Monday, 4 May 2009

Stanford Post-Mortem, Secrets of My Recent "Old Man" Success

Dylan's second Stanford result is now in books (or rather, in the circuitry) and neither of us is particularly pleased with the verdict it delivers about our plan over the past 5 weeks-- and I say the plan rather than the execution, because everything we wanted to happen, apart from a better final result in the second meet over the first, happened.

The first 6 laps of the race began as neither of us had expected-- with Dylan leading a large amoeba of college boys seemingly unwilling to set a pace that would put them in range of making their NCAA qualifier (although a couple actually did anyway, thanks to furious final kilometers). In part due to some stomach cramping (a new thing for Dylan at a very inopportune moment), Dylan surrendered the lead, but stayed stuck in the mid-front of the pack for kms 3 to just past 7. It was at this point that things got strange for me. I watched the race the following morning, already knowing the result. When Dylan re-assumed the lead with about 6 laps to go, I began to think that there must have been another mistake in the published results (at the first Stanford meet, the results initially had Dylan at 29:47, when his time was actually 28:58). I have never seen him in the hunt at this stage of a race and not remain for a shot at the prize. When he has struggled it the past, it has been much earlier in the race. This time, however, his legs completely failed to respond when the real racing began. This was not a question of winning the race, but of being able to accelerate with the group and come in at close to his goal pace: he simply could not move off of a pace that we know should have been very manageable. Having watched the final 3k a couple of times, it is clear that he was mentally prepared to work hard over the final 5-6mins, as planned. The failure here was purely physical, which places the responsibility squarely in my lap.

There was something quite clearly wrong in the training mix over the past 2 weeks. My suspicion at this point is that he was not sufficiently recovered from his Sun Run week, which included two full workouts and a hard fought race. The plan certainly seemed reasonable-- based both on my own experience with managing 10k race recoveries, and on Dylan's own history-- but clearly something was slightly amiss. There is simply no reason why he should not have felt much stronger in this race than he did in both the first Stanford meet and the Sun Run. Of course, another explanation could be that he did not respond effectively to the altitude training. I'm inclined to reject such a theory, however, as his Sun Run performance clearly shows that he was responding, or at least that he was not struggling with the altitude.

In any case, Dylan's aim now shifts to his major seasonal focus--the World Championship marathon in Berlin on August 12. As Dylan typically begins to feel very strong in late July and early August (we're not entirely sure why, but we think he may suffer a little from early spring allergies), our hopes are high for a solid performance there.

Finally, a response to a request to shed some light on my own training leading up the Sun Run and Times-Colonist 10ks:

I actually think of my training these days not in terms of building, but of stemming fitness loss. I am one of those masters runners who enjoyed a long and physically stressful career as an open runner. I therefore did not enjoy any trend of improvement from my late 30 to early 40s, such as I've seen late starters, or re-starters, experience in response to systematic training. (This phenomenon, which I've seem many times among my own master-age athletes, occurs when an inexperienced runner, or talented "born-again" runner, who quite likely would have been a standout in his/her peak years, closes the gap between their current fitness level and where they would have been had they had a full career and begun to experience age-graded decline in their early 40s. These two lines-- that of the athlete's rate of improvement from current fitness to trained fitness, and that of his/her rate of decline from a hypothetical mid-career peak of fitness-- can sometimes take several years post-age 40 to intersect, allowing the master's athlete to experience a year-to-year trend of performance improvement typical of younger athletes in early to mid-career-- an experience denied those of us trained at peak capacity and never took a hiatus during or following our open careers.)I confess that it has actually taken far more emotional drive to train hard in my 40s than it ever took in my 20s and 30s, and that I have seriously considered giving up training to race on at least a couple of occasions since turning 40. So, as a consequence of both the psychological difficulty of training harder for less tangible reward, and of physical effects of having trained at close to my limit for all of those years-- effects which include scarred and tight hamstring attachments and a very stiff low-back-- I simply cannot, and have not even really attempted to, reproduce my erstwhile training intensity, volume or consistency these past 5 years. This is certainly not to say that I haven't enjoyed my master's training and racing immensely; in fact, these years have been some of my best, strictly from the point of view of pure enjoyment and appreciation of the sport. I would not be human, however, if I did not sometimes feel a little wistful about my measurably declining capacities, and wonder whether or not I can still muster the drive to continue towards the next frontier. During these moments, the answer-- or rather the question-- however, is always the same: What else would I do if I were not training to race?; What else is so relatively easy, healthy, and convenient to do, and yet also so intensely pleasurable and rewarding(in an "acquired taste" sort of way)?

