By Keith Livingstone
After taking a few weeks to steadily reach your goal levels, your typical
training week could look more like this: about 9.5 hours of aerobic training
in your key sessions. Over a few years, you¹d increase your pace and volume
DAY MAIN SESSION
Mon 1hr run, EASY
Tue 1hr 30m STEADY
Wed Light fartlek 1 hour incl 6-10 short sprints
Thu 1 hr 30m STEADY
Fri 1 hour EASY
Sat 1 hour 3Ž4 effort marathon pace
Sun 2 hr 30m
Easy 60-65% MHR
Steady 70-75% MHR
Marathon Pace 75-80% MHR
Lydiard training for the marathon therefore would be essentially the common
base training period for (ideally) 10 weeks, introducing only a touch of
anaerobic threshold (maybe one specific session a week: ie: warm-up 5k, AT
6k, cool-down 5k) for two consecutive weeks, then transitioning to 2 or 3
tightly controlled, evenly paced VO2 Max sessions (ie: 5 x 1000m @ 5000m
pace/ equal or shorter recovery) a good week or so apart in the last few
weeks. These sessions, combined with a weekly light fartlek session that
includes several short relaxed sprints with ample recovery, done throughout
the base period and continued through to the eve of the goal race, would
train the essential energy systems enough to get the ideal outcome.
Try to do very easy medium length aerobic runs on the day before and after
tougher sessions.No hard or extended long runs in the last couple of weeks generally, and no
more than two VO2 sessions in a week. Any more in a week and you¹re dicing
with marathon death. Then a controlled taper for the last 2 weeks.
Your taper should be gradual, and not sudden. It¹s an odd thing, but many
people who suddenly ease up on volume aerobic training complain of feeling
sleepy and fatigued on marathon day. So whatever volume you¹ve reached in
daily runs on set days by week 10, you want to reduce to 80% in Week 11, and
then 60% in marathon week leading up to race day. Wih aerobic training,
it¹s essential that a certain volume or aerobic undercurrent is kept up to
maintain the necessary oxidative enzyme levels and mitochondria.
ie: if your Sunday long run is 20 miles, this becomes 16 miles the next
week, then the next week 12 miles. Pretty obviously, all other run lengths
and times would be cut down by the same amount!
We don¹t do any glycolytic /lactate tolerance training anywhere near a
marathon or during base training. Those sessions are very intense, flooding
the running muscles with highly acidic metabolites that soon force the
exercise to cease due to the localized neuromuscular junctions going on
strike. While absolutely necessary for a middle distance athlete¹s final
preparation, the acidosis created has the distinct possibility of harming
aerobic enzyme levels, glycogen and fatty acid utilization, and
mitochondrial function at the expense of your marathon potential. VO2 max
intervals are far longer and far less intense, (i.e.: 1000m intervals @
5000m pace/ equal time recovery or shorter) and are much safer and more
useful coming into your absolute final phase.
For a 15 min 5000m runner this could be something like 5 x 1000m on the road
@ 3:00/3:00 active jog recovery, preferably on a non-cambered asphalt road
surface. Really, your estimated 5000m race pace (95% of absolute VO2 max
pace) is the safest to develop VO2max without overdoing things. Anaerobic
training is like playing with matches for a marathoner.
These controlled VO2 interval sessions will top up the final anaerobic
contribution to VO2 Max, and thereby increase efficiency at any of the
arobic, sub threshold, or threshold speeds, but they¹ve got to be sparingly
introduced AFTER those lower systems have been trained.
It¹s an idea to have sufficiently trained each of the energy systems most
related to your event in the preceding weeks to your goal race.
WHAT¹S GOING ON IN THERE?
The body will adapt to anything you consistently ask it to do. With
prolonged high-aerobic efforts, the resting heart rate can drop markedly
with the left ventricle becoming larger, and its muscular walls becoming
thicker and more powerful. (This is effectively like training up a much more
Every high-pressure heart beat delivers far more blood, far further, into an
ever-increasing network of low-pressure web-like capillaries. Because there
are now so many very fine blood vessels developing into muscle beds that
have been exposed to constant perfusion, the flow rate and pressure of the
oxygen-rich blood is lowered exponentially, thereby allowing the red blood
cells exponentially more time to deliver their payload to an ever-increasing
surface area of working muscle cells.
