Search This Blog

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Run the perfect Bolder Boulder 2010

Perfect Pacing for the Bolder Boulder

When using time trials as determinants of possible goal pace for the Bolder Boulder 10km it is essential to compare similar courses. Let’s say, for example you ran a 38:00 4-miler on a flat course on dirt on a 55* day with no wind. Using a race time comparison chart this equals a 60:21 10km. Now let’s see why the time trial was an apple & the race grapefruit, or was it?

· On the plus side you ran the time trial on dirt, while the race is on asphalt. This means that the same time trial on asphalt would have been faster
· On the minus side is that the 4-miler was flat & the race is hilly
· Another minus might be that the race may dawn warmer than the time trial, which was run in optimal weather
· A plus would be that the race is later in your training phase & you are fitter & would have run a faster 4-miler if you ran it on race day
· Another plus is that you are tapered for the race & thus physically capable of a stronger performance because of the rest & facilitation
· Another plus is that you are mentally aimed at this race, your commitment to the race is greater & your physiology & mind are correspondingly attenuated to achieve a peak performance

Once you have decided on a realistic, but aggressive time goal, you now have an overall pace that you’d like to achieve. It is important then to consider that not as the pace, but as the effort you’d like to achieve. By this I mean, that based on the above 4 miler, you may be going to try for a 9:40 mile pace on race day, but will run faster on the down sections than that & slower on the up sections. Bearing the 3% rule in mind – that all things being equal (surface, etc), the most efficient way to achieve a time goal is not to vary on either side of the average pace by more than 3%, it might behoove you to use the course elevation map, the 3% rule & your time goal to come up with a race pace plan that matches this.

Below I have broken down the course in this manner & added the various mental challenges & strategies that you might need to face to achieve such a goal. For the purposes of explanation I have used a 9:40 mile as illustration:

1. The 1st mile is a down (to lowest point on the course – 5,284ft.), then up, more down than up – slightly so. Take care to go out at a brisk pace (after a good full warm up). Avoid saying “Don’t go out too fast”, as you will access the mental program on how to go out too fast – a disease that inhabits even the most skillful of runners – especially younger males! The internal dialogue is subjective – “Go out strong, smooth, relaxed & at goal effort”. Now this may bring a 1st mile that is 3% faster than goal (e.g. 9:20) & that’s okay, as long as the effort was the target effort. It would also be useful to know your km split (e.g. 6:00), as this will give you more frequent & ultimately more objective feedback. Last thing about the start is to stay present, as while your 1st mile split may be 9:20, you may have gone too fast in the 1st .5 mile & then slowed too much in the 2nd half – even, smooth, gradual pace judgment is essential.
2. The 2nd mile is mostly all climb with a peak on Folsom Hill & a little drop & then climb to the 2mi marker. Here the pace can drift (but not the effort!) to just under 10:00
3. Mile 3 is similar, but alas with an even steeper grade. Just after the 2 mile marker you climb steeply to 19th & Vista. Thereafter there is a slight respite – a down section that goes past the 3 mile marker to 19th & Balsam – to just over half way (5km). Here with that more marked drop down 19th, you should manage about 9:50 – 9:55
4. The rest of mile 3 (from 19th & Balsam) is a series of turns & roller coasters in terms of elevation changes & is an absolutely crucial time to remain focused on form & balanced effort. It is easy to allow the pace to slip & the previously clear target of pace to give way to thoughts of “Maybe next year”, or “I’m taking it easy to the top of Casey Hill, (just past 4 miles) & then I’ll see where I am at”. By this time, with this lost focus, the hopes of a specific overall pace goal being achieved will be lost or at the very least seriously challenging to regain in the remaining 2 & a bit miles. Here a pace of 9:50 to 10:00 would be well done. While not allowing a slowing because of perceived fatigue, it is important also that you do not over-zealously attack this part of the course – it really requires patience, concentration & a balanced effort that gives back the least time, but at the same time spares the legs somewhat to gain fullest advantage of the down hills to come
5. The turn east for the long decent comes just after mile 4, & the 5th mile is ALL DOWN! The bad news is that to gain time on down hills is harder because you have less time (going faster) to make up what you lost over the same distance climbing (going slower)! It is not a time to rest & recover, as one needs to attack the downs to get full benefit. This requires greater focus than what the hills required, as the body will be sending messages to the brain saying, “whoa there! You just worked your butt off & feel the consequences, what’s the hurry? Let’s take it easy down these hills!” (Especially in the 1st part of the down). Ignore this “interference” – time is your goal, you may not be passing a whole lot of people, but if you are not on it, time will slip away & leave you disappointed come race end. Lean just off your balance point – get the turnover high & flow like water down to Walnut & Folsom (about a quarter mile after the 5 mile marker). Here you really want to try to manage 9:20 min mile pace or better for this 1.25 miles, (always thinking of the effort it would take to run 9:40 on the flats)
6. This final mile plus is less about the training & more about the mind – have you done your mental training, have you embedded your desire to achieve your goal deeply enough? In other words do you still want to have an overall pace of 9:40 at this stage of the game? At this point you may be about 15sec behind pace (worst case scenario on the above). This mile, being the last should allow you to dig a little deeper (progressively), as you need not save anything for after the race! Go hard to the base of that final vicious little hill outside the stadium, almost as if it is the finish line, as many people lose focus during that last mile by casting their minds ahead to that climb, which beats them up no matter what anyway, so you might as well have gone hard till there, take your medicine up it, by working solely on form (lean, cadence, short quick strides) & then let go down that final section to the finish. Hopefully this approach brings a 9:20 – 9:40. This is possible because even though that last mile has some demands – it is, after all, not a full mile of climbing; the 1st quarter is down, there is a drop just before the final climb, there’s a quick drop to the stadium floor & then there’s that gloriously flat finish, &, don’t forget, it is your last hurrah!

