Sunday, December 9, 2012

Developing A Strong Aerobic Base

Developing a strong aerobic base is key to longevity in an endurance race, as well as being fast.

Photo-credit: Lifestyle1881,
Often considered 'junk miles', these are aimless, mindless, purpose-less, efforts that deliver on the distance but not at the target heart-rate. When you place a limit to your aerobic-zone training, you convert it into a relevant workout that translates into a useful bank of endurance fitness over the next few days. Learning how to tap on the powerful energy process, known as the Kreb's Cycle, is tantamount on how well you can exert yourself for as long as you desire. Fat metabolism is the most reliable and sustainable source of energy you can leverage on. Fat metabolism (digestion of fat into fatty acids and triglycerides), or the ability to tap on this perpetual source of energy demands adequate oxygen supply. So, learning to hold your heart-rate at a lower level than your fastest pace, is key to sustaining your muscular efforts. Thus, it is easier to walk a marathon than run it fast. That is why many marathoners, eventually, succumb to walking as a response to fatigue (of the anaerobic system).

You can still run at a fast (but not faster) pace in a long race, even if you trained mainly on your aerobic system. Since my zero-workout preparation for the Berlin Marathon (where I managed a 4:00 finish), I focused entirely on aerobic-threshold training (140-155bpm) training sessions, about 4-5 sessions per week, with total mileage amounting to 60-80km per week. In two short months, I regained my marathon fitness and scored a 3:38 finish last Sunday at the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon. A 22-minute reduction with purely aerobic-level training is a high return-on-investment (ROI) than an anaerobic workout. My reasons for avoiding anaerobic sessions were: to avoid full healing from my stress fracture (toe), doctor's advice, and a steadfast belief in aerobic-base development (as taught by Dr Philip Maffetone: THE BIG BOOK OF ENDURANCE TRAINING AND RACING). 

Although I missed a BQ of 3:24, and beating my PB of 3:29, my learning points from last weekend's race were:  
1) I held good splits for 10km, 21km and 30km.
2) I lost steam and speed after the 30km mark.
3) I did not have any long sessions over 21km.
4) I went out a little too hard, too soon. My pacing was over-enthusiastic.
5) I did not fuel adequately, and I think I over-spent on my aerobic system and went anaerobic, thus drawing on the need for muscle glycogen.
6) My pre-marathon races (10-miler, 12km, and 10km trail run) were adequate for stimulating my anaerobic system.

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