Sunday, December 4, 2016

Chapter 12 - 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 is 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 have 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 in training and in racing. 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 and part of fatigue.  The most successful runners though are those who learn to recognize and deal with those negative thoughts quickly and turn them back into positives.  They take the thought “Its just not my day, I can’t do this” 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 focus 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.

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.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chapter 11 - Racing

Note: To me coaching is all about stewardship, using the knowledge and experience I have gained over 40 years as a runner, and 10 years as a coach, to help others pursue their running goals.  So rather than publishing a book you have to pay for, I am publishing it here on my blog, free for all (runners and coaches alike) to read and enjoy, maybe learn something from it, or potentially have it prompt you to look at something from a slightly different viewpoint.  If any of those happen, mission accomplished. 

"Smile as you head to the start line, races are a celebration of the hard work we have done in training."

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 meets all of the criteria listed above.

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
I recommend that the race be 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 ease into its 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 (by design) 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 range. Just letting the miles tick by as we focus on staying as smooth and relaxed as possible.

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 just yet.

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 time 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 a 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 final stages 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 tool help in setting this up is doing 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 50-65% of the goal race distance exactly as you plan to run the first 80% of the race.  It can give you great feedback, help you 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, 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 Distance
Segment 1
Segment 2
Segment 3
first quarter mile
.25 to 2.5 miles
last .6 miles
first half mile
.5 to 4 miles
last mile
first half mile
.5 to 5 miles
last 1.2 miles
first mile
1 to 7.5 miles
last 1.8 miles
10 mile
first mile
1 to 8 miles
last 2 miles
first mile
1 to 10 miles
last 2.4 miles
Half Marathon
first mile
1 to 10 miles
last 3.1 miles
first 1.5 miles
1.5 to 12 miles
last 3.5 miles
first 1.5 miles
2 to 15 miles
last 3.6 miles
first 2 miles
2 to 21 miles
last 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.

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

Serving Size:  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.

Serving Size:  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.

Common Marathon Strategy:  alternating between a servings of water and sports drink once every 15-20 minutes plus take most of a gel pack every hour (with water).

Our attitude is key to our success in racing, and the race strategy outlined in this chapter is designed to help us best use our mental energies and produce a positive attitude. The next chapter (Chapter 12) will focus in more depth on our attitude and mental approach to training and racing. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Chapter 10 - The Specific Phase

Note: To me coaching is all about stewardship, using the knowledge and experience I have gained over 40 years as a runner, and 10 years as a coach, to help others pursue their running goals.  So rather than publishing a book you have to pay for, I am publishing it here on my blog, free for all (runners and coaches alike) to read and enjoy, maybe learn something from it, or potentially have it prompt you to look at something from a slightly different viewpoint.  If any of those happen, mission accomplished. 

Records can often fall after a good Specific Phase

The Specific Phase is the last phase in The Hadley Liberty Training Cycle.  The purpose of the Specific Phase is to take the balanced running fitness established in the Fundamental Phase and build it to a peak for a specific goal race by focusing in on preparing for the specific demands of that goal race.

More Pace Specific
The primary focus of the stress workouts during the Specific Phase will be to focus in on the primary demands and needs for a specific race and race distance we have set as our goal race for the cycle.  To do this the categories of stress workouts and workouts we utilize within each category will be skewed towards the pace and demands of the goal race.  Workouts at or closest to goal race pace will be done more frequently during this phase.  While we never abandon any category of stress workout, our frequency in which we do each category changes in the Specific Phase.  For example, in a marathon Specific Phase, we will do stamina and endurance workouts more frequently than speed workouts, and conversely in a 5k Specific Phase we would do speed workouts significantly more frequently than we do endurance workouts.  

The workouts (from Chapter 3) with the highest frequency/most emphasis in the Specific Phase will be as follows for each goal race distance:
(note: this may vary some based on speed of the runner at each distance)

5k: VO2 Max Repeats & Groove Repeats
10k: Groove Repeats & Lactate Threshold
Half Marathon: Lactate Threshold and Aerobic Threshold
Marathon: Aerobic Threshold, Brisk Pace, Long Runs
50k-100k: Brisk Pace, Steady State, Long Runs

Course Specific
The way we execute some of the stress workouts in this phase may change to better match our goal race demands.  For example, if we are running a goal race on a rolling course we will want to do at least some of our workouts on a rolling course similar in nature to our goal race course; or if our goal race has significant downhill sections, we need to do some significant downhills in training runs to prepare the legs for that.  Doing this will harden the body and the mind to what it will be doing on race day. You will better know the feel of running at or close to race pace on uphills and downhills and when fresh and when fatigued. The less surprises we encounter on race day the better off we are.

