Sunday, July 25, 2010

An interesting experiment

I haven't been running much these past few weeks. Some focus group high up in Massive National Corporation has decided that understaffing the wage-slave class is a sensible way to improve productivity. We slaves have been working 11 and 12 hour days (including a 30-minute lunch break). If this madness continues, I fear I might have to "do a Thomas" — drag myself out of bed at 3:30 AM and run before work.

I raced a 10k on Saturday, finishing 60th in 54:57. I ran at high-end tempo effort (an average heart-rate of 87%). If I'd laced up the racing flats and let it all hang out (92%), I suspect I may have run around 52:30. What's interesting about this result is how much slower I race due to running less mileage. The faceless executives in a Sydney glass tower have given me this wonderful experimental opportunity.

Glen Coward told me once that a runner is only as good as her previous six weeks' training. My experiment proves this contention. I raced a track 10,000m on 11 February in 45:57. In the previous six weeks I'd run 530k, or 88k (55 miles) per week. In the six weeks prior to Saturday's 10k I'd run 327k, or 55k (34 miles) per week. Result of the experiment: I run 60% of my normal weekly volume and I race six minutes slower for 10k.


Blogger Shane said...

You can't escape the understaffing issue! Even the Defence Force suffers from this and it is only going to get worse post Aug 21.

That is interesting in relation to your 6 week theory, I would have thought 55 k per week would have been ample.

fresher legs => faster times. But what would I know I am useless when it comes to consistent training :-)

7:23 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

Or if your current potential 100% effort were 40 minutes say, I could make a case for 55 mins being 250% slower than 46 mins.

7:54 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

"a runner is only a good as her previous six weeks' training" - I like it, makes a lot of sense. Not only is it the reduced mileage but also what the reduced miles were made up of. If you continue with the same volume of speedwork/quality sessions your racing performance shouldn't suffer too much at shorter distances.

Doing a Thomas is a bit drastic for an 11/12 hour working day - remember sleep is an equally important part of training. Hopefully the mandarins at HQ will see sense sometime soon.

9:31 pm  
Blogger Two Fruits said...

Agree entirely, otherwise what is the point of continuous training. Any training over 4 months old has almost gone completely. You did well to be under 60 minutes for the 10 km. On that form Blewitts would have been tough today. Careful with the rebuilding, too much, too soon, watch out.
Get a job like mine, at least can only drive one bus at a time and we have driving time limits. Hang in there, tomorrow may be better.

10:10 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

I don't get up at 3:30 every day, you know. In fact, I only did that once, as far as I remember. Change it to 5:00 and we're talking, though.

Not entirely convinced about the 6 weeks theory. I'm sure Lydiard would not have his charges run miles after miles after miles for "as long as possible" if the last 6 weeks were the only thing that counts.

11:39 pm  
Anonymous Julie said...

Or you could do a Julie and just quit the job altogether.

12:23 am  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

Oh my, I feel for you on the work front, that's horrible. I'm sure that doesn't help your running either, even without less of it, it's added stress to your day.

Hope you're getting enough sleep, Ewen!

I'm also not convinced about "the last 6 weeks" since marathons have been won by people on the injury sidelines for a couple weeks preceding their race. But it does make for a catchy quote.

3:39 am  
Blogger joe positive said...

We may work for the same company :-)

Just kidding, though if my company had a branch in Australia I'd emigrate in a heartbeat.

5:03 am  
Blogger Love2Run said...

I'm hoping those slave masters slack off and give you a well deserved break soon. How about 60% less work as a prescription for change?

9:09 am  
Blogger strewth said...

Oh dear, I'm with Julie on this!! Then again, this busy time should calm down soon hopefully and you'll be back to doing the running you love. Hang in there, only a few more years til retirement!!

11:16 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

I don't mind a bit of hard work, but 12 hour shifts is really a bit much.
I feel for you Ewen, i really do!

4:51 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Shane, the solution might be to increase immigration... We could take in more New Zealanders and Americans. 55k per week isn't enough for me. And fitness helps me more than fresh legs in a 10k race.

Speedygeoff, your mastery of mathematics is miraculous. I calculate 55 minutes is light years slower than 40 minutes.

Grellan, yes I agree with that. 55k of high quality running spread over 5 days could work. I'm with you also on the need for sleep.

2F, I would have been behind all the frogs at Blewitts.

Thomas, you're not as crazy as I thought you were. My shift starts at 6:00 AM, so I'd need to be up at 4 to get in an hour of running. My take is the 6 week theory presumes there's been running prior to that period.

Julie, I dream of "doing a Julie."

Flo, not enough sleep lately. Have you been spying on me ;)

Joe Positive, I think my company borrowed your company's bad ideas. You'd better emigrate soon - our pollies are rushing to shut the floodgates on immigration.

Mike, I'd take that! 60% less work is a prescription for better running :)

Strewth, If I can hang in for a while I'll "retire" at 55!

Thanks Rick. I don't mind hard work either. 9 or 10 hours a day is fine, but beyond that it starts to wear you down.

8:57 pm  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

Some people actually do believe in the 6-week theory. Jack Daniels in his book mentions that if a runner has been training well for 6 weeks but can't find any races, then he/she can safely assume that his fitness has improved. He 'theoretically' can raise his training VDOT by 1 point.

But for me, one level of VDOT increase is a lot.

10:25 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

My rule of thumb was eight weeks. For a marathon, preceded by a standard ten day taper, eight weeks.

