Where do I go from here?

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This topic contains 21 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  JCWrs 12 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #5209


    Having run my goal marathon I'm planning for next years race. Since I began running my training has focused on steady, aerobic, long runs. Each year I increase the average weekly mileage by 10 miles. In the last 4 years I averaged 50,60,70 and 80 mpw. This produced a steady, if slow, improvement in race times of 3:37,3:29,3:24 and 3:19.

    Over the next 2 months I'm building back up. My base extends 4 years and has been well maintained (I took only a few days off over the years). My new plan looks like this:

    May-Jun: Recovery and mileage build up (easy, comfortable pace)

    Jul-Nov: Steady aerobic workouts, mileage in the mid-high 90's, some tempo and marathon paced workouts but focus is on endurance.

    Dec: Test fitness at Philly marathon (not a goal race, run as hard workout) followed by a mini-recovery (a mental break before the final push to the May goal race)

    Jan-Feb: Mileage continues in the 90's but more emphasis on tempo, marathon pace, and long progression runs.

    Mar-Apr: Drop mileage to 80's, 3-4 tempo or marathon pace workouts a week, long cruise intervals of 1600m or 3200m with short recoveries.

    May: Taper 2 weeks and run marathon: goal: minimum 3:14, optimistic 3:10 (5-10 minute improvement)

    The weekly mileage will break down like this (what I ran the past 12 months is in parenthesis if different)

    Mon: 8
    Tue: 16 (8)
    Wed: 12 (16)
    Thu: 16 (8)
    Fri: 8
    Sat: 16 (13)
    Sun: 18-25

    Thats 15 miles more a week than the past year and a time commitment of 12-13 hours a week.

    That's the limit of time I can/am willing to devote to running (and I can't fit 2 a days into my schedule either).

    This is the highest mileage I will ever achieve (at least sustained for most of the year). Any suggestions on how to get the most out of the next 12 months of training? Does 10 minutes sound to ambitious (considering the history of 5 minutes a year).

    I know that I lack much (any) speed work but I tried 400s and 800's in the past and found more mileage had a bigger impact on race times. I'm also better suited to mileage then intensity. I run 365 days a year, never had an injury, and feel ready to run every day. But put me on a track for repeats, or the mill for hills, and I have a tough time maintaining volume.

    The day after the marathon 2 weeks ago I felt pretty recovered and did my usual Monday workout. I think I'm just built more for endurance and less for speed (I ran 7:37 pace for 26.2 miles but my best 4 mile race time is only 7:04).


  • #20617


    Yes, yes, we know the story. 

    1) Up mileage X mpw. 
    2) Drop pace Y seconds per mile. 
    3) Drop marathon time by 5 minutes. 
    4) Go to hillrunner.com and rehash my entire running history; how long I've been running, how I never miss a day, I'm always running the day after my last marathon, blah, blah blah
    5) Get advice regarding 2-a-days, trying some shorter races, adding in periodization, skipping a marathon here or there, etc.
    6) Ignore advice.


    This seems to have been going on for about 3 years now.

    As I've said before, you need some periodization to your year.  And you need to experience some shorter races.  You can learn a lot about yourself and your training by doing shorter races.  No more of this “I felt fine after the marathon” stuff.  Get out there and push your limits.

    And what about all the “limit, most I ever do, I lack” talk?  To me it sounds like you're avoiding the very things that will make you faster.  No one said you have to do 400s or 800s every week, 52 weeks a year.  That's what periodization is about.

    I hate being so harsh, but it's the same thing – ever 6 months.

  • #20618


    not in the same league… using percentage of change from last marathon I have a slightly different set of numbers… yours show(3.7, 2.4, 2.4) slight decrease in % improvement (diminishing returns) and mine (4.7, 7.8, 3.8, 2.8 ) show diminishing returns after a nice abberation… that cycle when I had a 7.8% improvement was when I started with a new coaching group… I had actually been with a different group  for the two marathons prior to the 4.7 and had shown NO improvement (even my hubby said , 'find a better way')… the 4.7 was a change of venue to a smaller marathon…

