Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Responding to Criticism

Okay, now it’s my turn...

As the loyal readers of my blog may recall, when I last voiced my opinions on the great ‘Quality’ vs ‘Quantity’ controversy here and here, it seem to sparked a great debate between those who choose the former over the latter and those who support heavy mileage as the be all and end all to marathon training. Although like most I was intellectually stimulated by the insightful comments the post generated, at some point the congenial nature of the conversation became somewhat personal when my training and my goals for the Boston marathon was called into question. The timing of the criticism was somewhat curious to me since earlier in that post I had just written about completing my fastest and longest marathon-paced run ever! The claim is that since apparently I can’t sustain heavy mileage, I should consider dropping out of the marathon altogether. The following week, when I sustained a pulled hamstring fresh off of my highest mileage week ever and posted the story, the sentiments were echoed again. “You were already soft going into it [Boston] and missing time now is a major setback.” What got me even more fired up is the comment that “it's [my training] not going anywhere and your objective has long since gone past a BQ but to shoot for a time well below 3 flat.” Really? How does anyone surmise knowing my race objectives better than me. The last I checked, I’ve always stipulated that my goal for Boston has just been to break the 3:00 hour barrier. I have not claimed nor have any desire to run a time well below 3, as it’s been suggested. Because I was caught completely off-guard by these remarks, I chose not to respond at the outset. Luckily for me, there are a few faithful blogger friends who have taken upon themselves to come to my defense both publicly and privately. To these people I owe a bit of gratitude. But since it was written about me and my training on my blog, I knew I would have to eventually draft my own defense.

I spent quite a bit of time this weekend soul-searching about running and digging through my running log to come up with the proof why this marathon training season has been the best ever and Boston is so going to rock for me. By posting this, I’m thinking that even if it doesn’t completely exonerate me in the mind of the so-called experts, at least it’ll give a bit of my running background to those who are relatively new to these parts.

Premise - Based on records from my past marathon experience, I hope to show that:
  1. My 2009 Boston Marathon Training Schedule is rigorous, more so than for any of my previous marathon attempts.
  2. It is designed to prepare me well for my goal…which is to run a sub 3:00 marathon.
  3. My training (thus far) has gone really well for the Boston Marathon.
  4. Because I have done the training, I will run well in Boston.
Exhibit A – Goal Marathon Training Plans
2005 NYCM - 20 Week Plan – 567 miles; Avg 28 Miles/Wk (Peak 40)
2006 Hartford – 13 Week Plan – 446 miles; 34 Miles/Wk (Peak 40)
2007 NYCM – 16 Week Plan – 519 miles; 32 Miles/Wk (Peak 41.2)
2008 NYCM – 13 Week Plan – 450 miles; 37 Miles/Wk (Peak 43.6)
2009 Boston – 16 Week Plan – 622 miles; 39 Miles/Wk (Peak 60.4)

Exhibit B – Marathon Finishing Times (Training Goal)
2005 NYCM – 3:26:42 (Goal – Just Finish!)
2006 Hartford – 3:11:33 (Goal – Less than 3:20)
2007 NYCM – 3:08:18 (Goal – BQ, Less than 3:10)
2008 NYCM – 3:02:20 (Goal – Less than 3:05)
2009 Boston - ?:??:?? (Goal – Less than 3:00)

Exhibit C – Goal Marathon Training Completed/Planned
2005 NYCM - ~500 Miles Ran / 567 Miles Planned = 88%
2006 Hartford – 398 Miles Ran / 446 Miles Planned = 89%
2007 NYCM – 533 Miles Ran / 519 Miles Planned = 103%
2008 NYCM – 442 Miles Ran/ 450 Miles Planned = 98%
2009 Boston – 464 Miles Ran/448 Miles Planned = 104%

Exhibit D – Best Half Marathon, Predicted Goal Time, Difference
2005 SI Half - 1:31:52 (McMillian Proj – 3:13:45; Diff +12:57)
2006 NY Half – 1:32:04 (McMillian Proj – 3:14:10; Diff -2:37)
2007 Queens Half – 1:28:06 (McMillian Proj – 3:05:48; Diff +2:30)
2008 SI Half – 1:25:44 (McMillian Proj – 3:00:49; Diff +1:31)
2009 Colon Cancer 15K – 49:48 (McMillian Proj – 2:58:07; Diff ?)

