Occasional race during base training

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This topic contains 19 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Double 12 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #5348

    ksrunner
    Participant

    I was going to post this under Ryan's race report, but I thought that it might be a separate topic.

    Ryan, I found this quote posted as a reply under your race report iinteresting:

    I probably should race at least occasionally during base training

    I had read some things recently about not racing during base training. Although I did not totally understand how an occasional race would severely hamper my training, I decided that I was willing to forgo a couple of races that I would have liked to run this summer. After all, I've never read anything that mentioned benefits of racing during base training. But, if the negative effects are negligible, I might rethink my plans and enjoy a couple of races this summer.

    I have been planning to just put in as many miles as my schedule permits through the end of August and then begin hard workouts in preparation for a half marathon this fall. This half marathon is not extremely important to me. I just decided that I needed a goal race to focus on in order to provide motivation to return to consistent training. Actually, I think I just answered my question myself. Since the half marathon is not that important to me, I should go ahead and enjoy a couple of races this summer and maybe add a third if it sounds fun.

    This is probably why I do not post much. I usually answer my own question as I write.

    Still, I would like to hear your thoughts on why racing during base training is so detrimental. The things I read last week indicated that one hard effort would equal the end of base training and that you would basically be starting over with base training after that. To me that just doesn't make sense. All of the gains made during base training can't just disappear after one hard effort. Otherwise we would not do base training as the first phase in periodization. If you return to base training after your hard effort, you should continue to build those systems — perhaps with a slight setback.

  • #20979

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Still, I would like to hear your thoughts on why racing during base training is so detrimental.

    I don't think it is so I can't say for sure why one would say it is. In fact, I can only think of only one plausible reason why some people might think so off the top of my head. If one were to spend time tapering and recovering from a race, that would cut into your base training time and be detrimental. However, when I train through a race, an easy day the day before and the day after is about all the taper and recovery I take. In fact, during base, I usually don't change any plans except for race day.

    The things I read last week indicated that one hard effort would equal the end of base training and that you would basically be starting over with base training after that. To me that just doesn't make sense.

    It doesn't make sense to me, either. I do remember a statement from one of Lydiard's writings that, once you commit to beginning a race prep phase by doing an intense workout, you are best off following through with it or starting over. However, I don't think me meant that one hard effort, whether workout or race, during base training meant you have to start from day one. I think his point was more along the line of telling people not to mess around for months on end with occasional workouts and instead to condense them into a period of 2-3 months going into your goal race. That doesn't mean you can't do the occasional race.

  • #20980

    r-at-work
    Member

    I wonder if Lydiard thought about “races” and meant things like World Championships & Olympics where we might mean a relatively small race or 'fun run'… I'm a fan of racing for mental uplift, as it's few an far between that I even get age group awards… though I did pass up the July 4th 8K that I've enjoyed in the past in favor of a day at the track, seems that getting back to the group & getting coached was even more uplifting than a race usually is…

    the other aspect to consider is longer races (and tougher ones)… I mean if you go out and blister a hilly half marathon it might take more out of you than it's worth from a training aspect…more days to get back into the flow of your program, even a larger possibility of injury if you don't taper and recoup sufficiently…
    -Rita

  • #20981

    Chris
    Member

    I agree in that I can see racing being REAL bad is if it's a long race that takes lots of recovery time.  I can also see racing being bad during the base phase from an injury standpoint.  Our bodies aren't used to running all out or fast.  That can probably be dangerous. 

    I personally have to race every so often.  I need something to train for other than a single race 4-6 months away. 

  • #20982

    ksrunner
    Participant

    Thanks Ryan, Rita, and Chris,

    Thanks for the responses. I was kind of thinking along the same lines. Although racing during base phase cannot really help me physically for my goal race. I think that it could provide a nice change of pace.

    Chris, As far as the potential for injury, perhaps I would choose not to race if my goal race were something of greater importance. In that case, I would only run races that would complement reaching my race goals. But, since my primary goal is simply to have fun, I ought to run fun races as they are available.

    The races that I am thinking about are small, low-key races. One is a 5K in the town that I now live in and it is just too convenient to miss. The other is a 5 mile race in the town that I grew up in — just 30 minutes away. It would be nice to run there and perhaps see some people whom I have not seen in a long time. Both race may also be fun because I could be in contention to win either race. The guys who typically show up at these races are running times comparable to mine. So, they should be fun, competitive races.

