After the long, geeky, techy post the other day covering the SportTracks plug-in Training Load, I did some thinking (uh oh, that’s dangerous).  I realized that during that post, I only covered past performance.  I should share how the plug-in can help with planning.

Granted, my experience with using it for planning consists of one race – the LBL 60K.  But by all measures, it was a highly successful race for me.  And I’m confident in saying that my “discovery” of this tool had a significant role in my success.

Here is the updated chart, with all of my planned workouts up to and including the Country Music Marathon (CMM), which is on April 25th (click to open in a new window to see detail).

ST-TL planning

If you compare this chart to the ones that I posted in that last post, you’ll see that I’ve clearly resumed my training.  And I’ve jumped back in with a vengeance.  This week is a scheduled 60 miles, which should be interesting, since 60 miles was my breaking point leading up to the 60K.  This morning’s run finished up an accumulated 20 miles in the previous 36 hours, leading into a 24 hour rest interval, then a 20-mile run tomorrow morning.  I’m definitely beating myself up this week.

And that load is by design.  As you can see in the lower right, the calculated max training effect would be today, March 26th.  So I loaded up my runs to straddle today, which luckily my work schedule accommodated.  Also, if you look at the Training Influence curve (the shaded red area), you can see that my Acute Training Load (ATL) , aka “fatigue” (the thin red line) coincides closely with the peak of the Training Influence curve.  Theoretically, that’s my peak.  Then my fatigue falls off rapidly as I begin my long-term recovery.

As the Training Influence curve falls away to the right, less and less of the workout for that specific day will have an influence on my race.  Therefore, it’s counterproductive to schedule a long run (say 20 miles) on 11 April (for example), since it would significantly fatigue me, but little of the potential fitness gains from the run would be realized on race day.  And once the Training Influence line crosses into the negative side of that scale, that’s when I start my taper.  As you can see in the lower right, that date would be April 15th, ten days before the race.  After that, it’s short, quick runs at race pace to keep the motor running, but not fatigue it.

Looking at the overall picture, the blue shaded area is my Chronic Training Load (CTL), aka “fitness”.  The dark blue fitness is past and current; the light blue fitness is forecast based on scheduled workouts.  I’m self-coached, so I use Training Peaks’ Virtual Coach to help me build the framework of my training plan.  Once I’ve developed my training schedule in Training Peaks, I manually transcribe the workouts over to SportTracks.  Luckily I need only a few parameters to get the Training Load plug-in to work.  The most “difficult” portion of the forecast workouts is determining what my average heart rate will be for the workout.  But all I have to do then is look at similar workouts that I have completed and plug in that number.  Pretty easy.

Once I’ve got the planned workouts loaded, I can see how effective the plan could be.  I can then adjust my plan based on the forecast impact to my fitness.

So the peak of my fatigue will be realized with tomorrow’s 20-miler.  That’s to be expected.  But I recover quickly over the weekend, since I’m working and have an easy 5-mile run scheduled for Saturday before my standard Sunday rest day.

But then I realized that I have an even higher peak to my fatigue levels, which falls on April 1st.  As I look at the workouts, nothing out of the ordinary is scheduled for that day.  A comfortable Zone 1/2 5-mile run to work in the morning, and then a tempo 7-mile run home after work.  But then I looked at my rolling 10- and 28-day mileage totals (not shown on the chart above) and see that by running those two workouts as planned, my 10-day total mileage as of that day will be 82 miles.  By comparison, my training leading up to the 60K topped out at 69 miles for a 10-day period.  So I’ll have to monitor my body carefully and adjust accordingly.  No sense in running myself into an overuse injury.  But by smartly loading (overloading) my body, I can start the race stronger than I would if I hadn’t.

As scheduled, I would be rested on race-day morning.  The way I see that is by looking at my Training Stress Balance (TSB), which is the shaded gray area, which reaches into the positive numbers on April 18th, a full week before the race.  But as I look at the chart, I can already see areas for improvement that would deliver me to the start line even more rested and ready to race.  Like a haircut, with a little nip here and a snip there, I can adjust my workouts and recover more deeply.  For example, I have a 5-mile tempo run scheduled for April 15th, which is the start of my taper.  That’s the little spike in fatigue.  But as I look at my Training Influence curve, I can see that a tempo workout that day would translate very little to race day, so I’ll likely relook that specific workout.  And there are a few others in there that I’ll look at tweaking as well.

As it stands right now, I’d arrive at the start of the CMM less rested than I did for the 60K.  The problem with that plan is that the CMM is my “A” race this spring season and the 60K was a “B” race.  So based on the information conveyed in the chart, I know that I’ll have to rework some of my workouts and back off on both volume and intensity in the coming weeks.

And we’ll have to see how it works out on April 25th.