When routinely asked by inquiring minds what part of the training program is the most important, the great Arthur Lydiard would simply reply with one word; "Everything." The strengths of a great coach like Arthur Lydiard is in his ability to step way back and take a look at the whole picture. He didn't get blinded by tunnel vision.
Arthur Lydiard also paid attention to timing. Although he thought everything in a perfect race build up was equally valuable, he very much understood the time spent in each phase of training was important. He often spoke of aerobic work as step one and took no short cuts in developing it. The result was athletes so robust that when they did interject higher intensity speed work they were seemingly bulletproof, and could handle the higher stress state of training without getting injured or burnt out.
Fortunately for me as a coach, Daniel has done his homework far before we met one another. With years of aerobic development under his belt, I have been given a framework in which the majority of the aerobic development phase had been already placed. With this scenario we simply needed to do some fine tuning and begin to interject some key stimulus efforts to maximize Daniel's overall running economy.
We began Daniel's training by skewing more of his base miles towards his maximum aerobic function. Previously, Daniel typically spent about half his time in this state. He spent the other half of the time doing lower intensity "recovery" sessions and a few "hard" efforts mainly through racing shorter distance events between 4-10 miles. We began by lowering his overall volume a bit to allow for the slight bump in overall heart rate during what I prescribed as base runs. Daniel is no stranger to peak training weeks near 100 miles, so we started lower at around 7-8 hours (approximately 70 miles), and built up to around 10 hours (approximately 90 miles) during his first month of training.
As Daniel began to progress in this department we explored his lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) using Joel Friel's 30 minute time trial method. This data will help us determine training intensity and give us a metric to tie to Daniel's rate of perceived effort (RPE). As a coach, I don't want to read into any one metric too far, but like many things, the more data points for me to refer back to the better I can gauge a clients response to work and recovery.
Daniel had an average of approximately 185 beats per minute during the last 20 minutes of his time trial. Going forward we will use this number in correlation with his RPE to monitor intensity and recovery. As we get closer to his goal race, we will begin to include what I would call spear sharpening workouts.
Since Daniel is peaking for a 100 kilometer race (The British Athletics National 100k Road Race Championships), race day intensity will help determine what types of workouts we prioritize as well as their frequency. Given the relatively low intensity of a race that covers 100 kilometers, when compared to sub marathon intensities, we will continue to put a great deal of focus on race specific intensities. The benefit of incorperating some workouts well above race pace (spear sharpening) is to increase running economy just in time for his race.
Part of the coaching/cleint relationship is looking at lifestyle, stress in and outside of training, goals, etc... and weighing these variables in a way to find the best path for an individual. Since Daniel enjoys racing shorter distance events as well as ultra marathon distances we will use some of these shorter distance races as high(er) intensity efforts. Confidence and enjoyment in the process is a huge variable in my opinion, so why not capitalize on this aspect of Daniel's life!