On to 2019, Reviewing Your Year, Part two
by Kevin Beck for LowellRunning.com
There is a danger in over-associating significant single workouts with race-day success. Sometimes, if an athlete completes a powerful, unprecedented workout like, say, 3 x one mile at well under 5K pace or a fantastic marathon-pace run a few weeks before a great race result, it is tempting for that athlete to think that this workout is absolutely essential. In reality, while such a thing should probably be retained, it says little about the overall training pattern.
I find it helpful to look at different, related things in my past training calendars. Before a successful marathon, what was my mileage like in the three months going in (less the taper)? What was the overall rhythm (e.g, how were the tempos and long runs and interval days spaced? How much did I vary my mileage)? What were my build-up races like and how did the results differ based on what I had done in the week to 10 days leading in?
It’s easy to get bogged down in minutiae, and if you have never experienced this, it’s probably because you haven’t obsessed enough! But it is very, very helpful to try to extract data in chunks instead of in the form of individual variables. But one good reason for structuring your training with great forethought and specificity, apart from the good race results this hopefully brings, is that it makes subsequently analyzing your training and racing that much easier. That is, it’s easier to find patterns when your training has patterns built into it to begin with.
I have saved what is probably the biggest bugaboo people have for last. Often, it is not doing too much of something or doing it improperly that scuttled your goals; it’s avoiding doing something, often on purpose.
This is kind of a mirror-image problem to the “I know deep down that adding this new thing worked, but I am still resisting the change” issue mentioned above.
Here, it’s “I know deep down adding this new thing would work, but I am resisting making the change.”
We do things we know don’t serve the best interests of our running. Some of these are work and family obligations that are literally unavoidable, and if we tried to avoid them we wouldn’t be able to enjoy running anyway because we would be unemployed or with neglected children. Some we have a little more control over, like whether it’s an extra six-pack over the course of a week or too much late-night Web browsing at the expense of sleep. Still further along the line of controllability is our running behavior itself. Are we avoiding doing a certain kind of suggested workout – not just once or twice but habitually or even always? Are we skimping on mileage and hoping we can make up for it with better workouts because we really can’t give up those two nights out? Are we overdoing it on easy days and rationalizing this because we have still gotten progressively faster, albeit with bumps in the road?
The specifics differ greatly from runner to runner. Some people hate speedwork and will gladly run 70 miles a week or sometimes much more with none of it particularly taxing in the moment. The typical result of this kind of runner is solid consistency from marathon to marathon with 5K and 10K performances that seem far too slow for the runner’s marathon level. It’s fine that some people don’t care much about their 5K and 10K times, but the truth is that even marathon-focused runners can improve their marathon times by improving their ability to race faster over shorter distances. That, unavoidably, means real speedwork.
The last one I’ll mention for now is the tempo run, which in each runner’s history usually features a blend of doing them improperly or not doing them enough. I don’t believe that runners should do tempo runs at a consistent pace all the time and that most of them should be structured as progression runs. I also like to integrate them into longer runs in experienced runners training for the marathon, which some people balk at. The problem is compounded when you consider the sheer number of defensible definitions of “tempo run” exist. I latched on to one almost 20 years ago and have slowly amended my own concept of the workout since. If you are a marathoner, you should be spending close to 45 minutes to an hour a week at about this level of intensity, exclusive of your longest run. Whatever specifics you devise are up to you and your guide, if you have one. But it’s important to understand that sometimes tempo runs become something else, and also that sometimes you’ve done the equivalent of a tempo run without knowing it.
Happy New Year, runners!
Previously: Reviewing Your Year, Part one