Archive for the ‘Speedwork’ Category

Earlier this week I looked at the marathon training plan from Smart Marathon Training: Run Your Best Without Running Yourself Ragged (1st Edition) and balked when I saw a mid-week speed workout that added up to 18.25 miles. That’s a lot of miles for any speed workout, much less one scheduled for 10 days before race day. I questioned whether that was accurate and even went so far as to email the author, Jeff Horowitz, to see if it was a typo. To his credit, Coach Jeff replied very quickly to say that I had indeed discovered a previously undiscovered typo in the first edition of the book. Unfortunately, my Gmail account had been hacked and his reply went directly to the trash, where I found it today. Lesson learned: trust your instincts, and don’t be a slave to the plan and run 18.25 miles when you should be tapering. The workout was only supposed to be 10 miles long, and I ran an extra 8.25 miles. Oops. Big oops. The fact remains that I kicked that workout’s behind, and now all I can do with seven days until the marathon is focus on rest and recovery as best I can. Oh, and I can document the correction to the typos here. So here’s my correction, and my book review to go with it.

Please note the following correction to Speed Workout #14 on pages 177, 179, and 181 of Smart Marathon Training (1st Edition). For speed workout #14, do 1-mile warm-up, the intervals below, and 1-mile cool-down:

14. 4 x 800m
with 400m recoveries
(10K race pace)
Repeat 3 times

My book review:

This book is excellent for the intermediate to advanced runner (or triathlete) who enjoys running three days a week and cross-training on the bike another two days a week, plus strength training and drills mixed in with those workouts twice a week. I chose the intermediate marathon training plan, which had me putting in 8-10 hours a week. I enjoyed substituting some 50-60 mile bike rides for long runs — the plan called for 3 20-mile runs plus a few long bike rides. I also appreciated the emphasis on strength training, including photographs and descriptions of how to perform the exercises (note that I supplemented these with Quick Strength for Runners: 8 Weeks to a Better Runner’s Body, also by Jeff Horowitz). This plan was challenging in that it had me running 27-34 miles per week, packed into 3 runs. It takes a lot of planning to be able to do 8-10 mile runs during the week, along with 20-30 mile bike rides. Although there are varying plans for varying levels of runners, the plans are certainly a serious time commitment for a serious athlete. I’ve never felt stronger as a runner (I’ve been running for 3 years and my next race will be my fourth full marathon).

I found this book to have a philosophy similar to Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program, which I also liked. However, I prefer this one due to the aforementioned substitution of long bike rides for some of the long runs (whereas Run Less, Run Faster has plans that call for five 20-mile long runs, which bored me and burned me out a bit).

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I admit it, I’m a little bit of a slave to the training plan. I pretty much commit to and follow the training plan as written. I might juggle a workout here or there, occasionally switching up the days as needed, but they all get done eventually. There’s not much more satisfying than crossing off a workout.

I also don’t look much past the current and next day on the plan. I map out the workouts for the 16 or so weeks of the plan, but then I take them one day at a time, as one must. So I was in for a bit of a surprise.

As you might know, I was happy to embrace the 3-week taper period leading up to my next full marathon, The Santa Rosa Marathon. But then the workouts continued at pretty much the same pace for countdown week 3. Week 3 ended and week 2 began with a “long” run on Sunday of 10 miles, which indeed is long but seemed like a short run by comparison. I thought for sure taper had begun in earnest. But then the plan proceeded as usual with strength training on Monday and a 20-mile bike ride on Tuesday. Fine, I can handle those. I eat 20 mile bike rides for breakfast. <—- Me, poking fun at myself.

Then came Wednesday's workout. Wednesday is the speed workout on the plan. You might recall that sometimes the speed workout from Smart Marathon Training is a long run in disguise.

