From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

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runthe8
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From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by runthe8 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:48 am

Just wanted to report on my son's cross country race yesterday, at Oatlands, in VA, which is a huge cross country meet on a pretty hilly course with about 4000 runners.  Drew, a sophomore, ran this same race last year in 18:15.  After a year of training, focusing on building easy mileage, one long run every week to 10 days,  doing running specific strength work, tempo and CV combo workouts, he ran 2:30 faster than last year. 

I am a little nervous about him running this fast this early in the season, though, and other coaches were saying things like, oh, he's training too hard and he's going to peak soon, blah blah blah.  They don't have no idea of what his training looks like, but I can see why they might think this way based on how he's running and his age. Of course I don't think this is true- he runs very easy on his easy and long days and the fastest pace I've given him is 200's at 800-1600 pace, following 6x 1000 at CV pace. His longest tempo run has been 4 miles, at just under 6 minute pace.  Mileage is about 50-55 per week. His state meet is mid November and he wants to run either Foot Locker or NXN.  He also has to race in most of the midweek meets unfortunately.  I am thinking of using the next WEdnesday meet as a tempo run followed by some hills or faster 200's.  We always make sure he runs a long warm up and cooldown on race days.  Any advice going forward?

On another happy note, our freshman son ran 18:09 yesterday- 4 seconds faster than our sophomore did last year.  :D  It's going to be a fun year!

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by kevinm » Sun Sep 22, 2013 10:12 am

Wow, that is pretty exciting!! Are you going to have hold his mileage steady for the remainder of the season? What is your plan the next couple of years regarding his mileage?

Kevin

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by ZachCC » Sun Sep 22, 2013 11:13 am

Nice Job Dad, your Son is rolling!! Sounds like you have quite a bit of control over your son's training, glad the Coach let's you. My son also Soph,  opened up with a 16:20, but between heat and virus, has struggled last two races. I am curious what a typical week looks like for your son if he has one race and also when he has two in one week. I prefer my son only races once a week, but you know tough sometimes with high school schedule. I wish all of our big races were on Sat, but we do have our County and Conference Championships on Tues and Wed.
thanks

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by gman » Sun Sep 22, 2013 11:44 am

That's a great jump.  I may soon be picking your brain to help me with my 8th grade son's training.  He is a high level soccer player but suffered a concussion a couple weeks ago and is assessing whether it's worth the risk in returning to play.  He is contemplating switching sports to XC/Track.

Anyway, I don't see anything in your son's training that would indicate he may have peaked too early.  Looks like a steady, consistent diet of endurance/stamina training w/ appropriate anaerobic work at this stage.  The mileage also seems appropriate, and if he can handle 10 mile increases the next two years, he will be around 70-75 as a senior, which is solid.

Going forward, the most important thing is to ensure is he is getting 9 or so hours of sleep/night, hydrating throughout the day, and eating a healthy diet, including lean red meat a couple times/week.

Some ancillary work to consider - at least once/week until the most important meets, it may be good to do something about his top end speed (i.e., flying 30s/short hill sprints w/ full (3'-4') recovery) and/or mobility/athleticism (i.e., agility drills, pick-up basketball/soccer, etc.).  As far as strength, if he is able with good form, maybe include in his routine, 2-3 sets of heavy weight/low rep (3-5 reps) squats/deadlifts (or power clean) with full recovery.  Back off of the top end speed/heavy weight training before the most important meets to let his nervous system recover.

As you indicated, the midweek races should be tempo runs w/ a good dynamic warm-up before and the 200s/sprints/strength training after.

Whatever you are doing is working, just keep him healthy and consistent.  Great job!

Congrats!

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by Jeff_D » Sun Sep 22, 2013 11:45 am

*Good job, Mom!! best of luck to you and your two sons. Be confident that you are doing the right training to make them peak in late October and November when it counts!

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by ap4305 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:25 pm

[quote="runthe8"]

I am a little nervous about him running this fast this early in the season, though, and other coaches were saying things like, oh, he's training too hard and he's going to peak soon, blah blah blah.  They don't have no idea of what his training looks like, but I can see why they might think this way based on how he's running and his age.
[/quote]

Nothing to be nervous about, since it doesn't sound like he's done any hyper-aggressive training.  Sounds like his body has been given exactly what he needs to allow his natural growth and ability to flourish! 

But the fact that other coaches think that such a peak is only possible through hard training is interesting...I guess they want to take credit for growth spurts that happen naturally in teenagers?  At that age, amazing things can happen when you just sprinkle in some balanced training and let nature run its course (ie, stay out of the way). 

