Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Race Strategy Guide

Great race execution has its rewards

Overview
When determining the best race strategy to advise distance runners to utilize, I came up with the following criteria to help guide me, I wanted a strategy that:
-        Offered the highest probability of producing the best performance
-        Was physiologically sound
-        Was psychology sound
-        Could be practiced in training to help the runner master it

After studying all the different components involved, and looking at the best results from runners of all ages and ability levels over multiple decades, I have the come up with what I feel is the best race strategy and use and one that meet all of the criteria listed.

Interestingly enough, this general strategy (slight negative split) has been what has been used in the vast majority of world records in distance races over the last 50 years, giving me good confidence in its soundness.

I am also defining the race strategy I recommend in such a way that it can be utilized by runners regardless of how they prefer to monitor their races, whether by pace, effort, or heart rate, so that it may be used by all runners.  

Race Strategy
The race is broken up into 3 segments as follows:

Segment #1:  First 10% of the race - easing into it
In the first segment of the race the runner eases into their goal pace/effort/heart rate. The runner does this by starting conservatively, just slightly slower than goal pace/effort/heart rate and gradually ramping up into the goal ranges by 5-10% into the race.

Physiologically this allows the body to ramp into goal range more efficiently and with a lower energy burn rate and blood lactate level than a more abrupt start allows.  

Psychologically this takes some pressure and stress off on the starting line and in early part of the race, as the runner knows they have time to ramp into their performance.  

Segment #2:  10% to 80% of race distance - strong, smooth and steady
The second segment of the race is by far the longest and encompasses the majority of the race.  It lasts from the 10% mark of the race to the 80% mark of the race or 70% of the total race distance.  Our strategy in this second segment is to run as smooth and even as possible in our goal range (either pace, heart rate or effort).  We want to focus on a good strong sustainable rhythm and staying as relaxed as possible while running in our goal range. 

Physiologically this allows the body to run as expend as little energy as possible while at goal pace range or to run as fast as possible at goal heart rate or effort range. 

Psychologically it allows us to go on auto-pilot and just execute what we have trained to do without over thinking things or getting too caught up in racing.

Segment #3:  Last 20% of race distance - racing home
At the 80% point in the race we do a quick assessment on how much gas we have left in the tank, and then race home the best we can based on that.  At best we may be able to pick-up the pace some in this final segment as we race home, and at worst we should be able to maintain our goal pace if we have executed our first 80% as planned.  Any up-side on our goal comes in this last 20% of the race.  We have raced the first 80% of the race with our heads, following a strategy we should be able to maintain the whole way, and now we race the last 20% of the race with our hearts to finish off the performance and maybe realize some upside.  We use competition to help motivate us and embrace the challenge of pushing and expanding our limits. This last 20% is a huge investment both physically and mentally as we are pushing our limits and dealing with steadily growing fatigue, but that is why we executed the first 80% as we did, to conserve as much physical and mental energy as we could for this last segment.

Physiologically we have set ourselves up well, we have covered the first 80% at a manageable level so now we are free to race home and use up what energies we have left knowing we are close to home and most of the way to great performance

Psychologically we conserved our mental energies the first 80%, not worrying about competition, just executing a solid plan and staying smooth and relaxed and not over thinking.  Now as we hit the final 20% we start pulling out the mental tricks and triggers to help us combat the fatigue.  We let our competition motivate us, we try and catch or pass people (most people positive split races so by executing a slight negative split, we will be passing many more people in this segment than we get passed by), we think of how close we are to a completing a great performance and use it to excite and motivate us.  We break the final miles of the race up in smaller segments and stay in the moment, executing 1 segment at a time.

This Race Strategy:
- helps us run relaxed and efficient and feel good for as much of the race as possible while still maximizing our performance
- helps us stay positive late in the race by structuring it so that we are passing people instead of getting passed late in the race, we race the second half of the race as the hunters not the hunted.
- conserves our mental and physical energies for when we will need it most - the end of the race
- is practicable in most of our training

Establishing Our Goal Ranges
An important part of this race strategy is having a good handle on what your reasonable goal range(s) should be, as we will use it as the basis for the first 80% of the race.  This goal range can be a certain pace per mile or kilometer, or it can be a target heart rate range, or a certain feel/effort we want to give.

Many people find they are most comfortable with using one of these methods as their primary gauge with maybe another one (or two) as a secondary gauge.  For example, you may decide to run based on feel with pace as a back-up guide that is a little more concrete.

You have 2 big tools to use in deciding our goal range.  The results of your training leading up to the race and past experience in races.  The more you have trained and raced the easier this becomes to figure out.  You will have experienced workouts and races and have a good idea what that means for you in this race.  A coach can be a HUGE help on this front, as not only do they know your training and racing background very well, but they have examples and knowledge of dozens (and even hundreds) other runners having done similar workouts and races.

A big key here is to not overextend your goal ranges.  Stick with what is reasonable and that you have a very high likelihood of being able to sustain.  Leave stretch goals and up-side potential to that last 20% of the race and pace the first 80% of the race with solid, realistic expectation.  A great way to do this by using a simulation run or race in your training to practice the pacing you plan to use the first 80% of the race.  As a key stress workout in your cycle, simply run 50-60% of the goal race distance exactly as you plan to run the first 80% of the race.  It can give you good feedback, help your tweak your plan, and boost your confidence on race day.

Goal Range Adjustments
Make sure that after establishing your goals ranges you note any adjustments that need to be made due to course or weather conditions.  This includes things like any big hills on the course or warmer or colder weather conditions than you are use to in your training.  Again data from your training and past races and your coach can help you hone these adjustments.