    Steve

  • #20983

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Rita, just to clarify, what Lydiard was specifically talking about was bringing on a race prep phase by doing a workout. I can't recall him stating anything, positive or negative, about doing an occasional race in base phase. If anyone recalls anything I have forgotten or not seen, please correct me.

    Chris, it is true that an all-out effort during base phase could increase your injury risk. To be honest, an all-out effort at any point carries some risk of injury risk. That doesn't mean you should run anything but goal races, though. As we have discussed through e-mails, some races are necessary to prepare for the demands of racing. Also, I get the sense that the occasional race, maybe once a month, could be done to keep a runner more sharp and not leave a person in a state where a race is such a shock to the system that it would greatly increase the injury risk. I recall all of my races taking less out of me when I wouldn't ever go much more than a month between races than my first ones back do now when I find myself going several months between races at times.

  • #20984

    Wilson
    Member

    Two distances lend themselves well to base training. 5ks, yes about once a month, provide a good workout and they can keep you motivated. Also, I think 15k/10 mile is a great distance.

  • #20985

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Wilson, what's your thought on 8k-10k races? I see you skipped over that distance and was curious why, although I have a sense I might know. I'm asking because there seem to be quite a few 8k races around here and that's a distance I find to be a personal sweet spot.

  • #20986

    GTF
    Member

    Which “things” were “read” and where?  The problem is in racing too much during the base phase — time trials are a regular part of what Lydiard prescribes for the base phase.

  • #20987

    flightless
    Member

    If you go back to early versions of Lydiard's books he accepts and encourages participating in races during the base phase. The New Zealand harrier scene that Lydiard's 1950s and 1960s athletes came from had regular cross-country and road races, including road relays. Indeed, that's still how New Zealand running is organized after high school. International athletes were expected to turn out for their club if they could, either to win “inter-club” races, or to support the club through participating, giving the good local athletes a spur to racing better. A lot of these club races would have been handicap races, where the slowest runners start off ahead of the top ones, based on past performances.

    However, it's pretty clear that people like Snell and Halberg did not race all out every time they participated in local harrier races. From their times and the description of what else they would do on Saturdays [race day], it seems they treated these races as what we'd now call tempo runs, or what Lydiard called time trials. If you race 5km at your 10km race pace it's a solid effort, but it's not all out racing, and is pretty compatible with training through a race. 

    I'd really emphasise that in the context Lydiard and his athletes came from, there were some obligations to participate in these races for the sake of the team. Once you had paid your club fees for the year, the races were free. Also for an international athlete like Snell or Halberg, the contrast between the club race and serious competition would have been quite apparent — there's a big difference between an international track meet with thousands of spectators and a club cross country race on a farm in an Auckland park.

    That's quite different from the situation many runners in America today face. There's often few, if any, obligations to a team; and a race that costs less than $15 is a bit of a bargain. And the difference between the races we run as workouts and the races we are peaking for are not so obvious. That is to say that there are some good reasons why you shouldn't run races during the base phase if they're really just workouts. You're not obligated to a team to participate, they cost money, and I think you can erode your competitiveness by doing too many races as workouts.

    I think if you do too many races as workouts it can become harder to break out of the controlled, holding a little back, mentality that you need for workouts. If you're going to race, race, and go hard. You may be training through it, but that's just something you incorporate into your goals for the race and evaluation of it afterwards. (i.e; if you put in 90% of your peak mileage the week before the race you probably have a good reason for being a little tired). If you're just out there to do something you should be able to do by yourself on a deserted road or track, why do it in a race? Doing it in a workout gives me the extra confidence that this will be easier when there's people to chase and race.

    I'd make a couple of exceptions. One is half-marathons at marathon pace, where the opportunity to practice drinking at aid stations and test a marathon-morning routine in an actual race situation can be really valuable. The other is races during the winter where an organized race can sometimes be your only opportunity to run fast on dry roads.

    In the end it all comes down to being clear with yourself about what your goals for running are, and how a particular race fits into that picture.

  • #20988

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    Interesting comments, flightless. I'm completely with you in that I don't like the idea of doing a race as a workout. If I toe the line, I'm going to race it. That's just how I was brought up as a runner. Of course, as you pointed out, there's a difference between doing a race as a workout and training through a race. One means you're not running all out, another means you're running all out but you're fatigued because you haven't backed off your training.

  • #20989

    Chris
    Member

    I run several races each year that I don't “race.”  Some of those I just choose to run as tempo runs and some of them I just show up for no reason but to support our local events.  I pick and choose my all out races and by doing that keep myself from burning out. 