11:45 pm  
Blogger Love2Run said...

ps. have you had your iron checked? Seems to me the lack of energy might be more than a lack of training...

6:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My guess is the stress of work in the past 2 weeks is the main reason for the 5:30 minute slowing since the Gold Coast 10K three weeks previously.

The smack-down in the sun was not you best race but I doubt that lack of training volume was responsible for that.

At this stage your highest priority is enough sleep. The next highest priority is some consistent but not exhausting training. Above all, while the job stress continues, treat your running as a chance to relax and enjoy yourself.
But I hope the job stress ceases.

9:27 am  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

I think there's a combination of factors at play here Ewen. Sure, solid training = better racing and for lots of people this means there's an optimum training volume for optimum race performance (regardless of what the race distance is). But I think the other two factors which can't be under rated are: (1) fatigue from long work hours (we can't compartmentalise our lives and fatigue = fatigue and will have a negative impact on running/racing), and (2) the negative psychological impact that not being able to train as desired because of work hours has on attitude to everything, including running/racing when we do get out there, and the self fulfilling thoughts we have about that - ie, "I won't run well because long work hours have been getting in the way of training". My advice is just to ride the busy work time out and get back into focussed training and a few races when conditions are better. In the meantime, treat running as an escape from work and just enjoy each run for what it is. Running isn't just about racing. Make sense?

8:59 pm  
Blogger Robert Song said...

I reckon you are only as good as your last six years of training.

9:44 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...


9:21 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Sling, that's interesting about Daniels. I like his ideas. Did you see his take on the barefoot running craze?

Speedygeoff, I like eight. Eight is my favourite number after seeing the V8 cake on Masterchef.

Mike, I haven't yet, but will at some stage. I still think the lack of energy is due to being buggered from work.

Canute, yes! More sleep and consistent - not exhausting - training. I was tired going into the smack-down due to some late nights.

Jog, thanks. That makes sense.

Robert Song, I agree with that contention. But I'd like to know what would happen if a runner with six years of training behind her did zero miles of running or exercise for six weeks then raced a 10k. How much slower would her 10k be?

I will Speedygeoff. As soon as I return from the Wednesday group run :)

5:01 pm  
Blogger Love2Run said...

Can you drop me an email? I have some offline comments for you that might help. Thanks, Mike

12:35 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

I'd advocate more generation X's being promoted to jobs, and less rigid selection processes, perhaps a separate work area for generation Y's, more efficient work practices, and more working from home, and changing the workplace so it is more runner friendly, heck get all the workers to run ride or swim that will increase productivity, maybe even some tasks can be done while running...
If you go the 0330 option good headlamp or well tuned night vision might be good...I might have to do similiar and if I increase my mileage maybe I can drop 6 minutes off my 10k time...yeah alright...mind you if you dont mind some hard yakka and pathetic pay for 42 weeks a year, lots of driving, and no pay for 10 weeks,( and no leave provisions), meter reading is a great way to maintain the endurance base...well done on doing the experiment by getting out to race...its hard to be motivated to run hard when you know the training isnt there...all the best with getting better work/life balance...sounding a bit like FIFO there...12 hour shifts 6-7 days on then 7 days off (without the 7 days off)...for sure understaffing is going to continue until the real issues are dealt with, with the ageing of the baby boomers...
I dont gree with more immigration but if we are going to have it; americans and new zealanders are good, maybe south africans too they all run the 89km comrades over there...could encourage more runner friendly workplaces...

6:05 am  
Blogger Robert James Reese said...

Eh... that sucks about the long hours. I hope that doesn't continue for you. Tell your boss that you need more time to get out and run.

2:09 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

TB, I like your idea about working from home. Might do that when I retire from my current job. The 0330 option isn't really an option as that'd mean hitting the sack at 1915 to get enough sleep.

Robert, things eased a fraction this last week. Once the federal election is over on 21 August things should ease back to more normal levels of overtime.

8:07 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Hey Ewen

sorry I've missed this post, very interesting conversation.

I'm like you in this respect I need to run high mileage to run anything decent in races. As for how much ones fitness declines with lack of running it probably moves either way a couple of week depending on the person.

I did read that some runners run their best only after been forced to rest due to injury just before their race. Hal H ran his best masters marathon after a week of total rest while recoverying from being tossed by a horse. I have no real experience on this but my PB marathon came with very little taper and I know that if I'm running under 100K a week I can't get near my 10K PB. This could have to to with my weight too.

Anyway old son hope you can get through this busy period and get to the "city to surf" in one piece.

Had to laugh at Ricks response to you working 12hr shifts. Must have really shocked him. Those pommies aren't known for their work ethic, well not since sending their hardworkers to Australia and America ;)

8:07 am  
Blogger rinusrunning said...

You must work Less and train more!.
Slow make fast so ypu can train and run slower for a fast time!.

You can.


7:46 pm  
Blogger Ali said...

based on my previous six weeks training ... I'm in trouble.

9:10 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Scott - interesting comment, esp. in view of your high mileage training. If you run the 2:40 in Townsville that'll be recommendation enough for me to edge the mileage up a tad once work settles down. Yes, I heard there weren't any hard working pommies left in the UK - those that are wish their relos had arrived down here on the 1st fleet ;)

Rinus, you are right. I'll tell my boss I need to work less and train more. If she doesn't listen I'll tell her where to go!

Ali, then it's time to commence the next six weeks' training :)

8:12 pm  

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