"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Steve vs the Experts #13: Hudson and Fitzgerald

Brad Hudson's book, "Run Faster" (2008, with Matt Fitzgerald) is the latest to become wildly popular among competitive runners, particularly marathoners. Hudson had several coaches in his running career (2:13 marathon) and has taken ideas from each, which is the same approach as one of his coaches, Bill Dellinger, profiled earlier. He freely admits his workouts are a grab bag of tricks, but used within the frame of a carefully constructed system. His general ideas of personalizing one's schedule and using previous experience to modify one's training are obvious and universal, but well worth remembering. The majority of the book is very sound advice - I want to stress that, as I tear apart the Marathon Schedule 3 in the last pages of the book, which many follow closely.

Mileage: His toughest marathon schedule goes from 56-87 miles per week (again, I think that's a big jump, but it's typical of all schedules). He states (page 56) that there should be some two-a-days once over 70 miles per week, but he includes only one in the entire schedule. Again, on p. 145, he states 70 mpw is maximum before running twice per day. On page 209, he notes that Paula Radcliffe set the world record (2:15) on 150 mpw. "The marathon record will never again be broken by someone who trains much less than this amount." Steve Jones' 2:07:12 on 90 miles per week is listed only one page earlier, following Derek Clayton's 2:08:33 on 170 miles per week. For someone who's studied the marathon closely, he's missed this important fact.

Sunday long run: He includes a number of types of long runs, including basic easy runs of up to 24 miles. What he's known for are "progression runs," where one increases pace toward the end of the run, to simulate the stress one has at the end of a marathon race; what he neglects is that from his own description of the "VO2max slow component," running at a steady pace would do the same thing. He includes one hard long run (20 miles) 3 weeks out from the marathon and a 1/2 marathon race 5 weeks out [on p. 154, he advocates a build-up of races from 5K and 10K before this]. He has one "specific endurance long run" of 2 hours, with 15 minutes at marathon pace; most of the marathon pace running is done in other types of workouts.

Monday hill sprints: This is one of the distinguishing features of the Hudson plan. One does a few all-out sprints up a steep incline. His reasoning is that one needs to maintain one's neuromuscular fitness - it's the same reason the other plans have 100 meter strides and/or bounding and skipping drills a la Lydiard (and which Hudson includes in his warm-up routine). He likes to have it the day before a hard workout as a check for tiredness (p. 171). Though I also like using hills and sprints, I fault his rationale on p.77, where he states that by increasing sprint speed 4% from 7.5 to 7.8 m/s, a 3:00:00 marathoner would improve to 2:52:48. He's overlooking specificity - that marathoner will merely improve his or her finishing kick by about a second (conversely, improving one's marathon time does absolutely nothing for one's sprint times). The reason for doing this workout is that it recruits muscle fibers not otherwise used and aids in range of motion, which tends to decrease with nothing but long slow miles.

Tuesday specific endurance intervals: As he says on p.111, everything is different for the marathon, so these workouts do not fit well with his own description. He has fartlek both early and late in the schedule (9 miles w/ 8x1 min, 8x2 min or 4x5 min at 10K pace; 11-12 miles w/ 8x2 min at 1/2 mar. pace). He has one hill workout of 5x3 min. uphill at 5K pace. He has a variety of track interval workouts at 5k and 10K pace, but there is no progression, nor specificity, though he does state that they don't need to be "totally systematic." (p 105) He also includes ladder intervals, which incorporate varied distances and paces and which I've always disliked, as they do nothing well. These workouts a far cry from what he suggests earlier (p112); there he lists workouts that are long and vary pace from slightly faster than race pace to slightly slower - like the "in-and-out miles" of Dellinger - and which make much more sense.

Friday threshold and marathon pace runs: These are the bread and butter of many marathoners, but seem somewhat downplayed in this schedule. Early, he has progression runs with 3-4 miles hard, perhaps in lieu of the missing races mentioned above. His later workouts have repeats of 10-15 minutes at 1/2 marathon pace, which progress to 10K pace toward the end of the schedule. He doesn't state categorically the reason for these workouts, but they are obviously the same as "threshold" runs in the other schedules I've discussed. Though he has some workouts with a few minutes of marathon-paced running even in the first weeks of the 20 week schedule, there are only 4 listed as "marathon pace running." In week 9, there's 14 miles, with 8 at MP; in week 18, there's 14 miles with 10 at MP, in week 19, there's 12 to 13 with 2x4 at MP and in week 20, there's 5 with 2 at MP. I think that this gets to the specific marathon pace training too late and then hits it too hard too many weeks in a row. The last one, during the taper, I understand as a final confidence-booster, but I think it's too close to the race. It should be noted that in his Level 2 Marathon Plan (less mileage), he has a "Spec. Test" workout of a half-marathon run at marathon pace, with a two mile warm-up and cool-down and this is earlier than week 18. The easier plan makes more sense to me.

But does it work?