And this speed workout, scheduled for just 10 days before race day, was the whopper of all speed workouts:

1 mile warmup
400 m, 800 m,
400 m, 800 m,
400 m, 800 m,
400 m, 800 m,
400 m
with 400 m recoveries
(10K race pace) [for me and my I wanna-qualify-for-Boston-ambitions: 7:41, which is 7.8 mph]
Repeat 3 times [<—– Red flag]
1 mile cool down

Okay, do the math people. That adds up to 18.25 miles. I literally thought it was a typo. I could see doing the set of intervals one time, but "Repeat 3 times"? Are you kidding me?

I checked the Intermediate Marathon training plan, and checked again. I checked the Advanced and Competitive Marathon training plans. They all said the same thing for Speed Workout #14. [Edited to add: I later found out from the author, Coach Jeff Horowitz, that the plan contained a typo and the speed workout was only supposed to be 10 miles, not 18.25. See the correct workout here.]

So that's how I celebrated the first day that all three of my kids were in school full time. I dropped them off at school, hit up Vons for some more Gatorade, and set out to run/walk intervals for the next 3.5 hours. In the end it was a huge confidence booster, and I believe it was excellent practice for relying on the course aid stations for my all fuel. Normally I like to carry my sports drink with me so I don't have to stop running at each aid station. This time I won't have on-course support from my husband, so I've got to rely on the aid stations, which means slowing to a walk every two miles or so, taking in 6-8 ounces of sports drink as I walk, then picking the pace back up to average 8:25 or so. This interval workout made excellent practice for that. I'd run a quarter mile, then walk a quarter mile, run a half mile, then walk a quarter mile. I nailed the 7:41 pace each time, my confidence blossoming with each success.

When I finished, I hit the Vons again for some chocolate milk to refuel. A full quart of chocolate milk. And I took an ice bath when I got home. And I wore my PRO Compression socks for the rest of the day.

I feel pretty good today, but I am glad that the plan truly starts to taper now. Normally I’d be biking 20 miles today, but the plan only calls for strength training. Normally I’d be running eight miles tomorrow, but the plan “only” calls for 15 miles on the bike. I can only hope that my dedication to the plan pays off, and this final push before a severe cutback in taper leaves me with legs primed to kick butt on August 24th: 9 days, 9 hours and 25 minutes away.

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Personally I like Pi Day, March 14 (3.14, get it?):

Chocolate meringue pie that I baked for the 6th graders to celebrate Pi Day

Chocolate meringue pie that I baked for the 6th graders to celebrate Pi Day

But National Running Day is also a day I can get behind. I celebrated it today with Rice Krispies Treats. No, I’m only kidding, I celebrated it with a whopper of a speed workout (and then I ate some Rice Krispies Treats).

I budgeted an hour for my run this morning, not realizing that this was the King of All Speed Workouts:

1 mile warmup

(400m, 800m, 1,200m, 800m, 400m) times 3,
at 10K pace (7:41, 7.8 mph)

rest interval of 400m jog in between each repeat

1 mile cooldown

= 12.25 miles in 1:55:45.

So, I celebrated National Running Day twice, running the first 6.25 miles in the hour I budgeted before my youngest daughter’s swim lessons, and running the last 6 miles after we got home from getting frozen yogurt. (Yes, fine, I had frozen yogurt and Rice Krispies Treats today, but only because the girls got Yogurtland coupons from the summer reading program at the library and this is the Summer of Yes, as in “Can we get frozen yogurt at Frozen Yogurtland?” (that’s what my 5-year-old calls it). Answer, “Yes.” (Within reason of course. “Can we watch eleventy billion hours of television?” Answer, “No.”)

What’s up with the 12.25-mile speed workout? That’s a long run by most people’s standards. But I’m following the Smart Marathon Training intermediate marathon training plan, and I think it called for the King of All Speed Workouts because this week’s “long run” is replaced with a “long bike” of 60 miles. That will be a new personal distance record for me on the bike, by the way. Just a few weeks ago I did 50 miles in 3 hours 15 minutes. I confess that during that time there was never a moment that I said, “Gee, I really wish I were running 20 miles instead of biking today.”