Example Strategy
Sub 3 Hour Marathon (goal range by pace)
Segment 1:  ease into the race the first 2 miles: 7:00-7:10 for first mile and 6:50-7:00 for second mile
Segment 2:  smooth and steady 6:45-6:50 per mile from 2 to 21 miles, except 6:55-7:00 pace on the hilly section from 10-13 miles
Segment 3:  race it home last 5.2 miles at 6:50 or better pace
Result:  2:59 or better

Approx Race Breakout By Segment
Race DistanceSegment 1Segment 2Segment 3
5kfirst quarter mile.25 to 2.5 mileslast .6 miles
8kfirst half mile.5 to 4 mileslast mile
10kfirst half mile.5 to 5 mileslast 1.2 miles
15kfirst mile1 to 7.5 mileslast 1.8 miles
10 milefirst mile1 to 8 mileslast 2 miles
20kfirst mile1 to 10 mileslast 2.4 miles
Half Marathonfirst mile1 to 10 mileslast 3.1 miles
25kfirst 1.5 miles1.5 to 12.5 mileslast 3 miles
30kfirst 1.5 miles2 to 15 mileslast 3.6 miles
Marathonfirst 2 miles2 to 21 mileslast 5.2 miles

Practice In Training
During your stress workouts in training, practice the general outline we plan to use in racing.  That is: start a bit conservative and ease into it; run strong, smooth and steady during the majority of the workout and then finish a touch faster in the final section (i.e. slight negative split).  In particular practice this approach in your tempo runs and long runs as these are continuous runs most similar to our races.  After awhile of doing this, it will become ingrained and just part of how you normally run, making it second nature to you on race day.

Fueling
The is is an area of race strategy that has gotten a lot more complicated for runners in recent years as there is more options now than ever before.  There are tons of waters, sports drink, electrolyte drinks, energy replacement drinks, gels, gu's, sports beans, chews and lots of "normal" foods available to runners in training and races and all sorts of methods of carrying them with you if desired.  So lets first cut through some of the haze and confusion and establish a base strategy.

Lets start by breaking this up into race durations:
1) races under 1 hour
2) races between 1 and 2 hours
3) races over 2 hours

Next lets break-up the fueling needs into 2 categories
1) fluids/electrolytes
2) energy/calories

Fluids/Electrolytes 
Per serving:  3-6 oz (2-3 good swallows) of water or drink with electrolytes
Races under 1 hour:   1 serving every 20-30 minutes (optional)
Races between 1 - 2 hours:  1 serving every 20-30 minutes  (15-20 minutes in warm weather)
Races over 2 hours:  1 serving every 15-20 minutes
Recommendation: start by alternating servings between waters and electrolyte drink the first half of race then adjust second half by craving.

Energy/Calories
Per serving:  75-100 calories (easy to digest)
Races under 1 hour:  not recommended
Races between 1 - 2 hours:  1 serving every 40-60 minutes
Races over 2 hours:  1 serving every 30-45 minutes
Options: sports/energy drinks, gels, GU's, sports beans, chews, real food (fruit, cookie, etc.)

Experiment In Training
Play with the options listed above in training to figure out what mix and combination works best for you. Do you prefer to get your calories from drinks or gels, or chews.  Does your stomach handle sports drinks OK, and if not which ones does it like or not like.  Your training runs, especially long runs are you chance to figure this out and train your stomach for race day.

Example
Common Marathon Strategy:  alternating between a servings of water and sports drink once every 15-20 minutes plus 1 gel per hour.

Happy Racing,

Coach Mark Hadley

Friday, May 20, 2016

Spotlight Workout: Hill Repeats


"Hills are speed work in disguise"
- Frank Shorter, Olympic Marathon Champion

There are many ways to use hills effectively in your training; from long uphill mountain runs, to rolling hills on your long runs, to hilly tempos, to hill repeats.  Today I want to spotlight one hill workout that I find to be very effective for a wide variety of runners: 12 x 400 Meter Hill Repeats

The Hill
I have found this workout works best if we find a moderate hill to do it on, one of roughly a 4% to 6% incline. Steep enough to get the strength work we want from the workout, but moderate enough to allow us to still run at a fairly quick pace.  There are many on-line mapping tools you can use to help you identify the incline of a prospective hill, but the exact incline isn't paramount.  Just make it a solid hill but nothing overly difficult, and if you want to change it up between a few different hills, that can be a great way to keep the workout fresh.  We want the hill to be roughly 400 meters long (or longer if you note where the 400 meter point is) and be of as even an incline as possible (some moderate variation is fine).  It may take some scouting around to find the best hill to use, but than can be fun and I have stumbled on to many new running loops in my hill searches over the years.

The Workout
After a warm-up jog, run 12 repeats, at a moderately quick pace, up the hill with a slow jog back down for recovery.  Then follow the workout with a easy cool-down jog to start the recovery process.  The exact pace of the repeats will depend on the incline of the hill, but if you are able to stay in the 4% to 6% incline range your pace will likely be in the range of your short tempo run pace (lactate threshold pace) or slightly better. But don't worry too much about paces, instead focus on running the hill strong and maintaining good form and knee drive. The effort is the key determining factor of this workout not the paces. 

Variation
You can easily do this workout on a treadmill as well, setting the incline at 5% for the 400 meters repeats and at 0% for the 400 meter jog recovery.  Doing this on a treadmill has the added advantages of a consistent incline and not having the pounding of jogging down the hill on the recovery, making it somewhat easier on the joints.

Benefits
As noted in the quote at the top of this blog, hill work has many of the same benefits of speed work.  It builds leg strength, stride power and running economy, it can significantly stress your heart and circulatory system, and has a great mental callousing effect to hard difficult efforts.  