    I think that eventually we all find the limit to our MPW, our point of diminishing returns or get injured/old/change direction… the trick is to find out what gives you the biggest 'bang for your buck'… don't get me wrong, my last four races were off increasing mileage also (not as much as yours, but the theory is the same)… I just like the bigger jump that I got with the coaching group that I joined with some advice I got on this BB… they've also tweaked my schedule a bit each time and I'm going to give it another go this summer/fall with another venue change (going to Philly)…

    one thing we have learned is that I show more improvement in the fall, and they think that I could use more races, especially well placed in my schedule… they would like me to cross-train more (as an older runner, less pounding) but it doesn't fit in my life right now… so if you think you want MORE you may have to try something different… or you can wait another year and see if the increase x = improvement y%… once you hit the diminishing returns or your life limit mpw you WILL have to make a change or face a lack of improvement…

    good luck… can't wait to see what & how you do…

  • #20619


    I agree with Zeke when it comes to the training part. 

    1.  MORE intensity.  How about some shorter / faster tempo runs (45 minutes)???
    2.  Run all your runs faster.  I run nearly all my “easy” runs within 45 seconds of M pace.  I frequently average even faster than that for my medium and long runs. 
    3.  Run more shorter races (10K)

    PUSH YOURSELF….it will prepare you to push yourself in the race. 

    If more intensity and faster LSD running makes it tough to get out the door then slow down.  Bottom line IMO is run harder and faster. 

  • #20620


    I agree with Zeke and, to an extent (not 2), Chris.

    1) You'll always sell yourself short until you periodize. This means doing just what you're doing until 8-12 weeks before the goal race, then turning on the intensity.

    2) Shorter races are important. They teach you how to push past your current threshold.

    3) You have to learn how to push yourself. To me, if one is racing a marathon, one should not feel fine after the marathon. If you do, you didn't leave it all on the course.

  • #20621


    I'm going to try to take a different tact then Zeke and Ryan despite the fact that I agree with what they're saying.

    Randy, You may indeed be, as you say, “built more for endurance and less for speed”, but it seems to me that you've never bothered to commit to making yourself faster.  You have an amazing consistency and ability to commit to the marathon distance, but you refuse to make that same commitment to shorter races.  This is fine, for the most part, because you seem to only care about the marathon, but you are limiting your possible improvement even at this distance.  If you cannot run more then 4 miles at 7:04 pace (and I realize you probably could if you tapered and prepared the same way as you do for a marathon) you will never be able to run 7:15 pace for 26.2.  It will not happen.  Now, you can continue to do your consistent, proven training and likely drop another 4-5 minutes off your marathon time next year, or you can try something else.  It depends what you want for yourself.  If you want to continue to consistently approve with little risk…keep doing what you're doing.  If you want to see if there is a better way and, possibly, find that you have much more potential then you previously thought, then its time to shake things up.  Heres what I propose.

    Build your mileage back up over the summer to as high as you feel like going.  Then, instead of keeping it in the 90's through December and Philly, knock it down to 60-70 and run those tortuos intervals and other such hard workouts in a serious attempt to peak for a 10K race.  Forget Philly, you dont need to do another marathon at this point.  Forget about the mileage during this time as you have a 4 YEAR base.  Its time to run FAST and learn how to embrace the burning lungs, I feel like I'm going to puke type of workouts.  After you bury your 10K PR, you can build the mileage back up and do your normal marathon push.  You'll be more efficient, feel more comfortable at faster paces and likely be glad to drop the intensity (though you might find you keep more then you would think). 

    Doing this, maybe you set a HUGE PR, maybe not, but I think you owe it to yourself to give it a go.  I'd be shocked if it didn't end well.

  • #20622


    you need some periodization to your year.

    Not only that, but (2-week, 3-week, or 4-week) cycling of the volume within each training phase is glaringly lacking.  Such little variation leads to little stimulus and thus little in the way of gains.  Of course one will feel flat and taxed in trying to do hard workouts while holding essentially the exact same volume for weeks and months at a time, with no step-back recovery weeks at all.  That schedule could easily be shifted a tad to allow for at least one 2-a-day, unless there is simply no interest in it.  Also, this “run as a hard workout” marathon stuff is odd.  If not racing a fall marathon, then race a slate of races in the 5-30 km range in the summer and fall — significant speed and racing experience/confidence gains can easily be reaped by doing so.  It certainly does appear that the type of training outlined in the first post is not even close to pushing the limits.