I hope this helps you create a race plan & mindset that leads to you fulfilling your dream pace per mile for the 2010 Bolder Boulder – GOOD LUCK & ALWAYS HAVE FUN OUT THERE!

Bobby McGee

Monday, May 24, 2010

Slow's the way to go Joe - Part 2

So, what’s a self respecting weekend warrior to do to avoid getting into that dreaded gray zone where training is less effective and causes our fitness gains to plateau?
Build your zone 1 and 2 through walking and use the run walk method. These are 2 different training modalities. This is a great way to develop muscle endurance and develop your fat burning capabilities (with correct nutrition). Good nutrition, over and above the usual advice of eat more regularly, reduce the bad fats, keep the fiber high, get your iron in somehow (if it’s low) also pay particular attention to gradually reducing the carbs and increasing the healthy fats. Walking and the run/walk method also reduce fatigue, risk of injury, rapid recovery and allow for a safer, more rapid increase in volume.
With the walk, add 2 – 3 walks per week to your regular training. You can lower your run mileage in a ratio of about .5 to 1; i.e. for every 1 mile you walk you can add .5 of a mile to your run mileage accumulation. Example: a 4 mile walk = a 2 mile run. I mostly have my athletes simply add the walk mileage however. 2 walks of 25-35 minutes, plus a building hike, starting off at around 45 minutes and building to the time you ultimately wish to be on your legs in the marathon. With the demands of IM training I recommend a maximum of 3 hours. Add about 15min per week to this long hike till you have achieved your target volume. Pace is not so important, but form is – go for a quick stride rate of 65 plus steps per foot per minute, keep your elbows bent and engage your core with each stride.
What happens to runners is that they begin to run too fast as they become facilitated and feel more comfortable at a faster pace and incorrectly think that that’s the progress that we are all striving for. The problem is the increase of HR with pace. PACE MUST INCREASE ONLY IF IT CAN BE DONE WHILE KEEPING THE HR WITHIN THE ZONE. This is the true test of base training efficacy, pace increases, but work rate stays the same.
With the walk/run method – which I recommend to everyone, pros and amateurs alike, it is a matter of discovering which ratio allows you to achieve the fastest OVERALL time. For the longer distances what is also of importance is best pace with lowest heart rate. The whole idea with the walk/run method is to develop the ability to maintain the highest overall pace for the entire distance. It is an amazing training and racing tool. Rough suggestions are: Beginners use a walk 1 minute/run 1 minute pattern. For most athletes a 9 minute run, 1 minute walk pattern works really well. I also recommend using a 6 to 1 pattern on your long runs. A final suggestion for maximum benefit, don’t run for longer than 10 minutes at a time and don’t take less than a 15sec walk break. Again, don’t saunter – develop the ability to walk and recover faster and faster. It is not difficult to walk at 12 min pace for a minute, to recover from a run pace that is considerably faster than your ability to run continuously and end up with a huge net gain. Again, bend your elbows, take shorter, quicker steps and “roll” along – don’t dramatically spike the heel into the ground with long slow powerful strides.
Add to this the suggestion that in order to gain the most capacity from BASE training, i.e. increase the pace as much as possible, while keeping the effort (HR) the same, one should not do any intense prolonged training in other workouts. For triathletes this extends definitely to the bike and perhaps even the swim.
What you CAN do to maintain strength and neuro-muscular facilitation during this phase is to do alactic training – this means strides. After a good warm-up, do 4 x 9 second strides at your best controlled effort; i.e. fast, but without bits flying off. Very importantly you MUST recover fully between these. Build until you can do about 8 of these 2-3 times per week.
Now for triathletes the big hurdle to overcome with patience is the fact that you get to a point on the bike where you feel you can work much harder far more quickly than you do on the run. When this happens you ride shorter and harder in higher zones because this feels good and fast and strong. You then not only might plateau, but you have limited your bike fitness potential and seriously retarded your chances of improving on the run as well.
This leads to the most common mistake in long course triathlon racing – over riding the bike portion…..
Pre-race many triathletes predict with quite good accuracy what they will do on the swim and bike and fall woefully short with their run prediction with something like this, “I was doing great till 16 miles on the run when I cramped/became nauseous/lost my lunch/bonked…. If only I hadn’t, I coulda, woulda, shoulda…”
Do more work for longer in those lower zones on both the bike and run and expand your work capabilities and ultimately your race results. Once you have done this background work, it will serve you for a long time & restoring it each season becomes easier & shorter.
Bobby McGee

