Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gone In 65 Seconds

It's hard to figure out what works best for you. You can follow an online training plan, you can buy a book with training schedules or you can get a coach and follow his or her guidelines to take the thinking out of training. The problem is, you will invariably come across a multitude of opinions, and how are you supposed to find out which on works best? The whole conundrum is made even trickier by the fact that we all react differently to the same kind of training. What is a man to do?

I am lucky enough to have been coached to one marathon by Mystery Coach, and the lessons I learned ion those months still stand me very well; my running has definitely moved up a level, and stayed there even when I had to look after myself again (he still gives me the odd nudge when I do something particularly silly, though).

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I am trying to add a few sprinkles of Canova to an otherwise firmly Lydiard-base training schedule. One of the recommended things are hills sprints. Other coaches, like Brad Hudson, swear by that as well; he also includes that in his base training. That's similar to strides, which feature in a lot of training manuals as well.

In a word, that's what I did this morning. Monday and Tuesday had been standard runs of 8 and 10 miles each, neither of which was particularly noteworthy, maybe apart from the fact that the legs were feeling pretty good, despite Sunday's faster-than-planned pace.

I kept an open mind on the number of hill sprints I was going to do. The hill was about 2 miles from home, it's the same hill I have used on numerous occasions for sprints and drills and general hill repeats before. 2 miles form a nice warm./up, because you definitely do not want to start sprinting with cold muscles.

It went all very well at first. There is a gate across the road that took me about 17-or-so seconds to reach, so that was the length of each sprint. I walked down the hill, making sure not to hyperventilate (that's a lesson from last year). I was fine until the fourth one when all of a sudden I was hit by a wave of nausea and started feeling lightheaded. I even had stars in front of my eyes for a few seconds. That was the sign to stop. Next time I'd hope to stop before reaching that point, but I had felt fine right up to that point, it was amazing how quickly the hit came. It all only added to just over a minute of real work; I find it quite amazing that so little work is supposed to have a real impact.

Such a short, sharp workout is always over very quickly. I had allocated an hour but was home again after less than 50 minutes. In a way I am looking forward to the next one. It makes a change from the usual constant, steady (and yes, at times boring) effort.

Oh, and the mention in this article was nice. It's not often that my mother-in-law is impressed by what I'm doing.
24 Sep
8 miles, 1:02:04, 7:46 pace, HR 144
25 Sep
10 miles, 1:16:25, 7:32 pace, HR 149
26 Sep
6 miles, 49:04, 8:11 pace, HR 148
   incl. 4 all-out hill sprints


  1. Hi Thomas, I'm a big fan of you and your blog. Sorry if it's obvious, but who is Mystery Coach you are referring to in your posts?

  2. I don't know his name, but he coached me to a marathon 2 years ago, via emails. If you read this, that's a few things he wrote.

  3. I'm so slow I never used a coach and just follow my own programs. I have many ultra goals lined up so it is fairly easy to just build enough endurance if time is not important. For me it is all about distance.

  4. I thought the 65 seconds was going to refer to a new 400m PB ;) Yep, I think those short hill sprints are an excellent addition - must start doing them again myself. If you're going faint, maybe 17 secs is a bit long? Didn't Hudson advise about 10-12 secs all-out? The hill I used was about a 45 degree slope so 10 secs was all I could do!

    Wow, pretty cool to be mentioned on the same page as Ed Whitlock. That bloke's incredible. 1:38:59 at 81!

  5. Thomas have you heard of phil maffetone. He has some excellent books on Health, fitness and endurance training. Fantastic read for all athletes in my opinion

  6. Didn't you get those fainting/nausea feelings on the hill sprints last year also?

  7. Yes, I have heard of Maffetone; his book is on my to-to list.
    And yes, I did get the same feelings last year; that's why I referred to lessons from last year (obviously there's still some learning going on).
    And yes, Hudson's repeats are a little bit shorter. I ran up to that gate, it seemed like a logical thing to do.

  8. Thomas,
    As you say, there is no single answer to the question of the best training, but you raise one of the key issues that most distance runners face at some stage in their career. As I read Lydiard, he implies that once you introduce anaerobic training, you lock-in your current level of base development for that season. (Though I have sometimes wondered how near to the top of the aerobic zone Lydiard’s protégés went during the ascent into the Waitakere hills early in the Waiatarua Circuit.)

    Are your hill sessions for strength development, aerobic development or both? They probably qualify as HIIT and hence according to the evidence supporting HIIT, provide a strong stimulus to aerobic development via brief bursts at anaerobic intensity. This would suggest that aerobic development can occur simultaneously with anaerobic development. Can this be reconciled with Lydiard? Is the aerobic development produced by HIIT different from that produced during Lydiard-type base-building?

    I think that Canova would argue that a runner who has already done many years of base-building, does not need to develop capillaries any further, so neither Lydiard nor Maffetone type base-building are necessary. Perhaps you now have a long enough training history to adopt parts of Canova’s approach – though I suppose Canova is really better for HM and M than for ultras.