ATC 332: Those Final Weeks To Nail A Marathon PR, Numbness on the Bike, What Polarized Training Can Offer, and More

September 24, 2021
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Links and resources mentioned:

Intro:

Polarized Training Chat

  • What it is and isn’t:
  • Setting & following the zones:
    • Stephen Seiler says basing zones of LT is less accurate than using a data point like max HR.
    • Many LT tests are inaccurate to that actual threshold value.
    • Seiler uses a protocol to test max HR.
    • Polarized coaches like Seiler also recommend just getting “close enough” with HR zones.
    • Many percentages used in training, so just get close.
    • Often as athletes we feel very obligated to stick to strict HR zones, and maybe we don’t need to be so precise.
    • So- start with precise and then branch out. 
    • Wide HR ranges allow for you to then go with the flow of how you feel on that day. Feel great? Go to the top of the range; feel like junk, keep HR a bit more conservative. 
    • Working with a coach can serve as stress relief when you don’t know if the HRs you’re using are “right” on a given day.
  • More:
    • Don’t be a slave to overly specific structure in workouts. Get close. Enjoy. Build intuition!
    • Polarized can be healthy for those athletes overcoming slumps or in more of a healing phase. 
    • Then, branching off from polarized training, there may be a time and place for tempo workouts especially based on training distance.
    • Beware of your ego pushing you too hard if you do adopt a polarized training model. 
  • Lucho’s rough HR data collection:
    • He saw a max HR of 185. Multiply 185 by x .77 (high end of polarized Z1) = 142 HR, whereas he’s using 130-140bpm for MAF. This shows how the two can line up!
  • Learn more and geek out at the Fast Talk Labs podcast (check shows with Stephen Seiler, Hunter Allen, Andrew Coggan)

Peter W asks:

Marathon Pacing/A-Race Question

Hi – First off, let me say thank you for this really wonderful podcast.  You guys have helped change many people’s lives – many of whom you have never, and will likely never meet – extremely grateful for this podcast, and all of the insights.  So a big Thank You is in order!

My A-race is the NYC Marathon this year (11/7)  . I’m looking to break 3 hours for the first time.  I’ve completed a TON of MAF training over the years and  my MAF range is 145-153 (I’m 33) which is typically in the mid 7min pace range or there abouts.  I find it hard holding race-pace, or race-pace -20 seconds for an extended period of time however.  For example at around 6:30 pace, my HR will be around 158-162bpm depending on conditions, but I can typically only hold that for 20-25 minutes throughout a progression run, or throughout a series of drills.  I actually find it hard to get my HR above 165.  Do I need to work on the mental side of racing?  Have I overtrained MAF??  Any favorite drills to improve that ability to hold these higher-end paces come race season??  Feel free to answer this question on the podcast and my information is listed below.

PS: Huge fan of the UCAN energy gels and would highly recommend them!!

What the coaches say:

  • Look to previous best marathon for more insight and setting the new goals.
  • For this person’s goal, it would be good if his MAF was a bit faster.
  • Time for him to start doing more intensity, i.e. about 8 weeks out from the race.
  • Use the VDOT calculator to find your target paces for workouts with intervals, reps and more intensity.
    • 2 workouts a week
      • 1 @ marathon pace (MP)
      • 1 @ threshold or above, eg 5 x 1000m (standard VO2 workout), or if this is new territory and your current training hasn’t included high intensity then instead try 8 x 400m at 5k pace (use Jack Daniels VDOT chart for pacing). 
      • Progression of this workout can be: 8 x 400 > 3 x 1000 > 4 x 1000….etc..
      • Very difficult to hold 5 x 3’ VO2 for most athletes, so keep in mind: getting to 9-12 minutes combined intensity at VO2 is good, don’t need ot push it if you can’t hold it, that’s ok!
      • As you fatigue decrease the duration of the intervals
    • Another workout option: tempo and sweet spot needs to be drilled in. Hold for 25 minutes and build from there.
    • Mental component is huge! If fatigued from training, this SHOULD feel hard. That’s ok. If too hard, break up workouts into double days for example eg 6 mi in the AM, 6 mi in the PM…
  • Don’t give too hard of workouts, especially long ones, to a tired athletes. 
  • STRIDES should always be mixed in. 
  • Maffetone says: when your MAF test plateaus, that’s when you add speedwork. You can modify this for your race timeline. 
  • Tip: The day before a hard workout, try dropping your MAF HR (for Peter down to 135) and go easier; drop volume too before quality sessions. This will help you show up in better form on the difficult day!
  • His MAF pace is so good that it’s ok to ease up on it and do more sub MAF especially before quality runs. 
  • Don’t get in the trap of chronic hard training (even at MAF- when MAF gets dialed in, its hard!). 
  • Hill work – not critical to train specifically for hills but at least choose rolling hills and hillier routes at times.
  • Build longer run with goal marathon pace efforts till 3 weeks out then chop it.