2 time World Cross Country Champion Craig Virgin has told me that this hill workout (12 x 400 Hill repeats) was an instrumental part of his training for both his world cross country titles (1980 & 1981) as well as his 2nd place finish in the 1981 Boston Marathon, as it helped him develop the leg strength and toughness he needed.  

How/When To Use It
Many coaches over the last century have used hill work as a regular part of their athlete's training programs.  Some just in certain phases and some through-out the schedule.  How you can best utilize this workout depends on many factors, but most everyone can benefit from having it in the program at some point.  

It can also be a great option when you don't have access to a track or flat area for more traditional speed workouts.  Simply find a moderate hill and boom, you are ready for a great workout.  

Enjoy the change of pace and benefits this workout can provide.

Happy Running,

Coach Mark Hadley






Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Goals and Life

Happy, healthy and positive running occurs when running goals and life routines and habits are in alignment. 

Setting goals is a important part of life and an important part of running, but we have to be careful when setting our running goals to make sure that they are in alignment with where running fits in our life.  In this blog post I want to talk a little bit more about setting goals and finding this balance.

Running Goals
Running goals can be as wide ranging and different as the individuals who make them.  No measurement is off limits in your running goals, they can range from weight loss, to healthy living, to competitive aspirations, to time goals, to Olympic dreams.  Your running goals can be as individual as you are.  As a coach I have seen runners come to me with all sorts of goals.  One wanted to safely get to the point where they could run for 60 minutes per day 6 days per week, no pace or distance goals and no competitive aspirations, just to be able to run for an hour per day safely as part of the lifestyle they wanted - awesome goal.  Another wanted to be competitive in their age group at local races; another wanted to improve a personal best time; another wanted to win a marathon; another wanted to qualify for the Olympic Trials.  Still another loved to race and wanted to race 50 weekends per year and run as well and injury free as they could while doing that.  All awesome goals and so wide ranging.  This is one of the things I love as a coach, to see and work with so many different people with so many different personal goals in their running, and the opportunity to map out for them how they can best get there.  I encourage everyone, as they set their goals, to think outside the box, find what they want and what they are passionate about, don't get confined by races, distances and times if that doesn't fit them, the best goals are as individual as the people who set them.

Life & Daily Habits
An important step in the goal setting process is to make sure that your running goals fit with where running fits into your life.  As a coach, one of the biggest reasons why I see many runners fail to meet goals is that they set goals that required more from them than their current work/life/family habits and routines allowed.  It may be surprising to some, that rarely do I see people set goals that are beyond their capability from a talent, or physical perspective.  I think most people have a reasonable assessment of what they may be capable of, they know that if they are 5'2" large boned and 210 lbs they probably aren't going to make the Olympic team as a marathoner.  More often, if a problem is to be experienced, it is because the training required to reach their running goals is more than they are willing or able to include in their work/life/family schedule and habits.  It is beyond where running fits into their life.  In this case then either the work/life/family routines need to change, or the goals need to be adjusted.   

Unfortunately instead of making changes to either to their running goals or life routines, what I see many do is try and force these things together and invariably this leads to over-training, injury or burn-out.  It is a state of denial that often leads to a poor ending.  And in some cases this results in the runner making a change in coach to try and get the answer they want, rather than making the change needed fix the imbalance between their goals or life.  Usually this does not work and the same things happen again and again until the root cause (goals and life out of balance) is addressed.  

Some runners feel guilty and like they failed if they need to adjust their goals.  But really doesn't need to be the case, their goals are their goals and not anyone else's and the main goal should be to find running goals that fits their own personal balance.  But add in the prevalency of social media and sharing goals, and this pressure some feel can be very real.  And if they are not in a position to, or unwilling to, change their work/life/family routines (which is understandable) then goal changes have to occur. 

What I hope more runners do, and I guess that is the point of this blog, is to take a realistic look at where running fits into their life and what time and energy they can reasonably and sustainably dedicate to it during a training cycle, and then work with their coach to set goals accordingly.  If that comes with a change of previous goals, better that then to try and force things to work and end up frustrated, injured or over-trained.  


Happy, healthy and positive running occurs when running goals and life routines and habits are in alignment. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Basics

Below is a copy of "The Basics" page (written by Coach Mark Hadley) that used to be on EliteMarathning.com's website

Stress & Recover – The Base Unit
The base unit of my training philosophy is the one stress and recover cycle.  In the base unit (as illustrated below) we stress certain systems of the body and then allow it to recover, and when it has recovered it will become better adapted to the stress (fitter) than it was before.   

 
It is important to note that this principle has 2 important steps: 1) stress and 2) recover, and that one without the other does not accomplish the adaptation (increase in fitness) we are seeking.   
 
If you do not allow enough recovery between stress workouts you will not get the full super-compensation you are seeking. So to get the most from a stress and recover cycle, you must do the proper stress workout to work the fitness area you are seeking to improve, and then allow sufficient recovery afterwards so that the body can get the full fitness gain that the stress workout earned you. A very simple concept but one that many runners, from beginners to elites, struggle with consistently executing to its fullest. This base unit must be mastered in order for training to be as effective as it can be.
 
One complete stress and recover cycle is a base unit in our training. In general, I recommend the 2-4 day base unit for most elite marathoners and half marathoners.  A 3 day base unit being the most common of those; that is a stress workout followed by 2 days of easy/recovery runs. 

Day 1:  Stress Workout
Day 2:  Easy/Recovery Run(s)
Day 3:  Easy/Recovery Run(s)

Races or extra hard or long stress workouts may require additional recovery days. As a general rule we are always better off taking an extra recovery day to make sure we are recovered from the previous stress rather than cutting recovery too short that we don't get the supercompensation (adaptation) we earned in the stress workout. 
 
