Friday, January 26, 2007

Guilty of being grey

Last night I hiked up the hill behind my place and sat amongst a mob of Eastern Grey Kangaroos looking at Comet McNaught. It was so far away, yet flying brightly above the Brindabella Ranges. We live in a wonderful universe.

There was a forum topic on CoolRunning Australia recently about altitude training. One response caught my eye. It was from V02, who attended an elite training camp at Falls Creek:

"Probably the single piece of advice that had the greatest influence over how I train was Nic's [Nic Bideau] view that most training sessions should be either 'white' (easy recovery runs) or 'black' (hard workouts designed to maximise a specific training effect). Most runners spend too much time doing 'grey' workouts, so they get sub-optimal training and sub-optimal recovery. After seeing how slowly Mottram did his easy runs, and how unbelievably hard he pushed his quality sessions, I was convinced of the wisdom of what Nic was saying and tried to apply this to my own training."

Guilty as charged! I'm a grey runner (or have been). My hard sessions have been wimpy and my recovery runs have been 'pushing it'. I'm fixing the second problem by using a heart-rate monitor. For 'white' runs, I try to keep my heart rate as low as possible – currently between 120 and 129 (73 to 78% of my 165 maximum). For me, this is a pace of around 6 minutes per kilometre – about 40% slower than my 5k race pace.

At the moment, my 'black' training consists of two types of sessions:
1) A long run of 2 hours 30 minutes or more including some hills.
2) Track sessions at Calwell or a track race. For the track sessions, I'm still following the plan I talked about in 'How to run faster'. Yesterday my 200s were under 40 seconds (39.1 average and maximum heart rate of 160). To me, this feels fast, but I'm sure I look like a Mack truck lumbering over the grass. In time I hope to look like a Falcon GT. There are plenty of quicker cars, but the GT is fast enough.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A passer-by would have seen you and said, "Oh look, theres a mob of kangaroos and a wombat staring at a comet!" (note for the grammarians, place a comma after kangaroos and observe the shift in meaning).

I agree with the idea about black and white training. As we discussed the other day, it can be difficult to define what constitutes "white". At the moment I am running reasonably quick at lowish heart rates, so I'm not sure whether to just keep following the heart rate or to slow down more, which would have me doing runs at an average of 65% HRmax. Perhaps I'm not really pushing my quality sessions hard enough either...hmmm...

12:47 pm  
Blogger Scott said...

The only thing "black" around here is my wife's grilled fish!

2:34 pm  
Blogger Sekhmet said...

Oops, definitely guilty of being a "grey" runner and quite possibly a very timely reminder, thanks for that Ewen - great post as always :-)

2:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, another interesting and thoughtful post out of the high quality Wombat stable.

I think I read where both Deek and Pat Carroll ran their easy runs, very, very easy. And their hard runs would have been exactly that. It is so easy to fall into that grey 'comfort' zone. Junk training, the American running coach Jack Daniels used to call it.

4:29 pm  
Anonymous Em said...

Agree with Sekhmet, I read this advice from Nic a few months ago and got on board for a few weeks then drifted away again, a good reminder and makes it easy to break the training week down.

Sound like an Ideal place for some comet spotting, a bit too much light pollution where I live.

5:59 pm  
Anonymous Steve said...

Guilty as charged (maybe).

I'm an unstructured runner, one who doesn't schedule (I hate to-do lists - they're there, just not written down). I run by 'feel factor' and it seems to have served me reasonably well to now.

I hear what you say and my easy runs are probably a tad above easy.

Stephen Lacey, reading your comment, couldn't help myself, had to re-read it. It got my attention.

7:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it all comes down to what we are training for and how passionate about it we are. For me there are two aspects. On the one hand I would like to think that after only 5 years of running there may still be a PB in me somewhere and train with that in mind.
On the other hand I love running and each time I put on my running shoes and head out for a run I just want to enjoy the moment and struggle with the fact that I have to push myself hard to train for that PB. I have the love but do I have the passion?

9:38 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Can't think of anything I would rather be doing right now than your description of watching the comet. It makes me realise how long since I got out in the bush under the stars or watched the sun go down. It's so peaceful and beautiful.

I think there are a lot of us guilty of being grey runners. I think for me it's because I just don't put in quality hard sessions and try to compensate with inbetween sessions all the time.