Vicky asks:

Dialing in Bike Tour 2022 plans (and figuring out numbness problem)

Hi Tawnee and Lucho!

You’ve done a great job answering some questions in the past, and I have a completely new one for you!

I’m 62, and have been a runner/triathlete since my early 20’s.  Recently  I was on a local racing team for 5 years until I totally burned out.  I raced until I finally achieved my ultimate goal which was to earn 1st place in my age group for the year long Grand Prix competition.  After all that racing, it was time for a break.  It also coincided with the Pandemic the following year, so good timing on my part!

On to other things, I’ve been trying to heal some injuries and take care of some other health issues that can’t wait any longer.  I have meniscus surgery next week, which I hope will enable me to run.  I haven’t run since early February, but I’ve been biking and swimming with no issue.  Surprisingly, I haven’t missed running like I thought I would!

So on to my questions.  The background is that my husband Jim and I are going to do a grand tour of the US next year.  I will do it on a bike, while he puts along in an RV with our dog Luna.  The plan is to start at Ocean City State Park, Washington on May 1st, and bike to Jacksonville Beach, FL, arriving sometime at the beginning of August. Total miles:  4300

Here are the issues.  I bought a new touring bike, a Surly Disk Trucker, and have been training on it for a few weeks now.  Although it seemed remarkably comfortable compared to my high end tri bike, I’ve discovered that once I get close to 15 miles, my hands and butt start to go numb.  I’ve tried not staying in any one position very long, constantly shifting, but it doesn’t seem to help (I really miss the tri-bars!).  I’m wondering if this is just something I have to build up an endurance for, or do I need to look at adjusting my positioning on the bike?  In the past when I bought a new tri-bike, I got them professionally fitted, but my husband thinks that’s just silly and we should be able to get it right ourselves.  I’d appreciate your input.

The other question is about training.  My goal is to ride enough prior to May 1st that the first two weeks don’t really suck cause I need more conditioning, but not so much that I’m burned out on riding before I even leave.  My prior training always included around 20 minutes of intervals (1 minute hard/1 minute easy) in my weekly rides (not in my long ride), and I’m wondering if there’s any benefit to it now?  I’ll admit, I’m a bit concerned about all the mountains I have to climb on this trip.  I’m in Northeast Florida where we have short inclines (4% to 7% grades) but that’s about it.  Should I do intervals on the inclines to help me prepare?

My course for the trip will follow the first 3/4 of the TransAmerica Trail and then turns south through Kentucky and on to Florida.  I’ll be going through Colorado, so if Lucho wants to join me for some training, that would be fantastic (he’ll just have to spin most of the time since I’ll be moving slowly!).

Last question for Tawnee.  A few years ago I switched from mostly tap water to mostly filtered water.  Considering the tons of water I’ll be going through each day (I’m a heavy drinker!), is it worth seeking out better water for the trip?

I plan to document the trip with a Youtube channel.  I haven’t started it yet (too soon!), but it will be called: Vicky, Jim and the Lunatic – Coast to Coast.  If you can remember, check it out next year!

What the coaches say:

  • On numbness:
    • Numbness often correlated with the wrong saddle for your body type as well as position and how you’re sitting on it.
    • Don’t tilt saddle down, causes loss of energy and efficiency because you’re spending energy to correct self on saddle.
    • Get into the gym and workout on total body strengthening- want body to be stable and strong for this adventure. 
    • Some saddles you can return these days; point is try different ones and experiment to find your fit.
    • Strong arms are key!
    • Nerves in wrist/hand area – ulnar and median 
    • Riding on hoods for many is ideal, keeps a neutral wrist.
    • Even though this is a touring ride, it’s ok if you want to put on clip on aero bars to change position.
    • Less about being aero, more about being able to change positions (and maybe some aero advantage).
    • If that doesn’t work, get a professional fit.
    • More: Hand Numbness While Biking: What to Do
  • Female specific cycling issues
  • On water
  • Lucho doesn’t eat salt, what?!
    • Maybe incorporate a bit higher quality salt like Celtic or Himalayan salt. 
  • Lastly on training:
    • Add in core, posterior chain and upper back strength training to stay stabilized.
    • Also add in a bit of running, wont’ burn you out if in moderate.
    • Look to build endurance not performance based fitness.
    • Don’t worry about interval workouts so much like she was questioning.
    • 60-70 rpm grinds but not necessarily intervals.
    • Go in a bit underdone, the beginning of the trip will be added training.
    • Work on metabolic efficiency and fat burning to maximize your body’s potential for these long days. 

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