Monday, May 14, 2007

How You Train is How You WILL Race

You might have heard the saying, "never train harder than what you will do in the race". The rational of this is that you need to save your body in training so you can give it all in the race. Well, this never seems to work for me.

Instead, I'm starting to believe that the intensity you train at will reflect exactly in your race. If you train slow, then you WILL be slow. In fact, I'm thinking that you need to push harder in training than your actual race. Then the race will feel easy. Why stop at 24 miles in marathon training, why not go 26 miles, or 28 miles. To train for a trail ultra, why not train on climbs and descents that are steeper than what you will race on?

My reasoning is based on adaptation. The human body adapts to stressed inputs and shapes itself to better handle those stresses. If you never stress your body to the level of how you want to race, then how can you expect it to perform at that level when you do race? Of course, you need to increase intensity and duration slowly to avoid injury; the rule of thumb is 10-15% per week. And your diet needs to include plenty of protein to help your muscles rebuild and adapt. That means eating chicken, fish, or red meat. Or, you can use those protein supplements.

For example, if you want to go sub 3 hours in a marathon; then you need to keep about a 6:50 pace. You might start at 10 miles and keep that pace. Then you gradually increase your mileage, but don't let your pace drop. Keep going until you can do up to 28 miles. Then, have a longer taper to let your body recover before the race. For me, a two week taper is plently, even after a 100 miler. The body still remembers how hard you have trained after two weeks. Then, the actual race will feel easy; you will be able to push harder and not suffer as much. For a downhill race, go find long stretches of downhill highway and train on that.

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