  • #20623


    JCWrs, actually that is essentially what both Zeke and I were saying. Basically, what I read from your post is periodize and run shorter races. This is exactly what both Zeke and I have been saying for quite a while.

    Randy, I understand that you feel like you are built for endurance and not speed. I feel the same way about myself. To me, that doesn't mean I should ignore speed and focus only on endurance, though. That means I have to get out and do some killer workouts and shorter workouts to develop what speed I have. Of course, what you do is your choice and what you like and don't like matters. However, if the question is what will help your marathon performance, you need a well balanced training program, which means you need some speed.

  • #20624


    JCWrs, actually that is essentially what both Zeke and I were saying.

    You're right because I agree with you.  The different tact I was hoping to get across was that, since Randy seems to like to focus on one big effort at a time, maybe he should do exactly that, but just do it with a 10K in the fall and then a marathon after that.  If he would put in the training to pop a good 10K, I think it would have the effect we are all after here.  I was trying to point out that it wasn't necessarily a requirement that he do multiple races amidst an extended period of focusing on short races.  Like you said, its essentially what you and Zeke have been saying for some time, I was simply trying to put it another way.  Maybe its all been said before, but if this is the time that it gets through then so much the better.

    Randy, I wanted you to know that, while I cant speak for everyone else, the reason I would love to see you try some of these things is because it is obvious you are dedicated to bettering yourself in this sport.  You are commited, consistent and willing to put in the time to become a better runner.  You put in more miles then anyone I know thats not faster then me.  I want to see you get all you can out of this immense effort you are putting forth and like I said in my previous post, I think you owe it to yourself to try this approach at least once.  I hope you dont think I'm down on your approach to training becuase it obviously works for you, but I honestly believe you have more in you.  Whatever you decide…good luck.

  • #20625


    The different tact I was hoping to get across was that, since Randy seems to like to focus on one big effort at a time, maybe he should do exactly that, but just do it with a 10K in the fall and then a marathon after that.

    That's a great point. While I consider the ability to run multiple races at a high level a real benefit of focusing on shorter races, it's not necessary to do that.

    Randy, I wanted you to know that, while I cant speak for everyone else, the reason I would love to see you try some of these things is because it is obvious you are dedicated to bettering yourself in this sport.  You are commited, consistent and willing to put in the time to become a better runner.

    I think this is in fact the reason a lot of us are saying the same thing. In Randy, I see a ton of untapped potential. He has the work ethic and the desire to do some great things with his running. He just hasn't put together a complete, balanced training program. Once again, Randy, if you're happy with what you're doing, that's the most important thing. However, the reason we keep telling you the same thing is because we see in you the potential to be so much more compeititvely. In you, I see the worth ethic and desire of at least a sub-3 marathoner, if not a 2:45-2:50 marathoner. That's the runner I would love to see you become. Of course, you have to decide if that's the runner you want to become but, if it is, I think those times are there for you.

  • #20626


    Randy, there's some great advice given already. Just don't be put off by the manner it was communicated. I admire your dedication and work ethic and you've been rewarded with a steady improvement as your miles have increased and one year built on the next. You will get faster just by increasing your volume but only to an extent. To realize your potential you need to take advantage of your base and do some faster [than tempo] running / racing. The body adapts quickly and becomes complacent to the stress applied, you have to occasionally “shock” it to keep improving. This isn't always more volume or faster running, just a different type of stress. That could be in the form of a unique phase or race distance. After 33 years and 16 marathons I know that the only way to get faster is to make race pace seem more comfortable. And doing MP or tempo runs will only get you so far. Early on I learned that after racing 10k's in the Summer marathon pace felt like a jog in comparison. And this is from someone who has little speed. Training principals apply to everyone – the gifted and mid-packers alike. Also, I don't like the fact that you've got yourself doing all those tempo / MP runs the last two months before your goal race. That's a lot of hard efforts that may only wear you down when you should be running fewer but faster workouts. My 2 cents FWIW. 

  • #20627


    The general consensus is that my training lacks periodization. Yet, in my mind at least, each year I move toward more distinct phases.