Like every plan I've gone through in this series, if one can do the workouts, one will probably have success in racing. Many runners, upon switching from one expert's schedule to another's, will improve simply from exercising somewhat differently, by incorporating one type of stress previously overlooked. Hudson's plan, by having a great variety of workouts, is likely to have something one has not tried. Hudson goes out of his way to tell his readers not to blindly follow the plans as listed, though that is what nearly everyone will do.

I tried this Marathon Level 3 schedule and had problems by the third week, but that says more about me than the schedule. In the third week, there are three progression runs; being a speedster by nature, I tend to start fast and then slow throughout a run, so speeding up at the end is much more difficult than it might be for others and to do it I'd have to intentionally start the runs extremely slowly, ruining the training effect of the mileage. Beside the progression runs, this week has a fartlek run with 8x40 sec. @ 10K-3K pace, which was too easy for me and ended up being closer to 1500 meter pace. The hill sprints are not meant to be a hard workout, but while a marathoner might lope up the hill, I have good sprint speed (for an old guy) and these sprints were HARD, causing me to have muscle aches the next day as if I'd been lifting heavy weights and that impacted the next day's run. Most runners, I'm sure, would have far fewer problems.
Here ends the long series! There's only a few basic methods of training and I've shown how many of these schedules resemble each other and how they differ and what weaknesses they may have. If you've followed along from the start, you now know more about training schedules than any coach you might hire would. And it probably hasn't meant much.

All that's left is to explain my own method for marathon training which... I've never tried! I've never even suggested it to others. It's just an idea that's floated around in my head for 20 years and which I feel like writing down (After a break. I've written way too much lately.)


Joe Garland said...

I know you still owe me some answers on Daniels, but I wanted to flag something John Kellogg said that applies to masters runners. I simply re-published it (the original is a PDF).

Colin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin said...

Another great post. Again I agree with most of your points.

I'm biased -- I run a great marathon largely from following his Marathon Level 3 plan. I started with the plan as presented, tweaked it some, expected to make further adjustments during training but it seemed to work well for me so I didn't change much (my actual training log is here).

I had no problem with it going from 56-87 miles per week: I've run more that that in the past, and this is the level 3 plan after all.

Like you, I found it odd that there were no doubles (especially when he specifically says you should include double after 70MPW or so). My guess is that the Level 3 plan is one he put together for a specific athlete who only could fit one run daily into his schedule, and he recycled it for his book. I've always run doubles in the past during marathon training, but thought I'd try doing singles instead for a change. I recall you telling me once that in your experience doubles help for shorter races but not the marathon.

I found the progression runs quite helpful. Sure, running at a steady pace might be the same for my "VO2max slow component", but I see them as more of a marathon readiness workout. Doing a moderately long run while increasing pace to near marathon pace is a decent marathon simulator and can be run more frequently than straight marathon-pace runs.

I'm not sold on the hill sprints (perhaps they helped, I don't know). Some of the paces didn't feel right: like you I ran those 40 second repeats at around mile race pace (not 10K-3K), and did several other workouts faster than indicated (being careful to make sure I didn't push too hard). I also didn't like some of his "specific endurance" workouts with short bouts at marathon pace (e.g. 2 hours of running with 15 repeats of 1 minute at marathon pace with 1 minute of easy running recovery). I couldn't get into any sort of rhythm with those workouts, and doubt they helped my training much.

I don't buy your criticism of not enough marathon pace running workouts. You neglected to include workouts at near-marathon-pace (including to some extent the progression runs). E.g. 3 weeks out he calls for 20 miles with 18 miles at 20sec/mile over marathon pace. I think adding the 20sec/mile made this a more specific workout than running at exactly marathon pace would have: after all, this workout was in the middle of training with no taper, unlike the race itself. I found this helpful in getting a feel for marathon effort (as opposed to marathon pace). When I've trained heavily at marathon pace in the past it feels harder, and as a result I tend to start the marathon too fast and pay for it later.

Anyhow, I do think you should revisit progression runs. There's no need to start glacially slowly, just start at a reasonable pace and slowly pick it up. Or do an out-and-back run, returning slightly faster than the outbound leg (as I recall Lydiard advocated this sort of thing). From what I've seen your biggest racing weakness is starting out too fast; perhaps working progression runs regularly into your training could help with race-day pacing.

Thanks again for a great series! These posts been very thought-provoking. I should almost start my own blog rather than cluttering up yours with massive comments like this one!

I'm looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on training when you're ready to share them. By all means take a break in the meantime, though -- you've earned it!

Chris Swenke said...

So when does the Steve Quick guide to Training come out?

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Here ends the long series!

Really? Our Long National Nightmare is finally over?

Praise Jebus!


Hahahahaha! Just kidding, Steve. We appreciate your thoughtful insights.

How come you never write about n*ts@cks? Now THAT could be an unending series! Take it from a guy who knows!

SteveQ said...

Joe, I guess I was trying to get to the end of this series quickly and overlooked comments on previous posts. I'll get around to responding to at least some of your good questions - life is filling up with other stuff just now.

I've seen the Kellogg piece and agree with a lot of it and I have to admit that I didn't give the Pfitzinger post enough thought, nor did I adress the Hudson schedule for masters runners, which I probably should've been following, rather than the Level 3.