Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My Kind of Recovery

I’ll try to pre-empt the otherwise inevitable avalanche of “take it easier” comments. I’m perfectly aware of the generally accepted wisdom of taking easy days and easy weeks between hard workouts, I know all about the hard-easy principle and I’ve experimented with several training philosophies myself. I just happen to think that this summer I have inadvertently stumbled into a training method that works very well for me. And it doesn’t include a lot of easy days.

While I tend to train reasonably hard on most days, I am very careful to work different systems from day to day. Any long run is always followed by a day of tempo repeats, or hill sprints, or marathon effort, and vice-versa. I never do the same workout two days in a row. That way the muscles are not used the same way in quick succession and I feel that this way I can recover even without a lot of easy days in-between. When I felt really tired after the London trip, I took an easy week. If I feel like that again, I’ll take another easy week. If I feel strong, I’ll continue training like a lunatic.

With this out of the way, let’s talk about training. After Sunday’s highly successful race I initially intended to run 15 miles on Monday. That would give me a decent endurance workout and still be light enough to recover from a strenuous race. Then I remembered that Monday was a bank holiday. Hmm. It meant I would be able to sleep in and still run long. Then again, how would my legs react to the race? I decided to leave my options open. I got up at 7 am on Monday and left a note for Niamh that I may be gone for quite some time. Then I set off around Caragh Lake.

The route I chose would take 16.5 miles without the possibility of bailing out. This set the minimum distance I would have to do, no matter what. Depending on how I felt, I would add more to that. As it happened, 16.5 miles was just about the distance I managed to run without feeling bad. Of course I still had the race in my legs, but up to that point that did not bother me. I passed our driveway and went on. I felt thirsty, but I feared that if I went home for a refill I would not be able to set out again, so I ventured on. The next miles were definitely a challenge. Setting off on already tired legs means you are going to eventually use new muscle fibres as the runs goes on. That’s the whole idea. You want to train the lazy fibres that usually just hang in there, because you are going to need them at the end of a marathon. Well, I could feel them coming online unwillingly. I also noticed that my pace hovered around the 8:00 mark, and beating that became the aim for the rest of the run. It kept me from falling into a slow, unproductive slog. Normally I would expect the HR to be in the low 140s for that pace. At that stage it was in the high 150s. Interesting, but manageable.

After passing our driveway I ran 3 miles alongside the Devil’s Elbow and turned around there. That gave me (almost) 22.5 miles when I reached home for a second time. This time I was really tempted to stop. I was exhausted and I was dehydrated. But I went on for just one more, tiny out-and back section. Three quarters of a mile out, the same distance back, and then I was finally done, 24 miles to the good. On a normal weekday I would have to get up at 4:20 am to do that. It was well worth the effort.

The main problem was probably dehydration. Afterwards I was 6 pounds lighter than the day before. I was also absolutely ravenous and started on a marathon session of a different kind as soon as I sat down at the kitchen table. Luckily there was enough food there to feed an army, because I ate the lot. Afterwards my weight was back to normal.

With that in mind, I decided to take it a tad easier on Tuesday and cut the run from 12 miles down to 10. As this would not leave enough road for 3x3 miles, I reverted to the old 2x3 session, but had the seemingly bright idea of adding one fast mile after the second 3-mile repeat. The legs were stiff and tired at the start (no big surprise there), and I had my by now standard Tuesday morning feeling of “I cannot do this workout”. However, when I got down to it, the first repeat went by surprisingly quickly at 6:40 pace, albeit assisted by a blustery wind. I had to pay for that on the second leg, of course. The fatigue of the previous days may also have finally caught up with me. Be it the wind, the uphill road, or the fatigue, the second part was no faster than 6:54, despite feeling a lot harder than the first one. If a last, fast mile was really a good idea after that I don’t know, but I went ahead anyway. I found out that surprisingly one mile is enough time to lose concentration not just once but twice. That used to be a problem at tempo runs; after doing enough of them I can now run the required effort without thinking these days. The same is not true for a faster mile repeat, and I could definitely have run faster then 6:27. Never mind.

For once I think I’ve done enough. Tomorrow will be easier. No worries.
3 Aug
24 miles, 3:10:55, 7:57 pace, HR 150
4 Aug
10 miles, 1:13:05, 7:18 pace, HR 152
2x3 miles @ 6:40, 6:54, 1 mile @ 6:27


  1. A good training load. Reap the benefits of your training with a healthy taper in terms of reduced mileage. How long to Dingle, 6 weeks? Time enough for some long marathon specific workouts (10 - 15 @ goal MP) with recovery pre and post workout. It will cut your mileage but that's ok. Time to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

    No doubt training how you feel is better than following a plan blindly.

  2. thanks for your encouragement thomas means alot coming from you I only hope some day to have your consistence training paces in my races :)oh heck I'll settle for you recovery pace as my race pace :)

  3. I find the way you are training to be quite interesting. I have also tried a faster (for me) paced runs the day after a long run and find them to be productive. I also ran a lot of back to back long runs on weekends this spring, I think it was a fantastic way to prepare me for my ultras.

    In any case I think the key is listening to your body and adapting as needed. It seems to be working for you, good job!

  4. The word "lunatic" is appearing more often in your blog and comments recently. Have you borrowed it from Niamh?

    Nice training concept. I'm looking an an adaptive running programme at the moment. It more a case of work on your weakness and with workouts that work best for you as opposed to religuously following a standard programme.

  5. I don't think you're training like a lunatic. In fact, your "not a lot of easy days" reminds me of my hero Yoshihisa Hosaka, although Hosaka doesn't have your day to day variation.

    As far as "needed recovery" goes, I'm reminded of something Jamie Harrison (13:20ish 5k) said about doubles - "11 hours is long enough to recover before the next run".

    Andrew's onto something about long MP runs being worthwhile at this stage. And keep that rolling pin hidden away ;)

  6. I agree with Andrew about training by feel, but during a peak that "feel" can betray you, as one of the hallmarks of peaking is the temporary ability to overcome, ignore or run through fatigue with generally more ease. It's important to know the fatigue is still there though, especially when it's coupled with the eccentric muscle damage caused by running all-out downhill. Knowing how to sharpen a peak rather than run through it early is where the real art of training comes in, and the mindset of a scientist might be more advantageous than that of a lunatic.

    When you mention Mystery Coach's fiber theory, it's important to note that he doesn't advocate running long the second day on downhill race-damaged muscles. In my experience doing this just prolongs recovery rather than promoting super-compensation, which is what it seems you are going for.

    I say this because I've run through my peak before my goal marathon on at least two occasions, which is really a shame. I really enjoyed recounting my schedule of several long marathon pace runs on my blog, all the while fending off comments by people who thought I was spoiling my peak early. Turns out I should have listened to them, as my body and mind were too caught up in my peak to realize I was burning out early.

  7. You're a nutter, still, I admire your drive.

    All the best with the remaining weeks but please listen to your body AND to waht the other Mike said... we all want the best for you.

  8. Thomas,

    Thanks for your comment. Those definitely hurt. I am hoping to get them closer together. If I hit 7:00, 7:05, 7:03 etc, that will be great :)

    I don't know if I am feeling faster on the run. On the bike, though, I can feel I am stronger :)