Marathon E – Marathon Splits 1st Half, 2nd Half, Difference
2005 NYCM – 1st Half: 1:38:21; 2nd Half: 1:48:21; Diff +10:00
2006 Hartford – 1st Half: 1:31:05; 2nd Half: 1:40:28; Diff +9:23
2007 NYCM - 1st Half: 1:30:37; 2nd Half: 1:37:41; Diff +7:04
2008 NYCM – 1st Half: 1:29:30; 2nd Half: 1:32:50; Diff +3:20
2009 Boston - ???

1. My Boston marathon training plan is the highest mileage I’ve ever ran both in terms of total miles and average miles per week, proving that the schedule is a rigorous one.
2. Since all my previous training plans have allowed me to accomplish my marathon goals, I am confident that this one will as well.
3. Based on my 15K (my last longer race before Boston), the projected marathon time is 2:58, which is perfect for me. Since I’ve been pretty steady with running my predicted times the last few years, I’m confident that I’m in the right ballpark for breaking 3:00
4. Despite the fact that I took days off last week, I’ve still logged more miles than was planned out for me.
5. My pacing for marathon has been steadily improving. Since I’ve done the training and logged the miles, I am destined to run a good race with a minimal positive split in Boston.

There you have it folks. My arguments for being well-prepared for Boston. Hopefully, it is readily clear that for me, the arguments for quality over quantity is pretty one-sided. Although I am running more mileage than I’ve ever done in the past, I’m pretty convinced that the quality is what has helped me to improve the most on my marathon times. I’m confident that Boston will end the same way for me.

And even if it doesn’t, I’ll be hard-pressed to blame it on the lack of high mileage training as the culprit, since I’ve had steady progress in the past with running significant less. We’ll just have to see what happens on Patriot’s Day!


C said...

Dude, you're a doctor and an athlete. You know what's what. Simple as that.

Rock on with your badass self. :)

Anonymous said...

Lam, you don't have to justify your workouts, dedication, mileage, etc. We all run for ourselves, have our own goals, and reasons for running. While I am sure we all would like to spend more time on our training it just isn't always possible (full-time jobs, family, friends, etc), you need to have a balanced life (which you do). You are a great runner, don't let anyone tell you or make you feel different. We run because we enjoy it, it isn't always about the clock or distance.

Trophy Wife said...

I know it's hard not to listen to the naysayers but no one else can know how you're training and how you feel. Looking at all those times and miles is quite impressive and must give you a great sense of accomplishment. Good job, and good luck in Boston!!

Susan said...

One of the best parts about running is that you can tailor it to your needs. If you want to run more miles, you can. If you want to run harder, you can. There's no one specific formula to fit everyone, and even if there was, who says you have to follow it? You've found something that works for you and fits into your life, and that is what is important.

Anonymous said...

Doc, you don't have to justify anything! If you feel your preparedness for this marathon is better than the previous marathons, then I don't doubt it for a minute.

You have fortitude and drive, and how dare anyone create a speculative assumption when they aren't logging the quality/quantity of miles that you are. A bete noire of mine are those who think they can give an educated opinion on something in which they are not educated. Or, if these beleaguers are also runners and have marathon experience, they can't possible expect everyone's training to be identical.

I say, go prove them all wrong in 26 days, Doc!

Jamie said...

There are always going to be others who think they know best but they aren't in your shoes. You have a program that works for you and gives you the best quality of life. You are an amazing runner and your results speak for themselves! Keep up the fantastic job!

Spike said...

no explanation needed, your training plan is working, and people can over-run themselves and harm their training.

just keep up the great work and being so giving of your time to help others, things will work out like you hope.

Aron said...

well said lam :) we all know you are going to rock it!!! YOU know you are training hard and well and thats the most important. YOU know what your body needs to get there and you dont need to justify it to anyone... all the justification will be done on the course april 20th :)

Running and living said...

As a psychologist, it has been ingrained in me to try to understand different opinions, and to know that sometime the message that comes through words can have a different meaning for different people. I, so, wonder whether the message sent by "that blogger" was meant to let you know that you have tons of talent, hard work and smarts about your training, and that you can achieve even more than a sub 3 marathon (as if that's not enough, OMG).
In any case, I think it is great you posted your feelings regarding the post, as it gives a chance to the writer to justify his position. We, your fellow bloggers know that you are an inspirational runner, with a full life, confident enough to follow your own path, research and conviction, and run a race for yourself not for others. Good luck and you know you will do great! Ana-Maria

Vava said...

