Wednesday, July 01, 2009

On slowing down

Slowing down. It's counter-intuitive. It's nigh on impossible for the ego of an amitious, competitive, type-A endurance athlete to handle. It's sometimes boring.


I've believed in the philosophy for quite some time, but if you look back at my old blogposts and old training data, I said I was slowing down a lot more than I did. How many times did you hear me say "I kept my long run easy- you know, about 9:00/mile". Right- so "easy" is "marathon race pace"?? I was espousing aerobic training, but most of the time I was only doing it half-assed at best- meaning I got none of the benefits of slow training AND none of the benefits of fast training!

So, since I started with Paul, I've been trying to actually do it- to let go of my ego, and the fun of running fast and just do it right. It's been hard- especially as my HR strap's conked out (I'm waiting on the new Garmin one before I replace it), so now I have to trust myself not to pick up the pace and "pretend" it's easy. Especially when I sneak my GPS on and see how slow I really go.

But let's look at the evidence:

In December 2008, when I was in tip top, post A-race, plenty of speed-endurance work, shape, I ran a standalone 5k in 23:18. Then I had 2-3 months of patchy training, wedding planning, moving, working and weight-gaining. I started training again in around March, and from 1 April to 30 June I ran a total of 162 miles, at an average pace of 10:00/mile. My average run time was 40 minutes, so it's not like I've been running "long". I did one "speed"work session (supposed to be two, but the second turned into a goss session with Anna), which is probably more aptly described as relaxed fartlekking- 45 minutes of flat aerobic intervals, with the "fast" bits run at about 8:55 min miles.

Then, at my duathlon on Sunday, I ran a "5k" at 7:29 pace, roughly equivalent to... a 23:18. I ran without music, and, instead of kicking it to the finish line, I eased off at the end so I'd have a relaxed transition. Then I got on my bike and raced for another hour.

If this doesn't prove it, I don't know what will. But wait, there's more...

My husband ran an EIGHTEEN minute 5k last year (that's 3:39/k, or 5:51 a MILE). Right now he's injured and his easy runs are around 9:20-9:45/mile pace (up to 5:50ish ks), but even when he was fit, his easy, aerobic runs were generally around 8:00/mile pace, sometimes a little over or a little under.

And we're not done yet. Check out this quote from our coach's blog:

"What stood out the most was his belief that you should never push yourself too much whether by doing hard /anaerobic training or lots of mileage. Again he advised steady aerobic training as the key to long term success in endurance sport, every session should be 'quality' so you should always train well with good technique... and without pain or "Strain"... he actually told me to slow down, me who runs slower than many agegroupers out there?? "

Paul is a pro-triathlete, who ran a 3:02 marathon in IMNZ '09. Yet he trains slower than some age-groupers out there, and people are still telling him to slow down.

The last thing is blogging. I read so many running blogs, and unsurprisingly most of my favourite bloggers (apart from my team mates) are people who are a bit like me-25-35 year old women trying to go from breaking 4:00 in the marathon to getting that elusive BQ. Trying to or going sub-6 in the half. Getting the half-marathon time from the 1:50s to the 1:40s (or even, hope beyond hope, the 1:30s...girl can dream!). I read about people's training times, and I think "my god, chick's amazing. she's gonna whip my ass next time she races." But nine times out of ten, it doesn't happen. Most of the time, we're all training too fast, so of course our races are disappointing.

Now, this may all come back to bite me. I have a couple of half marathons coming up, and maybe I won't feel as "proven right" as I do right now. But I'm willing to keep believing.

PS- Phil and I did a quick check and found that this calculator is pretty consistent with our actual training and racing paces. Give it a go- it's interesting! And make sure you read Mr Daniels' advice about training at a higher Vdot value you haven't yet achieved!

PPS- Don't think for a second that I'm against hard training. Not at all. What I'm advocating is keeping easy runs EASY, and being honest with yourself about what "easy" really is. And not trying to PB your easy runs- that's just asking for trouble.

PPPS- Every coach is different. I'm not your coach, I'm no expert. Maybe the experts who read this will differ (if so dudes, please comment!) But if you're self-coaching, don't you think the "too easy" option sounds safer than the "too hard" option??


Phillip said...

The pace calculator is based on the work of Jack Daniels (not the liquor), who, along with Lydiard, is arguably the greatest running coach of all time.

I know there are arguments about reverse periodisation (particularly in cycling), which invloves increasing power before going long, but even proponents of the school don't tend to recommend it for running, because it is a weight bearing sport which causes significant impact.

The problem with the speed that most people run at (not super fast, but not really easy) is that you're likely in a physioloigcally grey area - not running fast enough to garner those improvemtns, and but not slowly enough to properly development the aerobic system.

Rachel Harris said...

Oooh yes, I'm a strong advocate of Paul's approach. I put a lot of faith in his wisdom last year, and it bore fruit. When others were crashing and burning around me, I tottled along feeling stronger and more comfortable.

It seems counter-intuitive to run slower to get faster, but dang it works!

Britt said...

I have such a hard time with this because I'm so slow. I'm always trying to push harder to get faster..oy. I'm learning..slowly. ha ha.

Westy said...

Nice blog Kate...
I'll have to link it to mine...
You will never get faster (long term) by pushing yourself to go faster. We need to allow our body to 'learn' how to get faster with steady / controlled training. Over years of doing this what was once our 5K pace will be our half marathon pace... and therefore our 5K pace will be much quicker too.
Lydiard, Allen, Molina, Gordo, Sutton all base their training around this philosophy.
Most of us never get it though. When I go for a run or ride with other people they always get to the top of the hill before me... apart from when I train with Pro guy's and we tend to keep together the whole time.

Captain Cactus said...

You're right to believe in this. I have the same difficulties in backing it off and trusting that going slower is the right decision, but every time I've had the patience to accept it I've seen improvements in my racing. Keep up the good work!

Mike said...

Endurance Nation (my unofficial and unpaid coaches) who are big believers in the reverse periodisation in cycling are also big believers in the V-Dot and I've flirted with it a few times but (as you know - boring!) always seem to get injured (not because of the V-Dot though I'm sure) ... I think the idea of slowing down is good and solid. Nice blog! I fall into the trap of trying to race every training session which I know is wrong and leads to injury.

Andrew is getting fit said...

When you are as slow as me then you wonder if you can get any slower...

I like that calculator.