RACES: Steady runs and races every day…

Since a few days before the birth of our first-born (Cillian Borg) I have been implementing Arthur Lydiard’s ‘forgotten phase’ focused on establishing your current CAPABILITY.

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Establishing myself!

Lydiard’s ‘Forgotten Phase’

This means steady-state runs daily but rather than doing them all as Out & Back, I use a variety of different format including Keith Livingstone’s ‘Circuit Run’ and my own  ‘Up and Down’.

I have turned this into a mantra: CAPABILITY-CAPACITY-ABILITY. That means: first you find your capability to train, then you build up your capacity to train and then you create your ability to race on top of that.

The ‘capability’ phase is really Lydiard’s ‘forgotten phase’ that most people rush past and which he described this way:

imageFirst you have to find your own basic capability. The best way to do this is run an out-and-back course for, say, 30 minutes. Run out for 15 minutes at a steady pace; then turn and run back again, trying to maintain that pace without forcing yourself. If it takes you 20 minutes to get back, it shows you've run the outward leg too fast for your condition If you're back inside 15 minutes without apparently increasing your effort, you haven't run fast enough to begin with. Next time, you should adjust your pace according to your insights about your condition and capability, so that you return in the same time as the outward journey. It's good discipline , and that's something you have acquire early because you're going to need a lot of it later."

We name this the ‘Fundamental’ phase in the ChampionsEverywhere coaching system because it is the word that best captures what you are putting in place (knowing your own capability is fundamental just as its fundamental to have the criteria in place described by running coach Lee Saxby – properly functioning feet etc. But that’s another article).


The ChampionsEverywhere Coaching system ©

The results – ‘better than steady’

Results have been pretty spectacular just by looking at three courses I regularly use:

  • The Oldbridge Road: undulating roads from my house towards Laragh and back
  • The Lough Dan Road: very steep road run towards Lough Dan and back
  • Lower Lake Circuit: The undulating circuit on boardwalks and the Green Road at Glendalough (a standard workout for our club)

Plotted out in a chart each run has seen a drastic decrease in pace at the same heart rate and perceived intensity:


My athlete Amidou Dembele is doing even better completing 10 mile Out and Backs daily at a pace of 4:16 to 4:22. He had time to win Hell and Back this weekend too and will be guest presenter at our Trail Running workshop in Wicklow this weekend. With Jason Kehoe also presenting that means two of the country’s finest descenders are there so it is not an event to miss if you’re serious about becoming a better downhiller.

Wicklow Road Racing – perfect training

I have also decided to throw in every tough road race in Wicklow that comes my way since the courses keep speed down anyway and I find it very entertaining. I have a lot of race experience to catch up on so these races are very good.

I had a good run-out in the very hilly Rathdrum 6 km race. I prefer these courses early season because they kill your speed ensuring the race stays as a ‘workout’ and not an ‘all-out’ performance. This was reflected in my heart rate of 173 which is low for a 6 km race. the race took off with a new Parnell AC runner leading out from Mick Byrne who would eventually strike back on the finish line to win by 1 second.

Midway through the race leading junior Dylan Tarmey reeled me in and went past with conviction. I had a suspicion he might have moved too early so decided to tail him on the descent. To my surprise he had no problems staying ahead. I stayed close and on the next descent I noticed he couldn’t keep ahead so put in an extra push on the climb to make life as tough as possible for him. By the top of the climb I was well clear and chasing down 4th and 5th place. I put about a minute between myself and Dylan by the finish line but could not quite improve my 6th position.

Roundwood 2 mile

In the Roundwood 2 mile the following week positions were reversed with young Dylan putting almost a minute into me over the 2 miles which was some turn-around. Part of the explanation is of course current lack of form – 3 years ago I was finishing 10 km races at the same pace as this or running the last 2 miles of a half-marathon quicker. It will come back.

I am currently training straight through every race doing a strong steady run almost every day – for 18 days out of the last 22 which included the days I had to take off while Aoife gave birth to Cillian!

Once again 176 was a very low heart rate for a 2 mile showing that the current steady state and training keeps the ‘lid on’ me for the moment. My first goal is to restore my old ‘steady state’ so I can do 4:40-4:50 min/km pace easily and then extend that back out to 90-150 minutes runs. At that stage I will know that I am in the condition to race at my best level. At current rate of progress it might take 3-6 months to get there.

Some added bonuses – Marathon workshop

I have had time for coaching work too: This weekend I delivered a ‘Marathon Workshop - A ‘how to’ presentation based on the principles of history’s most successful coaches’ in Dungarvan for West Waterford AC where I showed some of the results we have been having with putting athletes on a steady diet of ‘Out and Backs’ and ‘Circuit Runs’.

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I have been working as ‘distance head coach’ for the West Waterford AC club since January now with the extremely proficient local oversight and leadership provided by Irene Clark.

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Next week I plan on racing both the Invitational Mile on Tuesday and the Trail Mile on Thursday and there will be a second edition of my Marathon workshop in Lynham’s of Laragh on Saturday 27th from 10:30 to 15:00.

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I don’t like to blow my own trumpet TOO LOUDLY (happy to blow it a bit!) but the feedback I got back included the below so don’t be afraid it’ll be a rehash of ‘same old, same old’ and a waste of your time:

  • ‘Excellent presenter’
  • ‘Could listen to him all day’
  • ‘A blend of old school running and modern thinking’
  • ‘Highly informative’
  • ‘Food for thought’
  • ‘Brilliant workshop’
  • ‘Now I know what I am doing wrong....everything!’
  • ‘Realise now what’s ahead of me’