    I base my training on an interpertation of Lydiard that fits my life (both running and non-running).

    What I described in my original post has the following distinct phases (or at least I saw them as phases):

    May-Jun: This is the recovery/rebuilding phase. Rebuilding my mileage after racing, running easy workouts to recover, without a focus on pace is part of any training plan; including Lydiards (from 'Running with Lydiard').

    Jul-Nov: This is modeled on Lydiards 'Aerobic conditioning' phase. The mileage is slightly lower than his recommended amount (100 mpw versus my mid 90's) but its close and follows his advice to run singles to maximize endurance development.

    The occasional tempo or marathon pace workout in this phase, while fast, are still aerobic workouts. I understand Lydiard was not an advocate of Long Slow Distance; rather he advocated Long Steady Distance. I think any pace under Lactate threshold can fit that definition. I limit the frequencly of faster workouts so I can handle the volume.

    And I don't think 5 months is too long for this phase, from everything I've read Lydiard expected this phase to last a long time. Certainly many months, not only a few weeks. I dropped my fall race so I could extend this phase.

    Dec: Running Philly was something I committed to last year. My family enjoyed the 3 days spent sight seeing at last years race and wanted to return. At that time I was still planning to race this fall. With the commitment already made I changed my plan to run this as a long workout.

    If I run it at training pace I don't see it effecting me negativly. The mini-recovery in December is less about this race and more a need to accomodate family activites that month. And a short cutback will re-energize me mentally before the last (more intense) 4 months of training.

    Jan-Feb: With an increased emphasis on Lactate threshold and race pace workouts this is transitioning to the sharpening phase. The progression runs during this phase usually finish well into my anaerobic range.

    Mar-Apr: Drop volume and do more intensinty in the sharpening phase. The cruise intervals are anaerobic and the tempo and marathon pace workouts are good workouts for a marathon goal race.

    May: Two week taper and race (volume drops by 25% and then 50%, intensity is maintained with marathon and tempo pace runs). Pretty standard taper.

    At the least I see distinct Recovery/Building, Aerobic conditioning, and Taper phases. Perhaps the lack of intensity in the Sharpening phases make it appear I am not doing enough periodization. More (any) races at the medium distance (5 and 10k) probably would help (as has been pointed out). I will make it a point to fit several of those into the schedule (both over this summer and before racing the marathon next spring).


  • #20628


    Randy, how are you running those cruise intervals? Last I checked, cruise intervals were an alternative to tempo runs. As I see it, you have nothing faster than LT pace, do you? You're missing out on a lot of benefits by not working on your speed.

    As has already pointed out, if you can only run 7:00 pace for a 4 miler, it's going to be hard to run faster than 7:30 pace for a marathon.

  • #20629


    Randy, back in the early 90's I ran three marathons between 3:12-3:15 and my pace times for shorter distances were 6:20 for 5 miles, 7:01 for the half and 7:23 for the marathon. Based on those times MP pace was pretty felt comfortable and I wasn't running anywhere close to the mileage you are, though I did some pretty long, long runs [26 milers] and the usual LT and MP runs.


  • #20630


    I ran a variety of workouts and paces; especially in the last 12 weeks (and plan to do about the same in the next cycle but with a longer 'aerobic conditioning' phase).

    The range was:

    1600mx6 (1 wu/1 cd/1-2 min/rcv): 6:40-6:50
    3200mx3 (1 wu/1 cd/2-3 min/rcv): 6:50-7:00
    tempo (4-5/1-2 wu/1-2 cd or long progression): 7:00-7:30
    marathon (final miles of long or medium runs): 7:30-7:40
    medium long: 7:40-7:50
    long run: 7:50-8:10
    recovery run: 8:10-8:20

    I trained at these paces preparing for the last race. That race was run at 7:37 pace, the high end of the marathon training pace.

    Before the last 3 months I rarely went faster than tempo pace and even tempo pace was rare. The majority of mileage was in the slowest 3 categories.

    In the last 3 months the frequency of tempo and marathon pace workouts went up and I added long intervals (the 1600 and 3200m cruise intervals) and more progression runs to the mix.