  • #20990

    Wilson
    Member

    Wilson, what's your thought on 8k-10k races? I see you skipped over that distance and was curious why, although I have a sense I might know. I'm asking because there seem to be quite a few 8k races around here and that's a distance I find to be a personal sweet spot.

    Ryan, what I'd do for 8 & 10 is either a tempo effort or “simulation” (e.g., Bowerman/Dellinger), where you mix in goal pace and some “up tempo” efforts so the whole thing is not all out.

    Like this:
    1 mile at current 8k pace
    1/2 mile at half-marathon to marathon effort
    1 mile at current 8k goal pace
    1/2 mile at half marathon to marathon effort
    1 mile at 8k goal pace
    1/2 mile at half-marathon to marathon effort
    1/2 mile at goal pace

    I guess I suggest this during base phase because I think 8 & 10ks can take a lot out of you if you push too hard. The simulations are a great way to callous yourself to the effort you want to run, and they are good for mental preparation and confidence-boosting. It just takes a lot of discipline and humility to slow down.

    Another alternative would be to do a base race of 8 to 10k maybe only once every 6 weeks, or wait 5 weeks until you do a 5k…

  • #20991

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I guess I suggest this during base phase because I think 8 & 10ks can take a lot out of you if you push too hard.

    That's what I suspected. For me, not so much the 8k but the 10k can really wipe me out more than races either shorter or longer. There's just something about that distance that really seems to wear on you.

    Interesting thoughts of how one could run one of those races. While I'm not real big on paying a race entry fee to do a workout, if nothing else, the type of workout you list could make for an intriguing trip to a local track for a base phase “simulation”/workout.

  • #20992

    r-at-work
    Member

    interesting stuff, paticularly the idea of NZ 'club races'… there are several clubs around here that put on low key (no t-shirt, reduced entry fee) races that I try and support if it in any way fits my schedule… they are usually in nice areas (no traffic) and a real mental boost…

    I'm also a big fan of the idea flightless mentioned, the half marathon at marathon pace in order to practice drinking from those darn little cups, and taking gels etc… for me two marathons a years is plenty and I don't have the same background as most of you, I'm an adult onset runner… so I still need the practice, both pacing & logistics…

    and while I wish I could say it's just as easy for me to learn this stuff on my own, it's just not the same… so if I can find a cheap race (half marathon next Sunday) I'll do it…
    -Rita

  • #20993

    ksrunner
    Participant

    Which “things” were “read” and where?  The problem is in racing too much during the base phase — time trials are a regular part of what Lydiard prescribes for the base phase.

    My source was here: https://web.archive.org/web/20061117045922/http://www.coolrunning.com:80/forums/Forum6/HTML/018553.shtml

    Now, I am self-conscious. I realize that I likely posted my interpretation rather than what was actually stated on that forum.

    The first post refers to an FAQ. You'll find the link in his signature.

    9. Can I mix a race in once or twice per week?
    No, you shouldn’t during the basebuilding period. Any racing will interfere with and possibly set back progress. Wait until basebuilding is complete first.

    My reference to “one hard effort” was probably too extreme. I only briefly reviewed topic on Cool Running before I posting this. I did not find the reference that I remember where it talked about needing to start over. That was something that I was pretty certain about having read. Perhaps I missed it or perhaps I found that from a different source. If I find it later, I will post an update.

  • #20994

    Anne
    Member

    Good discussion.

    I agree with Chris, the 5K & 10K races are I do are a perk of all this training. There's a long term goal but I have to set my sights on the occasional race to test myself, get competitive and have fun. Helps to break up the weeks of training.

    Plus I like hardware.  🙂

  • #20995

    GTF
    Member

    With all due respect, one should view anything posted to an internet forum (see: wikipedia) with requisite dubiousness, especially anecdotal information on a site such as CoolRunning.

  • #20996

    Ryan
    Keymaster

    I have to agree with GTF on this one, ksrunner. Somehow, I missed your post earlier. After scanning that thread, though, I found some dubious claims without even visiting any links off of that thread quite quickly. I have a feeling that, visiting the link that was the topic of the thread, I could have found even more questionable claims.

  • #20997

    Double
    Member

    How else do you get fast?  How do you see where your at?  It's a great gauge to see how you should be training.  Every day I'm training I'm at least thinking about racing.  I suspect a few of us should race more.  Me included.

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