March 26, 2009

Marathon Analysis and NEW New Schedule

Thanks to the guys who made comments on my Napa Valley and new training posts.
Good advice and I will take it into account.

After looking at many of the Namban Rengo runners' splits from the Tokyo Marathon, I decided to figure out my Napa splits per 5k rather than just miles. (By the way, the constant pattern was slower from 25k, even slower from 30k and much slower from 35k. Well, this is hardly news, but it shows that all of us suffer from a combination of not enough long/hard training and setting our sights (pace) too high. It just shows that one or both of those factors HAS to be addressed in order to run a good (and enjoyable) marathon. Maybe setting reasonable goals is the approach more likely to I should have targeted 3:05 instead of 3:00.)

Anyway, my 5k splits were:
21:16 / 21:23 / 21:41 / 22:12 / 21:56 / 22:20 / 23:09 / 24:21 / 11:28 — 3:09:58

Now here's what's interesting. Here are my splits from Tokyo one year ago:

21:18 / 21:19 / 21:58 / 22:15 / 22:26 / 22:32 / 23:03 / 24:00 / 10:58 — 3:09:53

And Tokyo two years ago:

23:12 / 21:31 / 22:06 / 22:56 / 22:48 / 23:01 / 23:43 / 23:54 / 10:20 — 3:13:35

So I did not improve this year, and compared to two years ago, my last 7k is much worse!
Which I guess means there is something to be said for starting out slowly.

One year ago, my goal was 3:06 (22:05/5k). I started too fast, but was on pace through 35k.
This year, my goal was 3:00 (21:15/5k) and I was on pace for 5k — obviously an unreasonable goal. However, I was again on pace for a 3:06 through 35k. Maybe if I had started more slowly I could have finished better (or maybe not - my legs were really in bad shape).

But how about pre-race training volume?
In the 7.5 months before Napa Valley (from start of training to start of final 2-week taper) I ran 2,644km (average 352km/month).
In the 7.5 months before the other two, I ran 2,034 and 2,035 (271km/month).
So the extra 600km did nothing for me. Also, in the 7.5 months before Napa, while I of course did more long runs, I did fewer "hard" runs (don't have time to work out the exact numbers, but looking at the log that seems to be the case).
(Another factor is that a lot of the distance was in July, August and Sept., after which I fell off a lot, which is far from the ideal pattern.)

So what does that mean? I think it means that first, an extra 80k a month (from 67 to 88k a week / 41 to 54 miles) is not enough to make a difference. I don't think even 100k a week would make a difference. I would have to get up to, as Joachim and others have said, at least 120k/73miles a week. However, I cannot run that much without injury. The three months I did averaging 115k/week resulted in my knees starting to shred (sharp pains followed by constant soreness). Even though ALL of that was at an easy pace.

The second conclusion is that 67k a week (as in the previous 2 years) even with hard runs, is also not enough.
So that leaves me with finding a mean at 90k/55 miles a week, and doing as much of that as possible at a hard pace. Which is what I came up with in the last post!
And I agree with Steve that I will have to work into that, not just start banging out hard 90k weeks.

I also had a brainstorm and modified the previous training schedule. The problem is that having to do intervals every Wednesday night makes a 7-day cycle very difficult. My previous ideas were 2 days off a week or 3 days off a week. 3 off would make the other 4 days too tough, but I would like to get an occasional 2 days in a row of rest. So the answer is: a 14-day cycle! To wit:
Wed - am 12k, pm 8k   Easy   Hard
T - 15  H
F - Off
S - 15 H
S - 25 H
M - Off
T - 15 E
W - 12, 8  E  H
T - Off
F - 15 H
S - 15 E
S - 30 H
M - Off
 T - Off

This results in 7 hard runs, 4 easy runs and 5 rest days. Also no more 30+k runs, which I used to do a lot of. The hard components have to be worked out, but "hard" does not mean blasting 15k from beginning to end. Workouts like 5 moderate, 5 x 1000m, 5 moderate.
The first week is 90k, the second week is 80k. And every 4th week I will cut back the last two runs to 10 and 15k, so that week will be 60k. That gives me 320k per 28 days, or about 340k per month, which is good but not excessive, I think.
This won't start until mid-May, but I love to plan ahead. 
Sounds good?


  1. Well, Bob, one thing you have to take into account is aging. You have actually improved 0.7% age-graded from Tokyo to Napa. But your half-marathon time at age 60 in Toda amounts to 87% age graded, much better than the 82 for Napa. So, my five cents, you are a half-marathon runner! At age 60, you would have to run a 2:54/2:55 to achieve the same percentage... I really can't see you run that time, though, maybe because the marathon-training seems to require more mileage than your body can take.

  2. Bob,if you posted that 14-day cycle of hard, easy, rest without any distances at all (inferring that the distances will change over time) I'd feel more comfortable. But the way you present it I simply see a fixed mileage. Similarly, in your analysis you talk about average distance in the 7 or so months before your marathons. But the average is not important. It is how those km are distributed. What really correlates strongly with performance is the mileage over a five or six week period extending back from about two to three weeks before the marathon. That is the crucial period of high mileage. BUT!! You have to be building, building slowly up to the mileage that you put in over that crucial peaking period. So when you say that even 120 km per week won't do you any good, I simply don't agree. That is a really nice mileage. But you can't sustain it for a long time and you have to build up to it. It equates to 500+ km in a month and has to be examined as a peak, not something you do for weeks and weeks on end. In my best marathons, I ran them in November (OK, Nov. 23rd to be precise) after 500-km Octobers. Septembers were around 400 km. The Augusts were 350 or so. July maybe similar to August. But the point is I built and built. I didn't go out and "average" anything. I really think you need to switch your thinking from "averaging" and fixed weekly mileages to a base-laying, building, and peaking approach. It really requires laying out a 20 or 24 week schedule starting on day M minus 24 weeks and ending on marathon day. And adding in a mix of speed and endurance. If you don't wish to take that approach, that's cool, but you simply won't optimize your training. That is something I feel very strongly. But I know it requires a lot of discipline and focus and I have not done it myself for maybe three years now, and as a result my condition and performance have slipped. To run your best, you have to plan every day in advance for 24 weeks prior to the marathon, adding in the gradual change over time. And that's the way according to Steve 8-)

  3. Another idea is that maybe you need a 21-day cycle, with the 3rd week always being an easy one, like Mike talks about on his blog.

  4. Regarding the sore knees and long running, what about doing the Brad Hudson-style short hill sprints as a means of building strength and preventing injuries? Also, how much of your running is on soft surfaces (dirt/grass)? I know that makes an incredible difference for me. I'd break down if I tried running 100k/week on bitumen.

    As for the schedule - yes if it works for you. There are different ways to skin a cat. I know Ray James follows Lydiard and ran around 160k weeks in his build-up to breaking 3 hours in 2007. He's about to turn 60, and trying to do the same thing. He did have a stress fracture last year, so there are risks training at the limit.

  5. Juergen: You're right, the half marathon is my best race. Maybe I'll run in the US next year instead of a marathon.
    Ewen: I will do the short hill sprints. As for running on soft surfaces, it's practically impossible in Tokyo, unless you want to do 150m sprints in a park. There is a hilly trail, but the dirt is so hard it's not much different than asphalt.
    Steve: Aha! Yes, you're's better to build up than build down. My tendency is to find a schedule I like and stick to it, but I should do that if I'm going to run a November marathon. Like start with 200km in May and add 50km a month up to 450km in October. That seems doable....
    Thanks for the comments!