Wow, I haven't been part of this discussion since I don't have the requisite running experience, but I must say that the way you've laid out your training history, and compared it to the current run up to Boston '09, the argument in your favour is compelling. I hope you do achieve your goal of a sub-3hr marathon and have a great time in the process!

X-Country2 said...

A sub-3 is totally in your future!

Irish Cream said...

Lam, don't let "people" get you down . . . There seem to be a lot of folks out there who think that their way is the only way. That's just crap. It's fine to share your opinions on what works for you or what you, personally, would do were you the one in the situation presented; but I think sometimes people cross the line of what is acceptable as far as comments go. There is just no need to EVER be discouraging.

I know there are others out there who would agree with "that blogger" because I've seen stuff like this come up before. Frankly, I am wondering why they care what I/you/anyone does with our free time . . . Does if affect you if I "undertrain" for a marathon by peaking at a mere 55 miles (thus running a 4:00 marathon versus a 3:45)? No! You'll be way ahead of me up there somewhere. So get over it.

As countless people have said, there is not just ONE way to train . . . as each person is different, so should each person's training plan be. I mean, even the elites have different methods of training. If there was ONE single, solitary, best way to train, would they not just be following the same exact training schedule?

And I'd also like to know from one of these people where they draw the line? Even if you end up with that 2:47 finish, couldn't you have done something--anything--to have finished faster? In my opinion (and again, just my opinion), that's a recipe for never being happy with your performance.

Finally, I think it's complete BS to claim that those of us who can't put in the time to train 60+ miles a week should just stick to shorter distances. As far as I'm concerned (and hey, as far as history is concerned), if you can finish a marathon, you trained enough. You are a marathoner. PERIOD.

Anyway, I for one am REALLY looking forward to your Boston Marathon race report . . . I trust you to know what's best for your body (and mind, and relationships, and career, etc.). And I KNOW you're going to rock it!

Lindsay said...

your race/running history is amazing!! thanks for the little confidence boost in posting your average weekly mileage (since it's a little lower than what is "typical" for such awesome times). you have definitely been kicking ass anyway! obviously you know what works for you and why change it up now? can't wait to see how boston goes :)

joyRuN said...

Great arguments, though I didn't think you needed to make them.

Keep running your own race, Lam.

Anonymous said...

The cool thing about blogging is getting such a variety of responses to the running issues that come up here and there. Of course, some of those responding are going to have different ideas than you, but that's the point... right? Otherwise, you would just keep be keeping a journal for yourself. Take the advice you want, leave behind the advice you don't and just go from there.

Anyway, glad to hear your injury passed quickly and I wish you all the best up in Boston.

J said...

I for one have never doubted that you will do well at Boston. just wanted to put that out there.

It was nice to see all your stats from previous training and marathons. Every one is different and obviously you have found what works for you!

Anonymous said...

Note: Some of my comments have been under RunWestchester, some under my name.

I commented about this on my blog but elected not to provide links because it seemed to be a sensitive subject, albeit one that you initiated when you posed the quality v. quantity issue. I've now linked to your post.

My view, simply put, is that based upon what you've reported in your workouts, although not your race times, you strike me as being capable of running well below three. Hence my thinking that 3 hours doesn't seem like much of an objective for you. If you just want to run three, and I have no doubts that you will, that's fine. I think that if you want to get closer to your potential, however, you need more miles.

For those who say you'll never be satisfied with that mind-set, I was perfectly satisfied with my performance at NY 2006 -- I have an age-group award for my efforts -- but was not satisfied that I ran as well as I could have. I decided that to do that I had to upgrade what I had done. That was me. It needn't be you. I was giving you the best advice I have as you step to the line and have to make the decision about whether you're a runner or a racer.

Finally, you misquote me. I did not say your "training" was going nowhere. I said Boston isn't. At the time, recall, you said you had just strained your hamstring. It struck me that doing a marathon a few weeks after Boston made more sense so that you had the chance to recover from the set back, which turned out to be minor.

I still think you're soft for Boston. I still think you can run much faster than 3. You're running very high quality stuff. I'm sorry if I offend you, or your supporters.

Anonymous said...

Hey Doc! Are you gonna get the pacetat for Boston?

runner26 said...

lam--you are awesome! do what you do and don't worry about what others think. Sorry I was MIA @ our rendezvous points. I'll be home this weekend--maybe I'll see ya ;)

ps. belated congrats on the 15K!!

