Part V “A”

25 March, 2003.

First up, be sure that you understand the above addendum. To move your LT (for all the reasons given earlier, reasons that show that a high LT is THE prime attribute for a good performance) you must work BELOW (slower than) the pace at which your LT currently turns.

No pain, no gain, doesn’t work with LT training.

Now, how did I train Joe? If you can follow this, you can do exactly the same to yourself. I am trying to write this as carefully and simply as possible, but it’s going to be wordy and full of numbers and data which you will have to sift through. Please make sure that you read it just as carefully and don’t just jump in with questions, because this part of all this thread is a major key to improving your race performances. I will do my best to sum it all up at the end and put it into key points to apply to your own training.

First off, what I did with Joe was ask him to do a simple (but tough) test to determine his HRmax. I asked him to go to a track and warm up, stretch and do some strides as if preparing for a race. Then (wearing his HRM) he was to run an all-out 800m and note the highest HR recorded on his monitor. He was to rest 2 mins and run an all-out 400m. The highest number he would see as he crossed the finish-line, we would take as his HRmax. Since HRM’s can sometimes be tricky and go blank or haywire at the wrong moment, he was to have someone there to be ready to immediately manually take his pulse for 6 seconds (and multiply by 10). This proved not to be necessary, since his HRM read 193.

I have taken enough lactate measurements and had people wear HRM’s in marathons (even Joe himself, years earlier) that I was able to tell him that based on this HRmax his best marathon HR would be 175-177. Higher than this would not be possible/sustainable. (Note; I just got them to wear them for my information purposes, not to use as a race-pace guide, a practice I do not agree with).

A few days after this HRmax test, I got Joe to run his first 2400m test on 11 May. If you check back at Joe’s results, you will note that the speed at 170 was only 6.05m/m.

For reasons of cardiac drift, I had learned that the pace at 170 in the test would pretty accurately reflect the running pace he would maintain for a marathon (assuming he was trained well) even though in the race his HR would climb to 175-177. This because for 2400m he is not having heat dispersal problems such as he will encounter if he keeps up such a pace for 2hrs+. So, assuming proper training, the pace at 170 HR (for Joe) in the 2400m test equals pace in the marathon at 175-177 HR (in other words, his best marathon pace/effort).

So, with an eventual target of sub-2.25 (5.30m/m) in the marathon, Joe’s current pace at 170 on 11 May (6.05m/m) was too slow.

I told Joe that to move/improve the running pace at this HR, he had to train a lot of miles at HR’s lower than 170 (and obviously, slower). He knew this anyway. It would be some time before he would even be allowed to run at 170 HR intensity. Not until he was ready for it. And by the time he was ready for it, it would be much easier than he was finding it at present.

As noted in an earlier addendum (to Part IV), Joe found this initial test effort at 170 HR to be okay for 8-10mins, but not something he wanted to keep up for too long, maybe 30-40 mins.

Indeed 180 was something he did not believe he could maintain at this early stage for even 18 mins. Both of these subjective perceptions (and Joe has a lot of running experience) were telling us that his lactate was rising even at 170 HR and was going very high at 180. If we can look back at the A-B-C graph I described above (Second addendum to part IV) we can picture Joe as being runner A (or maybe B). If you draw this graph it will become clearer. For an optimal marathon, we needed Joe to be capable of the sort of lactate curve generated by runner C.

To do this, we needed to get Joe to work at paces before his lactate curve turned. It obviously was turning BEFORE 170 for 3 reasons:

  1. The pace at 170 (6.05m/m) was not the target marathon pace (5.30m/m as predicted by the relationship between Joe’s other shorter distance performances, and as predicted by Joe’s earlier ability from 5 years previously. We KNEW Joe was capable of 2.25 if well trained. The fact that he could not do it at present simply meant he was not well-trained. A fact we were aware of.)
  2. If Joe was well-trained, the lactate curve should not curve till just about/just after Joe’s marathon pace/HR (ie: 5.30m/m and 170+). In fact, his marathon target pace and marathon HR should pretty much coincide at 170HR. The fact that they did not, showed us his LT was low.
  3. Joe did not want to run for too long at 170 HR. A significant pointer that he was already above his LT.

Let me go over that again. It looks complicated, but it isn’t.

  1. If you have a POOR relationship across race performances (as already discussed at the very start of this thread) you have a low LT compared to what it possible for you. If you do the 2400m test, you will either find that the pace at your best marathon HR is too slow (like Joe at 170) or that the effort required at that (170) HR is too much and something you cannot hope to maintain for 26 miles.
  2. If you have a GOOD relationship, and your HRmax is like Joe’s (193+) then your best marathon race HR will be 175 ±. If you do the 2400m test, you should find that your pace at 170 HR is very close to best marathon pace (although HR in the race might be 175+). AND you should feel that running at 170 HR is no big deal. You can maintain it comfortably for a long time without even thinking.

