Skuj and Dr. E:
Okay, I have a dirty little secret for you guys; I time (or at least a one point) my repeats! Dun, dun, duhhhhhn! Here’s why: Skuj, as you seem to have noticed, speed comes back quite quickly. Your 600m time would come down from 1:48 to 1:45 to…and you’re expecting it to come down to somewhere around 1:35. You said it felt great to be running as the times come down. Yes, the times would come down fairly quickly. So coming off from conditioning (and hill phase if you choose to do it that way), you’re still not quite tuned and your leg-speed is relatively slow. The times come down quickly. A couple of years ago, I got a bit ambitious and did some ladder repeats—with one fartlek and one time trial of something like 3k once a week each. I would jog down to a near-by dirt track and I did a couple of 200s; a couple of 400s; a couple of 800; u to 1200 if I feel more ambitious; and descend. I was timing them and found out next week that, with no extra effort what-so-ever, my times next week was; I was running 400 in the 200 pace from the week before, 800 in 400 pace, and so one. It’s really fun to see it come down. So why I time them? Because I wanted to make sure that my last rep was almost the same speed as the first—not too much faster or not too much slower. I don’t have any coach who would watch me and time me so I had to do it myself. Because, from years of my experience, I pretty much know, regardless of how pathetically slow in my initial repeats, my time will eventually come down.
If I were a coach, I would jog down to the track, or a park, or a trail or road where my athletes would do their repeats; then I’d time them while they have no idea how fast they’re running. I would be timing them, keeping close eyes on them and how they’re running. If their time is slipping, it’s time to stop them; or even if their time stays relatively even, if they are struggling (putting extra effort to run the same time), stop them. Now I don’t have such competent coach (like myself???) so I have to do it myself. Not the best way to do; but it works fine (though depressing at times…). As you know, a problem with timing them yourself is, as some of you might know the exact feeling; you go on a track, you know EXACTLY how far you’re running—let’s say 400m. You know how fast you want to run the race you’re training for (say, 5000m in 15:36, which is 75 seconds per 400 pace). First track session (or I should say “speed” training session), you’d get up on the track and did repeat 400m. First rep, 82 seconds. So you just simply ripped off your watch because it’s not working properly. You ask your buddy to time you, or borrow his watch; now it’s still no good, your friend can’t even read the watch—of course, his watch is not working properly either! There’s certainly something wrong with all those timings. So the third one you try to run as fast as you can, running your guts out, getting lactic acid up to your ears, swinging your arms ferociously… Now finally you reach 75.8 seconds. Phew, now you can live with this time (hew, hew…); but now your legs are full of lactic acid, there’s no energy to do another one… Now your choice would be either slow them down to 88 seconds; or just pack up and go home dejected. Has this ever happened to you?
Lydiard knew all this. So, being a practical coach, he suggested to just go out on a park or trail; just run down one fast, jog back; run one fast; jog back…when you have had enough, you’re finished. Even then, I’d still time myself. As I used to do, I think I’d posted this somewhere earlier; I used to jog down about 2.5 miles to this residential area where there aren’t too many cars. I’d run down this stretch fast, jog back… It took me, I can’t remember exactly, but let’s say it was about 1:50 or so. I’d time the first one and try to make sure my last one is very close to that time. If the time is slipping, red flag! Even if the time is the same, if I knew I’m pushing extra, red flag!! So, yeah, I timed myself but in this case, I had NO idea how fast I was running; in other words, I had NO idea what “pace” I was running. Later on, I checked the distance to find out roughly how far (it was something like 520m or something). It’s not even accurate still. Now on the second week or second session, I’d change the venue (I had another circuit like 1100m loop) and did it 4 or 5 times. Yes, I timed them but again the distance was never quite known; therefore, I had NO idea what “pace” I was running at. What’s more, now because I changed the venue, I can’t even be competitive with myself from the session earlier. If I knew I was doing around 1:50 the session ago, I’d be sure to try to beat that time!
Again, if I were a coach, I still don’t like my athletes to have a watch on their own to time their run. If they did, they can potentially push the first ¾ really fast and deliberately slow down in the last ¼ to meet the pre-requisite time. Now that’s not quite that good either. So it’s just so much better if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Now Skuj, or Dr. E, if you KNOW you want to run a quarter in 80 seconds or 70 seconds or whatever, and if you have had very busy week with family obligation and work stuff and you’re tired. You get on a track and started the first rep and it’s 82 seconds; what would be your reaction for the second round? Would you simply accept that you’re NOT running up to your expectation and maintain 82 seconds; or do you push a bit harder to meet that 80 seconds that you WANTED to run at? Be honest…
Now to Mucus’ argument, if the session is strictly controlled and handled in a very disciplined way, sure, there’s nothing wrong with it. But again, just how many of you had how many experience like I just outlined earlier? (particularly guys!?) Pride is a very tricky thing.
When we talk about “no pre-planned workout”, we don’t mean just anything. Lydiard’s program is a heck of a lot more meticulous and calculating. You know pretty much exactly what you should be doing 3 months down the road. Once again, one of the most important lessons spoken by Lydiard was that “if it takes longer session to achieve the same physiological reaction than others, then you just have to spend more time doing it.” So you see, it’s almost impossible to write down explicitly what one needs to be doing on the interval/repetition days.