Running and living said...

To add a few things to the discussion:
1) Not sure if you read "The lore of running" by Nokes (sp). It's a comprehensive running book that reviews techniques and running programs of famous runners. One of the conclusions of the book is that it may be best to run the least miles possible and only increase mileage when you notice no improvement in races. That's certainly not your case, Lam, as you are getting faster and faster in all distances.

2) In reading Joe Garland's comment I sense that he is really coming from a good place, and has a lot of good wishes for you, Lam. The problem is that he does not use the most appropriate words (e.g., "soft", that sounds just bad to me, and certainly I would not use this word to describe you, or anyone else, but what does it mean to him?) and he does not take into consideration your goals and the context of your life.

3) It was really interesting to see everyone commenting and sharing opinions. You certainly have great fans, and that speaks millions about the type of person you are. I, like everyone else, will be looking forward to your Boston Marathon. I'll be 6 miles behind, but cheering you on! Ana-Maria

Anonymous said...

Although I did not plan to comment again on this site (although I have commented further on my own), I appreciate that Ana-Marie, at least, asked me to explain something I said.


In 1984, my NYC target time was 2:25. I ran 2:29:13 in 1983 in my debut, and thought 2:25 well within reach. Quality was not an issue. My easy runs were 2 loops of Central Park at 1:10 and I did speed workouts every Tuesday and Thursday. But I never got in the miles I hoped to over the summer and into the fall.

So I went into the race "soft." That means that if everything broke my way, especially the weather, I'd have a shot at my goal. There's no margin for error. In the event, the weather was brutal, like Chicago a few years back. (The race winner stopped 10 times.) I got to 19, with my pace slowing down, and dropped out. But I had a back-up marathon, Baltimore, six weeks later. (It was then in early December.) After a week off, I started ramping up, but threw out my back and did not do another marathon for 20+ years.

"Soft," then, is not a pejorative. It's merely my description of being light of miles, without regard to one's goals or non-running commitments, the race being 26.21875 miles for everyone. And quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive.

Unknown said...


Unfortunately I don't think that other guy "gets it". It seems as if he wants you to run what HE thinks you should run. I echo a previous post which states that when you run, you run for yourself, for achieve your goals. I have NO DOUBT that you will achieve your goal. You are not "soft" - this seems derogatory, despite the explanation. You are 100% mileage ready to achieve your goal (as proven by your previous post). Sub 3 hour marathon - that's an incredible accomplishment that 99% of the population can only dream of doing!
What is this obsession with labels..."runner", "racer"? When I describe you to other people, the words I use are motherf---in fast". How's that for a label?

Dan said...

Hey Lam,

I haven’t been involved with this discussion from the beginning but I’ll put in my 2 cents worth from where I picked up the conversation.

The question of quality vs. quantity is a personal decision based on an individual’s running goals, time available for training, real-life commitments and several other factors. Therefore, one person can not tell another person what is ‘right’ for them since they have no way of knowing how these factors impact the other person’s training plans/goals.

Could I run faster if I logged more miles per week? Probably, but I have no interest in that at this point in my running career. For someone to tell me I should run more because I will race faster is irrelevant to me. They have no clue WHY I run.

I looked at your analysis of previous training and race results over the past few years and I think you are right on target to run the race you envision in 2009. As far as missing some days due to the ‘hammy’, I wouldn’t worry about it much. Many runners have raced to PRs coming off an injury. The additional rest taken when injured is sometimes all we need to recharge the system and get the most out of our hard training.

For what it’s worth, I ran 2:54 on an average of 40 miles per week, no tempo runs, no track workouts. I just ran how I felt on any given day. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, nothing structured. There is no one magic formula, no “one size fits all” when you are talking about individuals and training programs. No one knows YOU like YOU do.

I think you are going to kill it at Boston and even surprise yourself on how fast you finish. Kick ass my friend!

One last thought. I don’t think this negativity would ever come up on a trail runner’s blog. We are a very positive and supportive bunch :-)

Ms. V. said...

I've got nuthin. I am a first time reader, and love your blog.

I remember when I had PF last fall, and had to give up the Fresno Half. The doc asked me how many miles I was running a week. When I told him, he laughed at me.

So, I get that.

You obviously know what you're doing!

Run For Life said...

I think Xenia nailed it!

Like you said, your training has gone very well and I think that your races have been reflecting it so keep on doing what's working for you.

Anonymous said...
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