Going into the new season's planning phase I had the unenviable task of balancing the amount of mileage I need to do in order to prepare properly for Pike's Peak with the caution needed to not aggravate the remnants of my metatarsel problem.
So I put a bit of creative stew in the old brain pot and left it to simmer as I entered different scenarios into my favourite brainstorming tool: Mighty Excel 2010. I found myself pleased with the end result: Behold Conservative Lydiardism a master-piece of old dictum combined with the safety valve of periodisation.
And it entails, you ask? Firstly, I wanted to maintain the core principles that I have come to believe in from the Lydiard Principles: A long base phase and high mileage. To this effect I decided to build up at least another 15 weeks of base conditioning, let's look at the reasoning.
My 6 fantastic weeks of training during my first Lydiard experiment were brutally cut short by injury and resulted in the following 6 weeks only having 313km as their end-product, little quality, and two weeks almost completely off running.
While its unknown how much fitness I lost during those 6 weeks, Lydiard recommends at least 20 weeks. I perused next year's calendar and realised I would need to start in mid-April and not culminate until late August.
This is too long to hold a peak so I decided to push the base phase as far into the year as possible and then complete the Hill, Anaerobic and Peaking phase during the next 16 weeks (4 cycles of 4). This leaves me with 13 weeks of pure racing (whilst I actually race every week) before I drop off and rebuild for the cross-country season after Pike's Peak.
In total this will have given me a 28 week base phase (including 6 poor weeks) and I am hoping that will be just about enough. However, the weekly long run I must do year-round must be done slavishly as it will be the main instrument of maintaining aerobic fitness during the Summer period.
Picking the Right Volume
I still believe beyond doubt that the 10.5 hour target I had set for myself is the correct volume for the challenges ahead. I believe this more so with an eye on Pike's Peak were I have to bring my energy-efficiency into a whole new realm or suffer the consequences. As always there is only one way to achieve this: Huge aerobic loads.
I chose 360 minutes per week as my new starting point, 30 minutes lower than my last starting point and instead of 9 week ramp-up to the goal of 630, I will be using a total of 16 weeks.
Every fourth week I "periodise" meaning I take the volume from week 1 of the cycle and subtract 10 minutes. This means week 1 of every 4 week cycle is always easier. The new cycle starts off 30 minutes higher than the highest point of the previous cycle.
This system allows me to hit 630 minutes by week 15 after which I periodise in week 16 with 560 minutes before entering the four week hill phase and moving on in my training. This will mean 16 weeks with an estimated 1400-1500km covered (an average of somewhere between 88km and 94km per week depending on pace and starting just below 70 and peaking at around 116km).
Throughout the base phase I'll follow Lenihan's Wisdom: More than two hill runs per week makes you slow. So I will stick to two but I'll make best use of them. One will be very long (starting around 90 minutes building up to 4 hours by week 15). This is the main bread-and-butter aerobic run but with plenty of hill conditioning in it.
The second will be a shorter run but on an long intense slope which I will run at strong effort (marathon to 10k intensity) to really build uphill strength. This must be accompanied with hill drills and weights during the base phase. Apart from this all other runs will be at a steady aerobic pace except for one session of marathon to half-marathon pace effort on the flat when the strength is there.
This will be the main difference between my current approach and the previous: I've upped the speed of my aerobic efforts a little bit bringing me closer to Lydiard's ideal. I've already tested this in the first week as I did my three 10k road runs in 4:41-4:48 pace and today's 14k hill run (7k down into Clara Vale, 7k back up) at 5:13 pace.
If I find the volume drops my training pace too far down in later weeks, I may lower my volume target this year in the interest of keeping a slightly higher intensity.
Any less than this and I won't be ready come the 22nd of August, my legs will simply be too weak to cope with 21.46km of high-altitude climbing. A punishing programme to be sure, but the right one to my mind and something to get started at.