    Right now, while in the recovery/rebuilding phase, its rare for me to run faster than long run pace (I'm not tracking pace so it may be slower or faster; during this phase I don't wear a watch).

    This time with the longer aerobic phase I will again run mostly in the slowest 3 pace range; with maybe once a week or other week a faster workout (or perhaps a 10k or two based on advice posted here).

    From the slowest, easy run at 8:10-8:20 pace to the fastest 1600m cruise interval at 6:40-6:50 I cover a wide range of training 'zones'.


  • #20631


    OK, a couple of things.

    Do you ever do hills?  How can you base a plan off of Lydiard and ignore a phase completely?

    Also, I think you are missing the point of those of us who are trying to get you to focus on speed.  Your paces for marathon training are adequate (though many people do more faster work then you, its not a requirement).  However, your potential in the marathon may never be reached if you never improve your speed at shorter distances.  Most elites (and many of us mortals) progress upwards in distance as we get older so that, by the time we get to the marathon, we have all but maximized our potential at shorter distances.  At this point, the only thing left to work on is endurance.  You are the opposite.  You have worked your endurance into the ground.  You have a tremendous base and have a marathon pace that is within shouting distance of your 4-mile pace (meaning you are an aerobic monster).  The only thing left for you to work on to make large improvements is your speed at shorter distances.

    Let me put it this way.  If you go and train hard, focusing on 5K and 10K this fall and drop your 4 mile race pace by 20-30 seconds/mile, which I believe is very possible for you, and then follow-up with your normal marathon prep-work for the spring, your aerobic base would likely mean that your marathon pace would drop by 15-25 seconds AT LEAST!  You are not going to lose that amazing aerobic capacity…you are going to gain speed and efficiency!  All race paces are related for every runner and dropping a shorter race pace will, invariably, drop a longer race pace if one (as you are) is properly aerobically trained.  DO NOT IGNORE THIS FACT!

  • #20632


    In the past I did a 4 week hill phase in weeks 14 to 16 (2-3 workouts a week). I left it out of the last training schedule as well as the new one. I dropped the hills for several reasons. I don't feel it hurt me in my last race.

    First, various sources (including one linked to on this site) claim that Lydiard reduced the significance of the hill phase in later works. With each new book the phase got shorter and the number of weekly workouts dropped in frequency.

    Second, the hill phase beat the crap out of me. I usually recover in hours from long runs and by the next day from fast workouts. Theres a residual soreness but rarely does it effect the next workout. Not true after hill repeats; maybe its an age thing but hills took a long time to recover from. It effected all workouts and I always felt on the edge of injury.

    Finally, the only way I could fit hills into my life (none near my home) is to run on the mill. I can handle the mill on and off but a 4 week hill phase was too much. I try to work hills into as many runs as possible. When traveling I seek out hilly terrain and hit an overpass a few miles from home several times a week.


  • #20633



    I hate hills as much as the next guy.  However, have you considered that they beat the crap out of you because your legs are not as strong as they should be?  Lydiard may have de-emphasized the hill phase, but I dont think its wise to drop it all together.  The point of the hill phase is to strengthen your legs, improve efficiency and get some hard work in without the pounding that running fast on flat ground brings.  The whole idea is to prepare your body for the sharpening stage.  Without a hill phase you cannot get the most out of this final phase because your legs are simply not ready.  Perhaps this is why those intervals have been so difficult for you? 

    I may be way off base here, but it seems to me that, while you certainly have the will to log the miles, you don't seem to have the will to prepare properly.  Hills suck!  Intervals suck!  Hard, sustained efforts make you feel like you're going to die!  BUT THEY ARE THERE FOR A REASON!  If you're getting beaten up too badly by hills and intervals then you need to build into them more gradually.  Know that you wont keep the volume at its peak because the quality is going to rise and just accept that going in. 

    From what I've gathered from your posts:

    You run long distances much better then short.
    You don't recover well from hill workouts and intervals.
    You recover very well from long runs (including marathons).

    All this points to the same thing:

    You have not done nearly as much work on your speed as you have on your endurance.  You cannot neglect your speed and reach your potential at ANY running distance.  Thats the way it is.  If you want to find out what your true limit is, you have got to find the heart to get in the harder training that will make you faster.  If thats not what you want then so be it, but more miles will only get you so far.