At its essence all good running training is just stacking one base unit on top of another in order to advance our adaptation and fitness in certain areas.  So it becomes imperative that we understand and master this base unit so we can successfully repeat it time after time in a manner that produces the greatest adaptations. 
 
The 5 Tenets of Training
Every good long term training philosophy needs some basic beliefs, or tenets, from which to anchor the training plan. These tenets will guide in general how we work towards our goals.   In my philosophy, the basic beliefs guiding our long term training are what I deem to be the 5 main tenets of training: consistency, capacity, frequency, mixture and passion.   
 
In order for us to realize our full potential as marathon runners, we must establish a balance between these five tenets, so that they work together in harmony as we will need each in order to reach our end goal. By balancing these tenets together in our training there is a synergy that can take us to a higher fitness level than any single tenet alone can.
 
Let’s talk about each of these 5 tenets in greater detail:
 
Tenet #1 - Consistency
Distance running (marathon running in particular) is primarily a conditioning sport. To a large extent the amount of success we will have in distance running depends on how good our conditioning is. 
 
Consistency – defined as  the uninterrupted stacking of base units - is the most effective way to improve on the runner’s level of conditioning, and it requires long term consistency to move their level of fitness to the point which they can fully maximize their potential as a distance runner.
 
 
 
The above chart shows the importance of consistency in building our maximum fitness level. The blue stair steps on the left represent 5 base units stacked on top of each other as would happen in a string of interrupted training. As an end result of the consistent training, our fitness level rose from the base up to Fitness Level 1.   The red broken stair steps on the right represent 5 base units executed with 2 small interruptions (one after base unit 2 and one after base unit 4). You will notice that with each break/interruption, our fitness begins to backslide as we loose some of the adaptations previously gained, and as a result a portion of the next base unit is wasted regaining lost fitness caused by the interruption. The end result of the red broken pattern of base units is a lower fitness yield – Fitness Level 2.   The cost of the interruptions in consistency in training was not only a lower fitness level, but also it required more time to accomplish as we had the time needed for the 5 base units plus the 2 interruptions.   Consistent, uninterrupted training yields higher fitness levels and does it quicker.
 
There are physiological systems in running, such as aerobic development, that take many years of consistent training to develop to their full potential. If these years of development are interrupted with inconsistency the process is stalled and full potential of those systems may never be reached, or at the very least will take far longer to achieve.   One major problem many distance runners experience is having to spend large blocks of training simply regaining past fitness due to extended time away from training, rather than advancing to new levels of fitness. 
 
Things that cause inconsistency, such as injury, illness, lack of motivation or goals, and an “off season” mentality, then need to be avoided as much as possible. This means balancing the demands of the other tenets so that consistency isn’t jeopardized.  
 
It is important to note that since consistency is a main tenet of my philosophy, that sustainability is also a key. We must approach our training in such a way that it is sustainable for long periods of time. In order to do this we must make sure we avoid any sustained deficiencies in recovery, in sleep, energy levels, nutrients, or any other area vital our ability to be consistent.
 
Tenet #2 - Capacity
Any talk on work capacity should probably begin with its foundation – the overload principle. This principle states that through a gradual increase in work load the body grows stronger as a result.

One major key to making the overload principle work in distance running is to build up our work capacity very gradually over time.   We are after a sustainable (remember our first tenet) increase in work capacity and if we build too quickly it will not be sustainable.
 
We should think of work capacity in terms of both quantity and quality of mileage and density of the quality. As we know 100 miles a week all done in easy moderate length runs is not the same as doing 100 miles a week that includes 2 quality workouts and a long run. So our work capacity is the mixture of quality and quantity. In my philosophy, we adopt a base unit and micro-cycle routine (discussed in the section on “training cycles”) which determines how frequently we do stress workouts and how frequently those stress workouts are quality focused workouts. So I will leave the discussion of quality for that section. But with quality being somewhat equal as established in our micro-cycles, that leaves the quantity component of our capacity.  
 
Given a fixed quality level, as a general rule the greater the quantity of work we can handle the better our potential performance level, up to a certain point. That certain point will be our own personal maximum effective mileage limit. What this maximum effective mileage limit will be for us will depend on many factors including, physiological make-up and lifestyle. For most athletes, especially elite marathoners, it will take many years to approach this maximum effective mileage limit.
 
We must balance the building up of our capacity with the other tenets and within the framework of our stress and recover principle.   What this build-up looks like then, is a slow build-up of the mileage we can handle during the recovery phase of stress and recover and still fully (or adequately) recover, and how much quantity we can handle in our stress workouts themselves. 
 
A major key to building up this quantity, in a sustainable way so that we do not break down and jeopardize our first tenet (consistency) is to build it up slowly and in a methodical manner.   I recommend doing this by adding a small amount to your quantity totals (maybe 4-8 miles in a week), once at the beginning of a new training cycle (16-26 weeks). This gives your body the whole training cycle to adapt to the increase and gain the majority of the benefits from it before increasing again. In this way you can gradually increase your mileage over time but do it in a sustainable way, thereby balancing it with our first tenet.
 
Once our maximum effective mileage is reached, our future capacity gains would be mainly in the area of quality – which we’ll discucss more in other sections.
 
 
Tenet #3 - Frequency
When talking about frequency in terms of training for distance running, I am referring to both the number of times you run in a given period of time and distribution of runs in that same time period. For example, if I am looking at frequency in terms of one 7 day week, which is a common measure, I may instruct an athlete to run a total of 6, 8, 10 or even 14 times in that 7 day period, depending on their background, current level of fitness and goals.