So, Joe’s marathon pace was not where we expected it to be. And 170 HR was “too tough” at present to maintain for 26 miles. He had to train slower/easier and lift his LT which was currently very low.

Here we needed to find 2 training paces for Joe. One, we knew had to be low aerobic conditioning pace for every day, the second could be up closer to his current LT.

The low aerobic pace had to be ~50 bpm lower than his HRmax (70-75% of HRmax). Since Joe’s HRmax was 193, this put his easy mileage at 145 HR (or lower). The second HR was to be a bit higher, but still under LT. This one was set at 155-160. (Note here: the LT at this point was still low, and occurring at a low HR. In time, Joe would be able to run at marathon HR 175 very very comfortably, because the lactate at that effort/HR would be low by race time. Until then, he had to work BELOW this effort and ease the comfort zone up until it reached 175+). This second intensity was set at Marathon HR minus 15-20 bpm (for now, it would be allowed to rise as Joe’s fitness improved… as will be explained in the example).

As a general guide, and in my experience, this is what I have found works best. Marathon HR will be approx 15-20 beats lower than HRmax (no better). And aerobic conditioning HR needs to be another 30 bpm below THAT (and hence ~50bpm below HRmax) I will qualify this in a more general statement at the end.

When Joe’s LT moved, the pace/HR at which he could train and still be under LT would also move/rise. Although his upper limit at first was 155-160, in time he would be able to train at 170HR and still be very comfortable. But not yet. He had a lot of work to do first. 170 was still too “uncomfortable” (ie: too close to, or slightly above LT).

The totally WRONG thing Joe could have done at this point was to think “right, 175 is marathon HR, I’ll work at that pace until I can do more and more of it.” Or he could have thought, “right, 5.30m/m is target race pace, I’ll start with 2 miles at that pace and add on one per week until I can do 26…” Neither of these would have worked for him.

What he had to do in effect was find his aerobic upper limit and slowly ease it up, not by working harder, but by working just at the optimal pace/effort to stimulate his muscles to become better at providing energy at this rate. This would cause the effort at that pace to drop, to become easier and the HR at that pace to fall (and usually the pace at that HR to improve/drop). He would then slowly be ably to work at higher and higher HR’s while still remaining fully aerobic and working under his LT.

In fact, for his HM, 20 weeks after starting, Joe would average 181 HR at 5.28m/m. This was a HR he was not able to maintain for longer than 18 mins at the start of training. The difference would be that by HM time, Joe’s lactate at 180 HR was LOWER than his lactate at that same HR 20 weeks previously (and therefore less “stressful” and more “comfortable”). This, despite the fact that the pace at that HR was now faster.

Part V “B”

25 March, 2003.

Starting from 11 May (when he had reached 50mpw and conducted his first 2400m test), over the next 16 weeks, Joe’s weekly mileage was as follows:

Editor's note: I replaced the text describing the weekly mileage with this chart.

Joe was given schedules to show him how to best get from 50 mpw to 80 mpw.

Day Mileage HR
Mon 60 min easy 145 HR
Tue 75 min easy 160 HR
Wed 45 mins easy 145 HR
Thu 60 mins easy 150 HR
Fri 75 mins easy 160 HR
Sat 45 mins easy 150 HR
Sun 90 mins easy 155 HR
Approx 60mpw
Day Mileage HR
Mon 75 min easy 145 HR
Tue 60 min easy 155-160 HR
Wed 60 mins easy up to 150 HR
Thu 75 mins easy 145-150 HR
Fri 75 mins easy 160 HR
Sat 60 mins easy 140-150 HR
Sun 90 mins easy 150 HR
Approx 69mpw
Day Mileage HR
Mon 60 min easy 140-145 HR (or lower)
Tue 90 min incl. 70 @ 160 HR
Wed 75 mins easy 140-150 HR (or lower)
Thu 75 mins easy 150-155 HR
Fri 90 min incl. 70 @ 160 HR
Sat 75 mins easy 140-150 HR (or lower)
Sun 3 hrs easy 145-155 HR (w/60 min @ 160)
Approx 80+mpw

We should note that Tue and Fri are preffered “work” days (although the pace was always easy/aerobic). Sunday is obviously long-run day as it is for many. The remainder of the week was just increasing miles at easy running HR.

