Monday, November 10, 2008

Daniels for IM

“Ignorant people see life as either existence or non-existence, but wise men see it beyond both existence and non-existence to something that transcends them both; this is an observation of the Middle Way.”

From the times of Zatopek and Lydiard, there have remained 2 basic schools to endurance training – the ‘far before fast’ school (Lydiard, Viren, Seiko etc) and the ‘fast before far’ school (Zatopek, Peters, Pirie etc).

Advocates of the latter school have often claimed that the athlete who is most successful at the shorter distances will ultimately prove most successful at the longer distances. With the recent marathon success of athletes such as Haile Gebresellassie (an athlete with a sub 3:50mile best), it is hard to argue with this perspective.

One modern day exponent of this approach is the man pictured above, the ‘Godfather’ of modern day distance running, Mr. Jack Daniels. In fact, Daniels has gone so far as to draw up mathematical predictive tables that estimate what an athlete will run for the longer distances based on what they are able to do over the short. In the triathlon world, a similar approach has been used by Hunter Kemper’s coach, Mr George Dallam.

A number of somewhat less astute Ironman coaches have proposed a similar relationship for Ironman racing e.g. ‘give me an athletes 40K time & I’ll tell you what their IM split will be’. The reason that this approach is far less accurate/predictive for Ironman is that it crosses physiological systems. Let me elaborate by presenting a table from Australian physiologist John Hawley, that shows the ergogenesis (source of energy contribution) of different events.

You can clearly see that for the performance durations that Daniels tables are looking to predict, i.e. 4min to 2hr, there is a very high contribution given by one energy system – the aerobic glycolytic system, with 81-92% of energy demands of a mile (a 4 minute event) to a half marathon (a 1 hour event) made up from this energy system.

However, given the fact that success in Ironman events (and for most folks, Half Ironman events) is more dependent on aerobic lipolytic power (i.e. ‘fat burning’ than it is on aerobic glycolytic power, using durations that represent close to 100% glycolytic contribution as predictors is subject to a good deal of error.

Rather than relying on performance in aerobic glycolytic events exclusively, a better prediction can be gained by looking at this number along with a representative measure of the athletes aerobic lipolytic power, i.e. training performance over long sessions and over the course of the training week. In this way, the Daniels tables can be modified to better represent equivalent performance standards for IM.

In studying data from a number of ultra runners and ultra-distance triathletes, I have found that the relationship between short distance performance and Ironman performance is not a natural logarithmic function as postulated by the Daniels model, but rather a curvilinear function with a modified ‘tail’ due to the increased contribution from alternative energy production mechanisms, i.e. aerobic lipolysis, or ‘fat burning’.

In the Ironman world, knowing one point on the curve, as Daniels suggests is not sufficient to predict performance. Even knowing 2 points on the curve, as Dallam suggests is insufficient. While the power of the athletes aerobic glycolytic energy system certainly plays a part, to create an accurate model of Ironman performance, it is important to know how the athlete performs not just in the glycolytic energy systems, but also the lipolytic.

This difference in the nature of the curve for a large data sample of Ultra distance athletes vs. Long distance athletes is shown below.

The gap between the red line and the blue line is indicative of the extra fat burning capacity required by athletes who participate in ultra-distance events.

In a practical sense, this information can be used to modify Daniels’ original running formula to ensure that appropriate attention is being given to both the aerobic glycolytic and aerobic lipolytic energy systems and that the Ironman athletes development is progressing in a ‘balanced’ way.

In terms of periodization and actual programming, this table can be used as a ‘checklist’ where the athlete achieves each of the performance standards in each fitness row before moving on to the next fitness level. To ensure that the athlete has an appropriate level of ‘far’ and ‘fast’ at any point in his/her training development.

So, without further ado….

Here is a scaled down version of Daniels original table:

Daniels Original Tables

And a modified version in accordance with ultra-distance athletes relative strength over the longer durations of the curve.

Daniels for IM

The ‘tipping point’ between the two tables occurs in between the Threshold and Marathon Pace categories, i.e. the point where fat oxidation begins to make a significant contribution to the energy demands of the event.