Tactic Specific
Any anticipated race tactics we plan to execute may need to also be practiced during some workouts as well.  If we plan to go out conservative and negative split the race (see Chapter 11), we should practice this in our workouts so we are used to and comfortable with that effort profile. Sometimes we are in a more competitive environment where team or other tactics are used and those need to be practiced as well. Things like mid-race surges, can and should be practiced in training if they are expected to be used on race day. If for competitive reasons mid-race surges is your race strategy, then wave workouts (see Chapter 3) or some variation of it, can be a great way to practice this. Prepare the mind and body for what it will be called upon to do in the race.

Race Simulation Workouts
Additional workouts may need to be added to the mixture of stress workouts in order to help us prepare physically and mentally for certain race demands.  Often a race simulation workout is added in the Specific Phase, in which the runner simulates as much of race day as possible including:
- running between 50-65% of the goal race distance at goal race pace
- on a similar course (or actual race course)
- using planned pacing/tactics
- same clothes and shoes as race day
- same pre-race routine (food, sleep, etc)
- same in run nutrition (drinks, gels, etc)

The focus on these is to try and run at goal pace as relaxed and smoothly as possible following the race plan you expect to use on race day. Often a race can be a good setting to use for this. If preparing for a marathon a half marathon or 25k race at goal marathon pace often works well and can help with in race fueling practice and race type atmosphere.

Such workouts may require an additional easy/recovery day or two to properly recover from them.  Be extra careful here and don't overuse these, we don't want leave our best performances in training. If utilizing this workout in your Specific Phase suggest doing so 3-5 weeks out if your goal race is a marathon, 2-4 weeks out if its a half marathon and 1-3 weeks out of its a 5k/10k.

Phase Length
The length of the Specific Phase will range from 4 to 8 weeks in length (occasionally 10) depending on the length of the training cycle.  We want just enough time to prepare for the specific demands of the goal race but not so long that the skewed workout mix will undermine supporting fitness in other areas.  We only need long enough to sharpen fitness to a specific peak.

In the Specific Phase, I recommend that the runner race sparingly.  If the Specific Phase is short in length (4-6 weeks) I usually recommend the runner only race the goal race during this phase unless they have a race they can use as a simulation workout (simulation workout mentioned above).  If the Specific Phase is on the longer side (6-10 weeks) the runner can sometimes fit in a race mid phase (3-6 weeks out from goal race) as a good tune-up race and often will see very good results. For example, I have had many runners set a half marathon personal best a month out from their goal marathon.

Be flexible during this phase of training. Often the exact make-up of this phase can not be determined until the Fundamental Phase is complete and we can better analyze where our limiting factors on race day will likely be. It is also fine to deviate on occasion from the stress workouts defined out in Chapter 3 in order to more directly address a certain weakness or race specific demand. But be careful in this phase, it is easy to over do it and take on herculean workouts that may leave you flat come race day. Be sure you are recovering well from your workouts and save your race efforts for race days.

In the last week or two (depending on the length of the race and difficulty of training) before our goal race we taper down our training and start resting up for the race. If we have been good about following our 5 tenets of training (see Chapter 1) and training has been approached sustainably, we don't need or want an elaborate taper.

We execute our tapers by reducing the volume of our runs and workouts, gradually at first and more so as we get closer to the race, and in the last week by reducing our frequency (of workouts) as well. Taper too much and too quickly and we can lose that fitness edge we have worked so hard for, but don't taper enough and we can go into the race a bit flat and not at full energy. It can be a fine balance sometimes, so again be flexible.

I recommend your last stress workout be early on in the week of the race (4-5 days out) and include at least a little bit of running at race pace. But this last workout should not be too taxing, just enough to keep the legs engaged (i.e not going flat) and the aerobic enzymes stirred up.

One you have your taper plan set, don't obsess over it. Get out of your own head a bit and trust your training. It is easy to get hyper-aware of how you feel and worry about every little twinge or cough. Do yourself a favor and don't dwell on it. I have seen many, many people run great on race day when they didn't feel good most of the taper. Remember the goal is to feel good in the race not a week before the race.