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ironman Training for the Time Challenged Athlete

I am doing a USA Triathlon Webinar. Topic: Ironman Training for the Time Challenged Athlete.
The emphasis will be on the run.
It takes place on Thursday, May 20.
Time: 4-5pm Mountain, 3-4pm Pacif, 5-6pm Central, 6-7pm Eastern
Cost: $34.99
The blurb goes: For many triathletes the holy grail of their triathlon aspirations is to do an Ironman – but with the realities of the modern economy, family life and a packed commitment schedule, few are able to put together a pocket of time to prepare properly for this great event.

Spend an hour with Bobby McGee discovering how to put together some key aspects of an Ironman training plan without sacrificing real life.

Bobby McGee is an Olympic Coach, Running Expert and also an expert on Sport Psychology and Mental Skills. He has produced world record holders & an Olympic Champion & numerous Olympians as runners, over & above his work with triathletes.

No one knows better how to prepare athletes for success on race day than Bobby McGee!

Love to have you if this is of interest to you.

Till next time...

Bobby McGee

Monday, May 17, 2010

Slow’s the Way to Go Joe – Part 1

Predicting someone’s ability to run anything from 800m to a half marathon is really easy. A little more difficult is determining what someone may ultimately be capable of – if they are young enough to still have their best years ahead of them, is a little more challenging. However predicting what they are capable of in a marathon or the run in an IM, now that’s a whole different ball of wax! Add to this that the majority of athletes just do NOT have the patience or time to train to their actual capabilities, but still expect their potential to show up on race day, rather than their training status only. Add to this in the longer events, the tight tolerances allowed in the weather, nutritional, hydration and pacing departments and it’s no wonder so many people “fail” to achieve to their expectations. In triathlon, especially IM another huge challenge is the discipline required to ride easily enough to have an optimal run.
This brings one to the blog’s case in point – training “slowly” enough, or within the ranges that ultimately give you the greatest shot at achieving your potential. Joe Friel’s brilliant work has brought us a model that has helped thousands of athletes to train as close to correctly as modern research suggests we should. One problem thought: many athletes, especially here at altitude, are unable to run slowly enough to stay in these 1st 2 zones! It’s a different matter on the bike where riding on a flat road with 110PSI in your tubular is akin to the efficiency of a seagull in flight. In the pool also the fact that you are in a low gravity-impacted environment and you are using less musculature makes it so much easier to train in the lower zones.
Compare this to an elite sprinter who can do 2 x 200m in a workout and access so much of her power that she is exhausted and the workout’s effectively done! An elite marathon runner would run 2 maximum effort 200’s and with a short recovery be able to run 8 more! Trouble is the distance runner will have run those 200’s in 29-30 seconds (which is fast – 3:53mile pace), but a sprinter of equal sprinting ability may have run those 200’s in around 24 sec and that’s 3:13 mile pace!!
3rdly, the challenge of the amateur becomes detraining while training! The runner must go so slowly that other components actually start to atrophy. Peripherally there IS such a thing as running too slowly; stride rate may decrease and subsequently loading increases with all its attendant negative consequences. You know how you feel after a long run with a friend who is much slower than you! Also, proper recovery in terms of time is tough for the average athlete – what a pro can do in a week, the average person of the same age needs at least 10 days to complete with sufficient recovery. A good pro microcycle is about 10 days, while a good age grouper would do well on a 14 day microcycle and the older athlete something like 17 – 21 days!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Be a Kid

