Coach Blog: Fall training November 17-23

We are right back at it this week. Since cross country season for us is a means to an end, there’s no need to take more than the cyclical down week as a break. In December we will take a two week “no workouts” break, but the group will still run.

Monday: straight forward steady state run. 35min of running at between 25k and 30k race pace. Then jog back to the indoor track and do 4x200m as “long strides” and then some core. This is really a bread and butter workout in the sense that it is very simple, and not that hard, but you need to get it done on a regular basis. We are building the length of the steady state right now. In January, we will crank it up a bit and focus more on 15k-20k pace on these Monday runs, but for now, it’s just a solid aerobic push. The 200s help keep in touch with some turnover as the weather starts to turn. We had a fair bit of ice and snow on this one, so it was more effort-based than pace-based. That’s winter in Canada.

Wednesday: We went on the indoor track for the next progression in the summer goal pace series of workouts. The workout was 8x400m-200m at 5k summer goal pace, with 200m jog between each one. So 4800m of 5k pace work (400 at pace, 200 jog, 200 at pace, 200 jog, 8 times). Again, just gotta groove that pace. It’s not that hard, but it is getting the legs used to running at the desired pace. Once we push this up to 600, 800 and 1k repeats, it will get  hard. But for now, we are just prepping the legs, as it were.

The middle distance group did 3-4x800m as 400m 1500 pace, 200m cruise pace, 200m 800m pace. The cruise pace is the killer here as it doesn’t really let you recover for that fast 200. But it’s also only a 200. So this is another “do-able” workout though a little more intense, relatively, than the 5k group workout.

Saturday: This was another big aerobic day. Warm up to 1500m loop. 2×4-4-4, 2-2-2. 2x400m loop fast at the end, full recovery. So they move from 4min cruise, to 4min 10k pace, and back to 4min cruise (that’s 15k pace, so slower than 10k pace). Another way to write this would be: 12min-6min-12min-6min with 2min recovery. For some reason that’s a little more intimidating. It doesn’t change the load to write it down in a more friendly way.

This week I was at another coaching meeting. This time it was for coaches in Quebec. We got some general information, then had our endurance group meeting, and finally were treated to a talk from one of the great Quebec coaches: Ben Leduc. Ben coached almost all the fast Quebecers during the “golden age” of the 70s and 80s (and into the 90s). What was great about his talk was that he was pretty clear that the main determinant of success in his group was hard work. The guys and girls who worked really hard got fast. It’s also heartening to hear that our respective training philosophies align fairly closely. His concept of “demi-train and trois-quart de train” aligns pretty well with what we are doing: lots of sub-maximal work.

Ben also had interesting things to say about developing  young runners. First, he said, he preferred to recruit the kids who finished 4th to 12th as kids because they have room to grow. He would start the CEGEP-aged runners on double runs, not just for endurance, but so they could understand what it meant to do work. By university he felt he was able to push them more, but felt like he may have underestimated the durability of some athletes. Still, better to err on the side of caution and have people coming out of the system runners for life and enjoying themselves, vs quitting because they were burnt out. (If I’ve misinterpreted any of this, that’s on me, by the way).

He had a lot of success with that model yet here we are today with a great emphasis on winning at a young age, focusing on high quality workouts over volume of work, and athletes whose careers peak in their late-teens or early twenties. The solution is there for those who want to grab it and run with it.

Note: the photo is from a 1980s version of the Maski-courons road race.