Friday, August 2, 2013

Rule #1: Hard is Hard, Easy is Easy

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend about the troubles he was having with his feet. He is a runner turned triathlete, but he really is a runner at heart.  So maybe best describe him as a runner who does triathlons. The problems have forced him away from running, to the point where it has affected his race schedule. Because his heart is truly with the run as opposed to the bike, he is not the happiest camper. He had just met with a running coach to get some advice on technique. When he describes to me what the coach's ideas were, I shot back with something along the lines of, oh yeah, heals to your butt, cadence of 90 steps per minute, yada, yada, yada. He chuckles a bit and tells me I think like an engineer, with everything a certain way. Deep in the weeds of what's happening. Analytic is probably the best word. Thinking back, this is probably why I never became the musician I once wanted to become.

Quick side note: Here is a great look at the difference between the Simplicity of Steve Jobs and the more engineer-like Bill Gates - Presentation Zen

Anyway, As I have moved from gym-rat to triathlete I have come up with some rules that I try and hold to in my training and racing. Some I have just made up and are related to my personal "quirks." Others are fundamentals I have picked up from people much smarter than me (and there are soooo many people who fit into that category) with great multisport experience. Some would say "borrowed" ... others would use the term "stole" ... I would say much of this is simple fundamentals. The rest is simply shit I made up.

To be clear, these rules are totally about me and my training and racing. After years of doing this I have found what works for me. You may find this useful, or you may find me to be full of crap. I hope it's the former and not the latter.

To be rule number one the rule had to be the most basic and obvious of the rules, yet one of the hardest things to actually do. This one I really learned in 2006 when training for my first full Ironman. I remember sitting down with Bill at the very beginning of the year and thinking I was putting in some really good volume ... and then I saw the first three weeks of training. My first
thought was to follow it to the letter, wait until my body broke down, and figure it out from there. I never broke down. Over the next seven months the volume only increased and my body adapted. The  one reason why I made it was the wise words that came with the first few weeks of training:

Rule #1: Hard is Hard, Easy is Easy 

Sometimes the simplest things say are the hardest things to actually do.his rule is the easiest concept to understand yet the hardest for many of us to actually do in practice. What most of us do, myself many times included in this, is train in that grey area between  a truly fast and truly slow (aerobic). Using running as an example, far too many of us will run in that comfortably moderate, not really slow, but only sorta-fast. The grey zone.

There are a number of methods you can go about finding your easy pace. The three I am familiar with are using heart rate (zone 1 as recovery pace or zone 2 as aerobic pace), following the Maffetone Method, or the Daniels Running Formula (Click on the links for more information on any of these methods). The less technically savvy could defer to perceived exertion. No matter which method you prefer, you need to find your aerobic/easy pace.

A couple of side notes:

If you use Maffetone, things get a bit different, but there is a method that is time tested to work.
If you use Daniels for your running you will need to do something different on the bike - heart rate, perceived exertion or using a power meter.

So let's use the Daniels Running Formula (see .pdf link for the tables) to, in a very basic way, find our pacing example:

In order to use the formula you will need to find your VDot number by running a race. Yes, you can do it on your own, but a race is more realistic as most all of us will work harder in a race than "racing" the clock in a pre-dawn run. You then take the race result and match it with the corresponding VDot number in table 1. So if you ran a 5k in 20:40 you would have a VDot number of 48.

Now take your VDot and find that your corresponding paces are as follows:

Easy (E) Pace = 8:31/mile
Marathon (M) Pace = 7:40/mile
Threshold (T) Pace = 7:02/mile
Interval (I) Pace = 1:36/400 meter

As you can see there is a big difference between the paces ... and for good reason. When you are running at your interval pace or threshold pace you are working much different systems than when you are running your longer, aerobic miles. The grey area between these paces sorta, kinda, not really, work the different systems that will increase your endurance and make you faster. This is the basics - the 1000 foot view - and you can find out more of the nitty gritty by picking up the book here. The point is, hard is hard and easy is easy.

From a practical standpoint, if you are trying to increase your aerobic capacity/speed your body will be best served with smaller doses of speed work done hard and a much larger dose of aerobic miles around your E-pace. The longer, "easy" runs, when done properly, might not leave you with that feeling like you did a whole lot. But you did, you just didn't overstress your body, enabling your body to recover and become more fit. And if you race, isn't that really what you want to do?

My personal experience has been that I can really focus in when I am doing smaller amounts of speed work and hit the prescribed paces. And when I am cranking up the volume, I will break down if I don't run at the easier paces for my long runs, mid-distance runs and the "gettin' in the miles" workouts. The same applies for the bike, albeit based off of something other than Daniels. As an "old guy" I simply cannot do big volume without issues in the grey zone.

On the other end, when it is time to do intervals, I make sure I am ready to go and put the work in. Be it on the track, the road, the trainer, or in the pool, I make sure I the hard is hard. Really, really hard.

Train hard. Stay focused.

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