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Super Half - Post Race Analysis

After a race, regardless of the outcome, it is time to sit down a look at the training - what went right, what didn't work and what needs adjusting moving forward. It's not the race report from the athlete - it's looking at the performance and how the training affected the ability to execute the plan. I've posted my race report for the Super Half on my blog like any athlete would. This is the coaching analysis - a good hard look, removed from the emotion of the race performance. For running, there are a few key things that I like looking at when reviewing a training plan - volume, intensity and frequency. Overall, the training was spot on for my goals as an athlete, but there are a few issues that will be addressed for the next running event.

Volume - volume or weekly mileage is often considered key when it comes to endurance running. As a coach, building the volume is also one of the trickier aspects. Too fast and the risk of injury greatly increases. Too slow and you might not have the base upon which to develop speed when needed. For the Super Half, I did focus mostly on getting the volume back up to about 40 miles a week. Not much but running standards, but it was also balanced out with focused cycling workouts. Instead of a run to just get the miles, I would have a bike ride scheduled. It was harder this year to get the running volume back to where I wanted it as I was starting with a much lower base. Every year removed from my marathons, I've had to work more and be more careful with building that base back up. Upon reviewing my training leading into the half marathon, I did a good job of increasing the weekly mileage slowly but steadily. I also kept the weekly mileage balance between endurance runs, speed work and long runs. The percentage of weekly mileage devoted to the long run was a little high in the peak weeks, with 35% of my mileage in the long run. Part of that is because I didn't do any recovery runs - substituting in the bike rides instead. The biggest issue with increasing the volume was the low base I was starting with and making sure that I didn't flare up the Achilles issues I'd been dealing with earlier in the year. As a coach, I will be addressing that by keeping the weekly volume higher over the course of the next season, even as I transition back to a cycling focused summer.
Intensity - Speed work. I've always said that in order to race fast, you have to be able to run fast. But in order to run fast, you must have the base of running to prepare the legs for the efforts at speed and the mechanics for running fast. There is a fine line between the two and I chose to err on the side of endurance over speed for this race. Starting with a lower base then I'd wanted meant it was harder to balance the speed workouts with the endurance work. The cycling helps with the endurance, but not with the specificity of running speed. Looking back at the training leading into the Super Half, there are definitely some things that I can address and improve upon when it comes to speed. I was only doing two speed workouts a week - one focused on threshold work and the other on top end speed. It would have been better to have two top end focused workouts and then incorporate the threshold work into one of the other runs during the week. That way the mechanics of running fast would have become smoother and I would have been prepared to run faster than goal time. With the limited running and increased cycling volume, I wasn't doing any recovery runs. Every run needed to have a specific purpose and sometimes I wasn't following that guideline. For next year, assuming that I maintain a stronger base, keeping in some top end speed workouts will help address the difficulty I had finding that extra gear.
Frequency - not only is the weekly volume important, but the number of times you are running during that week. If the miles are all contained in three or four runs, then the risk of injury is much higher. That is why most training plans specific for running events have five to six days of running built in. But with someone like me, who wants to be able to run well over the winter, but also has an early season mountain bike race, it can be harder to balance. The risk of overtraining trying to maintain the frequency in both sports is high and so the coach needs to be very aware of how the athlete is feeling and recovering from both volume and intensity. I still needed to keep quality cycling specific workouts on the training plan, even as the attention focused on the half marathon. The recovery runs that help build the weekly volume and strengthen the base were supplemented by cycling workouts instead. My running frequency going into the Super Half was generally five runs per week - one long run, two speed days and two other runs. With the cycling, there was no need for a sixth run - I was getting cardiovascular benefits from the cycling in addition to the low impact training. Overall, that frequency worked well for me and allowed me to continue with higher level cycling.
Moving forward? The focus shifts to the next race - the True Grit 50 MTB race in St George, UT. Time to start addressing the cycling aspects of my training - both physical and technical.