There are several reasons why frequency is a major tenet in my philosophy. Most importantly is the fact that our bodies adapt best to something that is done most frequently. There are certain adaptations that our bodies make to distance running that are short lived and if our frequency is low, then our bodies start to lose these adaptations between runs and we end up having to build them back up to where they were in our next run instead of advancing them.   Additionally during runs we get boosts of certain hormones and enzymes in our body that enhance fitness and/or recovery, the more often we run the more often we get these benefits.

It is also important to note that running is a very specific sport, in which we use certain muscles fibers at certain intensities and in certain ways.  Other exercises, while maybe good in general for increasing heart rate and general fitness or generally working muscle groups, will not specifically work the exact same muscle fibers in the exact same way as you do in running. This means they are somewhat poor substitutes for developing and training these muscles in the ways we need to use them in running. Running is still and always will be the best way to train for running.

While the scientists are still not 100% sure of the exact best timing of our runs to maximize the training stimulus, many runners and coaches have found, after decades of trial and error and circumstantial evidence, what seems to work best in various scenarios (i.e. mileage levels, stress workout frequency, etc.).

Most world class distance runners run 12-14 times per week. This appears to be consistently the gold standard and has remained so for decades. Some run less and some more, but the majority of elites eventually settle on this number as what works best for them. Typically this is done as 2 runs per day most days.

So I have generated some simple progression rules on frequency that guide how I train athletes with respect to this tenet to help them approach the gold standard as much as is appropriate for them. I have them step into the progression at whatever point is appropriate, given where they are at when I begin to coach or advise them. These rules and progression are as follows:

• Then add one day per week per training cycle until 7 days per week is achieved
• Once your are running 7 days per week and the duration of your average easy run reaches 60 minutes, then begin to add second runs into your schedule
• Add in 1 short (20-30 minute) secondary runs per training cycle until you reach 5-7 secondary runs per week.
• Increase the duration of the secondary and primary runs as is appropriate
Note: When adding a second run into a day, ideally the run should be 12 hours removed from the start of the last run and 12 hours before your next run.  This is not always possible, so I recommend shooting for that as a goal but at a minimum try and get at least 6-8 hours in-between the start of your 2 runs.

Pretty simple rules, just a gradual and incremental increase in frequency until you are running a maximum of 12-14 times per week, or stopping at whatever level is appropriate for the time and commitment you have.

Interestingly, if we take what we just discussed about frequency (specifically maintain short lived adaptations and increasing levels of hormones and enzymes) and apply it to our taper before goal races, we will see that we should not be decreasing the frequency of our runs during our tapers, but rather the duration.

At one point in the past I use to make what I now think is a mistake in pre-race taper, and have seen many others make the same potential error.  Often runners, who regularly run doubles, enact their taper in the week or two before their goal race by eliminating or reducing the number of their secondary runs. This reduces their mileage and in theory allows them to rest up for the big race.  But I suggest to you that this may be the wrong approach.  Because of the importance of frequency in hormone and enzyme production/activity, I believe the correct taper should be a reduction in the duration of runs rather than their frequency. That is to say we may be better off running 12-14 times (or whatever our number is in normal training) the week of a big race, but just for a decreased duration or intensity on each run to reduce our mileage. By doing this we allow our muscles to rest-up and top of glycogen levels but also keep our hormone and enzyme levels high, an ideal situation from which to go racing.
 
Tenet #4 – MixtureMixture is the various different workouts we do as runners, when we do them, how frequently do we do them, and how does this frequency change over time. This topic is the subject of countless books, articles and seminars. And true to form, I have my share of things to say on this subject as well, most of which I’ll save for the sections of this website on workouts and training cycles. 
 
Most coaches can talk and debate for hours or even days on theories and philosophies on workouts, what works and why and how to structure each.   I think this is the area of training that has progressed the furthest in the last 50 years. Although, I will say that I am constantly amazed to find certain principles and workouts that were done 40+ years ago are still spot on today, we just now better understand why and how to use them.
 
It takes a combination of physiological understanding, experience in application and the art or feel of knowing how to and when to apply each for that individual, in order to obtain the best results from your mixture of work. 
 
I’ll get into this subject in great detail when I talk about our training cycles and workout types in other sections, but here are a few basics I want to convey early on and often as they are keys in my philosophy.
 
Runners are very similar to chains in that they are only as strong as their weakest link, and if any area is ignored for significant periods of time it will rust and weaken and hold back the rest of the chain. Now that maybe an over simplification, but the concept holds true. In order to realize our potential and continue our forward progression as runners we need to include all facets of work in our training on a regular basis. So what we change is the frequency in which we work on each area, not if we work on it.  All runners will have strengths and weaknesses, and a weakness is not an excuse to not work in that area, but rather a cry for work. And our strengths are not prompts for exclusivity, but rather tools used to help areas of weakness and opportunities to promote growth.   As I said earlier, we’ll get into all this in more detail in other sections.

Tenet #5 - Passion!
Passion:  A deep desire and love of the sport to the point that you decide to do your very best and develop the talent you have for it.  This passion requires that you maintain a positive attitude about training and racing because running is seen as a great gift and as such it is a privilege to do no matter the outcome of the run, workout or race.

This passion, by its very definition, requires us to also approach training in a smart and disciplined manner, as well as an enthusiastic one, because it will take smart training coupled with hard training to reach our full potential.   This means while enthusiastic about workouts and working hard, we must balance that enthusiasm in order to make sure we adhere to the other tenets of training, because ultimately we must have all 5 tenets working together in unison in order to realize its full synergy.  

