Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Different Outlook

One thing that differentiates Canova'a approach to the standard one is that pace is more important than distance. I read one interview with the man where he states that a westerner would run 20 miles, no matter what, but a Kenyan would target a certain pace (effort, actually), and once he can't hold it any longer the workout is over, no matter how far he had gone. He also states that one approach isn't necessarily superior to the other, it's just how they act differently (cultural differences, maybe)?

I can't say I have followed that particular Canova principle so far, despite my attempts to base my training on the things I have read about and from the man, but I gave it a go on Saturday. The idea was to hit tempo pace, 6:15 - 6:20, which should more or less coincide with my present half-marathon pace (I haven't run a half in well over a year, which makes this a bit tricky), and not worry about the distance. As soon as I wasn't able to hit the pace any longer, or once it started feeling too hard, I would ease up. At the same time I did not want to give myself a license to pull out prematurely just because it felt tough; it was a fine line to be tread.

Last week's attempt at hitting that sort of pace was a bit of a disaster and I was ever so slightly apprehensive, but this new way of looking at things made it easier. The pace felt comfortable enough initially, but after 2 miles I started breathing harder. A few ups and downs in effort followed, at times I lost concentration for a bit, and once I was past 4 miles it definitely became harder. The pace had already started suffering when I finally pulled the plug on the effort after about 4.7 miles. After about 10 minutes of easy running I felt sufficiently recovered to give it another go and did a bit over a mile, albeit at a slightly slower pace. I think I got that workout right. I hung in there for as long as it seemed sensible but pulled the plug when I got into anaerobic territory. The hope is that next time it will feel that little bit easier and I can keep the same pace for longer, rather than try to hit a faster pace.

There's no rest for the wicked, and out I went again on Sunday morning. I waited out one rain shower, but that was of limited use on a day like today. I had sun, rain, hail, rain, sun, rain, sun, and a few other bits thrown in as well, the only constant being the wind, with a few very bright rainbows as a nice bonus. After about 15 miles I ran into Mark and we shared a mile or two, which was nice and those miles flew by particularly quickly. I did not even have to slow down for these, instead Mark increased his own pace to match mine, which makes me suspect that he is able to run faster than he presently knows himself. I didn't run any heroic sub-7 miles this time, just held a very steady effort over very hilly territory. These long runs are fine, but I am looking forward to some faster long ones as well (I might regret those words).

It rounded off another good week, with plenty of decent pace, and good mileage as well.
14 Dec
10 miles, 1:18:13, 7:49 pace, HR 139
15 Dec
10 miles, 1:07:22, 6:44 pace, HR 158
   4.7 miles @ 6:15, 1.3 miles @ 6:20
16 Dec
20 miles, 2:30:35, 7:31 pace, HR 145
Weekly Mileage: 85+


  1. Interesting approach to the tempo session and certainly a fine line in knowing when to stop. What is the reasoning behind running the second part of the tempo session after 10 minutes of recovery - is this Canova's approach also - similar perhaps to tempo intervals.

  2. Hi Thomas,

    I have wondered about doing tempo runs as intervals, allowing one to run above at or above lactate threshold for each of the intervals, I've only done it twice myself and when I did felt it was effective. From the sound of it your 6:15 paced tempo section was above lactate threshold as you were starting to breath harder with climbing effort level. What was you heart rate for the two intervals?

    I suspect your current lactate threshold is still slower than you are capable of getting it to, spending more time around threshold will likely improve it - a couple of tempo runs a week would probably be appropriate is you specifically want to train this aspect of your fitness. Mixing up types of tempo runs would keep it fun.

    I enjoy progressive tempo runs - where you at comfortable pace then steadily move to just sub threshold by the mid point then on steadily wind it up so threshold by at three quarters the way through, then final mile or two is above threshold.


    On a somewhat different note, I recently read "Arthur Lydiard's Athletic Training" and he discusses running at steady state, which I can only guess at what the pace might be for me. Have you developed a feel/better understanding of what steady state is in terms of pace/HR/feel for yourself?

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys. To be perfectly honest Grellan, the second tempo segment happened because I thought jogging home was getting boring and I felt sufficiently recovered after 10 minutes to give it another go.

    The avg. HR for the tempo segments were 166 and 163 respectively, perfectly reasonable for someone with a max HR of 190, though I hit a max of 176 during the first.

    I asked MC several times about the steady state when he was coaching me, and his answer was always a bit evasive. He never wanted to speculate where my steady state was, but always insisted that the one thing that counted was that I stayed below it during base training. From my feedback how great I was feeling and from the evaluation workouts progressing in the right direction he would be satisfied that I had indeed remained below.

  4. Thanks for the details of the HR in tempo section. I find it useful when trying to peel back the how meaningful or not HR's reading and how HR at different intensities changes over time.

    As point of comparison I did a progressive 8 mile tempo run this lunchtime, starting off a 8min/mile pace and ending at 6:30 min/mile pace, with an average of 6:59min/mile and an average HR 165. My last mile I was felt a bit over my lactate threshold, with my HR climbing to 177. I'm not sure where my max HR right now, a few weeks ago I recorded 188 on a final sprint up a local 1200ft hill. My guess is that my HR is probably around 190.

