Sunday, September 30, 2012


Canute, a very experienced runner whose opinion I very much respect, left a very good comment on my most recent post. It's worth reading in its entirety but I'll pick a few bits and pieces.

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

The hill sprints are for leg strength/neuromuscular development, not for aerobic development. Because of their short length and the full recovery they are mostly alactic, which is why I think they don't interfere with aerobic training. Having said that, I have heard that Lydiard's statement that aerobic development stops as soon as anaerobic training starts is not being backed up by physiological research, though I'm definitely not in a position to comment on that.

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.

That possibility did cross my mind, especially with me coming off a cycle that included running 126 miles in one go and running a very hilly 50 mile ultra purely for fun. I do think that my aerobic base is fairly formidable by now; I just hope that's not just wishful thinking.


The base training I'm doing now is at a higher intensity compared to what I would have done the previous two years. There are no killer workouts but I'm working a little bit harder each day.

One problem with Lydiard's training is that the schedules in his books often bears very little resemblance to the training his charges used to do. One reason is that elite runners train differently to the rest of us. Another one is that Lydiard constantly monitored the effect of training and changed it accordingly, something you cannot do when printing a schedule.

Anyway, he said that in base training you should train close but under your “steady state”. There are plenty of opinions what “steady state” is, some writers seem to think it's close to your lactate threshold, others disagree; however, that's not really my point. When I was being coached by Mystery Coach I was surprised by the mellow effort for virtually all training runs in base training. He responded that he did not know where my steady state was, but from my feedback he knew that I was remaining below and that was what counted most. We only went through one training cycle. I think that had we gone through more, he would have increased the training intensity in subsequent ones. In a way that's basically what I'm trying to do now.

I don't know if that will be my last ever shot at my marathon PB, so I'm prepared to take a few risks. But I'm not flying blind. I will still do the evaluation workouts and take that feedback into account; if I am overtraining I hope I will be able to spot that in time.


The last few days have gone fairly well and the training has definitely gone up by a notch or two. Thursday's 10 miles were steady, but I ran a much faster workout on Friday. The legs felt flat during the first two warm-up miles but then I was really surprised by how well I was moving with very little effort. Unfortunately, when I reached the halfway point I realised that I had been pushed along by a very nice tailwind and would now be paying the price on the homewards leg. Unsurprisingly the second half felt a lot harder. The average HR was too high for my liking; there is clearly a lot of work still to be done but then I remembered that I had run my last race only 4 weeks ago and then taken 10 days off, so I was back in training for less than 3 weeks and the figures clearly reflect this.

Saturday is our club's group run. I ran to the meeting point at a good clip (almost 7:00 pace), had 4 very relaxed miles with the group and went home faster again, but more relaxed this time (7:20-ish, which felt very easy).

I was back on the Caragh Lake loop on Sunday morning for my long run. The big climbs felt a lot harder than expected; I think I tend to lose leg strength very quickly if I don't keep running hills. But I was moving well on the rest of the loop, despite the windy and rainy conditions. The weather picked up during the second half of the run and so did my pace. I was happy enough with how the legs felt after the first 70+ miles week. Endurance has never been a problem. If I could add a little bit more speed, that would be great.

27 Sep
10 miles, 1:16:35, 7:39 pace, HR 148
28 Sep
10 miles, 1:11:24, 7:08 pace, HR 159
29 Sep
13.25 miles, 1:43:23, 7:48 pace, HR 146
   4.6 miles @ 7:03 (HR 157), 4+ miles @ 9:12 (group run, HR 130), 4.6 miles @ 7:22 (HR 153)
30 Sep
15.15 miles, 1:55:24, 7:37 pace, HR 155
Weekly Mileage: 72+


  1. I'd agree with your definition of the use of those particular hills.

    One peculiarity of having a large aerobic base is that once established one can last for a long time (more than a year?) off that base if the right training is done. For example, I believe a runner with a 6-month base of 80 miles a week who runs a 2:50 marathon could run for a year at 40 miles a week and still run a 2:50 marathon.

    However, I don't think the capillarisation one develops with base (or Maffetone) training lasts forever once mileage is reduced. I think it gradually seeps away once mileage is below a certain (individual) level.

    I think you're doing the right thing in carefully upping general training intensity. Another fact of life is that the body likes to slow down. If you suddenly decided to run just 5k a day for a year, the 5k at the end of the year would be considerably more effortful than the first 5k.

  2. Thomas,

    It was interesting to read about MC's advice to you. There is little doubt that you did well under his guidance - and bagged that elusive sub-3 goal

    With regard to you hill session, in Giballa’s study of HIIT (J Physiol 575.3 (2006) pp 901–911) the high intensity sessions consisted of 4 to 6 all-out sprints on a bicycle ergometer for 30 sec, with 4 min recovery. They compared the effect of 6 of these sessions with six sessions of more conventional aerobic training (90-120 minutes at 65% VO2 max). Both types of training produced significant increase in muscle oxidative capacity, as reflected by the maximal activity of mitochondrial enzyme, cytochrome c oxidase

    Tabata, who originally developed HIIT, used protocols such as 30–40 seconds of hard sprinting alternated with 15–20 seconds of jogging or walking.

    Your uphill sprints were 17 sec. I wondered if the point of Ewen’s comment (on your post of 26th Sept) that Brad Hudson recommends shorter hill repeats (eg 10sec) might have been that at 17 sec you could be getting into the territory between alactic and anaerobic effort. The point of my query was to raise the issue of whether or not it matters that you might have been utilising anaerobic glucose metabolism. It is my guess that it is likely that you were using anaerobic glucose metabolism in your hill sessions, and thereby developing both strength and aerobic capacity, but I do not see any harm in this.

    There is one school of thought, supported by much practical coaching experience,that one should train either at high intensity or low, but avoid the territory in between. In general, runners who push themselves at fairly high intensity in every session but are always too tired to do really high intensity sessions often do not make much progress

  3. interesting stuff. i'm no expert, but to me it highlights the importance of knowing one's lower and upper hr values and the need to monitor and re-monitor allowing for race schedules etc, and especially in relation to training correctly at higher and lower ends of the spectrum in order to improve race times and recover properly. i've recently learned from personal experience that estimating max hr too low resulting in under performance

  4. Wow, I love speculations and learning things about training! Now I need to Goolge Canova...