Tuesday, February 07, 2006

QUANTITY VS. QUALITY

First off, what happened to my paragraph spacing on my last post?

Okay, back to running topics. Bear and Yvonne posted some good questions. Don’t worry about bursting my bubble. I think it’s good to explain one’s self every once in awhile – it helps keep things straight in my head. Plus it allows others to point out glaring errors. This will probably turn into a rambling post, but I’ll try to do my best.

Bear, I’ve been running most of my solo runs this winter in the 8:00 to 8:30 range and have been known to run the first few miles at 9:00 pace before warming up. When I’ve run with others, we’ve probably run 7:00 to 7:30 pace. I still find it amazing, as I “struggle” with 8:30 pace that I can run 2:00 per mile faster for 13 miles.

My (Daws’s/Lydiard’s) program actually takes into account running faster once you are confident that you can handle the mileage. It could be at the start of the base-building cycle, if you’re used to the program or it could be later in the cycle. I have started to sprinkle in some stronger paced runs and will continue to do so over the next few weeks, leading to a hill phase. As Lydiard says, you can “get there” with aerobic runs, it just takes longer than if you include the stronger paced runs.

Yvonne, well I can only speak for myself and my experiences in this sport. I think Elizabeth is right. There is no magic formula that works for everyone. Generally, I agree with Quantity over Quality, especially during base-building. Heck, Mike spells it all out in his blog. He ran 2:57 on 55 mpw, 2:47 on 70 mpw and sub-2:40 on 100 mpw. If that doesn’t pique your interest, nothing will.

As Lydiard states, our anaerobic capacity is limited, but our aerobic capacity is UNLIMITED. So to answer your question about increasing from 60 to 100 mpw, yes, if done steady and sensibly, that person would get faster. Actually, I’d say the person would get stronger. They’d be stronger and it’d take a lot more to get them tired. Think about how this strength would play out once you switched to a speed phase. Say at 60 mpw you were able to manage 6 x 800. Now at 100 mpw you can manage 10 x 800. Which scenario will lead to more rapid gains, anaerobically?

Could I run 1:25 on 60 mpw? Yes. Could I run sub-3 on 60 mpw? It’d be close. Could I run sub-2:55? No way. I think I’m the type of runner that could run well just based on miles and strong aerobic runs. Just look at my race results from last year. I was running 40-50 mpw and doing a lot of speed and ran 39:02 for 10k on a pancake flat course in ideal conditions. Last weekend I would’ve run a minute faster (if you can believe McMillan) with ZERO speed work in the last 3.5 months.

Why should only the world’s elite get to find their limits and get the most out of the sport? It’s easy to take statements like “finding your limits” for granted when your 22 years old. When you’re 36 and you know that time is not on your side, as far as setting PRs, it’s time to shake things up - at least for me.

Sure this approach could be totally wrong, but how will I ever find out if I don’t try? I’m willing to experiment and risk injury to find out. As I once read on letsrun.com; “I’d rather be injured than slow.” I’ve been “slow” too long. I’ve been doing this for 26 years and have never really “taken it to the next level.” What am I supposed to do, continue with the same old, same old, and keep on running 38-39 minute 10Ks and 3:05 marathons? Win an age group award at some Podunk event, but always place 4th or higher at the big races in town? I have 3.5 years until I become a Master. The training I’m doing now is really for when I become a Master, not for Grandma’s in June. Bear, as I told Scott, I look at guys we went to school with (Tapper, Hibbs, Frink, Foss); what were they doing when they ran their best? They were all running high miles.

Yvonne, I haven’t thought about your last questions yet. Why worry about 2:45 when I haven’t run 2:50 (or 2:55) yet? Obviously, I can’t just keep bumping my mileage endlessly. I would guess that the 100 mpw phase would get longer and that I’d include more stronger aerobic efforts during the base phase. Hopefully Mike will have figured it out by then and he’ll just let me know.

4 comments:

Chelle said...

Amen, brother. As a runner who's mileage/marathon results mirrored yours pretty closely last time around, I am very interested to see how this next one goes for you.

And yes, I am a higher mileage convert too, for certain. It's just damn hard to get there while staying healthy.

And if Yvonne sees this, as far as the second part of your question...if you run 2:45 at 100/mpw, do you up your mileage? From what I've read, the benefits are cumulative. So one year of high mileage will cede "these" results, while three years of that same mileage will result in even better results.

Mike said...

Geez, I get too busy to read for a few days and all hell breaks loose on your blog. I really liked this post, and your Lydiard/Daws interpretation sounds spot-on, especially when you add Chelle's "cumulative" comment above. The only thing that doesn't jibe with me is the "rather be slow than injured" comment. After adding up how much more training a runner "misses" (I know some people need rest days) in a year from taking a day or two off a week in another post, I would hope you would take pains to avoid injury even if it means backing off, since it leads to the same result (time spent not running or improving). Injuries suck, even more than being slow in my opinion.

As far as the comments about your fellow runners in the half-marathon, one blogging cliche that come to mind is "you can't judge a book by its cover". Maybe I should email you my finishing pic at Vermont City Marathon coming under the banner at 2:47:53 back in 2004, check-book sized Garmin GPS watch proudly dangling from my left wrist.

Yvonne said...

Great answers Chad. It's all very educational.

But I wonder about your comment 'He ran 2:57 on 55 mpw, 2:47 on 70 mpw and sub-2:40 on 100 mpw'. Sure, the results could be a direct result of the increased mileage, but - couldn't they just be a cumulative effect of more miles in your legs overall. And more experience? As you know I dropped my marathon time from a 3:38 to a 3:30 in 6 months, going from an average 35mpw training for the first to 45mpw for the second. But for some reason my gut tells me it wasn't the 6 months of higher mileage that gave me that PR. It's just that by then, I'd been a runner 6 months longer (which accounted for one quarter of my total running experience).

And, I know I'm stirring the pot more here, but my point Chelle was that you - in particular - are NOT running 90 or 100 miles a week. Are you? And if not, why not? I realise injury may have gotten in the way - but have you had any intention of increasing to that much over recent years?. You and I both know some female marathoners who train 90+ miles a week and have no better a PR than you.

sorry to be a pain about all this! It's great to hear from those of you much more experienced than I.

miler said...

But I wonder about your comment 'He ran 2:57 on 55 mpw, 2:47 on 70 mpw and sub-2:40 on 100 mpw'. Sure, the results could be a direct result of the increased mileage, but - couldn't they just be a cumulative effect of more miles in your legs overall. And more experience?

Yvonne -- that's a really good question, and I once had similar thoughts.

It was however a question that I answered for myself. I was at the time doing a consistent 70 miles per week. One of my friends told me I really should do less mileage, and just focus on quality. I did that, dropping mileage down to 55 miles a week or so. At first I got a huge boosting , a big sharpening/tapering effect. But after about 6 weeks, I became very slow all of a sudden. After not only matching but going beyond my prior mileage, to 80 miles per week, I made another series of breakthroughs.

As you may have guessed from my name, my primary interest is in shorter distances. Even for these, mileage really pays off in a big way.