Friday, May 20, 2011

Using a Marathon to get ready for a Marathon

I am slated to run the Stillwater (MN) Marathon on May 29th, three weeks before Grandma's Marathon and use it for training run. I can appreciate that many of you may question this move.

There are currently two schools of thought. One says that there is no need to run more than a 20 miler before running a marathon of 26.2 miles. In training, if a runner can get to the point of a couple of 20 milers, both done two to three weeks apart, with the last one at least three weeks before the marathon, then that is all the training that is needed for the long run(s). This school of thought believes that there are no benefits received from going farther than the 20 miles – physiological, physical or helping a runner develop 'running economy'. Any longer distance can actually hurt the runner when it comes time to run the marathon.

The second school, usually Galloway followers, believes in actually running the distance of the marathon three weeks before the marathon, and up to 28-30 miles if the runner wants to run the marathon with a time goal, say trying to qualify for Boston or breaking a 3, 4 or 5 hour time goal. They believe that once the 'wall' [which usually shows up between Mile 18 to 21] is broken in practice, it won't show up at the marathon. Since the runner knows for sure that he/she can go the distance, they have a mental and physical advantage in completing the marathon.

So, which school of thought is right?

Well, actually, it's both. Let me explain.

I've trained for marathons using both methods. The first has a runner running those 20 milers at or near the speed of the time splits at which they will run the marathon. Let's take the runner trying to break 4 hours in the marathon. He or she will try to do their 20 miler in 3 to 3-1/2 hours. This projects out to 9-9:30 minutes per mile. If they need a 9:09 MPM, this is a good test.

If you follow the Galloway guidelines, yes, you will be running a 28-30 miler three weeks before the marathon. But for a 4 hour marathon goal, he will have you run that in 5 to 5-1/2 hours, at 11 minutes a mile, clearly 2 minutes slower than what you should be able to run that on race day. By running it 2 minutes slower, it will help you recover faster so that in three weeks, you will not only know you can run the marathon distance, but also have recovered from the long 30 miler.

So, when you look at both concepts, they are correct. The 20 miler theory 'programs' your body and stride length to know what it's like to run at a set predictable pace. The Galloway method teaches your body to burn fat as a primary source of fuel, teaching it how to access that fuel and 'expect' a longer distance than what you will do at the marathon.

By now you're wondering 'So why are you choosing to run a marathon distance as a training run'? The answer lies in how my training is going. I've already run a 22 miler at a 9:30 MPM pace. So I know that I should be able to keep that pace for the marathon. But I'm not sure that my body has been accessing fat as a primary fuel during my run. I noticed the last two to three miles of that 22 miler, my minutes per mile started creeping up. So I want to teach my body to go to my fat reserves for fuel, hence, incorporating the Galloway theory. So, I will be forcing myself to run the Stillwater Marathon at a pace two minutes slower than I know I'm capable of.

But I'll be honest, training for the marathon is a crap shoot, it's not like any other distance. Lots of theory and practice go into trying to find the "Marathon Holy Grail". In a month, I will be able to tell you whether I found it or not.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Follow up to Nano Story

I wrote about having the Nano go through the wash machine. Thanks to readers that offered me their many suggestions. Long story, short, the Nano came back to the point of giving me the Apple Logo but nothing more.

But much to my surprise, I went into the Apple Store, and after verifying that the water indicator was triggered (red), they replaced it. I had to wait two days for the replacement but who's complaining?

Kudos to Apple for this type of service. I have had other Nanos replaced but taking this back with a full replacement shows why they have a great following. This is customer service to the nth degree!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

VO2 Max Testing

I've written about getting your VO2 max tested as well as finding your maximum and minimum heart rate values to follow my heart rate training. But I wanted to send out a warning that you need to have it tested by reputable facility sites.

This became apparent to me when I had a reading done at my LifeTime Fitness health club this past Monday morning. First, I want to say I love my LTF health club. I've got no complaints on any of the services I've used in the past and think they do a great job of keeping their facilities updated and clean. But when it comes to VO2 max testing… ummm… not so much.

He performed the test in record time, 10 minutes. Not that I don't think you can get a good VO2 Max test done in that time, but I don't think you can when 6 of the 10 minutes are done in warming up and cooling down.

The readings he got were very bad. For instance, I got off the machine not even feeling like I broke a sweat. I don't think these tests need to kill anyone but they also shouldn't give anyone a pass. He had my VO2 max or anabolic threshold at 153 beats per minute. Since I completed a 22.2 mile run 9 days before this at a 155 BPM average, this is physically impossible.

It was useful telling me how much fat I burned at the different zones, everyone should know this. But I did question those numbers when the others were in question. I'm sure that LTF has to be careful in giving tests like these to the general population. They have to deal with folks with varying degrees of fitness like those just starting out, triathletes, marathon runners, treadmill walkers and the weekend warriors. But then they should have different levels of testing for those wanting exact readings when they are counting on these numbers for a goal such as a 5K or 10K race, or as in my case, a marathon.

If you are looking for this type of precision from a testing center, I would recommend going on-line to . If there isn't one listed in your state, ask some of the top finishers in your next race where they have gone for their test.