Friday, April 26, 2013

Another take on progression runs: the single effort

Although they've been around forever, progression workouts have become more popular over the past decade. There are any number of ways to do these. Author/coach Greg McMillen gives some good examples in this online article, and also describes a little on why you do them.

The other day I did my own version of a somewhat more intense version,of adapted from renowned coach Joe Vigil's book Road to the Top. Vigil describes these as "stepping stone" runs, to prepare an athlete from an aerobic phase in training to more race specific workouts. His recommendation (more for college age and elite runners) is a 10 mile run starting at 6:50 or 7:00/mile pace and then working down 15 or 20 seconds a mile until the runner is at 5K pace at the end. Ouch!
In the past I've done a more aerobic version of 10-12 miles working to threshold pace for the last 15 minutes or so, but I've tried the Vigil type once or twice. This time--due to my excuse of age and simply not being not much of a runner--rather than a mile at each level I went by kilometer. 2 easy, 2 steady/moderate, then 6K of ratcheting up the effort at each kilometer.

I also remembered to bring my heart rate monitor. It was about 30 degrees, some ice on the roads, starting in the Wood River neighborhood and then crossing under the highway bridge just south of U Park Elementary to where we run mile 1 and 2 of the Midnight Sun Run.

2K warm up, 8:18/mile (HR 171--I get these strange reading sometimes! It makes no sense but have seen others report this as well. Like maybe going into atrial fibrillation.)
2K, 7:12/ mile (HR 137) - felt easy but faster than normal warm up pace
1K, 6:34/mile (HR 143) - still relaxed
1K, 6:27/mile (HR 151) - seemed like I was working
1K, 6:21/mile (HR 153) - likewise, tempo effort
1K, 6:15/mile (HR 157) - not bad, feeling like tempo effort
1K, 6:02/mile (HR 161) - this was harder than I had anticipated/wondering how I'd pick it up
0.6 K, 5:50/mile (HR 164) - maxed out!
0.2 K, 6:50/mile (HR 155) - needed some recovey
0.4 K, 5:49/mile (HR 162) maxed out!

3.5K cool down 8:00/mile (HR 138)

I think the aerobic build up sort of sets you up for some screaming lungs in the later stages. I think I'd rather run 5X 1000 m on the track at race pace, or do a 5K.

Or maybe (highly likely) I'm just not very tough!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Threshold Progression

Well it's incremental, but progress is progress.

As ski season winds down I like to start the year gradually building up miles while incorporating threshold runs, where I gradually increase the distance and decrease the pace as May approaches. However, as always the first competitive race of the season, the Chena River Run, comes up about a week or two earlier than I'd like to see it.

Over the past month I've had weekly mileage of 26, 34, 40, and 44 plus about two-three hours a week on skis). I've also done a threshold-type workout each week.

3/28 - treadmill 4 X 4 min (1 min recovery) average pace 6:14/mile
4/4 - treadmill 4 X 5 min (1 min recovery) average pace 6:11/mile
4/10 - treadmill 4 X 1 mile (1:25 recovery) average pace 6:10/mile
4/16 - outside 8 X 3 min (1 min recovery) pace not measured
4/23 - outside 2 X 10 min (2 min recovery) average pace 6:05/mile

Last week I joined up with Stian Stensland's training group. His sessions are quite close to what I do. It was so different (and fun) to be running with adults instead of teens/kids. I rarely do tempo runs with the kids, maybe a few times early in the summer when other coaches aren't lurking about.

I hope to do some more sessions with Stian and his group over spring/summer to break up the routine a bit, but alas with a busy family going different directions on weekday evenings, logistics sometimes get in the way.

I meant to bring the heart rate monitor today but forgot to wear the chest band. It was a pretty good run (9.5 miles total with 3.3 at threshold effort). I started the faster part along the Parks Highway bike path from Geist Road to Miller Hill (1.6 miles), and then from Miller Hill to Lawlor Drive at UAF (1.7 miles). I hit the first one a little faster (6:03 pace) even though it had a 100+ ft of elevation gain, while the second repetition was at 6:07 pace but with a 70 ft drop. There was a light breeze so that may have been a minor factor. Anyway, a decent effort for early season and it puts me right were I have been in recent years for early spring training.

Now I'd just like to have the temperature to be warm enough so I could wear a shorts and long sleeve shirt. No  hat, gloves, ski pants, under armour, vest and all that! I won't hold my breath, forecast is for more snow tomorrow and then a week of  mostly highs in the 30s, with just a foray or two into the 40s.

Oh yeah, I have a season plan! To be announced at a later date but it involves a race I haven't done yet, and it would be in August.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston's Day of Infamy

I don't know if I can even articulate some thoughts on the bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line yesterday, but I'll give it a try.