The only thing I would add is to make sure he's prepared to realize that big jumps like this only come once or twice in a career and at some point the competition will close the gap.  He can hopefully stay ahead of the gap, but 18min to 15 min is not routine.  When that gap starts to close, many kids begin to doubt themselves, but we know objectively that 2-3 minute 5k drops don't happen at 15mins and that future jumps will come more gradually.  But kids don't always know that.... 

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by Tinman » Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:01 pm

runthe8 -

That's super! Based on our time working together, you know how to train your son over the longer term. You have nothing to worry about, in terms of peaking too soon, if you are in charge of his training.  As you know, it's wise to keep his mileage up, limit hard workouts while racing regularly, and keep the stamina/strength focus. You are wise to add just a small number of quick but not hard 200s at the end of CV or tempo workouts! It's a big deal to differentiate the traditional approach of trying to do VO2 max type workouts versus stamina workouts (CV to Tempo pace) with a small amount of speed at the end of the workout. One method burns runners out who race often, and the other method continuously builds a runners aerobic fitness, yet improves or maintains the neural side of speed, which includes relaxation and rhythm.

My suggestions:

(1) Have faith in the method you are using and never let outsiders make you worry. They are the ones that have no more than 20% of their runners reach the end of the season racing at full capacity.

(2) Keep plenty of easy mileage going throughout the season. While other coaches reduce mileage and add more quality, you should not. Their runners lose endurance and stamina (long-term and short term ability to sustain a pace), while your son will have improved ability to hold a solid/strong pace throughout races, yet still be able to have a great kick/sprint finish because he's not as tired/not as much in oxygen debt as his competitors.

(3) Pay attention to the details of your son's life. Emphasize getting sleep and not staying up late, even on weekends! Pay attention to strengthening the small muscles that make the big muscles effective. Work on hip, knee, and ankle strength and stability. Stretch often, but don't force stretches. Eat healthy foods consistently. Hydrate often! Wash hands with soap and water and use alcohol gel to kill germs, especially at school, so as to avoid illness that could derail his momentum in training and racing. Change out and rotate running shoes. Avoid running in beat up shoes, which lead to overuse injuries. Strengthen arches of feet by rolling up a towel with his bare feet.

(4) Emphasize pacing in races. It's tempting to run too fast and try to go out with the leaders who are hyped up in big races, but don't. It's fine to run quicker the first 30 seconds of a race, but settle into your average pace smoothly soon thereafter and trust that you will catch others who went out too fast. Run the last 20% of the race with full concentration and aggressiveness.

(5) Keep the pressure off! Don't think about winning, running fast times, beating certain people, and so on. Remember what Jim Ryun told me (Thomas Schwartz) back in the 1980s, when asked the question about how to run one's best at big races: "Don't think about it. Keep the pressure off." He said that athletes already put too much pressure on themselves, and the worst situation is to have people around you that force more pressure on you. When you think about the place you want to run, the time you want to run, or who you want to beat, you create a lasting and underlying anxiety. You can't relax and your body feels stressed out and you don't sleep or recover well. Take the pressure off!

Take care,

T.S.
Last edited by Tinman on Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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runthe8
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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by runthe8 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 2:59 pm

Wow, you guys made me feel better and a lot more confident.  Here are some responses to your comments...

Kevin, I don't plan to increase his mileage this season, but hold it steady.  Right now, I am not resting him before meets for the most part, though Friday I only had him run 35 minutes which was very low for him.  But he hasn't had a day off since June and mentally I thought it would be good for him since he was very focused on doing well in this particular meet.  I plan to increase his mileage next year, at least slightly, and again the following year.

Zach- On a week where we have two meets, I don't add any hard workouts, except maybe a few one minute pickups in the middle of an easy run.  I just make sure he turns the races into big mileage days with the big warm ups and cooldowns.  Here is what Drew did the week before Oatlands:
Sat:  Combo workout of 6x 1000 at CV on grass, with 200 jogs, followed by 6x 30 second hills with 1:30 jog rest.  Including warm up and cooldown, it was about 9 miles or a little more.
Sunday- easy 51 minutes
Monday-75 minutes
Tuesday- 4 mile tempo run at 5:54 pace followed by 4x 200's on track with 200 jogs, all between 31-33 seconds.  Total workout, about 9 miles
Wednesday- 6 miles easy (almost 50 minutes!)
Thursday- 43 minutes with 4x 1 min hard, 1 min easy in middle.
Friday- 35 mins plus strides on grass.
Saturday- race