In any case, these days my training is pretty simple, and this winter/spring has been no exception. Coming out of the X-C season, I spent 4 weeks dividing my time between the elliptical trainer and the road (45mins of the first and 20-30mins of the second). In January, I progressed to once a week "hill fartlek" session on the treadmill (i.e. running at easy run pace-- 10mph-- and raising the incline to 9% every other minute) and standard tempo runs (also once a week, and on the treadmill, building from 17 to 30mins over a period of 6 weeks). In early February, I began doing interval workouts on the indoor track-- bouts of 1:20 to 3:20 @ 3:00km pace with 30-120 sec jog recoveries. (This year, these sessions were made doubly difficult by a un-repaired heating malfunction in the field house, which kept the temperature at close to 25 degree C). I continued through February and March to do my tempo runs on the treadmill, due both to poor whether and a chronic hip/hamstring problem that made running on the snow and pavement even more painful. Starting in early February, I also added a longer run of 70mins, which I increased by 5mins/week up to 90mins. Immediately following the spring melt in March (a little earlier than usual in these parts this year), I moved my interval sessions outside, and increased both the average length of my repeats (from 2mins to around 3mins) and the total volume of my sessions (from around 5.5kms to 6.5-7kms, not including recovery jogs). I kept my tempo runs at 30mins, and continued doing them on the treadmill until just before the Sun Run in mid-April.

So, the secret of my "old man" success(I now consider the 40 year olds the "younger guys") this spring has simply been my ability to keep my training going consistently over the winter. My typical week would end-up being as follows:

Monday: 25-30mins @ Tempo pace (12mph on the mill with 1% grade), 15-20mins warm-up/down.

Tuesday: 45-50mins @ 3:45-4:00kms (P-K group workout day, which became my easy day). Core strength.

Wednesday: 70-90mins @ 3:45-4:00kms. Weights.

Thursday: 60mins @3:45-4:00kms

Friday: Hill Fartlek,Interval session (e.g. 8x700m in 2:03-05 with 200m in 60 secs recovery).

Saturday: 60mins @ 3:45-4:00kms. Core strength and weights.

Sunday: 60mins @ 3:45-4:00kms

I hope to perform a little better over the remainder of the season as I continue to work on eliminating the hamstring tedonopathy that has been causing me pain since the end of X-C season last year. It continues to improve, but in a frustrating 3- steps-forward-2-steps-backward pattern.

Next week, I'll offer another P-K profile, this time of the enigmatic Rejean Chiasson, who appears poised for a breakthrough season.

2 Comments:

Blogger dcwewetzer said...

Hi. Steve Boyd
Noticed your site and enjoyed reading about training that real runners do.
Also saw that you are NOT a member of the free web site athlinks.com that tracks all your races.... its a free data base for ANYONE.... already has some of your results associated. I'm not endorsing the site, nor do I work for the site, I just use it and its free. You can see it at athlinks.com or go right to your partial profile to claim it at: http://www.athlinks.com/myresults.aspx?rid=49696035.

It's a very nice site with lots of users.
Take care - Safe running.
Dean Wewetzer in Virginia.
dean.wewetzer@us.army.mil

4 May 2009 at 15:30  
Blogger dcwewetzer said...

Hi. Steve Boyd
Noticed your site and enjoyed reading about training that real runners do.
Also saw that you are NOT a member of the free web site athlinks.com that tracks all your races.... its a free data base for ANYONE.... already has some of your results associated. I'm not endorsing the site, nor do I work for the site, I just use it and its free. You can see it at athlinks.com or go right to your partial profile to claim it at: http://www.athlinks.com/myresults.aspx?rid=49696035.

It's a very nice site with lots of users.
Take care - Safe running.
Dean Wewetzer in Virginia.
dean.wewetzer@us.army.mil

4 May 2009 at 15:31  

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