ATC 344: Dissecting Key Long Run Workouts For Marathon Training, HR vs. Pace For Training Runs, Tips On Planning Your 2023 Race Season, and More

September 9, 2022



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On this episode of Ask the Coaches with Lucho:


Planning Your 2023 Season

What variables and factors should one consider in their training/fitness journey to decide on the # of races to do in any given calendar year? Or as your athlete asked, with triathlon being a lifestyle and training going on basically everyday, how much racing can benefit and enhance fitness v. detracting from overall goals.

What the coaches say:

  • Things to consider in race planning:
    • Race distance matters
      • e.g. Doing Ironman Kona or something big/epic/championship? No more than 2-3 IMs a year, one in early summer + later season A race. This is for when you’re focused on a high-end pointy performance at end of the year.
      • On the other hand, just having fun? Can race more…. but you always run the risk of racing too much.
    • Cost of race
      • Know: what’s your budget? Can you afford it? Family considerations, etc.
    • Proximity of race to where you live
    • Expectations
      • Think you can race 10 times and win/perform perfectly? Chances are that’s a no.
      • Have realistic expectations especially when you race more often.
      • A, B, C priority races come into play here. Can’t race them all in top condition.
    • The more often you race, the more often you race tired
    • Every race requires some degree or rest/taper going in and some rest/recovery coming out, which can detract from training consistency for other, bigger key events.
    • Racing twice a month? Not for everyone.
    • What about athletes like in ITU? They are full-time athletes, fully funded. And even they have “off” days.

Jamie asks:

Marathon Key Long Runs

Lucho has said multiple times he loves it when an athlete can get to 20 x 20 mile long runs before a key race, which is incredible and a lofty goal to consider. On the other hand, what are some of your guys’ top long run workouts you’d like an athlete to check the box on in a training cycle for a marathon… and/or I’d love to hear a discussion on some of the key runs that some of the best coaches have proven successful for athletes (Daniels, Lydiard, Pfizer, MAF, etc).
Additionally, how do you know you’re ready to add various types of speed, pace work, tempo, etc to your long run vs. just sticking to LSD/get the miles in aerobically?

What the coaches say:

  • Clarifying the 20×20 concept by Lucho. It’s definitely not for everyone (e.g. most athletes), it’s an outlier, and more arbitrary and not something he gives out often. Physically it’s not necessary. No magic to it.
    • If you do do it, start it ~40 weeks out at least.
  • 3 hours is enough for one’s long run for marathon training, regardless or miles or pace. (Unless you’re super durable.)
  • Something to watch out for is a lot of information being presented online, in books, etc, is formatted toward more elite athletes who can cover many miles in 2 hours.
  • Consider: how many miles a week are you running (weekly volume) and how often are you running (frequency)?
  • Daniels says: Limit L run to 30% of weekly mileage for runners totaling <40 mph, for more than 40 mph L runs the less of 25% weekly mileage or 150 minutes, whichever comes first.
    • Keep in mind this is for the general public not a custom plan taking into individuality.
    • Some variables to consider when debating a “30% rule” type approach.
  • Most of us simply need to focus on long run efficiency at a steady pace/effort without major fluctuations in heart rate–start there! Be capable of this to where it doesn’t wreck you… then graduate to more.
  • At some point, tempo and hills can be mixed in (Lydiard was a big fan of hilly long runs that organically adds some intensity).
  • HR control! Can you add intensity in the middle miles of a long run, but then finish easy with HR back at Z2/MAF?
  • Prescribing long runs at pace per mile vs heart rate.
    • Flat: pace is ok
    • Hillier: focus more on HR/effort
    • Pfitzinger says marathon pace (MP) is 79-88% Max HR
  • Some beef we have: A lot of run efforts are prescribed by % of VO2max and % of Max HR, but how accurate, really, are your data points for VO2max and HR max?? We are skeptical of the accuracy of all this.
  • Working with a coach allows you to more organically figure out heart rate ranges that fit you as an individual, just by building the data.
  • Or something like the V-Dot calculator helps you better to find correct paces (however if you’re a strong 5k runner but weak marathoner this presents an issue with using V-Dot).
  • Example of a Daniels long run with intensity: 13-14mi MP in a 20mi long run, or alternating M pace with T pace.
    • e.g. 4E + 8M +1T+ 6M +1T + 1E — for athletes that can’t do that in under 2.5hr best to modify.
  • ***Give the athlete an out*** e.g. offer a 1-2min easy recovery in between harder efforts in a long run.
  • Minimal effective dose is good enough.
  • Canova says: within 3% of goal pace was specific enough, or anything within 15 seconds. Point is, you don’t have to be on point with an exact pace. You’re still driving the physiological adaptation.
  • Canova workouts that are gnarly:
    • Warmup, 3mi MP, rest, 5 x 1min Vo2 on 1min easy, rest, 6mi MP, rest, 6mi MP…. VERY DIFFICULT!
    • Double run as: 1st run- 6mi E, 6mi MP…. 2nd run- 6mi E, 6mi MP
  • Lydiard was more about steady tempo rather than weaving in things like fartlek… steady state: build & hold it.
  • If you’re pushing yourself really hard in a long run it may not be necessary so consider stopping that. You can really hurt yourself and cross past the point of diminishing returns.
  • Don’t do too much or drain the tank too close to your goal race.
  • Make sure you have time to recover if you dig yourself too deep… don’t wait till the race is super close.
  • Have your longest run ~6-8 weeks out; biggest volume week 9-12 weeks out. This allows more time to recover and adapt, or deal with any issues/niggles that come up.
  • The last 8 weeks should be reduced volume with increased rest and intensity. (Canova)
    • E.g. 2 days after hard run are short and easy.
  • Daniels breaks a marathon plan down into 6 week blocks that are periodization. Look at the type of intensity he recommends in each block–that’s the periodization you want to follow even if you modify it to your needs; make your own workouts.
    • E.g. see what block he includes repetition workouts and apply them in that time range, not elsewhere.
  • Maffetone says marathon pace is 10-15 seconds faster than your current MAF test pace. He doesn’t include a lot of outlined periodization in his plans, he leaves that to you and mostly making sure your HR can handle your goals.
  • It’s ok to blend programs (e.g. Daniels and MAF).
  • Type 3 neuro-type responds well to MAF training.
  • Type 1 or 2, do Daniels with R runs early on.

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