Don’t let a GPS, compass, HRM, street sign, grade, surface or distance, (esp. a track) tell you how you are faring – let you tell you!
Coaches strive to quantify every detail, but there is no software or collection tool – including RPE, that can measure what you feel.
It’s not like we haven’t got the most intricate, hyper-sensitive tools already built in – another 100 years will not bring modern equipment anywhere close to giving us the kind of feedback we are capable of gleaning if we stay tuned in.
The danger is that the externally generated numbers may limit us. The emotional connection to stats derived off these impressive micro-computers when we approach what previous data has told us are our limits, may cause us to back off. We may have our best foot forward at this stage – all of us may have showed up and we miss a golden opportunity for a break through & an experience that tells us we have far greater abilities than we ever dreamed possible.
I am not saying we should totally eschew the benefits of using these devices by meting out our resources in the most economical fashion; use them for sure! But, the bottom line is that racing is all about pushing our limits however we may have derived them, perceived or otherwise. True performance is a very complex, never fully understood set of constantly changing parameters.
Getting the best out of the individual human body whose every instinct is to keep us safe and in the middle of our homeostatic ranges, requires a very technical concept (facetious here) – GUTS.
I strongly suggest runs (and swims and rides) that are both easy and very, very hard (and everything in between) without gizmos and gadgets. Assess the workouts experientially, qualitatively – with your heart and soul.
Ultimately, when we race, this is the true satisfaction meter. When we assess a result as something that leaves us feeling self –actualized it is much more about an emotional knowing and warrior sensation, than it is about the numbers.
Allow the running to come naturally, progress through feel & knowing & let the numbers confirm & support that…
Bobby McGee recently reviewed Matt Fitzgerald’s latest book (out on June 1st) RUN: The Mind-Body Method Of Running By Feel. It’s a great read & I believe it is his best yet & it explores in depth this week’s blog concept

Monday, May 3, 2010

HEAD to HEAD – The Mental Side of Being the Best You, You Can Be

A coaching friend of mine recently asked me what one could do with the very frustrating situation of athletes not achieving what they are physically capable of on race day. Now the coach happens to be one of the VERY best coaches that the sport of triathlon has & the athlete is a professional, so it is not like this coach has no idea how to motivate an athlete or has no experience with getting top results at the highest level!
After what I thought was a drug-riddled showing in the distance events in the 2000 Olympics I made a fundamental shift in my thinking as a coach—forget trying to find individuals with the physiological characteristics to be world beaters; work instead towards helping those athletes that choose you as a coach to become the best they can be. If one of those athletes turns out to be a world beater then so be it.
I am happy to say that I have since also been involved with athletes who make it to the very top – the answer lies in the acknowledgement that NO SINGLE FACTOR IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ALL THE REST. Holism is an easy word to toss around in a lecture or conversation with coaches & athletes, but a far harder principle to apply consistently with every athlete & yourself.
Most of us master of one or some of the facets that make up peak performance in endurance events & I know some coaches who have systems & people in place that manage close to all of them. However of all these facets that constitute success mental skills training is the most challenging to master.
Which athlete wants to own up to being a “head case”? Very, very few of us have the vulnerability & ego-checking capabilities of setting aside our desires of not being exposed & the guts to fully take on the very real risks of falling flat on our faces in the full on attempt required to be the very best we can be.
This process is like meditation or prayer – the minute one gets competitive with it one loses! The dialogue that leaves one’s mouth as an “explanation” of a subpar performance is ego driven & a futile exercise in avoidance of being exposed to oneself & others. Even the seemingly honest, “that’s all I had on the day” is pregnant with denial if there is information that indicates the performance failed to meet the standards set in training. The worst one for all involved of course is the “I tried my best” answer. Facing & fully experiencing failure honestly is at the very root of the learning process that makes champions of us all.
Add to this, the coach’s conundrum – they know the athlete failed mentally, the athlete knows they failed mentally & the athlete knows the coach knows! Yet, because of the many precipitating factors like avoidance of confrontation, the relationship (in terms of social environment), trust, frail egos & money, the partnership continues & the size of the elephant in the room continues to increase.
With every day a coach fails to address the obvious fact that the athlete needs to take on their mental & emotional limiters he/she is selling their athletes more & more short. Granted, if the cause of the failure is sufficiently severe & sourced in the athlete’s childhood, then the coach cannot become a psychiatrist. But can the coach become a parent of sorts? YES, if the athlete is willing.
The whole idea of consciously allowing kids to fail in a safe environment within a loving, empathic environment is so that they learn how to read situations & make smart choices when the chips are down & the consequences of failure are far more dire. (Can you tell I have a 3-year-old & I am using Love & Logic© principles!). Without an open honest relationship & a clear commitment to excellence, athletes & coaches CANNOT access the means by which the athlete may rise to a level commensurate with the athlete’s ability… Quite simply can not
Whether you are self-coached, coached or coach, if you want to experience the elation of crossing the finish line with a deep sense of knowing that you displayed full access to your talent, skills & fitness, then you must take on addressing your limiters. These may include mental & emotional hurdles that are largely unknown & unseen by you as the protagonist.
In every endurance event, 1st race to your ability & fitness levels & then, when you have gone as far & as fast as your physiology & pacing have allowed, then race & beat everyone around you, knowing that these athletes will include many with greater capabilities. In this way precious few with less talent will finish ahead of you. And many with more ability will end behind you – those who have less fortitude than that which you forged in the fire of ownership & hard graft.
Bobby McGee