- All training components are important
- Plan your training with the race in mind, not the other way around
In one of his articles, Lydiard (or it might have been his disciple Nobby), clearly advise that even when your training is interrupted before a race you don't extend the phase you're currently in: You move on.
The reason is that while aerobic fitness, for instance, is the most important component of training, a top performance requires you to work all systems. The Lydiard progression is very simple: You move from endurance (marathon conditioning, 10-20 weeks), to strength (hill work, 4 weeks), to anaerobic capacity (anaerobic/track work, 4 weeks) to coordination/speed training (sharpening work, 4). Then you maintain with a program similar to the coordination training until your peak race. If you peak race is particularly gruelling you insert anything from 1-3 weeks of gradual taper.
With Snowdon falling on the 24/07 this year, I started counting backwards: Because I wanted to ensure I was fully developed, not just aerobically, I left in the full 4 weeks for hill work, 4 for anaerobic, and 4 for peaking with the two weeks up to Snowdon being slightly easier "taper". My dream of a consistent 3 month aerobic marathon conditioning, is long gone, but by the time I recovered enough to do reasonable mileage, there was still time for 6 weeks of aerobic conditioning. This isn't quite enough to build a new spectacular peak, but for a person with reasonable aerobic development like me, it could just about create a solid foundation for a short summer season.
The mistake in this case, would have been to insist on min. 10 weeks, thus losing 4 weeks off either Hill, Anaerobic, or Coordination training. While the added aerobic capacity would have had its uses, it would have created several limitations on my hill racing, for instances: Ability to change "gears" would be limited, finishing sprint would be weaker, shorter races would significantly harder than longer, pain threshold would be lower, mental confidence would be lower when anaerobic intensity sets in, and finally I would lack sharpness in all the key details that can decide a race - fast downhilling, pace judgement, and other technical aspects.
They say one aspect of long aerobic training (for me practically since August, although broken by two serious injuries) is that the eventual boredom makes you really excited about the harder work ahead, whereas doing it year-round just makes you stale. I concur with this, and certainly get excited at the thought of the sessions and trials ahead.