Here is the aforementioned article by Tinman about using hard intervals and traditional methods of peaking (a very good read if you have time):
"Let us use an example, which is not hypothetical, just average:
Joe runs 75 miles per week, including tempos, intervals, races, etc. all season. By two-thirds of the way through the season, he has peaked in his max V02 improvements at 74 mls per kg per minute. His velocity at max VO2 is 4:36 pace. His velocity at LT is 5:18. He runs the 8k in 24:50 and is competitive in his conference.
Now, in the last 4 weeks, he drops his mileage to 65, 55, 50, then 45 as he attempts to "peak." What happens the first week, the week of the conference meet? He runs a great race, about a 15 seconds p.r. which makes him think that tapering is a smart thing to do. It is because he hasn't dropped below about 60 miles per week.
The following week he drops his mileage to 55 and adds some fast repetitions such as 8 x 400 as hard as he can go. He builds up lactic acid, which he thinks going to prepare him for the race. We (sports sciencists) put him on the treadmill and we discover that his max VO2 is the same (74) and all looks fine so far. We test his lactic acid concentration and volume of oxygen used at the prevously determined LT pace. Low and behold, at the end of this week, we find he is producing 10% more lactic acid and consuming 2% more oxygen to run at the same submaximal pace. Since Joe has no race this week, he doesn't know that he is actually losing ground, though mentally he is pumped because his energy level seems higher (presumably because his glycogen stores in his muscles and liver are higher which feels oh-so good!).
The following week, regionals rolls around. Joe drops to 50 miles for the week, continues doing lactic acid trainin such as the 600s, 400s, and 200s. His legs feel snappy when he sprints and he thinks his speed is better than ever. Wow, he feels good. He is ready for a p.r. On Thursday, before the race, we put him on the treadmill and, after a 5 minute jog, he runs one mile at normal LT pace, then cooldown. We don't measure his max VO2, because that would tire him out for the Regionals, but research shows that max VO2 is quite stable if one has just a single faster workout per week or race, whichever. Joe's lactic acid concentration at 5:18 pace is now at 5 mmols, whereas 3 weeks earlier it was 4 mmols at that velocity. His 02 cost is higher a little bit too, but we don't tell Joe because we don't want to ruin his confidence. After all, are we in it to help or to hurt him? We suggest to Joe's coach, who was watching the treadmill test, before they leave that going out fast in the race might not be a good idea if optimal performance is desired. Coach smiles and so does Joe, they think "Nice guy, but what the heck does he know about racing in championship races. Everyone goes out fast."
The regionals rolls around and Joe gets lucky enough to have a flat course to run on. IF he had run a hilly course, due to his loss of aerobic efficiency, he would have lost about a minute on his time from what he did three weeks earlier, but since it is flat, he runs only about 10 seconds slower than normal, not too bad. During the race, in which he went out with the leaders, he noticed that he really was hurting by the three mile mark, but he sucked it up and hung as tough as possible, qualifying for nationals (not by much though).
Joe drops his mileage the next week to 45 for the big peak; nationals. Man, he can't wait to run. He is so excited. He has worked so hard for this race!! On Wednesday, Joe and Coach go to the lab, because they had made a comittment to go their weekly, so they feel compelled to keep their word. Good for them! The same sub-maximal test goes on. Joe jogs 5 minutes then runs a mile on the treadmill at 5:18 pace, his previous LT pace of 4 mmols (he is perfect example of LT being right at 4 mmol, though some are more and some are less). Now, Joe produces 5.2 mmols at 5:18 pace and notices that his breathing seems a little difficult and his legs don't seem to do as well at the end of the mile. He jogs his cooldown, packs his bags, and mentally prepares for nationals 2 and half days later. The lab geek, me, sees that he has no chance of running close to his personal best in the 8km. I know he may have more bounce in his stride, early in the race, more anerobic power because he tapered and that gave him spring, but the simple fact is the race isn't the 800m or 1500m.
The race day arrives and Joe starts out near the front of the pack about 15 places back from a stupid guy who hammers the first 400 in about 63 seconds. Joe is fine, he thinks. At the 1k he goes by in 2:53, about 4:38 pace and he thinks that he is going to be a top-10 runner at nationals; way cool!
By about the 3km mark, Joe isn' feeling so good and his breathing is very labored. He presses on, keeping contact with all the guys who he thinks are contenders, as best he can. By the 5km mark, Joe is in deep oxygen debt and his legs are very heavy. He slows a little to catch his breath and wonders what is going on. Doesn't he want "it" enough?
By the 6km mark, Joe is really slowing now, he is at 5:15 pace and hurting really badly. A couple of guys come up on Joe and Joe does a double take, thinking "who the heck are those guys? I don't remember them being near me." These are two guys that held back early, had still run 60 and 64 miles the week of nationals and had never dropped below 60 in their last 3 weeks, had avoided hard anaeobic intervals and just stuck with their normal 1k repeats at 5k to 8k pace instead of doing 400s at mile pace like Joe.
Soon, Joe is dying and can't wait for the finish line to be in his sight. He hits the 400 to go mark and pushes his last bit of energy to get their and makes a good visual show of his mental toughness for the spectators. He crosses the line in 25:22, slower than what he has done in 6 weeks. He is spent, absolutely exhausted and needs help through the finish shoot. People say his name but he can not respond. He lays on the ground after going all the way through the shoot and breaths hard for a couple of minutes.
The two guys who passes Joe at the 3.5 mile mark come over and say hi. One is a guy from a rival college and he has never run better than 4:10 in the 1500m (some 12 seconds slower than Joe's best) and the other guy is a freshman teammate of his who started the season out as a 28:00 8k runner. They came through the schute in 24:50 and 25:01. NOt bad for a slow 1500m guy and a freshman, ay?
The coach comes over and gives Joe a pat on the back and says "I thought you in fine form this year. You looked so good a the mile and two-mile marks. You were right there with the studs, man. What happened, were you sick today?"
Joe shakes his head and says "Coach, I don't know what happened out there. I had nothing after the 2 mile mark. I was toast. I felt like quiting and this was the most important race of my life. I am so mad."
Now, does this sound familiar? Do you know people who have suffered like JOE? Do you know people like the two guys who passed him and finished ahead of him, despite their obvious lack of natural ability compared to JOE? Tinman