By the way, we still have the hills hoist, we just moved it to the back of the yard out of the shot :)

10:48 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep agree. I think some of my recovery runs are a bit quick. The faster ones probably could be pushed harder sometimes as well.

10:52 pm  
Blogger 2P said...

I like rainbows ;-)

2:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you know I am a great HR monitor fan and I would say that the main benefit I get from it is they help me slow down for my recovery and easy runs. Over time, it is amazing how much faster you can get at those low heart rates as well.

5:32 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we are all guilty of doing this. I guess that it would take time to lead up to running a few hard sessions a week.

At the moment I dont think I would be able to do it more often than a fortnightly race. I think I would become injured pretty quickly, so it will be grey sessions for a few more weeks for me.

9:03 am  
Blogger Lulu said...

I'm just happy to be running again at the moment. I'll worry about what colour it is again when I've been back on the road awhile.

I'm sure Sean would agree with you though as he has our easy sessions at a very easy pace but pushes us in our hard sessions.

3:29 pm  
Blogger Vicky said...

Thanks for this post Ewen, I hadn't read that article before and I like the way its put. Easier to keep in my mind and (hopefully) put into practise again now that I feel I am actually 'training' again.

That bit of comet watching sounds superb - lucky you!


9:25 pm  
Blogger Don Juan said...

Food for thought on the training regime; need to chew it over. I'll have to hop down to the ACT again one day.

9:52 pm  
Blogger R2B said...

I had a copy of "Daniels Running Formula" which was my running bible and has given me the scientific basis of all my running improvements.This book is definately a Black and White book.It made me slow up my easy runs by up to 40 secs per km and lately i am running PB's of no specific speed training only a lot of easy running.Hard to explain but the book sells itself.It also discusses heart rates but these are affected by a lot of variables so perhaps are better left for the easy runs.

Well thats my least you've settled on something!

Cheers R2B

12:44 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try as I might I'm still struggling to see that darn comet!

10:25 am  
Blogger Southy said...

We've really enjoyed going out each evening to watch the comet too Ewen. Thanks for the link to the article. I had no idea what it's name was. What an amazing sight it is - such a long huge brilliant tail !
I think we are all , myself too , guilty of spending too much time in that grey zone.

12:01 pm  
Blogger PortRunr said...

Sounded good to be sitting on the hill with the 'roos taking in the comet.
For me, following a program is the main way I step out of the grey zone in a productive manner.
Nothing wrong with a GT! ;)

8:39 pm  
Blogger Wobbly man said...

Great post Ewen. Co-incidentally I just took the family down to Red BLuff to see the Comet - pretty damn good we thought! Not quite as good as these pics but spectacular nonetheless!

10:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I saw the blog title I was going to suggest Just For Men ;-)

So have I got this right, your long runs and (obviously) speed sessions are black? And do you do a semi-long midweeker (eg 80 mins)? How long are the white runs?

10:25 am  
Blogger Stu said...

Another good post re the 'grey training schedule'. Strangely my coach is not a fan of Nic, but he does quote the grey training to some of the 20 somethings, he knows I know it is a Nic thing, I think he just doesn't like the guy, but can still respect what he is doing.

8:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First ... cool coment pictures. You're very fortunate. You look up and see a beautiful comet. I went outside and looked up and only got an eyeful of snow.

You're spot on with the black/white training (although I've never heard those terms used). I applaud you for being able to keep a pace with such a low HR. I can't find a comfortable running pace anywhere near 125. But at least I'm keeping my hard training sessions around 75 seconds/km faster than my easy runs. Thanks for all your support.

2:10 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to "tempo runs" Or are they off-white, not grey?

10:03 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

That's weird. I'm forced into 'new blogger' and lots of you suddenly become 'anonymous' :(

Steve mentioned hating 'to do' lists and running by feel. Same here, but I think the black/white training is the best way of maximising peformance. So far, I'm really enjoying the white runs. Running that easily is challenging but fun.

Tesso, that's right, long runs and speed sessions are black. I'm not doing a semi-long mid week run - I don't think I can do more than 3 black sessions a week.

My white runs are from 45 to 90 minutes (7 to 15k). I'm thinking 90 minutes is a bit long, even though the pace is slow.

12:28 pm  

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