For the first 8 weeks, Joe did not run higher than 160 HR at any time (even though he intended to race at 175 HR in the marathon). As can be seen from his 2400m tests on 29 Jun, his pace at all HR’s was slowly improving. Even the paces at 170 and 180 HR were improving despite the fact that Joe had not run at that intensity AT ALL in the previous 2 months.

By wk6 he added some more easy 150HR+ running on three days per week (to go to 103mpw). Also on wk6, each Sun became simply 2hrs-2hrs30 at 150± (no longer including 60 mins @ 160 HR)

Sample weeks are as follows (mileages are approx, Joe notes times eg: 1h45mins @ 150HR±):



Over time, the running speed at each HR was slowing improving (see 2400m tests).

On wk 8, we introduced a session simply designed to to get Joe used to moving faster biomechanically, without incurring high lactate. I call this 200/200 or 200-fartlek. It is done on a track and involves 200m @ approx 5k pace followed by 200m easy and continues without stopping for 25 laps (10,000m). The point is NOT to do the overall 10k in the fastest possible time (by slowing up the fast bits and speeding up the slow bits), but to maintain a healthy differential of approx 15 secs or more between the fast/slow 200s. Something like 40s and 55secs or 43s/60s.

Joe ran this on weeks 9 (38s/55s – 38.40 for the 10k); wk10 (37s/52s – 37.18 for 10k) and wk12 (37s/51s – 36.53 for 10k). This session replaced one of the 160 HR runs on those weeks, the rest of the week remained unchanged.

Up until wk 12, these 200/200 runs had been the only time Joe had run at higher than 160 HR (and even then, only for a short time).

Only on wk13 was Joe allowed to run at 165-170 HR and this replaced his 160 sessions (because we believed his LT had now moved up from 160 HR). That week (Tue) he ran a measured 10m @ 168 av and managed 58.28 and found it “easy” (indicating therefore low lactate and a pace under/slower than LT). This was NOT a race effort. He ran it again that week (Fri) and managed 58.56 (166 HRav) and found it again, “easy”.

Since this intensity was now a regular part of the schedule, in wk14 (Tue) Joe ran the same 10m at HRav 171 in 57.58 and found it “very easy, legs fresh, could have kept going no problem”.

Also that week (Sat) he took part in a local road 5km for “fun” (something to do with impressing a girl) and ran 15.58 (5.09m/m) with a HRav of 186. He phoned me afterwards and explained he could have kept going, but could not get faster. This is a common feeling on this kind of training which was not (yet) aimed at 5km racing.

Just note here that Joe had never AT ANY TIME run this 5km race pace (5.09) in training. So far his fastest paced training had been 10m @ 5.48 apart from 3 x 200/200s worth of 10k. This is the power of a strong LT. His third mile had been the same as his second. He had not been slowing down. I told him that after the marathon, if he wanted, he could train to knock another minute off of this time… and that got him thinking.

On wk 15 (Tue) Joe ran his 10m in 57.34 (5.45m/m) at HRav 169 (remember his marathon target was 5.30 at 175 HR, so he was getting there) and later that week (Fri) he ran 3 x 15 mins at 170 HR with 5 mins jog.

On wk16 (20 Aug) Joe ran 13 miles (HRav 168; simply as part of his 165-170 run) in 1.16 (5.50m/m). This pace was now “comfortable” and something he could keep up for much longer.

And on wk19, as already noted, Joe ran a HM (as part of a marathon) in 71.43 (5.28m/m) with an HRav of 181 (due to some cardiac drift).

Was his aerobic training finished at that point? Far from it. I figured we were only halfway there. We needed to be able to see sub-5.30 at 170 HR (or lower) on the 2400m test.

Note that Joe was only now being introduced to 170 HR training/intensity. And that this was now becoming comfortable for him (ie: because the lacate at this effort was now low). Conventional wisdom would have now stated; “based on his HM time, he needs to run tempo runs every week at that pace for 20 mins…”

In truth, Joe was not yet ready for such intensity. He would do much better to just keep working away as he was. Continue for some weeks at 160-170, then slowly move that up to work at 175 HR when the time was right. Always slowly slowly raise the intensity of training, and only when you are very sure you have maximised your running pace at all the lower intensities. Do not be fooled into thinking that you only need to be fast at 175 (race) HR. You also need to be pretty quick at 160, 150 and 140 HR too.

Think of it like a tube of toothpaste. To ensure you get every last drop (of ability) you have to go to the very end of the tube and slowly squeeze your way up. Never hurrying.

On to Part VI

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