Wednesday, April 24, 2013
When designing a training program for the marathon, I often include a “marathon simulation” workout. This workout provides us with a chance to practice pre-race routines, check out the gear we plan to wear, and refine our in-race fueling strategies. This simulation is often very educational and confidence building.
There are generally 3 types of simulations from which I choose: 15 mile Simulation Run, Half Marathon Simulation or a Half Marathon Race. In all 3 types we would be sure to do the following: match the goal marathon course layout as much as possible, practice planned pre-race routines and meals, wear the same shoes and clothes we plan to use on race day, run the simulation at the same time of day (i.e. 7 AM start), and practice using the in-race fueling strategy we plan to use in the goal marathon.
15 Mile Simulation Run: This is a 15 mile tempo run done at goal marathon pace. The advantages of this simulation option are that we can control most variables, such as the course and time of day, and we get significant work running at marathon goal pace. We would do this 3-4 weeks out from the goal marathon and would not fully taper for it other than adding an extra easy day before and after the workout.
Half Marathon Simulation: This is a half marathon race that we are using as a simulation workout rather than a race. We would target a pace about 1% faster than goal marathon pace. The advantage of this option is that we get the race day atmosphere and routine similar to what we will experience in our goal race. We would do this 3-4 weeks out from the goal marathon, and would not fully taper for it other than adding an extra easy day before and after the workout.
Half Marathon Race: This is an all-out half marathon race performance usually done 4-6 weeks before the goal marathon. The advantages of this option are that we get the full race day atmosphere and routine, and we get great lactate threshold work to keep marathon pace feeling easy. This would include our full non-goal race pre-race taper and post-race recovery. In this we would target a pace roughly 4% faster than goal marathon pace.
By doing a simulation workout/race, we learn how well our planned pre-race routines and meals work, as well as discover any issues with our fueling strategies or clothing/shoe choices. This allows us time to make tweaks to the plan, in needed, before race day arrives. Additionally it helps the body and mind get comfortable with the course layout and time of day we will be racing. If we do the simulation properly and don’t get too aggressive with it, it is a great confidence builder for race day, as we have the peace of mind during the first half of the race by knowing that we just successfully did this a few weeks earlier.
Caution: do not get overly aggressive with your pace expectations – be realistic. A successful simulation run can build great confidence but a bad simulation can have the opposite effect. While it is often good to challenge yourself (or your runner), this simulation is a time you want to set yourself up for success with realistic expectations.
Friday, April 12, 2013
Improving our lactate and aerobic thresholds is a major focus in the training of distance runners. Improvements in these two areas usually translate directly into improvement in our race times in long distance races (10k-marathon). Sparking continued improvement in these thresholds requires attacking them from different angles, so I am always on the lookout for different ways to effectively do this. What I wanted to share with you today is my secret weapon threshold workout, “The Wave Tempo”, that I have had a ton of success with, to the point that it is now one of my major threshold weapons I include in many of my training programs.
A good place to start the discussion of this workout is by defining each of the thresholds we are targeting.
Lactate Threshold : As we run at progressively faster paces, the levels of lactate in our cells increase. Our lactate threshold is the point at which lactate levels start to run away and the level of increase in lactate grows exponentially with additionally increases in speed. In well trained runners, the pace that represents their lactate threshold is usually the pace they can hold for 60 minutes in an all-out effort (i.e. a race). For elite women runners this represents between 15k and 20k race pace. For elite men runners this represents between 20k and half marathon race pace.
Ok so now that we have defined the 2 different thresholds we are targeting, let me define the different wave workouts we do to target each threshold.
Lactate Threshold Wave Tempo
This is a continuous 24 to 30 minute run broken into 2-5 minute segments with the pace alternating between 4-5% slower and 3-4% faster than Lactate Threshold pace. This wave workout always starts with the slower segment and ends with a faster segment. This can also be done in terms of miles rather than minutes, such as a 5 mile to 10k run alternating half mile or 1k segments.
Example: If LT pace is 5:30 per mile than I may have this athelte do a 5 mile wave tempo, alternating half mile segments at 5:43-5:46 pace (4-5% slower than 5:30 pace) and 5:17-5:20 pace (3-4% faster than 5:30 pace).
Aerobic Threshold Wave Tempo
This is a continuous 48 to 60 minute run broken into 3-8 minute segments with the pace alternating between 4-5% slower and 3-4% faster than Aerobic Threshold pace. This wave workout always starts with the slower segment and ends with a faster segment. This can also be done in terms of miles rather than minutes, such as a 15k or 10 mile run alternating 1k or 1 mile segments.
Example: If AT pace is 5:45 per mile than I may have this athelte do a 10 mile wave tempo, alternating one mile segments at 5:59-6:02 pace (4-5% slower than 5:45 pace) and 5:31-5:35 pace (3-4% faster than 5:45 pace).
How/Why They Work
Physically these wave tempo runs work through the concept of stressing the body just beyond the current threshold and then allowing it to “recover” just shy of the threshold. This mild overload and then minimal recovery challenges the body to become more efficient around the threshold pace. This increased efficiency translates into a threshold improvement. It is believed, for example, that a lactate threshold wave workout increases the permeability of the cell membranes and thus improves the cells ability to get rid of lactate, which in turn improves the lactate threshold. Whatever the specific physical reason, the concept of repeated slight overload and minimal recoveries seems to work very well on many critical training points, including lactate and aerobic thresholds.
Mentally the benefits of this workout are equal to or even greater than the physical benefits in my opinion. In order to be successful in executing this workout, the athlete must stay focused on the segment they are in and the pacing required. This forces the athlete to “stay in the moment” , and that ability is a key requirement to successful racing and competing. Additionally this workout prepares the athlete mentally for the challenge of making sustained shifts in paces during a hard effort, something they made need to be able to do in certain competition settings.
Using Wave Tempos
As I mentioned earlier, wave tempos seem to be most effective when used in conjunction with other methods of improving our thresholds. It provides us a slightly different angle at which to approach working our thresholds. When working thresholds, I use wave tempos on a regular basis along with a mixture of even paced tempos at threshold pace, tempo intervals and progression tempos. The exact mixture of these workouts will be depend on the focus of the athlete, their background, their predispositions, and where they are in a training cycle.
With some athletes I utilize wave tempos every other time a certain threshold is worked, while with others I save it to spark improvement when other methods start to loose traction. I encourage you to find out what works best for you or your athletes and explore the possibilities when incorporating it into your schedules. For example, I have found aerobic threshold wave tempos to be an extraordinary workout in preparing for a marathon, in particular because of the mental toughness and ability to stay in the moment it teaches.
It is not perfectly clear the exact origins of wave tempos, but there is record of athletes using variations of it back into the 1950’s and it was popularized to a larger extent by renown coach Renato Canova in the last decade or two. What I have laid out here in this blog is my take on the workout, and how I have found it to be most successfully implemented. I playfully call it my “secret weapon” threshold workout because it is still not all that widely used, and I tend to use it more regularly than most any coach I know, as I have been enamored with the success the workout has brought.
I hope you find this helpful and have the best success when and if you implement it.
- Coach Mark Hadley