I was out running through the beautiful autumn air today (temperature dropped by 30 degrees in 3 days in MN!), just nice and easy, reminiscing what Lydiard told me first time when I got together with him in 1981; when I was young, so much younger than today (HELP!), I was just like everybody else and asked him how fast I should be doing my long runs. “Whatever the pace you can manage,” was his reply.
The problem with running by set numbers, be it pace or effort or whatever, is that on any given day, you may or may not have the same “performance level” as other time. In my case, I could never train very fast for my conditioning but when I started doing other elements, hills and reps and time trials, my time came down very quickly—almost a minute and a half for 3 miles. Bill Baillie told me, and Kim Stevenson can clarify this for me, that he couldn’t run the long runs as fast as others (Snell got down to 2:10 for Waitak but Baillie stayed around 2:20~2:30 range). Whereas, in the case of Dick Quax, he could train during his conditioning close to 5-minute-mile pace even for his long runs and moved on to the track workout—for someone like him, he really didn’t need “transition” like hill training phase. Now either way, I was almost 2 minutes behind Quakie but the point is that my times throughout the season would fluctuate a lot. I could not simply take my five best 5k times and get average time and calculate my LT pace or Steady State pace or ½ effort time or whatever.
To me the best formula was ¼ effort, ½ effort and ¾ effort (I know Bill Bowerman wasn’t too impressed with that system…). If anything, it’s always better to go too slowly than too fast. Whatever the pace-calculation might tell you, if you can’t continue with the following days’ training comfortably, you’ll know you’d gone out too fast. Why force yourself to stick to some calculation when you know it’s not working? That’s silly. If you have a hard time figuring it out, you need to develop your “Inner Coach” more.
Just go by how you feel. Stay at the pace that you can manage. As you get stronger, what once was anaerobic pace will now become aerobic and you’ll notice you’re running much faster aerobically than you’d ever imagined you could.
I’ll tell you another rather interesting “number” story. Lydiard always used to give this bogus number for maximum oxygen debt for the argument sake. Based on that, he calculate why developing aerobic capacity is more effective than endless repeats and anaerobic type training. It works out rather nicely. When I was working on the script for the Lydiard training video, I sent the script to Peter Snell for his review. “This number is all wrong,” he came back. Mind you, he’s one of the experts on this (PhD in exercise physiology). So he kindly corrected all the numbers and readjusted the chart for me. Guess what? The result came back almost exactly the same as far as the effectiveness of aerobic development is concerned—or better yet, if anything, the more-up-to-date calculation revealed that the Lydiard principle was even more effective than he was preaching!
When I took coach Squires to the airport after the Twin Cities marathon, he gave me a copy of training article from 1980. With it, there was the list of athletes who finished top 3 in each event beyond 800m at Olympic Trial. In the article, there was a section to explain different types of training. Under intervals/repetitions, it had separate column and said (1) long intervals and (2) short intervals. That was it! With such narrow understanding of pacing and all, they were running some 10~15 seconds faster for 5000m than today (except for a handful of individuals). Now what does that tell ya? I’m not against science at all. Somebody said something about giving a correct training method to a bad coach is like giving a gun to a criminal. Well, with a wrong perspective, scientific approach to training is like worrying about microscopic germs around you. I don’t know how you can eat or breathe at all!
Sorry I always seem to go on and on. Snookie, I didn’t mean to hog the thread…
You need to get moving on getting your mileage up! ;o)