Mission Control: A Gomes Update

May 12th, 2011 in Articles by 3 Comments


It’s been a while since I’ve written anything publicly. In the wake of February’s world record attempts and March’s second-place finish at the U.S. Indoor Masters Nationals, I spent much of April assessing what I could have done better. Here’s a partial breakdown:

Mistake #1 – Dropping from 150lbs to 140lbs

All else being equal, weighing less is advantageous for a runner. Unfortunately, when it comes to physiology, all else is rarely equal. In this instance, dropping 10lbs while significantly increasing my mileage in November/December came at the expense of valuable muscle. Sure, I was lighter but also less powerful (and possibly even a little malnourished). Considering that the 800m is a largely a power event, my weight-reduction strategy was, in hindsight, ill-fated.

On the plus side, weighing less enabled my aerobic system to carry the load longer. This led to a 20+ year PR in the 5K (15:55). As you can see from my Facebook profile picture, every second of that was needed to defend my title in Miami’s Tropical 5K, the precursor to the Miami Marathon.

Being lighter also shortened my recovery time. After this season’s races, I only needed a few minutes to catch my breath and feel ready to race again. This was particularly true of the shorter races. However, therein was the problem. My recovery was quicker because I never ran fast enough to tax my body to its limits. In losing weight (particularly muscle), I lost power and speed, which would have come in handy in the final 50m of the National Championships. You can see for yourself here.

Soon thereafter, I concluded that, as an 800m runner, dropping weight was the wrong move. At that point, I set out to regain my lost muscle. In a classic demonstration of homeostasis in action, it took all of seven days to regain the weight (via a combination of diet, supplementation, and weight work). Shockingly, in the two weeks that followed, I almost gained another 10lbs before settling back into my racing weight in the low-150s. I’ve been there ever since, and it feels great. My natural speed has returned and I’m fired up to avenge my winter season.

Mistake #2 – Choosing Miles Over Speed & Power

As I mentioned above, I chose to ramp my mileage in November and December, topping 80 miles three times in four weeks, including a grueling 91.4 in mid-November. The problem wasn’t the high mileage though. Peter Snell’s 100 mile/week base-training laid the groundwork for Olympic Gold medal performances in 1960 and 1964, along with a world record (1:44.3).

The big difference between Snell and me (aside from age and talent!) is that Snell transitioned out of his base-building period and into training phases focused on building strength and speed, and later, sharpening. In contrast, my higher mileage came at the expense of speed and, more so, strength work.

During my 2010 spring season, each week contained four strength and/or speed oriented workouts — a stair workout, a long-interval track workout, a drill workout, and a 3.5-mile tempo run. In addition, I was in the gym lifting weights regularly. In late 2010/early 2011, running higher mileage left me only enough time and energy for three workouts per week. Worse yet, none of the workouts focused on strength. Combine that with the fact that I rarely lifted this winter and it’s easy to see why I was unable to crack 2:00.

Lesson Learned & Adjustments Made

It was a costly lesson. I trained hard for an entire year and ran 2.7 seconds slower than my 1:57 800m the year before. Yes, I’m getting older, but times don’t degrade that quickly. The bottom line is that I didn’t properly educate myself on what my chosen event (the 800m) demanded of me in training.

Since then, I’ve become much better educated. Ironically, I was closer to the right formula last year when I was blindly following the training regimens of Sebastian Coe, Peter Snell, and Nixon Kiprotich. I have since moved back in that direction, but now I have significantly more knowledge as to why those training regimens worked for those guys. As a result, I’ve been able to adjust what they did to be more tailor-made for my particular strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities. I’ve yet to test the impact of these changes (by racing), but I can tell you this – I feel a lot faster, stronger, and healthier than I did in either 2010 or this past winter.

Moral of the Story: Know what your event demands of you.

Losing weight and increasing my mileage would have been a brilliant strategy had I been seeking a PR in the 5K. As it was, my goal was to run the fastest 800m possible. Thus, my training should have incorporated a better balance of speed/power training to go along with my endurance regimen. Consider the lesson learned. I’ll choose “fatter” and faster until I set my sights on 5Ks and the Boston Marathon. (You heard it here first!)

We’ll see how well my “new” old body can run this weekend. My spring season starts with the 2011 USATF Florida Association Open and Master’s Championships in Miramar on Sunday.

Mark Gomes is the co-founder of this Web site, and the brains to complement Rick Miller’s beauty. You can contact him here.

Author: FasterThanForty


Nice article. It inspires me to hit 70 miles next week

Jonathan Swanson


Don’t you mean 70 box-jumps, Mr. 1:55 ? ;^)

Mark Gomes


Mark, it’s a pleasure to know you’re still out there doing it!



Leave a Reply