Sunday, March 10, 2013

How bad do you want it?

My recent training has been okay — not exactly where I want it to be, but not too bad. I should say that the idea of taking one, two, or three rest days per week (that I talked about in Bob and Janene Recovery Days), is not one that I've taken up with fervour. I put it out there as an idea that may work well — my main problem with it is that it makes for some very large mileage days if I'm to hit the weekly and monthly kilometre totals I need to maintain (or improve) my aerobic base. I've been averaging 72k per week (45 miles), which is about my 'tipping point' — any less and my aerobic condition starts to fall away.

Recent training:
Monday - 15k of easy running with the Speedygeese.
Tuesday - 10k very easy (6:25/k) during and after the YCRC race.
Wednesday - 8k with 5k at tempo pace (5:11/k) on the grass track.
Thursday - Rest day.
Friday - 17k long run, easy effort (5:43/k).
Saturday - 10k slow Mt Ainslie trail run.
Sunday - 10k Stromlo 4 x 1k intervals: 4:55, 4:50, 4:38, 4:33.

My tempo and interval sessions have been moderate. I've been holding back quite a bit with the Stromlo intervals — my legs are too creaky early on a Sunday morning to run hard. I don't want to pull a hammy or calf. I've been running 4:30 to 5:00 for the kilometre repeats (10k to half marathon race pace), so they're not anaerobic at all.

I read an online Running Times article last week which made me think I should do more — especially in terms of mileage. It was about Sheri Piers, a 41-year-old runner from Massachusetts Maine who is training to run a sub-2:35 marathon (her PB is 2:36:59). What struck me about the story was the relentless way Piers attacks her training. She never misses a session, runs 145 to 209 kilometres per week, and fits it in around motherly duties and a full-time job. She also does some crazy-sounding sessions — like 10 x 1 mile with 1-minute rests, 22 miles on an indoor track (176 laps!) and a 24 mile long run on a treadmill. An amazing lady. However, I thought it a little sad that she intends to retire from competitive running once she can no longer improve. She said "I'm not going to be falling off the cliff. I don't want to go and run a 21-minute 5k."

Balloons at Stromlo distracted from the subject of my photo - the BMW R1200 GS


Blogger Jog Blog said...

Interesting post Ewen. I think the rest day debate is all about "moderation" as defined by (serious/long term) runners. Hence, my view is 1 rest day per week is enough, unless you have a niggle or are tapering.

As for Sheri .... that's a convenient theory to have until you are (a) >40+yrs and/or(b) not improving any more but still love running. My question to her - and in fact to any long term runner is - what are you going to do when you realise that you started/continued running because you love it and you're still loving it event though you aren't continuing to improve? Are you still going to quit? I bet you/she doesn't! In other words .... don't be so judgemental about what you think you'll do when you get to that point & decide what you are going to do when you are there - ie, just like the rest of us.

8:02 pm  
Blogger Black Knight said...

You are working hard and you know when you have to take a day off more.
Highest mileage or speed-works? The daily runner's question.
When I was a runner I preferred the higher mileage with only tempo-runs.

2:57 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Liz, good point. I think there's a large variation in individual response to rest days too. The easy 5 or 6 mile day at the end of Sheri's week is like a rest day for her.
It doesn't sound like she loves running enough to continue racing - some runners stop once they are no longer competitive (e.g. Deek), others continue on and enjoy age-group racing (e.g. Mona).

Stefano, I don't think I'm working hard enough!

10:32 am  
Blogger Trevor said...

Careful Ewen - Sheri is from Maine, not Massachusetts - but you're in the right neighborhood! She runs in the Cabot Trail Relay that I do each year. I think between her and her friend Kristin Barry (also mentioned in the article) they hold the majority of female records for the various legs in the race. Also, I'm like you... I need about 45 miles per week to maintain my aerobic condition ... or at least it seems like it ... perhaps it's a mental thing.

1:24 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Ha - thanks Trev! I'll edit that. I also noticed Sheri's name in the results for the Gate River Run 15k (looking for Lee Troop's result) - saw she ran 52:42 to be first master by almost a minute -

8:44 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

There is no finish line...glory is fleeting but blogs are forever...

9:42 pm  
Blogger Lize Brittin said...

I agree with Liz on this. It's one thing to say that you will stop competing, but if she's going to quit running just because she can't improve, chances are she doesn't love the sport and is in it for the wrong reasons. I don't know that it's all that healthy to be so outcome oriented. I think it's an easy thing to say when your body is sound and you are improving, though. Then again, maybe she's the type who can easily let go and move on when things no longer suit her. It will be interesting to she what she says in the years to come.

2:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeeze, when I read the article about Sheri my main thought was how I'd be overjoyed to run a 21min 5k. Just goes to show the variety in motivations to run and differing perspectives on 'speedy running'.


2:07 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Geoff, yes! And blogs don't fall off the cliff ;-)

Lize, thanks. It will be interesting. She may just run the Cabot Trail Relay for fun - or may walk away and take up a totally different sport - motorcycle racing?

Fiona, same here. Under 22 minutes seems fast to me. She's splitting 17:34 for a 15k race so probably regards 4-minute ks as slow.

9:13 pm  
Blogger Jaymee said...

I'm with you on the rest days. I take them when I need them, but otherwise prefer to spread my mileage out a bit more.

I read the article on Sheri Piers as well. My take on her "retirement" was more about how much work she has to put in in order to maintain that level of competitiveness. It takes an immense amount of focus and sacrifice to train as she does. What I took from it was that she didn't want to continue to run her 140 mile weeks when the returns in terms of race times weren't there. I bet she'll continue to run and even race, but probably just won't train as hard.

11:30 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Jaymee, I hope she does keep running (and racing). Even on much less mileage she'd be competitive in Masters running - à la Steve Moneghetti, now running around 100k a week.

9:11 pm  
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5:14 pm  
Blogger Janene said...

I've never been able to figure out what my tipping point is for aerobic fitness (although it doesn't take much to tip towards training fatigue!). Surely it depends on what your primary focus is distance wise. I'm seeing improvement at present on a miniscule base. Some people can hammer themselves, some can't. Question is, is all that distance REALLY necessary? It's great for the head, but is it really needed for the muscles to perform well? Show me the science :-).

12:43 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Janene, then stay well away from the fatigue tipping point!
"Is all that distance REALLY necessary?" - good question! I think the answer is variable depending on the runner, and as you say, the goal race distance. Science can show that lots of easy aerobic exercise improves mitochondrial density, which is a good thing to have if one's a distance runner. Science also shows that muscle strength declines with age, so it's important not to neglect that, as strong muscles contribute to stride length and 'spring' - important for us 5k racers.

Even amongst relatively young elite distance runners there can be quite a variation in base distance run. For example, two 5000m runners who made the final of the London Olympics: Bernard Lagat, who reportedly runs around 70 miles per week and Cam Levins who runs more than twice that - 150+ miles per week. They both run the mileage they need in order to be competitive. It's an individual thing - if Cam ran 70 mile weeks he probably wouldn't even make the Canadian team.

7:31 pm  

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