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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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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 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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