In addition to the practical applicability of these tables, some sports scientists have suggested that the ergogenesis table listed above can be used as a good starting point to determining % weekly breakdown during the specific preparation period (Bompa, 1998). In other words, for an event that is 50% lipolytic and 50% glycolytic, half of the weekly sessions should be at or slower than Half IM effort, while the remaining 50% should be in the glycolytic range (5K pace to Threshold efforts). This approach makes logical sense and has a good deal of ‘real world’ support from athletes like Seb Coe, whose 800m (~2min duration) specific training was broken down into 60% aerobic/40% anaerobic sessions (Coe, 1991)

In a previous blog (Big A’s Dojo), I had presented some general recommendations as to appropriate levels of performance for the various physiological systems that indicate a generally balanced development. For the Ultra-distance athlete, these can be (slightly) modified as follows in accordance with the above tables.

Yellow Belt (VDOT 45-50):
- A 30mi (flat) run week in less than 4:36
- The ability to execute a functional strength routine with good form and optimal range of motion
- The ability to do 6x200m strides (pain free) in <50s/200
(Total Glycolytic=0% of weekly total)

Blue Belt (VDOT 50-55):
- A 40mi (flat) run week in less than 5:24 including:
- A 14mi long run in less than 2hrs
- 6x200m strides in less than 46s/200
- 6x1mi intervals in less than 7:00/mi w/1min rest
(Total Glycolytic = ~15% of weekly total)

Black Belt (VDOT 55-60):
- A 50mi (flat) run week in less than 6:30 including:
- A 20mi long run w/7mi @ MP in less than 2:40
- 6x200m strides in less than 42s/200
- 6x1mi intervals in less than 6:20 w/1min rest
- 4x1200’s @ 9:00 w/a 800 jog in less than 4:30/1200
(Total Glycolytic = ~30% of weekly total)

You will see that the above provides practical recommendations in accordance with appropriate strengths and weaknesses and the ergogenesis of the event(s). For athletes whose race duration is in and around 12hrs, the contribution of energy via glycolysis is negligible and therefore almost ALL training for athletes with a base training pace of >9:00/mile should be focused on improving the athletes lipolytic capacity (slower than marathon pace training).

As athletes get progressively faster and the glycolytic component increases, the need for marathon pace and faster than marathon pace training increases. However, even for speedy athletes or short course specialists, the amount of glycolytic training that the athlete can tolerate is directly affected by their ability to spare glycogen via fat-burning. For that reason, achieving the long duration benchmarks during the early season is always the first priority.

As Peter Coe points out in his landmark book “Better Training for Distance Runners”, these relative performance tables can not only point out relative weaknesses that should be given attention during the specific preparatory phase of training, but they can also provide useful information as to what event the athlete is best suited to. If, after a prolonged period of attention, the athlete still has a hard time hitting the relative performance levels of a balanced Ironman athlete, they may find greater success in events that better fit their natural energetic balance (e.g. short course racing or ultradistance/adventure racing). That is one of the great things about the diversity of sport. If you look hard enough, we all have a particular sport or event that was created for someone (and probably by someone) just like you. The trick is getting to know yourself as an athlete well enough to find it.

Train smart.



mat jude said...

Hi AC, what is the best way to increase run frequency as I understand this will lead to run durability? Currently using Daniel's running formula, swallowed my ego and I am starting on the white plan. I am about to start regular strength training too, should I stick to the first four weeks of the white plan and just add in more back to back running days as my load weeks or just stick to running 3 days per week till I get to the red plan ??

Any advice would be great as I am prone to injury particularly overuse repetitive strain type,

thanks again AC keep up the fantastics posts!!


Alan Couzens said...

Hey Mat,

IMHO, run frequency (somewhat paradoxically) is one of the keys to getting over your run injury issues.

The amount of your activity that should be devoted to running is related to:

1. Your range of motion
2. Your fitness

When either are limiting, I would encourage a daily mix of walking, jogging and functional strength training in accordance with your tolerance. With this mix of 3, you may wind up starting with the same amount of running time as you would use on the 3xwk Daniels plan but it will be spread across more days.

An hour a day keeps the Doctor away :-)



Gordo Byrn said...

My training data fits your article -- you should seek a wider audience and get some smart PhDs to offer you comments/guidance. I think that you are onto something here.


Alan Couzens said...

Thanks G.

Might be time to fire off an email to Tim Noakes.

I'd like to get some smart folks from both sides of the equation (scientists and athletes) to contribute snippets and inspiration for the book. Can't think of a better starting point.



-Brandon said...

Good post. To further link it to your other posts with the various 'belts' of training...would you stack all of the 3 sports together over a week or would you use the 10-14 day cycle that you've talked about before in structuring an IM week?

Alan Couzens said...

Hey Brandon,

2 ways to look at that.