This one is personal that's for sure. For many runners Boston is the highlight of their year, if not their entire life. Seriously.

Running is a refuge. It is what we do not necessarily to escape but to sort things out, energize and relax, and to release the stress of the day.

Running give many of us something to measure our efforts and events like Boston--or any big (not necessarily big in numbers although Boston certainly is that) race--give runners a goal. Many runners like to share their experience with their family and friends, who in turn often enjoy being a part of that experience.

Running is thus a community. And yesterday that community was assaulted. The ones that were hurt were mostly the family and friends of the runners.

I don't know if this was politically or ideologically motivated or just a plot of a sick individual or two--and maybe that doesn't even matter. What matters is that whomever is responsible for this act of malice is caught and brought to justice.

Even though I believe that the sport road racing has truly lost its innocence (following the controversy at the cancelled New York City Marathon last fall) I also want runners to keep on running and if Boston or some other event is their Holy Grail, then continue on dreaming, training, and doing.

Finally, my deepest condolences to the people hurt by this senseless act of violence.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Another Frozen Race, Beat Beethoven

This is the winter that refuses to let go. Depending on whom you believe, it was in the low mid-teens for this morning's Beat Beethoven 5K, my second running of this ever increasingly popular rite of spring. Spring? Did someone say spring? Surely not here!

I warmed up by running the full course at 10--froze my ass off. But I actually felt almost too warm by the start of the race at 11. Same attire as last week: 2 shirts and a vest, running shorts, under armor half pants, ski tights, wool socks, and then ski hat and buff. Sunglasses this time. My biggest worry was ice and I even had studded shoes and put in a few makeshift traction bolts on my old racing flats. No need really. A few slick spots but the new course was good.

Like last week, I lined up on the front row only to be swallowed up within 30 meters. I didn't panic as 25+ runners including a couple of the women, a bunch of middle schoolers, and even a guy in a Beethoven costume pulled away before we even got to the traffic circle. The 600+ meter hill at 6-7% did  away with any pretenders and I was top 15 by the time we were nearing the crest of the hill. Still I was way way back from top 5 or anything, a good 20-25 seconds already. Passed a lot of runners on the "backstretch" through the campus parking lots and construction zones, and by the time we entered the long downhill on Tanana Loop I was in 8th. With a guy in bright yellow 20-30 meters up, and another guy 50 meters ahead of him, with masters runner Chad another 50-60 meters ahead.

I focused on keeping relaxed but striding out on the downhill, I caught the guy in yellow just after turning onto Farmers Loop (3K) and thought about breaking out, but we had a slight headwind and he was clipping along decently so I just tucked in. The guy in 5th seemed to be coming back to us, but only gradually. Just before turning onto Alumni Drive at 4K I put on  a surge in pursuit of top 5. That last hill is semi-killer. Just long enough at almost 400 meters but still some some 600 meters to the finish, it's enough to make sure that a 55 yr old isn't going to go blasting up and by another runner, even if he was one of those very fast starters (up at the front for the first half mile) and fading. I ran hard but steady, just not ready to dig down yet (zero speed work thus far).

Final damage, 17:36 unofficially for 6th. Also unofficial. Under the radar for sure, but it was a stronger run for me than last week.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pre-Competition/Early Season Training for 3000-5000 Meters

I don't actually know who reads this blog, but a few do here and there. Mostly friends and acquaintnances who sometimes surprise me by saying they read a posting. I never did want this to be only personal race reports--which often it is, because I tend to neglect it until a race comes along. As a masters athlete and long time coach of adult and youth runners I do a lot of thinking about training--getting athletes ready for upcoming races.

I read a lot too. Below are summaries from three books from coach/authors that I think are pretty good: Joe Vigil, Jack Daniels, and Larry Greene. Actually I know less about Greene as a coach, but his book Training for Young Distance Runners is full of sound advice.

Anyway, after a base period and build up (that includes a decent amount of training, say 6-10 hours a week of aerobic work that includes over distance, some fartlek and/or hill training, and tempo-threshold running) what do you do next to get yourself or athletes you coach ready for peak racing, say six or eight weeks ahead?

A pattern in all three of the books I summarize below (not to mention any other of a half dozen training guides) includes continued endurance training with a long run and threshold training at least every week or two, some speed work (usually at mile pace or a little faster, repetitions of 200 to 800 meters), and pace work (usually repetitions of 600 m to 1600 m) which simulates race conditions (while promoting development of V02 max, the body's ability to process oxygen in about 10 to 15 minutes). Twenty or twenty five years ago, it seemed that developing V02 max was what it was all about. That theory has sort of fallen out of favor, with more and more emphasis on lactate threshold training.