Thing we need to know about this passion we seek:
 
  • Passion is part feeling and part conscious decision – we have to want it (the easy part) AND have to make the conscious decision to embrace it and make it happen (the hard part).
  • If it is not fed and safe guarded, passion can be diminished or even be extinguished and if not kept in check it can burn too high and burn out.  So the passion we seek avoids the extreme highs and lows and instead steadily and resolutely marches forward towards its goal.
  • The passion we seek is a strong burning but resolute flame, the kind that can weather the storms that will surely come from time to time, the one that will slowly forge our bodies and minds in to rock hard manifestations of distance running prowess over months and years of work.
  • When tough conditions present themselves, such as inhospitable weather or challenging courses, this passion embraces the challenge before it and see it as an opportunity to grow, harden itself and improve.  Its thoughts are never “how do I survive this” but rather “how do I conquer it”. 
  • Passion is an attitude that permeates all aspects of our training on a daily basis, not just when we get ourselves psyched up.  It is positive, it is resolute, and it is unwavering. Ups and downs in training do not affect its strength or mission. 
  • If we train with passion we have no need to brag or be obnoxious on race day to try and psych ourselves up, instead we arrive on the start line with a calm confidence, knowing we are ready for the task at hand.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Paula Radcliffe's Marathon World Record

photo credit: PA

Today (April 13th) is the 13th Anniversary of Paula Radcliffe's marathon world record of 2:15:25 set at the 2003 London Marathon. It was one of the greatest marathon performances of all-time. It is a record that no one has come close to since and no one appears close to being able to break in the near future.  In this blog I want to share some of the reasons why I think that is and what it will likely take for someone to break this record (without PED's) in the future.

All distance runners have what I term a "predisposition" in their running.  This is simply our physiological and psychological make-up that makes us better suited for certain race distances.  If you have a long distance predisposition for example, you'll likely be better at the longer races (HM and marathon) than you will be the shorter races (5k-10k), and vice versa, if you have a shorter distance predisposition then you'll be better at the shorter races than the longer ones.  This predisposition is determined by our physiology, things like bone structure, muscle fiber make-up and musculature, and psychological make-up and personality, which includes the type of discomfort we tolerate best and they types of challenges we can most easily embrace.

It is helpful to look at the predisposition of runners in terms of a bell shape curve with the majority of runners being at or near a neutral predisposition, and lesser numbers as we go further away from the mean. To put this in terms we can use in running, my studies have shown that most distance runners (i.e the mean) slow down in pace an average of 4.5% each time the distance doubles between 5k and the marathon. This means their 10k pace is 4.5% slower than their best 5k pace, and their 20k pace is 4.5% slower than their 10k pace.  This assumes they are equally as well prepared and trained for each race distance and on similar course and conditions.

Statistics rules say that 68% of people will fall within 1 standard deviation of a mean.  In our example I think 1 standard deviation is roughly 0.3% meaning that 68% percent of all runners will likely have a slowing rate of between 4.2% and 4.8% when equally as well prepared for each race distance.  And 95% of all people would fall within 2 standard deviations of a mean so that means 95% of all distance runners would fall between a 3.9% and 5.1% rate of slowing when equally as well prepared for a each race distance. Often the remaining 5% of the population are considered an outlayer, but even then all but a few (i.e 99.7%) will be within 3 standard deviation of the mean.

If you look at Paula Radcliffe's personal records for all distances between 5k and the marathon what you see if is that she slows pretty uniformly at a rate of 3.5 - 3.6% each time the distance doubles. This makes Paula's predisposition a very strong long distance predisposition or about 3 standard deviations from the mean.  This is exactly the type of athlete you would expect to hold the world record in an endurance race, someone who is an outlayer and has uncommon (i.e 3 standard deviations out) suitability for the event.

Edited Note (4/14):  there has been questions as to my math on this, so her it is in a nut shell: 
5k PR:  14:29
10k PR:  30:01 - a 3.6% slowing in pace as the distance doubled
Half Marathon:  1:05:40  - a 3.5% slowing in pace as the distance doubles (adjusting and calculating out for the extra 1.0975 kilometers) 
Using the 3.5% rate of slowing that would predict a marathon time of 2:15:55 - Paula ran slightly (30 seconds) quicker with a 2:15:25.  The 30 second differential is certain within the tight realm of performance fluctuations or could be attributed to her having male pacers in the marathon and not having them in her other races.  Using 4.5% as the mean and 0.3% as the standard deviation then 3 standard deviations from the mean would be 3.6% which is roughly where Paula's demonstrated predisposition over the course of her career is.  This makes her predisposition likely to be only had by ~1% of the running population. 

I believe there are 2 main reasons why we have not seen any runners come close to breaking Paula's record (even runners who later proved to be PED users).  There are very few runners (probably less than 1%) who have a 3 standard deviation predisposition towards the longer races, and I think it will take a runner with that type of predisposition (similar to what Paula has) in order to approach her record.  And even if a runner has this type of predisposition they have to still be willing to develop their shorter distance skills in order to fully get the benefits in the longer races.  Given that Paula was so predisposed to the longer races, what is more astounding to me is not that she could run the marathon that fast but rather that she was dedicated to and developed her skills at the shorter races (5k/10k) that she was not as well suited for.  But subsequently when she did turn to the longer races she was astonishing and broke records by large margins. We will not likely see her marathon record eclipsed until we find a runner with a similar predisposition, talent and dedication and that will be a very rare find indeed.

Also it is fair to point out that the longer the race is, the greater the chances for things to go wrong and the less opportunity the athlete has to race that distance.  Even if the predisposition is there, to get a marathon on par with your what your 10k or half marathon time suggests for your predisposition is harder to come by and less likely given the fewer number of chances and longer period of time for things to go wrong.