If I prefer biking to running, then why do I run?

National Running Day I Run

Did you celebrate National Running Day? Why do you run?

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This morning I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for the privilege of participating in the inaugural race for The Encinitas Mile and I am so glad I did! After an uneventful 80-minute drive during which I got to see the full moon shine on the Pacific Ocean, I arrived in Encinitas at 7 a.m. and had no trouble finding free parking within a block of the race expo. I took advantage of the race day bib pickup and easily picked up my bib, timing chip and high quality cotton shirt (finally, a cotton t-shirt that is actually soft and stylish, although they do run a bit small in the women’s so go up a size if you are borderline.)

The event started on time and ran smoothly for multiple heats. I loved hearing a pre-race pep talk by Steve Scott, the American record holder in the mile for over 25 years, who has run 136 sub-4 mile race times! His main advice to the 6-12 year olds in the first heat (and all the other spectators listening) was to go out steady and run the mile at an even pace. He cautioned us all not to go out too fast (a mistake I’d recently made at the iTry 5K that almost cost me a PR). I’d never raced a mile before and had high hopes to come in under 7 minutes. I’d been doing my quarter mile repeats at about 6:55 and thought I could hit that for the mile if I managed the race right.

The heat for the masters men and women (all ages 40+, not including elite runners) started at 8:30 a.m. I lined up about five rows of people back, not quite midway in the pack. As an inaugural race there weren’t too many people in the heat and I had no idea where to put myself, but it turned out to be just right. I heeded Steve Scott’s advice and did my best not to go out too fast. I kept the pace between 6:11 and 6:44 (my slowest average pace after making the u-turn at the half-mile mark) and when I hit the 3/4-mile mark I picked up the pace until I saw the finish line and sprinted all-out to come in at 6:34! Turns out that with the small field (15 in the 40-49 group and 23 in the masters women overall) that put me in second place for both groups! I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Best of all, second place came with a gift card for $20 for Movin Shoes and a gift certificate for a running skirt from Running Skirts. I redeemed my gift certificate at the Running Skirts booth at the post-race expo and chose this super-cute, colorful option:

running skirt

What a great day! I never would have guessed this was an inaugural event and I commend the organizers for putting on a well-organized and serious yet fun race. There was something for everyone, from children to masters to elites and, at the end, even dogs! The weather couldn’t be beat and the setting on Vulcan Ave. was gorgeous. I would totally do this race again and I recommend it to anyone interested in tackling the mile. I found that I very much enjoyed the mile race distance — definitely a challenge with the speed but “easier” than the sustained effort of a 5K.

Have you ever raced a mile? Did you compete in track at school and/or have you raced the mile in competition outside of an academic setting? As I said, I’d never raced the mile distance before but I look forward to working on my speed and taking it on again!

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When we last left our intrepid marathon trainee the Fit Fun Mom, she despaired over a lackluster 13-mile long run. Thank goodness the cutback week called for fewer miles and let her recover from a nagging head cold. We now join our fearless runner, who’s high after a successful speed workout and will now stop talking about herself in the third person. šŸ™‚

It’s week eight of M2B marathon training. Nearly halfway done! Thank goodness Monday’s speed workout got knocked out of the park. Quarter-mile repeats are my new best friends!

Decoding the Speed Workout

The workout on my Run Less, Run Faster plan called for:

“10-20 min warmup    2 x (6 x 400 in 1:42)  (90 sec RI)   (2min30 RI bt sets)  10 min cooldown”

That’s a 10-20 minute warmup run, which I usually do at a 10-minute pace (6 miles per hour). I like to do speed workouts on the treadmill because it allows me to target a pace and know I’m hitting it consistently. I should increase the incline to adjust for the fact that I’m running on the treadmill but speed work is so new to me that I’m happy just to hit the pace at a 0% incline.

