Friday, September 22, 2006

Recovery 9

Today I padded 9 miles in 1:15:13 - something like an 8:22 pace with an HR of 138. Each time I put an average HR in the log, I scroll up to look at runs having similar efforts and the resulting pace. I look for changes, either good or bad, or consistency. I also look at my comments to see how I felt or if anything extraordinary was happening (hot day, hard course, etc). So today I was pleased to see that 138 corresponded almost exactly to the same pace a few days ago on a similar recovery effort.

My recovery runs tend to log miles at a slow pace. When I think of these runs, I think this is one of the best changes I made to my running program in this latest cycle. Lydiard (like most others) uses the hard/easy rule on a two-day cycle. Insert the HR monitor and you have high aerobic and low aerobic running alternately. When I first got the HR monitor, I calculated high aerobic to be about 75 - 80% maxHR and low to be 70 - 75% maxHR. In hindsight, I don't think I was quite ready to run the low aerobic paces that quickly.

Although I didn't recognize it at the time, I now realize I wasn't recovering from the 80% efforts fully when I ran the next day at 75% or even 70%. Too narrow a gap between the two efforts for my level of conditioning. So this time, I have run a pedestrian 65% or so low aerobic pace on the easy days - making for some slow times. However, I have found this has really perked up my running and I'm getting better quality where it counts.

In the future, I hope to run at relatively faster paces (and at slightly higher HR levels) on the easy days and still recover. But this I will take slowly because I have noticed this time, once I dropped the pace on the low days, I was able to A) complete the 100 mile weeks without injury and B) run faster on the high days.

We need to be really critical and honest about where our conditioning level really is. Not just in terms of our latest PR, but also (and maybe especially) our ability to sustain the training regimen we have chosen. If we can't recover, then the possibility exists the problem lies with the easy days and not the hard days. As the training cycle wears on and you notice that the spread between the hard paces and the easy paces is shrinking, it's a red flag and it's time to evaluate the paces.

I've been chewing on this for a few days now as I think about my marathon strategy, articles I have read, and my past training cycles. For example, I know what my 80% maxHR number is and I also know that an average Joe runs his marathon at about this level. But I also know that if I go to 80% too soon in the marathon without building up the heart rate slowly, I am so inefficient a fuel burner during those initial miles that I can possible run out of fuel before the race is finished. These are things I have learned from experience. But why the inefficiency? That is where I need to recognize that my level of conditioning is not refined enough (yet) to bring up the pace that quickly. And conditioning can only be improved through training.

So naturally, while I was pondering the effect of my conditioning on race fuel efficiency, it got me thinking about training within the current confines of this level. It's an inhibiting factor and one that cannot be ignored, skipped, or made to improve out of sheer will. It must be improved through proper training - which means stress & relief (repeat).

So some thoughts out loud: slow down on the easy days if you're not already cooking at your chosen distance. You can't force recovery - impossible. And the hard days? Like any engineering project (this time your own body) the more you focus on one thing, the more it costs in something else. So if you're running 7 miles fast but can't keep it for 12, then figure out what distance you're training for. It might not be the one you think.


Blogger Mike said...

Well shoot, I was just feeling good about running 7 miles fast. What a buzzkill.

Seriously, good post Andrew. I like your focus on heart rate, and using that as a determiner of marathon pace. It would be interesting to see how your heart rate climbs during your long runs mile by mile, especially quicker long runs. When I was following Pfitzinger's training I'd bring a HR monitor on the MP runs (they varied from 11-15 miles of effort if I remember). Each mile would get tracked as a "lap" on the monitor so I could review it later to see when my heart rate evened out at my LT (or race effort for one hour). If I had more than 70 minutes left to get to 26 miles at that pace, I knew my pace was a little too ambitious. Just a thought.

9/22/2006 10:48 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

I've had the same thought about getting 1 hour out and bringing the HR up to LT. Another way of looking at it is: run "conservatively" or at 80% until an hour out then don't be afraid to apply some heat in the race. Classic negative split strategy. Will I ever do it???

The 7 mile thing... just me thinking about the daily run and the balance (or engineering sacrifice) between those quick 7 miles or perhaps a slower (yet hard effort) 12 miler. A diet of shorter running will eventually produce a false positive to marathon fitness when what you have is some awesome 1/2 marathon conditioning.

At my level of ability, I still deal with the actual distance of a marathon as one of the hurdles to be overcome in the race. To a better runner, this is less of an issue. So I keep reminding myself to keep the daily singles up above 10 no matter the effort. This slows my pace for the "hard" days but I think it a good strategy for me. And honestly, I think if someone's marathon times are still a function of some slow final miles (like me walking at Holyoke) longer distances in training is a must.

9/23/2006 7:08 AM  

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