In terms of metabolic fitness an Ironman athlete should have the ability to execute a balanced S/B/R week anchored around the run volumes mentioned.

However, this doesn't mean that it is something they should do every week. For most folks, dropping the stronger sport back to a maintenance level for a good chunk of their microcycles will be needed to make it realistically work within the rest of their lives. A 15k swim, 200mi bike, 40mi run week is a lot to ask of an MOP working athlete on a consistent basis.



Ale Martinez said...

Alan, can you reference the source of Hawley's ergogenesis table ?
Do you know if the subjects were feed with CHO or not ?

My questions arise because in Physiological Bases of Sports Performance Haregreaves and Hawley cited a graph from this paper ( showing a much lower fat contribution when the subjects cycling at VO2peak were feeded with 1 l/h of 8% CHO solution up to 4hr (max 25%).

Thanks for your posts and best regards, Ale.

Alan Couzens said...

Hey Ale,

The table was cited by Graeme Maw in a presentation on the physiological implications of training distance swimmers. I would have to double check but I have a feeling it may have come from the 1995 paper by Hawley and Hopkins.

That said, the figures in the paper that you provided are more representative of what we are seeing with individuals of average fitness in the lab. At half-IM intensities, a 75/25 split would probably be more common. However, a number of elite athletes that we have tested are closer to the 50/50split.

No doubt, glucose feeding would have a large impact on this 4hrs of water alone and most folks would be closer to the 50/50 albeit at a reduced intensity :-)

Best regards,


George Dallam said...

Interesting discussion. I often wonder if we've overemphasized the independent nature of the metabolic pathways in trying to understand how to train more effectively. After all they aren't really independently operating systems but simply integrated parts of the same system. My observation that one can estimate various race distance performances based on current performance in at least two shorter distances presumes the application of an natural log relationship which individualizes to each individuals consistent loss in power/velocity curve with a doubling in event length. This is calculated by the loss in velocity or power across the two test differences regardless of length and then extrapolated across longer distances. This differs from the traditional view that one can apply a single function to describe all athletes. Even within an individual athlete this relationship changes as different proportions of training intensity are included in the overall training program. Consequently the test approach describes current capability versus eventual capability. In the scenario you describe whereby an individual is training for very long distance events and the bulk of the training is at the low end of their individual power/velocity capability short performance times will not only be slower compared to when training with a higher proportion of faster work) but closer together (less velocity/power drop from short predictor distance to longer predictor distance) thereby reflecting the influence on aerobic power and lipolytic capacity as you describe it. The tricky part in using very short distances (such as 100 meters and 400 meters in running) to predict very long distance performance is in the aiming, much like a rifle. If the test times are just a little off the influence at the other end of the curve is substantial. Longer test distances rectify this problem to some degree but of course are less practical to perform regularly. Of course the idea that appropriate training for Ironman racing needs to include an emphasis on the higher velocity/power end of the spectrum, although also as a very low proportion of the total training volume volume, is good one in my estimation. I also agree with the thought that the proportion of each specific velocity/distance emphasis in the overall training load might reflect the proportion of its most closely associated energy pathway as a provider of energy in the target event distance is a good starting point.

Interestingly none of the discussion so far goes to the opening comments in the blog topic concerning method of periodization. Volume fist then speed or both together all of the time? The current limited published research on this topic suggests that a non-linear approach (all elements all the time in successive cycles versus) might be more effective than over time than the traditional linear view whereby different elements are developed in successive cycles.

Interesting blog.

George Dallam

Alan Couzens said...

Hey George,

First of all must say I'm honored that you took the time to check out my little corner of the world. I'm a big fan of your book and have incorporated many of your principles in my coaching practice. In fact, my latest blog looks into fatigue curves in a little more depth.

In general terms, for Ironman athletes at least, I've had a hard time fitting a logarithmic function to actual pace/power because, as mentioned in the article, the curve gets 'funky' at the tail, IOW, the athletes are 'powerful' but also have great endurance.

That said, I like the basis of your approach and do find consistent fatigue rates within an energy system. Piecing these together gives a great 'big picture' appraisal of an athlete's development.

I tend to agree with your point on simulataneous development of energy systems and see than many adaptations have a sufficiently long time course of adaptation that they can't be ignored for a 'phase' or more. I guess the exception in advanced athletes would be the short term central adaptations that serve to 'peak' the athletes O2 transport system but even this emphasis needs to be applied carefully considering the relatively short timeframe involved in peripheral de-training.

Thanks again for reading and for the dialogue.

Best regards,

Alan Couzens.