  • #20634


    Lydiard may have de-emphasized the hill phase, but I dont think its wise to drop it all together.

    Exactly what I was about to post. Lydiard did de-emphasize hills in a way if you consider a shortening of the hill phase a de-emphasis. However, he never removed hills from his suggested training program because he always valued the importance of hills. The strength gained on the hills is the basis for the speed you build later with true interval and repetition (to borrow terms from Daniels) type workouts.

    I've always looked at workouts this way. The more I like the workout, the more I want to do it. The more I dislike the workout, the more I need to do it. Hill repeats has to be the most difficult workout I can think of, closely followed by 400s and 800s. These are precisely the workouts I need, though, in order to improve my speed and efficiency so 5:00-5:30 pace becomes relatively comfortable and 6:00 pace feels like a jog.

    Randy, I still don't see those top end speed workouts or the hills. If you want to talk Lydiard, he did place a high value on these workouts. If you don't feel like doing these workouts, that's fine. However, these are what are lacking from your training so, when you come here and ask what you should do, it should be no surprise that this is what comes up. You have everything covered. It's like the person who does all these workouts but runs 40 miles a week. When they come around and ask what they can do to improve their marathon or even their 10k, one simple answer comes to mind. Run more. In your case, you have the run more part down but you don't have the run hard part down.

    It's all about balance if you're looking for places to improve your training. While most people are doing all the workouts but leaving out the volume, which makes the “run more” response the most logical, you are basically just the opposite. You have the volume down but you don't get in the intensity needed to make your marathon pace come as easily as it should.

  • #20635


    Actually, when you say that your training pace varies between 6:40 and 8:20, that's not a lot of variation. If you are working all your paces and running slowly on recovery runs, then there should be around 3:00 minutes, maybe more, between your fastest and slowest paces.

    I did a marathon at 6:25 pace last year (2:49); I do 200-800m mile-paced repeats at between 74-77 seconds a lap (4:58-5:12 mile), and my recovery runs are regularly as slow as 8:10 pace. You can find plenty of support for this approach–if you ever go to the run-insight forums, the pseudonymous coach Tinman implies this when he says that true recovery runs should be at least 2:30/mile slower than 5km race pace.

    It's easy to get stuck in a routine of doing the workouts you enjoy the most, and not doing the workouts you need to be doing. We've probably all been there, it's a very natural temptation, I know I've been there some seasons. Long steady runs and tempo runs where you feel fit but you're not hurting are more fun than 600m at mile pace, or 1000m at 5k pace with relatively short recoveries.

    Don't think you have to jump right into the hardest versions of interval or repetition workouts (to use Daniels' terms). Start out with something much easier and more manageable, like 8 x 400m at 5km pace with a full lap jog recovery. Or, start from above by making some of your 1 mile repeats 1200m or 1000m, and run them just a little quicker, maybe 10k pace rather than threshold pace. Over a period of a couple of months you can gradually increase the pace of the 400m repeats to mile pace (keeping the long recovery), and run for longer at 5km pace.

    If you gradually increase the intensity of these quicker workouts you'll be less likely to get sore and injured. The same goes for hill workouts. Lydiard did de-emphasize the hill phase, but IIRC he said that depended on how hilly your environment was. It was great advice for people living in New Zealand or San Francisco or Portland, but not for the Midwest (where I'm guessing you are). It's very easy in most places in the Midwest to avoid serious hills. If you're getting sore with the hill workouts you've tried before, don't jump into those straight away. Start with something easier. I start my hill phase with a couple of weeks where my hill “workout” is just running up and down an 800m hill at my regular easy training intensity. That gets me used to the different muscular demands of running on the hills before I drop the intensity to even marathon race intensity.

  • #20636


    All this slow training doesn't make for a fast marathon.  Spend a couple months getting as fast as you can while maintaining mileage, run easy half the week and do a couple of the long runs fairly quick.  Run some marathon pace work, but run half of it about as fast as you can muster and still run the next day.  Mileage, long runs, strength workouts (the running kind) and to the wall speed through hard workouts or races will get you there in as little as two months before a taper.  This is how I would do it.

  • #20637


    Bump down the spam.

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