I didn't like having him run the long run the day before the tempo workout but couldn't fit it in anywhere else, so the week was really front-loaded with a lot of running. We actually had a race scheduled for Wednesday but I convinced the head coach to hold out the top 5 kids so they could do the tempo work on Tuesday instead.  Both my husband and I are assistant coaches this fall and are trying to change the culture and practices of this program from one of jogging to the creek and playing ultimate frisbee and being done with practice in 45 minutes to something that will get the kids out of the bottom of the league! But with a head coach who resents us and seniors who hate that they can't jog with their friends anymore, it is not very fun right now.  But the younger kids are on board and improving.  The head coach agreed to let me write the training, but she is now trying to take back the reins from me and it is a really unpleasant power struggle right now.  I hope we make it through the season.

gman- funny you should mention the 30 meter runs- I wanted to do that about 10 days ago, before an easy run, but couldn't make it work because of our head coach.  The finishing kick is the thing Drew is lacking- I complained about this last spring too.  He just doesn't have that extra gear yet.  I'm not too worried about it but it is curious to me.  He should have more leg speed (both of his parents have good leg speed, plus he has a good vertical jump) but we just don't see him running guys down at the end yet.  As for the other stuff, Drew is the most focused kid we've ever coached.  Well, we coached Alan Webb his freshman year of HS and he was quite focused too, actually, but was quite injury prone so he couldn't train like Drew is training.  Drew eats great, mostly whole foods, low grain, grass fed meat, eggs, minimal junk food. He hydrates every day properly, sleeps about 9 hours a night etc.  His strength program doesn't include any olympic lifts except bench press which we know is completely worthless for a runner but we let him do it because it makes him happy and feel 'buff.'  He does kettlebell swings, single leg deadlifts with a kettlebell in one hand, lots of hip and glute stability/mobility work, stolen from the Oregon Project, planks, Indo board balance stuff, etc.  I like the idea of doing cleans but I don't think I could teach them properly.  Deadlifts might work.

Jeff- yes, I am the MOM.  It's lonely being one of the few females who ever post anything on the runzone!

ap- he gets the big time drop thing.  We talk about this a lot.  I think he has realistic ideas about improvement right now.

Tinman- I understand.  I definitely will not drop his mileage and start piling on the speed work.  I am fortunate that Drew is always willing to run EASY on his easy days.  He doesn't seem to have that ego problem thing that a lot of good high school boys do, turning every run into a race among teammates.  Some days he will run close to 8 minutes per mile if he's tired.  As for pacing, he is pretty good at pacing.  He has an instinctive ability to race well, it's almost weird.  And so far, he seems to enjoying the journey and not stressing about this stuff at all.

I'll keep you all posted as the season unfolds.  We will stick with what we are doing and ignore the nay-sayers.

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by jKerska » Tue Sep 24, 2013 1:36 pm

First off congrats to you and your son on his massive improvements.

There's been a lot of good information so far, I guess I'd just like to add a word of caution. With him improving so rapidly if you want to keep things rolling into November I would be careful with your usage of upper-end V02 max intervals. At a certain point improvements in a particular build-up become very difficult to maintain. Maybe as October rolls around use some workouts like; 6x800 cut-downs w/ 2 mins jog or 10x400s @ 3k/5k pace starting a rep every two minutes but alternate weeks with C.V training. A wholesale push towards race specific work could use up the rest of his adaptive energy and leave him hanging on when it matters most.

Great work and keep the RZ updated!

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by runthe8 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:39 pm

Jkerska-  We have done zero Vo2 max work.  I mean, a 5K race is fairly close- but we have done nothing like mile repeats at sub 5K pace or anything even close.  The last time he ran 6 CV 1000's I told him he could run the last one faster if he wanted, and he only did it a little faster than his first 5 reps.  I do let him run his 200's after CV or tempo at "quick and relaxed" pace which for him, is faster than mile pace right now, but probably not as quick as 800 pace.  With so many races, I just don't see where to squeeze in any VO2 work, to be honest.  I do wonder how to improve his final kick, but that seems to be the only missing piece in his racing right now.  Maybe running those cutdown 800's would help with that in the 10 days we have between his last invitational on Oct 20 and his conference meet (which will be an easy win). For now,  I think I'm just going to stick with the CV and tempo combo workouts plus the races.  I'll probably start freaking out come late October and ask for more advice at that point!

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by Spider Man » Wed Sep 25, 2013 6:29 am

runthe8

Looks as if you're doing fine as it is!

