SmartCoach Pacing

Q&As with Amby Burfoot

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18/10/2007 at 14:35

Responding to Wild Will on're not just wild, you're tough too. I actually think overdistance is often counter-productive. And believe me, I've done a lot of overdistance and learned the hard way.

We distance runners are so damn tough and disciplined that of course we like to do more than we need to, ie, overdistance. It's admirable to be tough and disciplined. But overdistance is also a big stress; it can increase injury risk, and that's something SC would like to avoid.

SmartCoach tries to find a moderate balance of distance, tempo, and speed. SC wants to be an efficient training program. It wants to help you improve with a minimum of miles and effort, not a maximum. It can do this because of the combination of "science" and "collective wisdom" that I keep referring to. Neither of those is a totally precise term. But they form the very basis of SmartCoach, and I think it's a good foundation. 

18/10/2007 at 14:36

Hi Amby

 I am quite new to running and have been using the Smartcoach to train for a 10k in November. The only area where I am confused with is how do I work out, from the training times, a realistic race day pace as presumably my fitness will increase if I stick to the plan?  

WildWill    pirate
18/10/2007 at 14:37
cheers again
18/10/2007 at 14:40

Responding to Dib... that's a great question, and you're right that SC doesn't provide the answer. So I'll take a whack at it.

In your first races, you should simply aim to start at what feels like a comfortable pace. You'll probably go out too fast anyway, so the more you hold yourself back, the better. In the first mile, you need to keep saying, "Take it easy. Take it easy. Take it easy." After a mile or so, your body will tell you what to do. But don't force it. Stay as relaxed as possible. You should be running hard-but-controled. You shouldn't feel massively out of breath.

The only way to learn racing is to race. And you'll learn quickly. Everyone does. The good news is, after a race or two, you'll be able to refine your SmartCoach training plans to get them exactly on target for your fitness. 

flyaway    pirate
18/10/2007 at 14:42

Hi Amby,

Out of interest, I plugged in the data for marathon training on a 16 week plan. The result looked sensible, but there was no optional inclusion of half marathon races as part of the build-up. Last time i trained for a marathon, my schedule included 3 or 4 HMs (one of which I had to miss as i wasnt well) and I found them to be extremely effective. The schedule tended to say things like "15miles or HM race" which I found to be approximatley equal in terms of effort. For me, 16 weeks is a long time to go without any races which may help boost morale, or simply fulfill someone's club responsibilities. Any possibilty of a later version including this feature?


18/10/2007 at 14:43
Hi I've just completed a SC 11 week training programme for a half marathon which i followed almost to the letter except i was much faster than expected on both tempo and speed interval runs.  Was i doing the programme correctly being 50 seconds per mile faster than recommended on tempo?  Then when it came to the race i knocked 8 minutes off my PB but came in 4 minutes slower than my target time on SC.  There seems to be a mismatch in the paces that you train at and then all of a sudden on race day you are expected to pick up the pace by up to and over a minute per mile for 13.1 miles on race day?  How do you explain this?
18/10/2007 at 14:46

Hello Amby, I would like to start training for ultra distance races (30-50miles) in about 12-14 months time, any plans for increasing SC to these distances?

Also, I like hills and race hilly races, but there are no dedicated hill-sessions. What kind of ratio would be ideal  for a moderate marathon schedule - every other speedwork for example (I'm in it for fun and not serious competetion)?

many thanks, H. 

18/10/2007 at 14:46

Thanks for that - I will give your advice a try!

 I have found that SC has introduced me to different types of training which has been very motivating and there has been definate improvement.

18/10/2007 at 14:47

Responding to flyaway on races during training...I agree. Races can be very important. SC doesn't know when its users have an opportunity to find a good race, so it wasn't able to say something like "Run the Great North" or anything like that. Also, people will use it at all different seasons of the year.

I agree also that the longer your buildup program, the more you will need a couple of races for motivation, checking up on progress, etc. A note on races: I believe the race should have a very specific purpose. Either use it as a sort of tempo run for a hard, steady effort. Or take a decent taper, and run a fast race.

I don't like it when people run races that they haven't tapered for, and then get injured or discouraged by the results. I've done that too often myself. Treat races with respect.  

18/10/2007 at 14:47
Just to add another question.  If you are doing 80% of training at 10.25min/mile does your body not get used to this pace making a target pace of 9min/mile on race day rather difficult?
18/10/2007 at 14:51

Responding to Rover on irregular training and racing paces...hard for me to answer without knowing what you input to SC. No way you should have been able to do tempo runs at 50 seconds per mile faster than recommended. And the interval days should have been quite demanding also.

You got the PB anyway but are disappointed that you didn't run even faster??? Okay, I'm a little confused, sorry. I can only suggest that you do another good buildup to your next race, and I hope you have another PB.

Try several different inputs on SC just to be sure you're getting the precise one you want. Oh, and SC does believe you can run faster than expected on race day with taper, fluid stops, competiton...all the good stuff. 

18/10/2007 at 14:54

Responding to heraroja...SC has received other queries like this. I don't think SC will be producing ultra running programs for some time. I'm not sure there's much science to ultra running. Just putting in the time/distance.

But you raise a VERY important point about hills. I think hills can be a big factor in training programs, and in improving race times.

Of course, every hill in the world is a different length and incline--as opposed to standard 400m training tracks--so SC doesn't really know how to give hill advice.

But run hills, run hills, run hills. They improve power, strength, economy, just about everything.

18/10/2007 at 14:55
I put in my 54 minutes for a 10k, the latest race time i had - up unitil my 1hour 56 half marathon.  No i was very happy with my time but am just confused at the difference between training paces and expected race pace.
18/10/2007 at 14:56
That gave me tempo runs at 8.58 when i did them at 8min/mile - so where did i go wrong?  Was 54 minutes for a 10k underperforming for me?
18/10/2007 at 14:58
And if i put in 1 hour 56 in now it gives me a tempo pace of 8.36
18/10/2007 at 14:58

Responding to Rover Queen about 80 percent paces...well, I guess I would say that an 80 percent pace tells your body it still has 20 percent in reserve for going faster. I don't mean that to be a smart-ass answer. MUCH research has shown that endurance athletes in different sports all do about 80 percent of their training at an easy, relaxed pace. Yet they can compete much faster.

That's because they reserve 20 percent of their training for more specific, and often faster paces. This is what SmartCoach does too.

Most runners don't have to worry that they're doing too much easy, slow running. They might have to worry that they're running too fast on easy days. And also that they're not  doing enough tempo and interval running at appropriate paces.

18/10/2007 at 14:59

Thanks for joining in the discussion...I gotta go off to my real job.

Good luck with all your training. I hope you keep using SmartCoach, and discussing the outcome on your Forums. 

18/10/2007 at 15:00
it's good to know this amby. i thought it was more competitive to aim for a greater time cut, thus pushing yourself harder, as 5% doesn't seem that much, but i am only competing with myself, so this would still be good.

one more question, if i may, when you ran the boston marathon, did you know you were going to win?
18/10/2007 at 15:01

then on race day i'm expected to do 8.06 per mile for 13.1 - what i'm saying is should i not be training at race pace?

Daniel Benson.    pirate
18/10/2007 at 15:05
Amby, thanks for such a useful Q&A session.

Guys, if you have any more questions about the training tool then post them here and we'll answer them as soon as we can.


Daniel RW
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