Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Miles don't count"

While I was away I was lucky enough to meet up and train with some pretty talented people... some more intentional than others! Anyway, one of the people I ended up in touch with through a random mail to a club in Southern California was J-Rod. J-Rod is about the same age as myself, actually he's a year younger, and what differentiates J-Rod from Private in the running stakes is the fact that J-Rod is fairly fricken fast. Recently he just ran a "slow" half marathon in 68 minutes... when he uttered them words I pointed out that his slow is my dream! He's currently training for his debut marathon, which he hopes to run in or around 2:17. Not bad for a first attempt. 2:19 is the realistic time he's shooting for, but he plan's on starting out at 2:17 pace and hoping to hold on. If worst comes to worst he should still make the 2:19 time.

My coach, CR*, has always been telling me about how he used to train with guys way faster than him and that he used the experience to find out as much as possible about the way they trained. With this in mind the two easy runs I ran with J-Rod pretty much turned into an interview with me firing question after question at him about his training routine.

What surprised me the most during this "interview" was how similar my training is to J-Rod's. We both run six days a week, one session a day, two speed sessions and one long run. The mileage covered on each run is pretty much identical. I think he covers a couple more on his long run and maybe a mile more on his daily easy runs. Actually, that's not surprised me most... what really surprised me the most was the fact that for the majority of his training he runs slower than me!

I started off asking him about his weekly mileage and the distance he covers on each run. "Miles don't count, what counts are your two workouts and 18-20 mile long run." Workouts, I'd established before this, are the two speed sessions a week. I quite like using "Workout" though - I may incorporate it more into my running chat! For fear of losing his speed during marathon training he does his midweek workout with a friend of his who got the Olympic B qualifying standard in the 5000m last year. That's a real difference to our training programs right there. I run around the track doing 400s by myself while he's out there legging it around with a future Olympian. Some people have all the luck.

The run we were out on together was one of J-Rod's easy runs during the week. These are the runs that surprised me as they were fairly slow, slower than I'd probably be running if I was out on my own. When I asked him the distance we were going to cover he told me that he didn't know. He just starts his watch, runs for 70 minutes and that's it. Nothing is measured. Hhe reckons that the pace on these runs are anywhere from 7 minutes to 8 minutes a mile. That day we were running closer to 8 minutes a mile. The goal of them is to recover from the last workout and prepare for the next, certainly not to push yourself. I don't think either of us were breathless or sweating at any stage on the run. These runs are carried out 3 times a week. So what about his weekly mileage? Usually he runs 6 days a week, covering 70-75 miles. Marathon training has meant that that's been pushed up to 7 days a week, with the max he covered being 95 miles in a week, all singles.

Finally, I pushed him on his long runs. "I usually do some sort of workout with them. The distance can be anywhere from 18-21 miles. I think the toughest one I do is 3 miles easy, then 8 miles at Marathon pace (5:15), then 1 mile at threshold (5:00ish), then 5 miles at marathon pace. This workout is tough. Sometimes I like to do a progression down to about 5:20 for the last few miles. With this progression long run, I am usually satisfied when I can average about 6 min/mile pace for the whole long run including the first few easy miles. "

So there we have it. Half the weekly runs are easy and not relatively easy but easy easy - have a chat as you go around, no sweating and no heavy breathing. Three of the runs we have to break our balls going round. Got it! Since chatting and running with J-Rod I have to say my easy runs have become soooo much easier. I always did them relatively easy but not easy easy. From now on it's easy easy all the way.

*I've got bored with referring to my coach repeatedly as my coach so from here on in he's named CR
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