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).

Read the rest of Five Ways to Tune Up Your Tune-Up Race Strategy: Perfect 10 Case Study »

From the Archives:
Getting Impatient and the Marathon that Rhymes with Boston

Photo credit Austin Skyline by Flickr user Bruce Turner, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Alright, you may recall in a recent post that I extolled the freedom that comes from base maintenance between marathon training.  All the experimental types of workouts you can do, the ability to forget about weekly mileage, all the while still pushing your fitness to come into the next season stronger than ever before.

I’ll admit that sometimes reality intrudes on the best-envisioned intentions.  For a week, everything went swimmingly – I was able to hit the track to do some 16x100m strides.  I ran a rhythm run proceeding from marathon pace (6:55) to 5K pace (6:00) over nine miles.  I ran-by-feel on everything else, including the beginning of a 1:45 long run – until I realized I was going to be late for a commitment and suddenly had to watch the Garmin like a hawk.  This whole “run by feel” thing doesn’t work for me as I always feel too much in a rush.

And then reality hit, in a multiple of four:

  1. Most importantly, winter has smacked Cleveland.  No longer is the track free.  No longer does “running by feel” mean anything, when the pace is more set by road conditions than how your body feels.  And the precise pacing of a rhythm run becomes more challenging to achieve.
  2. After two >50 mile weeks, I recognized that I crave mileage right now, and am in near-marathon shape.  No, I haven’t run the 10×800 or 5×1 mile intervals I usually put in the back half of my training program – but I want to rely on less of those anyway.  No, there have been no 20 milers, but there have been some strong sub-7 15 and 17 milers the past month which put me beyond anywhere I have ever been in the middle of a marathon training cycle.
  3. May 15 (the Cleveland Marathon) is a long time off.  A typical 18-week marathon-training program wouldn’t start until mid-January, and that assumes you are starting from base-building long runs in the 8-10 mile range.  And the race calendar in Northeast Ohio is pretty slim through March (at least), unless you want snowy trail races.  Which I really don’t. While I enjoy training for the sake of training, there do need to be milestones along the way.
  4. The Cleveland / Akron (or Towpath) cycle risks becoming a bit of a rut. All 3 are fine races, but every runner needs variety.

And we're off on a short winter training cycle for Austin

I had hinted previously at running the Austin Marathon.  I brought this up at my company’s holiday party with a colleague who had just run the New York City Marathon (my company provides an ingredient in a anti-chafing product, and we have enjoyed free entries to the marathon the past few years in return for our support at the expo – unfortunately, I had been on a hiatus from the company those few years).  My wife was very supportive of the idea.  After waiting most of a week to be sure it wasn’t just the wine talking, I sent in my registration and booked my flights.

Now, I never really went into a lot of the reasons as to why I elected to pass on the Boston Marathon next year, but it largely came down to the cost. Between registration, flights, and hotels, plus meals and transportation, it can add up.  Yes, I could use frequent traveler points to do a lot of that, but those have an “opportunity cost” as well.

Austin is different.  See, my brother lives in Austin.  We haven’t seen each other for a few years – we get along just fine, it’s just that our lives have taken different paths.  But he is more than willing to host me when I visit and, while I may have to figure out how to protein and carbo-load while staying with a strict vegetarian (given that I’m not a particular fan of vegetables, beyond the basics), I look forward to spending some time with him.  And I do have plenty of Delta miles from a previous job that sent me to Asia frequently.

So Austin on February 20 it is, which brings several new experiences (again, in a group of four):

  1. I have never run a winter marathon – every one I have done to date has been May or September/October.
  2. I have never run 3 marathons in a year, which will now be my plan for 2011.
  3. I’ve never decided on a marathon with less than four months to prepare – it is less than 10 weeks until Austin.
  4. I’ve never run a marathon south of the Mason-Dixon line (OK, that’s a bit of a stretch, but I really wanted to stick to that “four” theme).  But this will be the furthest I have traveled for a race.

There will be a lot of hurdles to overcome in preparing for this.  Winter training will force me to take what I can get and employ a lot of flexibility in my yet-to-be-designed training schedule.  Intervals, hills, and pace runs will be subject to conditions.  I may find myself substituting higher mileage for speed work, and I look forward to the experiment.  Additionally, with a family vacation planned over New Years (with the upside being a reprieve from the cold and snow) and my wife having an 11-day trip for work soon thereafter, stepback weeks will be set in advance and a focus on quality over quantity (and maybe even – wait for it – cross-training) will reign.  Perhaps the mix of high-mileage weeks with high-quality weeks will yield a useful balance. Regardless, time to start cranking out some 20+ milers, and pushing 60+ on the weekly mileage.  Seems 2011 will need to start off with a bang.  Better go and finish reading Daniel’s Running Formula so I can get that plan designed.

The goal for Austin is 3:00, but this is flexible if the training can’t be what I’d like it to be due to weather conditions (but I’m not going to use the vacation and travel schedule of my wife as an excuse).  Regardless, I’m going to push Joe Maruchella to come up with a “D” goal, and try to stay ahead of Erin Ruyle as she continues to push out strong marathon performance month-after-month.  Worst case, I end up with a strong training run and more marathon experience to prepare for an assault on 3:00 at Cleveland.

Another goal - get Joe to dress like this for the marathon

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Posted in Races by Greg. 7 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 »