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by BoilerTom90 » Wed Sep 25, 2013 9:57 am

[quote="runthe8"]
Jkerska-  We have done zero Vo2 max work.  I mean, a 5K race is fairly close- but we have done nothing like mile repeats at sub 5K pace or anything even close.  The last time he ran 6 CV 1000's I told him he could run the last one faster if he wanted, and he only did it a little faster than his first 5 reps.  I do let him run his 200's after CV or tempo at "quick and relaxed" pace which for him, is faster than mile pace right now, but probably not as quick as 800 pace.  With so many races, I just don't see where to squeeze in any VO2 work, to be honest.  I do wonder how to improve his final kick, but that seems to be the only missing piece in his racing right now.  Maybe running those cutdown 800's would help with that in the 10 days we have between his last invitational on Oct 20 and his conference meet (which will be an easy win). For now,  I think I'm just going to stick with the CV and tempo combo workouts plus the races.  I'll probably start freaking out come late October and ask for more advice at that point!
[/quote]

I have a Freshman son running XC and he too doesn't have a big kick like many other kids do (at least those he finishes around in the races). It could be that he (like your son appears to do) just paces very well and there's not much left to kick.  His coach isn't using a Tinman approach to training. And, despite quite a bit of fast running, there's still no kick.  I'm curious what kind of athlete your son was/is in other sports? Did he have a quick first step? How about top-end speed? My theory is, and I could be all wet, is naturally slow twitch guys are always going to be limited in their kick -- that's simply not their strength.  If this is the case for your son, he'll just have to start his "kick" earlier and out run people. Take their kick out of the equation either by burning them out, or just being so far ahead they don't even attempt to outkick him.

These are great stories to read.  I even printed this out for my son to read to inspire him show him more proof of the value of Tinman style training.

Best of luck down the road. Keep us posted on  his progress!

Tom

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by Spider Man » Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:34 pm

With regard to the missing "Kick" ...

I recall a few years ago that the then Head Coach of UKA Athletics (who was from a sprints/throws background) suggested in an article in "Athletics Weekly" (UK publication) that our (UK) best endurance athletes should spend more time in the gym lifting weights etc. to develop an effective kick at the end of races ... what he was overlooking however was that most of the UK's best endurance athletes were not even there on the final lap (in International competitions) to be able to apply any kick ... it wasn't a kick they were missing but the endurance needed to be in contention on the final lap.

Many years ago, Mo (Farah) (when young) was NOT renowned for his "kick" ... developing a kick was (for Mo) the LAST piece of the jigsaw ... as it should be! ... maximizing your son's aerobic capabilities / endurance / stamina is the job at hand ... finding a "kick" should be the last of your worries at this stage of his career. 

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by runthe8 » Wed Sep 25, 2013 9:19 pm

BoilerTom- Drew was a multi-sport athlete before becoming a runner, mostly basketball and baseball.  Always one of the top kids, speed-wise,  compared to most of his teammates over the years.  Definitely not a slow twitcher. While he was always one of the fastest kids once he got going, he was not necessarily the "quickest", and not powerful (he's lanky.) Very coordinated though, and a good all-around athlete.  I think eventually he will have that finishing speed, but he just doesn't right now, and it's not like we are focusing on speed development at all right now.  I just wonder if there are little things he could do to work on it.

Spider Man- I will tell Drew about Mo Farah.  That will encourage him.  And I know from personal experience that no matter how good your top speed is, if there is nothing left in the tank at the end of the race, you aren't going to be able to use that speed!

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Re: From 18:15 5K to 15:45 in one year, same course

Post by gman » Thu Sep 26, 2013 2:25 am

I would guess most of the boys who are "outkicking" your son are older/more mature physically (almost done with growth spurts) compared to your son.  They are stronger, so greater stride length.  At this stage, the main purpose for speed development should be to improve running economy and neuromuscular coordination/efficiency and recruitment.  Again, doing 2-3 days/week of heavy weight/low rep relative strength training/full recovery and a weekly session (at most every 10-14 days) of no more than 300m worth of 20m-60m hill/flat sprints, ?barefoot on grass? (not necessarily 100% but fast enough to get the fast twitchers recruited; not stride speed, either) with full recovery should help running economy, top end speed, etc., and over time make him more injury resistant.  Really, no need to do more advanced plyo (power) work until he starts to level out his strength gains (a limited amount of hops/jumps/bounds is probably ok but not essential at this stage, just watch reactions carefully to plyo work and build gently).

Yes, like others have said, probably no need to worry too much about his "kick".  His speed will improve on its own just by him growing/filling out.  It's maybe not necessary to overemphasize speed development for a distance runner.  However, I think some speed development work should be done most of the year.  Due to the alactic nature of this training, it should not take much, if anything, away from his other training.  To be safe, maybe start with hill sprints for a few weeks before incorporating flat sprints.  Also, just back off speed development training before important races to ensure no CNS fatigue. 

Anecdotally, I have incorporated a similar set-up in slightly less volume in my son's training and  have seen significant increases in my son's speed/strength, albeit he is a soccer player. 
Last edited by gman on Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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