Confused about instructions of Long Runs | 80/20 Endurance

Confused about instructions of Long Runs

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    There is some confusing information about long runs. I am using the 2020 Edition Marathon Level 3 plan based on power over at TrainingPeaks.
    In the Pre-activity comments of the long runs, it says that “… Upper Zone 2 is recommended. Half and full marathon athletes may benefit from a rare Zone X exception and spend a majority of their time in Zone X for this workout. …” Now, the Active section for all long runs is clearly set to Zone 2. It’s not really clear what I should do, follow the plan (Zone 2 for the active section) or follow the instructions (Zone X for the active section). If I am to run in Zone X, why not set up the workouts accordingly? It would be way clearer.
    On the website, it says that “… For half and full marathon and ultramarathon athletes, Zone X is used sparingly in the Specific phase of training to prepare you for your event and simulate race intensity, as Zone X can overlap with race intensity for these longer distances. …” I’m in the dark again because I have no idea how often “sparingly” is and where the “Specific phase of training” starts and ends. I can see no indications in the entire plan.
    Right now, I would most likely run a marathon in the upper Zone 2 and lower Zone X. Some answers to my questions would make this plan definitely more interesting and more challenging, as I would have indications of when, how often, and for how long to run at my real race pace. I would really like to follow this plan as precisely as possible because if it doesn’t work out for me, then it is not because I haven’t tried.
    I’d really appreciate your help and suggestions. Thanks for the awesome training plan.

    David Warden


    So sorry for the confusion, and thank you for reading our documentation. The challenge is that we vilify Zone X in all of our literature in order to lay the foundation for the 80/20 system, but it turns out that Zone X can be the perfect racing zone for some half and full marathon athletes. We want to leave the Zone X window open for that minority, but yes, I can see it causes confusion for everyone.

    This leaves us in a position where we have a zone that is the right intensity for some distances for some athletes for some part of the year. It’s like taking the average of an average of an average.

    Also, while our plans are amazing, these are not custom plans. They are for the masses, and we have to write 4-levels-fits-all that meets the needs of a “typical” athlete. Zone X on race day is not for most, it’s for those willing to take the risk.

    That’s the reason we don’t setup Zone X in the workout, most athletes won’t use it, but some might so we give permission. What is the specific phase of your plan? That also depends on the athlete and goals.

    Regardless, it needs clarifying, so I have re-worked the Zone X section of Understanding Your 80/20 Run Plan to clarify, which I hope answers your question and others. Let me know what you’d like added.

    An Exception for Zone X
    For half and full marathon athletes, Zone X can actually be an appropriate racing zone. If you are willing to take the risk on race day, you’ll want to incorporate some Zone X into your training.

    To do so, some workouts in your run plan will give you “permission” to include Zone X in the workout. How much? Again, it depends on how much risk you’re willing to take. Additional Zone X in training will compromise your ability to recover, and if using it on race day it will increase the possibility that you’ll crash and burn.

    In general, if you are willing to take the risk, replace your Zone 2 work with Zone X using the guidelines below, and only for workouts that specify the Zone X option.

    Week 1-5: replace up to 20% of Zone 2

    Week 6-9: replace up to 30%

    Week 10+: replace up to 50%



    Thanks a lot for your clarification, David.
    I just wanted to come back to you so that future readers don’t get the impression that I was trying to criticize. I can assure you I was not. Here’s why I asked:
    In the past, I didn’t train 80/20. I mostly used Lydiard’s base training, with a threshold session on Tuesdays and an anaerobic session on Fridays. I used the anaerobic sessions on Fridays because it seemed to give me a boost in pace for two or three days.
    Just before my last marathon, I did a CP test as recommended by Joe Friel. I used Jim Vance’s power zones and ran my marathon accordingly. The breakdown of that race, had it been according to the 80/20 zones, would have been as follows:
    Z1 = 2,4%
    Z2 = 73%
    ZX = 24,4%
    Z3 = 0,2%

    I am positive I could have pushed a bit more into Zone X in that race. However, I believe my CP was underestimated. After the race, I switched to Steve Palladino’s test protocol and power zones. After quite a few CP tests, I definitely think my power is spot on.

    Last Sunday, I did LR5 to see what it feels like. I was carbo loaded to the brim and running those 8,5 miles in Zone X was kind of challenging, but doable, and was not very hard to recover from. Now, I generally lower my carb intake due to my history of obesity and insulin resistance. And in that standard situation, I think a prolonged training in Zone X would be the absolute killer workout.

    Today I went out and did the same session. The difference is that I have restricted my carb intake to normal values (100-130g/day). So today, the 8,5 miles were in the upper Zone 2, and I can tell you, it was a good effort.

    It all now makes a whole lot more sense to me, and I really appreciate your work. I know this is a plan for the masses, but it is way better than cooking my own concoction.
    Thanks a lot,

    David Warden

    XFat, no criticism taken! It was an important clarification and you’ve helped make our documentation better. I’m really glad you pointed it out, and I constantly am tweaking our resources from just this kind of critical feedback.


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