Nevertheless, most training guides recommend some consistency (every week or two) of training at 3000-5000 m race pace (in addition to races or time trials), especially early in the season. If you wait too long, like peak season, then you risk overtraining at a time when your focus should be sharpening/development of speed.

Check these out. Something to think about while we wait for the snow to melt (3-4 feet now!).

Vigil (1995), Road to the Top
Chapter 6: 3,000 Steeplechase, 3,000 & 5000 meter Training
Precompetitive Microcycle (7 day)
Long run
400 m workout (6-12 reps at mile pace)
Recovery run [or rest]
Recovery run with 6X 150 m strides
Repeat miles, 800s, 1000s at 85-90% maximum (which is approximately 5K-3K pace)
Recovery run  
Competition or 20 minutes of threshold (alternating weeks)

Daniels (2005) Daniels’ Running Formula

Chapter 17: 1500 to 3000 meters

Precompetition Phase
Quality Workout 1: sets of 1000, 1200, 1 mile repetitions at “Interval” Pace (i.e., V02 max which is 15-20 sec/mile slower than mile race pace)
Quality Workout 2: sets of 2X 1000 or 1200 or 1 mile repetitions at Threshold Pace followed by 4X 200 m at 1 Mile Race Pace
Quality Workout 3: Race or repetitions (from 200 to 800 m) at 1 Mile Race Pace
Distance Day (>1 hr to 2 hr)
Recovery Runs (one or two days a week)

Greene and Pate (2004), Training for Young Distance Runners
Chapter 7: Race Specific Training. This chapter is organized a little differently and the authors do not prescribe weekly schedules; rather they break it down to sections Developing Aerobic Fitness, Anaerobic Fitness, and Race-Specific Fitness and provide some sample workouts.

Here are sample workouts for 3000 m, 5000m and Cross Country for Intermediate and Advanced runners:

Early Preparation Phase Aerobic: Interval and Continuous Tempo Running
Early Preparation Phase Anaerobic: 4X400, 2X600, 2X200 (mile pace, or faster)
Early Preparation Phase Race Specific 3000 m : 2X 1000 (at 3K race pace) with 60 sec recovery
Developing Race Specific Mental Fitness: 3X 1000 meters at goal pace for even paced running (and also provides examples for negative split racing, front running, and kicking [I interpret this type of workout to be 2-4 weeks before peak races]).

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Third Month of February

This will be the winter that never let go. Maybe we'll see the ground by Memorial Day? With lows of -16 and highs in the single digits it still feels like early or mid-February. And according to our 10 day forecast, no break through the middle of next week. Unless you call 32 and snow a respite!

I'm running more than skiing. The latter just for recovery or distance about twice a week is about all I feel like doing. Despite the cold and icy conditions I'm ramping up the miles earlier than past years here Nothing huge, but 26 and 33 miles the past two weeks and aiming for high 30s this week.

I did the Spring Fling on Saturday, in spite of it being like a mid-winter's ice plunge. Spring Fling my Frozen Chosen ass.

The UAF thermometer said 14, but no way. It was more like 5 or 6 F out there at 10:30 when I was warming up and not a degree above single digits by the time we finished. I've done some cold racing on snowshoes and skis (or combi races), but have generally avoided winter road running. I'm almost certain this was my coldest 5K ever.

I lined up on the front row, but got put into my place right quick when a couple runners bumped me from behind and rocketed past before we even reached Alumini Drive, some 50-60 meters into the race. Along the way I picked up a stone in my shoe tread and it was digging into the ball of my foot. I tried to shake it, scrape it, or kick it out on the pavement but that didn't work. The leaders were well ahead already and I wanted to hang with the second pack of five or so runners. However, the rock was becoming painful and I had to stop to pull out the offending pebble. With clumsy lobster mitts, and already out of breath, that took two tries. Just past the UAF traffic circle, maybe 500 meters in, I was 10th or 11th and a ways back. But I could see that other than the first three or four everyone was slowing up, so I just made my way up, catching one at a time.

I tried to get a mile split but the glare was pretty high and I didn't hit the split timer well. I think it was 5:55, and I was 8th place. Past the Reindeer Farm/Botanical Garden I was still moving up and by 2K I caught the fast-starting 5th and 6th place runners. They were breathing hard so I was confident that I could move ahead. Patiently.

I was 10 seconds clear by the turn-around and was able to maintain that position throughout. I did pick it up (effort wise), but splits were right even with 11:49 (about) and 17:44 (finally got a split!), and I kicked in with 18:16. That's my slowest 5K since 2003, when I was injured and running 20 miles a week.

But at those temps I'm not disappointed because everyone's time was off; in fact, I was encouraged by placing decently and keeping an even pace.

Looks like it will also be cold for Beet Beathoven this weekend. Mid-teens will feel like a heat wave.