“2 x (6 x 400 in 1:42)” translates to two sets of six quarter-mile repeats at an average pace of 6:50, or 8.77 miles per hour. To help myself keep track of the repeats, I did one quarter-mile at 8.8 miles per hour, then did the next at 8.7 mph, then back up to 8.8 and so on.

The “90 sec RI” calls for 90 seconds of rest interval in between each quarter-mile repeat. For each ninety seconds of rest I walked at 3.5 miles per hour.

“2min30 RI bt sets” is a 2-minute 30-second rest interval in between the two sets of six quarter-mile repeats. Heavenly rest.

After six more quarter-mile repeats, I ended with a little rest after the last repeat, and a final mile at six miles per hour for the 10-minute cooldown. By the time I finished I had done 6.5 miles in 1:08. Not exactly speedy overall (or even speedy repeats for the most speedy of you readers out there), but a darn good speed workout for me. I think the fastest I’ve ever run is 9 miles per hour and so to do 12 400-meter repeats at 8.7/8.8 mph is huge! So satisfying. By the end, the sweat was literally flying. I’d swing my elbows to will my legs to keep up and the drops of sweat would fly off the ends of my elbows onto the gym windows (Sorry, people. I did wipe down the treadmill afterward but I left the windows alone).

The Benefits of Speed Workouts

Run Less, Run Faster explains the benefits of speed workouts as the following:

    • Improve maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max)
    • Increase running economy
    • Improve speed
    • Bust boredom (okay fine, that’s my own addition).

What’s VO2 max?

VO2 max refers to the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise. It is measured as “milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight.”

(About.com Sports Medicine). The higher your VO2 max, the more energy you can produce.

What’s “running economy“?

Running economy is how efficiently your body uses oxygen. Some people argue that running economy is a better predictor of performance than VO2 max, and it’s also something that you have more control over than VO2 max, which is significantly controlled by genetics. (Runner’s World: “Efficient, See? Improve Your Running Economy and Go Longer and Stronger at Any Pace.”)

Do you do speed workouts? What’s your favorite? Do you do track repeats or hit the treadmill to gauge your speed?

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I checked off week three on my 16-week marathon training plan and I have 13 weeks to go. Training is going so well that I have to make a conscious effort to rein myself in and not overdo it. I have found that it’s when I’m feeling my best that I get injured (see: groin strain before my first half marathon, plantar fasciitis 10 weeks into the 20-week training plan for my first full marathon). This time around I am doing several new things to prevent injury: (1) in addition to a dynamic warm-up (as opposed to static stretches), I walk for at least five minutes before a speed workout or tempo run to ease my body into it and not strain something, (2) I walk for 5-10 minutes after every run to cool down, (3) I do not mix hill work and speed work — if I’m running a hilly route, I dial back the pace a little, (4) I incorporate strength training at least three days a week, and (5) I stretch my calves religiously and use the foam roller after every run. It’s all a bit of guesswork and figuring out what works best for me. For good measure, I throw in making wishes on dandelion blowballs (yes, that is the technical name for them, so says Wikipedia) and making wishes when I drive under an overpass with a moving train on it: Please please let me make it to May 26, 2013 uninjured and ready to have a fantastic race!

The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon will be my second full marathon. The first time around I followed a beginner training plan from Run Less, Run Faster, and this time I am following an advanced plan from that book. Both the beginner and advanced plans call for three runs per week: a speed workout, a tempo run, and a long run at a prescribed pace that is generally 30-45 seconds slower than marathon pace. With warm-up and cool down, a typical speed workout is six miles, a tempo run is 7-12 miles, and a long run is 13-20 miles. For the first few weeks of the plan, that has translated to about 27 miles per week. Some people might panic at the thought of running such low overall mileage when training for a marathon, but I find it works a lot better for me personally to run three days per week rather than five. My running muscles get a break and my mind gets a break. I do not get bored. I cross-train two or three other days with cycling and swimming to build aerobic endurance. I work a broad range of muscles and that keeps my body in balance.

