The Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of High Mileage Training

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: 長跑 Long Run (Marathon) by Flickr user See-ming Lee, used under a Creative Commons license.

One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles.  With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.

It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”.  Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base.  But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.

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Five Ways to Tune Up Your Tune-Up Race Strategy: Perfect 10 Case Study

Perfect 10 Race Start

One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races.  These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal.  However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.

There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).

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From the Archives:
Turning the Page on 2011

Photo Credit: morning runner from Flickr user Henrik Moltke, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

With the year drawing to a close, it seems a good time to reflect on 2011 and lay out some plans for 2012, both for training and for this blog.  I had planned such an exercise last year but decided against it, and, given the sudden change in outlook at the close of the year, I’m glad I did.  Here’s hoping the crystal ball for 2012 proves a little more accurate than the unpublished one for 2011 did.

Training and Results

In this publisher’s opinion, no running blog is that credible if the author doesn’t practice what he or she preaches.  It is through training – and both successful or unsuccessful pursuit of goals – that one gains the experience to share.  Having started the year working through a hamstring injury, the outlook in January (and February) was a bit clouded, and downright frustrating at times. However, if you invest the time and open-mindedness in the recovery process, you can gain a lot while injured – new perspectives on injury prevention, as an example, as well as training approaches to improve your overall performance.

The long road back began in March.  Following a 10%/week mileage increase philosophy, the weekly total reached a good base level of around 50 miles a week, prior to embarking on the Pfitzinger 18/70 plan in early June.  A 5K time trial in April (18:20) verified that VO2max levels held up well during recovery.  An improvement on last year’s result (and a defense of the AG title) at the Towpath Ten-Mile race in June provided another boost to confidence.

The training proceeded well, with the usual challenges from summer humidity hampering results on the more challenging tempo and marathon pace runs.  Running a different route every single time out provided another interesting variety too. The River Run Half-Marathon in September provided one last indication that all was going well with the training, resulting in a PR of over a minute on a downhill course.

The shrine to the Towpath Marathon

Of course, no amount of time trials or practice races could have predicted the surprise that awaited at the Towpath Marathon.  Maybe the 2:55:41 PR, well under the 3:00 goal, was predicted by some (namely Tim Meier), but no one could have foreseen the weak field that resulted in a shocking come-from-behind victory.

Cashing in on the high-mileage training at a small 4-mile race in November provided a nice bookend to a season in which every goal was met – especially staying injury-free.  While I’ve taken to calling my hamstrings Scylla and Charybdis to remind myself of the constant risk that they pose, it seems that, with proper care, the chronic scar tissue is manageable.

The Blog

Obviously, the mood and focus of Predawn Runner shifted with the season as well, from a lot of discussion of injury in the winter to a lull during the peak training months of the summer (when I began to believe I’d never have time to post again, and debated giving it up), to the jubilation of the race season in the fall.  Through it all, some themes stayed constant:

Recently, I introduced a new theme that is also consistent with the message of this blog – how running is not only healthy, but helps to build your character, making you a better family member, employee, and leader.  I read and reviewed some good books in 2011, and shared thoughts on some great gear, like the Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp. And we continued profiling others who have found balance through running.

After a redesign of The Running Manifesto back in May, it has seen a renewed interest, with dozens of calendars and posters, and a few t-shirts, having been sold this holiday season through the Zazzle and CafePress stores.


The San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge at dawn.

One of many photographs from the road this year

This was a pretty rich year for travel, with predawn running posts from the following destinations:

There is now a Tripped-Out Running Map to summarize all the cities covered by posts.

Looking Ahead to 2012

Marathon-wise, 2012 looks to be a repeat of 2010 – Cleveland in May, Akron in September.  I”m planning tune-up half-marathons for each (Towpath in April, Buckeye in August, both of which will be first-time attempts) and of course a return to the Towpath Ten-Miler in June to help gauge year-over-year progress.

The Cleveland preparation will be a repeat of the Pfitzinger 18/70 program, but the plan is to step up to and 85-mile program for Akron.  The timing will be tight as there are only ~18 weeks between these marathons.  Recovery will thus blend right into ramping back up, which will be a tricky transition to manage.

Blog content will continue to focus on how to put it all together, plus some additional discussions of specific workouts such as intervals and hill work.  We’ll expand the “Running Builds Character” series, of course.  Look for some round-up posts with advice from veteran marathoners on training and race strategies, as well as a potential “carnival of the blogs” on a topic yet-to-be-determined, but likely involving approaches to maintaining motivation.  And I’ll continue to seek and share inspiration from non-running blogs that offer great content on excellence and productivity, such as Harvard Business Review and Stepcase Lifehack.

We’ll continue the profiles, but also look back at the progress of those who have already been interviewed, to get a sense of the “say-do” ratio.  I think you’ll be impressed with the accomplishments – there are no slouches in this group.

Travel-wise, the year will be a bit repetitive to past years (most of my customers are in a few central locations).  Thus, I’ll instead shift my focus to the city I call home, with a series of articles on the running scene in Cleveland, for that handful of you that actually may visit here someday.  Of course, guest posts are always welcome as a way to spice up this section of the blog as well.

And I may go quiet for a bit at times as well, as I have a bigger project in mind. In fact, I’ve already started on it, and sense I seem to have lost my focus and commitment to it, I’ll make it public here to try and drive more motivation – I’m working on a book.  This book (title TBD) will cover the lessons learned on the journey from injury to winning a marathon, and will be based on the content posted here and on dailymile, but refined and consolidated to hopefully make an approachable work that demonstrates that “the average Joe” can accomplish their goals through a blend of commitment, patience, and a bit of luck.

This is likely my last post of 2011 (I have a book to work on, you know), so I’d like to thank you for your support this year.  I look forward to expanding and deepening our relationships in the next year and beyond, as your comments are one of the great joys of running this blog.  I offer my warmest holiday wishes to you and your families.

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Posted in Motivation by Greg. 12 Comments

Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1

PI Road N1 Side

It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe.  But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.

First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store.  My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes.  While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients.  My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before.  The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss.  Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »

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Posted in Gear by Greg. 2 Comments

Seven Ways to Support Your Significant Other’s Interest in Running

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: FUN RUN by Flickr user whologwhy, used under a Creative Commons license.

Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time.  This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves.  Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.

However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.

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Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo Credit: Dismal Days 2012 on Flickr by US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District, used under a Creative Commons license.

A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach.  My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…

Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »