Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MILEAGE debate (and simulated drowning)

There has been a debate over at Keri's blog about running mileage. How much is enough to run a decent HM/marathon or 5k/10k? Keri ran 3:29ish marathon running around 20-45miles a week, which is pretty impressive. But it makes sense, those miles were mostly quality mileage, no junk mileage. I believe that the Americans are obsessed with mileage and very often quantity outweighs quantity. And I had hard time adapting to it. That's also a reason why I have never run to my potential in college (good thing that I did not go to school on running scholarship, I would have been shipped home on the first flight direction Europe). My college best was something like 40sec slower than my best HS time for 1500m. My college running was a complete disaster. I did not understand why should a 800m/miler run 60miles a week if I was able to run decent times with one third of that mileage! I was used to doing 4-5 workouts a week and ZERO junk mileage. So I never adapted to American style.
But eventually the mileage obsessiveness have kinda penetrated my thick skull (but only after I was out of college) and I have been kinda obsessed since.
I started to believe that one need to run at least 60 miles/week to run decent long distance times (by decent for me I mean sub-18 for 5k, 36ish for 10).
I am still kind of bumped that I cannot run more than 40ish miles/week but I am starting to realize again that mileage is not the ONLY secret formula. I am starting to believe again that it is more about quality and a correct COMBINATION with quantity.
Although of course, I do not think that one can qualify for Olympic marathon trials running 30miles a week, but that is already past my definition of a decent time and in different spheres.

I talked to a guy back home who just ran a marathon on Sunday. He has been trying to break 3 hours for past 3 years. And he finally did it on Sunday, he ran 2:59.20. He told me that it is because he changed his training completely. His emphasis was on quality rather than quantity. Before he used to run around 60miles a week and only 2 workout per week. Now he did lower mileage (max 46miles/week, with average around 43miles) and he did 2 interval workouts a week and 2 tempos/farthleks a week and 2 other days easy runs. That 4 quality runs and 2 easy quantity runs. That's what I used to do in HS and that's what I still love doing.
Ok, he surely won't be able to run 2:40 with that but still. How many American males can say that they have run sub-3 marathon on less than 45miles a week? I bet not many.
So COMBINATION of quantity and quality with a very strong emphasis (over 60%) on quality.

Not sure where I am trying to get with this. Probably just express my personal opinion and preferences.
I am going to trust my coach although she does not have me do track workouts 4x/week and I am going to do whatever she wants me to do because what's the point of having a coach if one has doubts about the training? I know that she knows what she is doing because she got me from running 11min 3000m followed by few pathetic months (including 2 months of non-running) into sub-19min 5k shape in just little over 2 months. We might be very close to finding that optimal combination for me (combination that however is little constrained by my ITB, so it might not be a truly perfect combination). Does it make sense?

Now onto simulated drowning. Actually I said simulated running but the person heard me say simulated drowning and honestly, it is probably a better expression to use for my aquajogging.

I did ladder intervals. I did not do it on time, but rather on distance because I cannot see clock properly from longer distance.
I warmed up for few minutes (I did not need a long warm-up because I did bike workout right before that) and then did ladder intervals.
One length is around 8-9m (and it takes me around 30s to jog when I am rested) and I did 5lengths, 6, 7, 7, 6, 5 with 2 lengths easy jog between.

I felt way better than on Sunday. Maybe water was colder or maybe I just did not work as hard as I did on Sunday. I also brought water with me today so that helped as well. Then I cooled down for around 15min until I got kicked out. I was talking to a lifeguard about my Master's thesis (geez what a geek, both of us) while cooling down (so it was not a very quality cool-down) and then the other lifeguard came over saying that it is already 5 min past their closing time. So I did not even have time to dry my hair, I had to get out asap.


  1. Clearly there is no magic formula that works for everyone b/c then there would just be The Golden Book of How To Run Fast and everyone would train the same. ;) It's awesome that you know what has worked for you... for me, I am running my best when I can avg 45-50 mpw... that is when I feel best and run my strongest- my 5K PR came at the end of a 3 week build where I ran 150+ miles in the build, with not much intensity at all save for some tempo efforts. And honestly, my biggest week ever has been 54 miles so it's possible that if I could figure out how to get my body to adapt to even higher than that I MIGHT run even better? I don't know b/c I have not tried it yet... I do think though that different athletes respond to different types of training. The key has to be consistency. I don't think anyone debates that, so in order to be consistent you have to be injury free. Too much fast running leaves me injured and out. So there you go. My opinion. ;)

  2. So you ran you 5K PR almost purely on what I would call junk mileage. I wonder did you ever try a high intensity training and race from there? And no success? Or did you get injured before you could try?

    Maybe if my ITB stop flaring up time to time and I could crank up 80-100 miles week, maybe then I would run my fastest times. I tried running 60 miles and it did not work. So it is kinda blank zone for me. From there I can either lower mileage and increase intensity or increase mileage and lower intensity... I admid I have never successfully tried the former, my ITB problem started. So there are certain physiological limitations to what one can do I guess. Unfortunatelly.

  3. But if there is no magic formula, then it seems that different athletes respond differently to different training, does not it?

    I believe that everyone is different therefore trainings should be somehow individualized.
    Consistency is important but if you do consistently something that does not work best for you, then you are not using your full potential.

  4. Yes- maybe I wasn't clear in my first comment- I do believe that different athletes respond differently to training so each individual has to figure out what works best for him/her. I also believe there is a psychological component to it- if you BELIEVE that what you are doing is the best for you, then indeed, it will be.

    And for the consistency thing- I will go out on a limb and say the wrong training done consistently would likely be better than the "right" training done inconsistently (barring injury of course). Maybe not ideal in either case, but consistency will trump inconsistency any day.

  5. OK, ideally, the more mileage the better, as long as it includes tempo and speed/hills. But, as Michelle said, you need to do the training that your body can handle. Most people think that speed work leads to injury. Research actually suggests that high mileage is more associated with injury than speed. Case in point: I trained for my first marathon (Boston for charity) on 25 miles a week, peaking at 2 weeks of 30 miles. However, I did track weekly and my pace for those track sessions was really fast. Tempos were fast, and I built up to 20 miles at MP. I ran a 3:44. Six month later, I averaged about 30-40 miles/week and ran a 3:29. A year later, on 50-60 miles a week I ran 3:19. This fall I am probably going to get up to 75-80 and go sub 3:10. I built my miles gradually over the years, and have not been injured since 2008. I do wear compression socks all the time, I do ice baths, I strength train 2 times/week, and I try to swim after hard runs (there is evidence that swimming is the best recovery strategy, you can feel the difference if you give it a try). I also eat well, sleep enough and have little stress in my life now (this is also key, I think!).
    So, in sum, each person needs to find what works for her, but if you look at elite runners, they are all running high mileage and 3 key workouts/week.

  6. oh poop, I just left you a hugely long comment which I lost whlie trying to post it. Let me see if I can regenerate the gist of it.

    quality versus quantity - the age old question that comes up in so many aspects of life - work (face time versus truly productive time), romantic relationships, parenting, eating and, yes, training of all types.

    I think it is fairly clear that for the 1/2 marathon & particularly the marathon, one must run high volume to train optimally. There are important physiological adaptations such as increase in mitochondrial density, increase in lactate threshold (the % of VO2 max at which lactic acid accumulates), increase in fat:glycogen burned that are elicited most effectively by running mile upon mile upon mile. And these adaptations are key to success over these distances. Show me a man who ran a sub-3 on 43 mile weeks and i will show you a man who would have run 15 minutes faster if he did the same quality but added an extra 15-20 miles to his weeks. Point being, it takes many added miles per week before the runner reaches the point of running "junk miles" when doing marathon training.

    The question becomes more complicated for races 10 km & under. Over these distances, pure endurance and running economy are less crucial and VO2 max & pure speed become much, much more important. From my (albeit) limited understanding of running physiology, one does not improve VO2 max or pure speed by running mile upon mile upon mile. In fact it is much less clear to me the role that easy distance runs play in training for these distances.

    Ultimately I agree with Michelle in that there is no magic formula that works for everyone. For example I have lots of fast twitch fibres in my muscles and am naturally speedy but poor in endurance. Therefore to feel confident and comfortable over 10 km, I find I need consistent 50 mile weeks. On the other hand some athletes injure their IT bands running 50 mile weeks so clearly that is a reality that must be factored into an optimal training program :)

    BTW I do think that 3 quality sessions is idea for you, 2 biggies and one lighter, more fun one. My impression is that you are injured by volume not by quality. My training plan for you is to get you settled into 3 quality sessions per week once you are back up and running. 4 seems a little excessive to me for 5 km/10 km... I could see it working for 800m/1500m.

  7. Thank you all for this great input!

    Clearly, I am still a 1500m in heart:) Dreaming about 4 track sessions and 20miles/week...

    It seems that you all agree on one point: the more mileage the better but without sacrificing quality sessions. Makes sense.

    I have feeling that a lot of people here just do mileage and mileage with sacrificing that quality. That was my feeling about my training at college and I did not like it.

    Yeah, unfortunately I am not able to run 40miles a week so I feel that I need to compensate with extra quality I guess.

    And there is a difference between HM/M and 5k/10k training.

    @ Michelle: You made me think about the psychological effect. I do not know whether believing that something is right for me makes it really work for you, but I am sure that not believing that something is right for you makes it really not right for you. That was my problem in college. I did not believe at all.

    @Ana-Maria: Hm, it seems that I did not manage to persuade you to start running short distances and put that 33sec/200m speed into use:) So sub-3:10 in fall and then sub-3 next year (in Boston?)...Sounds like a plan to me:)

    @PCC: I also am poor in endurance. That's probably reason why we both used to be 800/1500 runners...For me to feel confident about 5k last year I really did not care abut mileage. I got confident with those 1k repeats on track.
    I hope I will be back up and running soon!