Take week 1 of marathon training for example. Here’s what my actual workouts ended up being:

Sunday: 40 minutes of strength training
Monday: Speed workout: 10-20 minute warmup, 3 x 1600m (mile repeats) at 7:11 (8.4 mph) with a 400m rest interval in between, and a 10 minute cooldown = 6 miles on the treadmill.
Tuesday: Bike 13.5 miles in 45 minutes, plus 10 minutes of strength training
Wednesday: Tempo run: 2 miles easy/increasing, 2 miles at 7:44 (7.8 mph), 2 miles easy = 6.5 with warmup and cooldown
Thursday: REST
Friday: Swim 0.64 miles (cut short when the pool was closed due to lightning!), plus 30 minutes strength training
Saturday: 13 miles at 9:05 plus a 10-minute walk = 14.4 miles with warmup and cooldown –> This was the Virtual Run for Sherry.

Mixing up the workouts that way makes me look forward to each day on the schedule. I’m happy when it calls for a speed workout (which I find killer but very satisfying), and I’m happy when it calls for a bike ride. Tempo runs are not my favorite because they are tough for me but I know those are just what I need to work on pacing and on toughing it out when race day comes. Long runs I find very meditative and I love the sense of accomplishment when I’m done. Swimming works out all the kinks in my body and just makes me feel good overall, like someone’s oiled up my joints. And I even enjoy the rest day, where I do the “rest” of the things I need to do, like laundry and house cleaning!

What about you? Are you a fan of cross-training? How many days per week do you run?

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I only wish I were there to see the London 2012 Olympics! Photo credit: JP Photography

Okay fine. It’s a slight exaggeration to say I did speedwork with the Jamaican sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. Just a tiny bit misleading. It would be more accurate to say that I did Tuesday’s speed workout on the treadmill at the gym while I watched Usain Bolt qualify for the Men’s 200m in the semifinals of the London 2012 Olympics. Nearly as inspirational and motivational, right?

I am new to speedwork. When I trained this past spring for my first half marathon, I ran with a running group whose plan avoided speedwork altogether. We did one long run on Saturdays and four more easy or medium efforts during the week. The coaches thought the best strategy to get us to race day well-trained and injury-free was to have us put in the mileage with four months of steady running. I can see the wisdom in that and it indeed got me to race day healthy and helped me achieve my goal of a sub-2 half.

This time around, I am following a marathon training plan from Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster, Revised Edition: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Run-a-Week Training Program. The plan incorporates one speed workout, one tempo run, and one long run, plus at least two days of cross-training. Perfect for this triathlete!

The Run Less, Run Faster plan tailors each workout based on the runner’s previous race times (for me, my half marathon time of 1:55:10). Tuesday’s speed workout called for the following:

Warmup at 10:00 pace, 6 mph*
1200m at 7:29, 8.02 mph
1000m at 7:28, 8.04 mph
800m at 7:22, 8.14 mph
600m at 7:17, 8.23 mph
400m at 7:12, 8.33 mph
RI** 200m (for me, done at a gasping walk!)
Cooldown at 10:00, 6 mph

* I mention the miles per hour for people like me who are pace-challenged. For the record, I am also direction-challenged (never ask me if we’re heading north on a trail) and spatial-relations-challenged (it’s a wonder I haven’t tripped over my own feet yet).
** Rest Interval in between each drill.

I find that I love speedwork. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I finish. I never get bored, which is saying a lot when I have to run on the treadmill. Even more important, it gives me a physical boost and the mental confidence to know that I am working toward hitting my goal pace on race day.

Do you incorporate speedwork into your running workouts? What’s your favorite track repeat? Do you find the Olympics as inspiring and motivating as I do?!

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