Side Note:  Incidentally, I think that Paula's clear and consistent predisposition across all distance (consistent slowing rate from 5k to marathon) over the course of her career is one of the greatest unbiased arguments for her being a clean athlete (i.e her performances were not likely aided by Performance Enhancing Drugs - "PEDs").  PED usage would tend to help certain events more than others because of different limiting factors. It would statistically be expected that a PED user would have an inconsistent rate of slowing between events slanted towards the events that the PED help them most at.  I know of no PEDs that would help a runner uniformly across all race distance 5k to the marathon


Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Power Of Custom Training Programs


Over the last year MPR has been tweaking and perfecting an offering that it believes is one of the most effective and cost efficient coaching services for the vast majority of distance runners – The Custom Training Program.
 
Why A Custom Training Program
You put a lot of time and effort into your running and preparing for your races.  You deserve a training program that will help you get the most out of that time and effort, one that best prepares you to achieve your goals.  In order to best accomplish that, you need a program that is designed specifically for you by a knowledgeable and experienced coach, one designed for your unique situation, for your strengths and weaknesses, for your background in the sport, and for your personal work, life and race schedules.  A generic program you find on-line or in a book just can’t do that for you.  Why spend dozens or even hundreds of hours training, and hundreds of dollars on race entry and travel, but leave your fitness level up to some one-size fits all generic program.  You deserve better than that, you deserve something custom, something designed specifically for you. 

Why MPR's Custom Training Programs
Every MPR Custom Training Program is personally designed for you by MPR’s Head Coach Mark Hadley.  Coach Hadley brings his 30+ years of experience in the sport, his coaching knowledge from having successfully coached and designed programs for hundreds of runners, and his relentless research and analysis of the sport of running, to bear on every program he designs.  You never get a program designed by an assistant, intern or hobby coach, your custom program always get’s Coach Hadley’s full attention.

Coach Hadley’s training programs have one of the best (if not THE best) track records of success in the sport.  His training programs have produced:
·  Hundreds of personal bests times at distances ranging from 800 meters to 100 miles
·  Dozens of successful first time half marathon and marathon races
·  Over 100 Boston Marathon Qualifying times
·  Hundreds of age group victories
·  Dozens of overall race winners
·  Dozens of race course records
·  7 different runners qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
·  4 U.S. single-age national records
·  Multiple Top 10 performances at USATF national championships
·  2 Top 12 overall finishers in Major Marathons (NYC & Chicago)
·  2nd place finish at the Western States 100 miler

Power Of Levering Continuity Between Training Cycles
In December of 2010, Walt Guyer ran his first marathon, the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, NC, in 3:22:54.  This was not the performance Walt was looking for so he decided to get help in his preparations for future marathons.  Walt has run 8 marathons since then and each time has gotten a MPR Custom Training Program to follow in his preparations.  The results have been dramatic.  In the first year (2011) Walt dropped his marathon down to 3:08 in the spring and then down below 3 to 2:58 in the fall.  In each subsequent year Walt’s PRs have continued to fall, then in the spring of 2015 Walt won (1st overall) the Wrightsville Beach Marathon with a 2:43:46 performance, some 39 minutes faster than his first marathon a few years earlier.  Walt is currently finishing up his 9th MPR Custom Training Program and is prepared to continue his yearly PR streak at the 2016 Boston Marathon.  This improvement has been possible because of Walt’s great work ethic and desire to improve, and also because he has had the same coach (Coach Hadley) design his programs for each marathon and so that coach was able to incrementally bring Walt’s training along to a higher and higher level once he was ready for it, allowing the improvements to keep coming.     

[Edit: The custom training programs also helped Walt lower his 5k PR from 18:29 to 16:46 and half marathon PR from 1:28:54 to 1:16:33 during this time]

More and more runners are starting to follow this path of getting a new MPR Custom Training Program each training cycle, cycle after cycle, and it is bringing great results.  Not every runner needs or wants a personal coach on a day to day basis, but having consistency in who is designing their training programs is very beneficial to them.  Regardless if it is for a 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon, having the consistency and continuity of who is designing your training from one training cycle to the next, can be instrumental to keeping the improvements coming. 
 
What You Get In Every MPR Custom Training Program
·        Custom Detailed Day-By-Day Training Program:  there will never be a question in your mind what to do that day or how to do it, you will have it all laid out for you in a detailed day-by-day training plan that was designed specifically for you and your situation, in order to help you get to your goals.
·        Training Pace Calculator with Heat/Humidity Adjustor:  this is an easy to use calculator build in to your custom program that will show you the proper training pace ranges to use for all your workouts and what type of race times those training paces correlate to.  And when warm and/or humid weather hits, it automatically adjusts your paces for those conditions.
·        Workout Notes & Tips:  for every run you do, you’ll have a notes and tips to tell you the purpose of the run, how best to execute that run, what it should feel like, the approximate pace range, the approximate heart race range.  So no matter how you like to approach your runs (by feel, pace, or heart race) you’ll have all the information you need to get the most out of it.
·        Warm-Up and Cool-Down Routines with Videos:  one of the first lines of defense against injuries and one of the easiest ways to promote efficient running is through a good, simple warm-up and cool-down routines.  2 warm-up and 2 cool-down routines (1 for before & after easy runs & 1 for before and after hard workouts) are included with a video and explanation of, each stretch/exercise. Short, simple but effective routines that make the most of your time.
·        Strength & Form Drill Routines with Videos:  another important element of injury defense and good efficient running is establishing and maintaining good strength in and balance between muscle groups used in running.  So 3 simple strength routines are included your custom program.  One focused on core muscles, one on form specific drills and one focused of leg, glute and hip strength.  Each routine is short and concise, no GYM or fancy equipment needed, and each exercise and drill is demonstrated in a video and with a thorough explanation. 
·        Adjustment Rules: no matter how well we plan there is always the chance for unexpected events to happen, such as an unexpected work meeting or trip, you catch a stomach bug that is going around, or have a household emergency that causes you to miss a workout to two.  So included in your custom program is a list of rules to use in those instances to help you get back on schedule with as little negative impact as possible.  
·        3 Of MPR’s Invaluable Guides
o   Racing Strategy Guide:  a comprehensive guide on how to approach racing in order to get the best performance out of yourself and to maximize the fitness built up in training.  Regardless of how you like to approach races (by feel, pace or heart rate) we have you covered in this Guide.  From your pre-race taper, to breaking the race up into segments, to in race hydration and fueling, to tips on how to stay focused and determined, this guide will have you confident and ready to roll come race day.
o   Training Approach Guide:  great all around guide on how to view and approach training, with explanations, tips, reminders and other useful information that help make your training as effective, fun and safe as possible. 
o   Runner’s Nutritional Guide:  basic guide and tips on how to ensure you are getting the proper nutrition to fuel your body for the demands of long distance running so that you get the most out of your training and racing. 

