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.


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