to see just how much I can push myself. Like I said, it won't be easy. Writing down my intentions here on this blog is one way I am trying to keep myself accountable. We'll see what happens starting this Sunday...

But first, I have a date with the treadmill this afternoon (going for 10km) and another recovery paced run tomorrow (5-8km).

Next up is my re-evaluation of racing goals for the Around the Bay 30k...

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5 Comments:

Blogger Nitmos said...

If you can figure out how to discipline yourself to slow down on long runs, bottle and sell it to the rest of us!

February 18, 2011 at 1:40 PM  
Blogger Nelly said...

great post, I love reading others posts about heartrate, because I thin it is the hardest thing about running to fully grasp and understand.

I'm curious, what is your maximum heartrate? I think mine is around 200, because the highest number I've ever seen on my heartrate monitor is 195, so usually I add 5 beats to try to get my maximum.

I usually run races at 180 bpm if the race is maybe 14K or less. Then maybe 170-175 for a half marathon. Then 160-165 for a marathon (SF marathon avg was 167).

For long runs I try to keep it below 160 (80% of max). Faster runs I try to keep below 170.

It sounds like you are doing your training at a really low heartrate, which is great, my guess is that your aerobic system is in great shape right now, and you can tackle doing long runs at a really low heartrate like you've been doing.

February 18, 2011 at 8:38 PM  
Blogger Nelly said...

And I'm likely going to be following the Pfitzinger 18/55 plan for my marathon, and he does have us do some marathon pace runs later in the training (once your aerobic system is built up and ready for it I would guess) So maybe I wouldn't eliminate all marathon pace work from your workouts, but maybe limit it to not as often.

http://www.columbusnet.com/tupeloschedule.pdf

And for long slow runs, it seems like people try to aim for 10-20% slower than marathon goal pace or something.

February 18, 2011 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Vava said...

Nelly: All great points, and I will definitely be thinking a great deal about this. I believe my maximum heart rate is somewhere around 190bpm at the moment, but I typically do my calculations based on 185bpm and my resting rate of 40bpm. That's how I came up with my training below 140bpm to allow for increasing mileage while reducing stress. I'm not sure if I will go that low now that I've put in a full year of low HR training and am thinking that I can go as high as 148bpm or so and allowing it to go into the low 150s late in the run.

I'm also toying with the idea of trying a hybrid run-walk method for my long runs, but I'm early in the process and it will be tough to do this for me.

February 19, 2011 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Nelly said...

That is really good info. I think my resting heart rate is around 50, though I'm not totally sure. It looks like my numbers are about 10 beats or so above yours, so maybe I will try to keep my heartrate below 160 at all times on long runs. I think when I start getting back into really good shape my heart rate will gradually drop over time. We shall see!

February 19, 2011 at 8:18 PM  

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