MPR Custom Training Programs
  • For all ages (from 8 to 80) and ability levels (from beginners to professionals)
  • Race distances from 5k to ultramarathons
  • Between 8 and 24 weeks in length
  • From $100 (8 weeks) to $200 (24 weeks) in price

     To get signed up or learn more click here:
    MPR Custom Training Program




Monday, February 29, 2016

Attitude

The attitude we bring to training and racing is one of the biggest determining factors in our success.  


That is a big statement.  


With the right attitude, success becomes possible, but without the right attitude success become highly unlikely.  No matter how great your training schedule is or how great your race strategy is, it is very unlikely to be successful if your attitude is not in the right place.  And even if your training schedule or race plan has flaws, you still have the possibility of success with the right attitude. But if you can marry the 2 together, a great training schedule and race plan, along with the right attitude, well …. then it will be hard not to be successful.  


4 Elements To A Successful Attitude


I believe there are 4 elements to a successful attitude for training and racing and pursuing your goals: Positivity, Belief, Confidence and Determination


1) Positivity:  
The body tends to follow the mind, so while negativity makes you feel worse, positivity can help you feel better. The runner must stay positive and optimistic in mind-frame and outlook. They must focus on the positive and opportunities of their situation. They must recognize, and dismiss negative thoughts as quickly and effectively as possible.  Negative thoughts happen to everyone, it is human nature.  The most successful runners though are those who learn to recognize and deal with those negative thoughts efficiently and turn them back into positives.  They take the thought “I feel so bad and it’s not even half way yet” and recognized it's subjective negativity and turn it so then it becomes “this is going to be so epic when I overcome this”.


2) Belief:
The runner must believe in themselves.  The runner must believe that what they are trying to accomplish is possible, and they must believe in that their training will help get them there.  Without belief, success will not happen, period.  A key to belief is being open to the possibilities and potential of themselves. The runner must allow themselves to believe.


3) Confidence:
A runner must allow training to build up their confidence.  They must give themselves credit for the hard work they do in training (even when it’s not perfect) and allow it to build them up mentally as well as physically. The most successful runners go the start line with a calm confidence that they are well prepared for the task before them. The runner must have confidence in themselves and give themselves permission in the race to be the bad-ass they have worked so hard in training to become. Confidence and belief are closely related, we must believe it is possible and that we can do it, and then we must have the confidence in ourselves and our training to go out there and get it done.


4) Determination:
A runner must build up and maintain a strong determination and steely resolve to accomplish their goals.  Often in athletics determination springs for a passion for the sport and the goals we are pursuing.  Ultimately in training we must be able to be determined and passionate enough about pursuing our goals that it motivates us to get out there every day and do the work necessary to reach our goals.  In racing in order to accomplish our goals we must remain more determined and resolute that we are tired.  The stronger our determination, the longer we can outpace fatigue.  Determination keeps it focuses intently on the destination (the goal) rather than on the sacrifices it takes to get there.   

The Attitude Muscle


We can not just decide one day that we will have a great attitude and then magically “poof” everything will be perfect.  Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.  Instead, our attitude is like a muscle, it is something we have to work on, and train, and develop.  It is not something that will be perfect to start with, but the more diligent we are in working on it, the better and stronger it will become.  Slowly over time we will learn to master the 4 elements that make up the attitude we desire, the one that will help lead us to success and accomplished goals.  And in the times we fail in our attitude, and there will be plenty of those, we must recognize it, and learn from it, and fix it, and rededicate ourselves to the process of developing a successful attitude.  We will never be completely perfect, but with time and diligence we can build up a strong attitude muscle, one we can call on when when we need it most.


Vision


One of the most powerful tools that you have as you work on your attitude and pursue your goals, is a vision of what you want to achieve.  You need to be able to clearly see and define what you are trying to accomplish.  What will it look like, what will it taste like, what will it smell like, and what will it feel like.  Include all the senses you can in your vision, the more senses the more real and tangible it will become to you.  Think of this vision often, multiple times per day, burn it into your mind.  This vision will help you with all the elements of attitude we just talked about.  With a strong vision of success in your head, with all your senses engaged, it becomes more real and concrete to you, not so much a dream or fairy tale anymore, but a real place and destination you are moving towards.  As such, it will be easier to remain positive and dismiss negativity.  It will be easier to believe in it and that you can you achieve it.  It will be easier to see your hard work getting you closer and thus building your confidence.  And this vision will make it that much easier to stay motivated, determined and passionate about it.

Do yourself, your training, and your racing the biggest favor you can, arm yourself with a major key to your success, the right attitude.