More oxygen and fuel can be delivered to far more muscl cells, and the
resultant metabolites can be flushed away back to the liver more quickly.
Eventually very long runs become like a pleasant ³walk in the park² where
you can play tourist as you cover favourite courses. One can almost
dissociate from one¹s body on long runs as it becomes a long, smooth ride.
This is the type of fitness you want to take into the final weeks of a
marathon preparation, at your own level.
The long running becomes continually easier because the muscles develop very
fine networks of capillaries that can perfuse and deliver oxygen and
fuel-rich blood ³right to the doorstep² of the muscle cells. A networ of
finer and finer blood vessels courses throughout the working muscle over
time. Oxygen and fuels are ideally delivered to an actively working muscle
cell across its semi-permeable cell-wall. Muscle cells that don¹t have any
direct capillarisation have to obtain their nutrients second-hand, or delve
into anaerobic metabolism because they haven¹t received the necessary
oxygen. An untrained muscle will generally have the usual major arteries,
merging with finer arteriole beds, then merging further with a relatively
small bed of even finer capillaries. Each capillary may have to be accessed
and shared by several muscle cells initially, but biopsies of muscles that
have been extensively trained aerobically show that the surface area of
muscle cells experiencing direct capillarization can increase vastly.
An example from nature of what I am describing is the leg muscle of one of
the most aerobically fit creatures on the planet- the kangaroo. This meat is
almost ³spongy² on first inspection, but if you look very closely you will
see that it is traversed by many very fine capillaries; many more than in
meats from relatively sedentary farm-raised livestock like beef cattle.
Initially in building your marathon base, you want to run long enough, about
once a week, till you achieve the ³tired heavy legs² stage (thi represents
glycogen depletion) and then run a few more miles like that, forcing your
body to respond over time by utilising a higher ratio of fatty acids.
Initially this ³tired, heavy legs² response may kick in quite early if
you¹re not used to decent long runs regularly. However, as you respond, it
will be entirely possible to run for over 2hrs 30 at a good clip, without
undue fatigue over the last few miles.
The thing NOT to do in training, especially on long runs over 2 hours, is to
carbo-load with something like a power-bar or gu-gel. Many distance runners
these days do that, and think it¹s great because they finish their training
runs with that extra shot of Œjuice¹ in the system, then wonder why they
crash badly in the marathon. HOWEVER, at marathon race pace, it¹s all about
conserving our limited glycogen stores and becoming very effective at
utilizing our ample fatty acid stores.
If you want to go as far and as long as possible without hitting the wall,
you must have THREE things going for you:
1. A trained ability to utilize a blend of (Œunlimited¹) fatty acids and
(Œlimited¹) carbohydrates for long periods at high aerobic levels, thereby
conserving glycogen (high energy) stores for the business end of your race.
2. Sufficient hydration of the muscles to allow access to the stored
glycogen. Glycogen is really an endless starchy chain of glucose molecules.
It needs about twice its volume in accessible H2O to be metabolized. So a
marathoner who is ready to race will often be slightly heaier than normal.
3. The patience to start slightly slower than your intended race pace, so as
to spare glycogen and come home full of running. The marathon doesn¹t
¹start¹ till the 20 mile/32km mark, so go steadily till then.
The traditional ³wall² that marathoners hit at around 20 miles represents
the final unloading of glycogen stores from the type IIA fatigue-resistant
(aerobic) fast twitch fibres as they are sequentially recruited while the
slow twitch fibres have exhausted their work capacity.
HOWEVER, if one has trained the fatty acid system properly y many weeks of
long runs to depletion, BY ALL MEANS use a carbohydrate gel in the last few
kilometres of a race (but test it out in training at least once on one of
your weekly long runs!)