    One thing I have noticed that my pace during tempo runs hasn't changed a huge amount over the last two years, but my average HR is much lower - it used to be up in the low 170's and now it's mid 160's. This might be in part down to me no longer racing my tempo runs like I used to - I used to try and beat my previous times and use this as a gauge of my progress.

    MC being evasive on the steady state pace is a bit surprising, given that Lydiard approach discusses the importance of this pace. I suspect when Lydiard was coaching he would have been able to access this and provide more personal guidance for a runner. I did a quick search on what steady state pace might be and the best suggested explanation I saw was that maximum steady state pace relates to lactate threshold. Does this fit with your own experience?

  5. Yes, I've certainly read on a few occasions that steady state pace is similar to lactate threshold, but MC's evasiveness led me to believe that it's not so simple.

    I found a few quotes that might help:

    You develop the capacity to run and run and not get tired; you can go out and run it the next day". If you want to find your true steady state pick a course and run it every day for a month, same pace, same
    direction. ( As a general guideline most runners can run about 10 seconds per mile slower than marathon pace for about 7 miles day after day although for beginners 2-3 miles may be the limit) If you run above your steady state you'll find out about 10 days into this test.


    Arthur gave a number of examples of of how fast he thought the steady state was and it fits in with work that Farrell did, about .25 miles per hour slower than marathon pace (8 to 15 seconds slower than marathon pace)


    About evaluation runs: the HR level that I use is in a general range of 5-10 beats slower that you would find running at marathon pace. Why? Somewhere in that range is your maximum steady state.

  6. The extra clarifications suggest that steady state is slower than lactate threshold pace. Perhaps the difference is down to "maximum steady state" and "true steady state" :-)

    I guess one has to think about what one is trying to achieve and the effects of running near lactate threshold. If you are producing lactate in substantial amounts then you are dipping into anaerobic metabolism and lowering the ph of your blood and muscles which is potentially corrosive for aerobic development. If you have an ability to buffer a substantial amount of lactate then the effect of being at or above lactate threshold probably won't seem to hold you back too much when running but could adversely affect aerobic development. If this is what can happen then being extra cautious running around the lactate threshold is wise during base building.

    The other side to not running too much high intensity work might be in development of type II fibers rather than Type I fibers, or perhaps not converting type II aerobic fibers to Type I that could have been achieved by avoiding high intensity work. The later might be why Maffetone suggests using walking as training during base building.

    Which all leaves me wondering if perhaps I should hold off from doing the last couple miles sub threshold when doing my progressive tempo runs.

  7. I'll try being a little less evasive and give everyone some clearer markers on what the steady state is.

    When Arthur Lydiard first talked about steady state it was a pace that you could run that the first half of the run was similar to the second half. Your body would achieve a balance (HR, pace would be steady, and you would "recover" the next day). Later he mentioned it just slower than Marathon pace. So steady state is a bit of a moving marker depending where you are in your career as a runner and what point of the peaking process you are at. Let's say you are a 3 hour Marathoner (about 6:52 mile pace) I would say your steady state would be about 7:12 or so. At this pace your use of glucose would low and any excess lactate would be processed throughout the body without it rising very much in the bloodstream. This would be a very economical pace fuel-wise (you could do a large volume of at this pace) You could back off another 20 seconds and be an even more economical pace. Now these numbers say nothing about your ability to recover from day to day and that is what you should be working on during the Marathon phase (Lydiard' "base" phase)

    Now let's look at specific Marathon training. During the base phase your system did not overly stress the lactate uptake of the mitochondria. When you start running faster than Marathon pace the fuel mix changes to a higher level of glucose this puts out a greater production of lactate that the mitochondria must process. Any extra that it can process is shuttled out for other body systems to process for energy. Gradually (you should not over load the mitochondria too quickly) the mitochondria will build their lactate processing power and so will the rest of the body in its ability to use the excess dumped into the bloodstream. When you are in peak shape this pace is 10-15 seconds faster than Marathon pace. Physiologist can measure this and it is an excellent indicator of Marathon performance (the test is called Lactic Acid Steady State). Now this is a different type of steady state (a peak state steady state) This is the steady state that Coach Canova works on with his system. He does a number of lactate test with his athletes to make sure they are adapting and not getting to far ahead of processing lactate. He working on using energy reserves very efficiently in two ways, 1) by not going too fast (and not going faster but going longer) it improves the fat energy pathways as glucose levels go down) 2) Any extra lactate is processed more efficiently by other parts of the body) This combination keeps lactate low and a very efficient use of fuel reserves.

    The above is only a brief part of a good training plan. I would put out some numbers that I use in evaluating athletes but I have seen too many runners make them a permanent marker and not evaluate their training properly.

    Hope this helps a bit, and if you have any questions post them and I'll try to explain as clearly as I can.



  8. Thank you for your clarifications, MC. Your input is, as always, greatly appreciated.