Monday, August 26, 2013

New Beginnings

On the 17th July 2012 I did an interval session (5x1km at 10km pace) that was the first step an ill advised and premature quest to train for my first marathon. The folly of youth is not the topic of this post but rather the outcome (the bruised ego aside) of the 16 weeks of pain, torture and ultimately fulfillment that followed that first session. Two weeks after the marathon on the 4th November, I lined up at a 10km race, with no plan in mind, just happy to be in a familiar setting. Despite being affected by a very poorly planned start that had runners merging with walkers within the first 50 metres of the race, and 'only' getting to the first kilometre mark in ~4:30, I finished the race 12 seconds outside my 10km PB, 39:16 versus 39:04. In essence, I had covered the remaining 9km at around 38:40 10km pace, a guaranteed PB without the shenanigans at the start.

What was interesting though was how my body felt during the race. I really couldn't have any faster than ~3:50/km pace on the day, the leg speed really wasn't there, but at the end of the 10km I reckon I could have gone round again at that pace possibly up to 16km before needing to slow. When I had run the 39:04 at Wanderers at the end of August I was beat and had no more to give. At the time I was baffled and all my dad when I quizzed him amounted to, "obvious is obvious"!

My training at the time gave me no clue to explain that performance. I had done interval work for 5 weeks at the start of my marathon training before feeling burnt out and I switched then training and removed the high end work which I had understood was not needed for a first timer and with a goal of 4:30/km. The remaining 11 weeks were anchored around two core session the first being the obligatory long run that peaked at 33km. The second was marathon  pace running that first started as 4x2km at marathon pace to eventually a 16km continuous run with ~14km at  marathon pace. Every second week for added variety I would do a time trial, the route ~5.25km and by the end of the program I was close to breaking 20 minutes for the course (it was typically done at 17:15 with temperature around 25 degrees Celsius).

That's it.

The key difference between that 16 week block though was that my average mileage was 55.9km/week. Not a lot in the grander scheme of things but for me a 57% increase from last training plan! That was when I had trained for Wally Hayward half marathon from February to May earlier in the year. Prior to that I had never put in more than four weeks of continuous and consistent training. That plan was 10 weeks where I averaged 35.4km/week. Again not a lot but to put into perspective, up to the start of the plan, my highest monthly mileage total was 88km.

What followed both those focused training phases (the Wally Hayward plan was a success, I had aimed for a 1:40 half marathon and I ran 1:35:01) was first an unexpected comfort level at shorter races as well as a dramatic improvement in race times at those distances. Prior to Wally Hayward, I had never broken 45 minutes for a 10km and running at 4:00/km for anything more than a couple of laps around the track was torture. Indeed I had done a session that was paltry 2x800m and I had run 3:53 and 3:56 for those splits. Yet four days after Wally Hayward I ran 42:38 for 10km, over 3 minutes off my PB. Two weeks later I ran a 19:25 5km. Five weeks later I ran 61:40 for 15km and then after another two weeks ran a 17:49 5km. A week after that, I ran a 10.5km race in 42:24, half a kilometer further and still 14 seconds under my two month old 10km PB. Then my performances started to decline, I ran another 15km two later and ran 65:40 and though it was hilly I had expected to go faster.

Fast forward five months later and after that surprisingly comfortable 39:16 10km (you see I just don't pay attention though the evidence is there), I put in three weeks of solid training with an interval session on Tuesday, a threshold run on the Thursday and a 15km long run on Sunday. That 5.25km time trial, on  a day where it was pushing 30 degrees Celsius, after doing a 7km run in the morning with 5km at 3:45/km pace, is completed in 19:21. I line up for a 10km two days later and the end result: 90s quicker and a new PB of 37:46 (or 37:34 on the official results on!

The rest as the say is history.

The one problem was that after the euphoria of that huge PB I got sucked into intervals. I had yet to put the connection that my work capacity was a result of all the endurance work I had done before and that the intervals were the cherry on top. As I moved into 2013 I noticed (but ignored) a reduction in my work capacity. Whereas I was able to do 5 x 1mile at 5:45/mi pace after the marathon, in the new year I found 4x800 more than enough. I became a repetition junkie, churning out at a stage 65s 400m off 3 minutes recovery. Great if I was in a 400m repetition contest but useless for preparing for a fast 10km!

With plenty of time to reflect and prepare during my injury layoff, I have been putting together the final touches to a training guideline to push me to the next level. I have also been  running. For four weeks at that...and most importantly pain free. I have been holding off this post, waiting to see how my body would respond to moving again after beginning the early process of rebuilding my running toolkit.

Yesterday I ran a 5km fun run, mostly just to break free off the shackles a bit but also confidence that 5km was far enough to push myself but not too far too cause any damage. I won't do a detailed report except to say that I started fast and for the most part stayed fast. It wasn't my fastest 5km ever, in fact I have run many faster 5km splits in 10km races. In my current situation though it represented a very good effort, 18:22 on a good course, after 4 weeks of no running followed by 4 weeks of minimal mileage (17km, 21.5km, 22.5km and 30km including the fun run) and a far bit of walking. The run definitely represents the best I could have done on the day but I feel confident that I can get a lot faster very quickly actually.

My official 5km PB is 17:49 but I have run a 17:34 5km split in a 10km race, as well as 16:09 for a ~4.6km race which extrapolates to a sub 17:30 5km. I can get back there. The road to those times, and the associated 10km times in the 36's started at just under 40 minutes for 10km. Punching that 18:22 into any online calculator puts me at around 38:05-38:15 10km shape, which again is not bad considering the circumstances. I basically haven't run a lot since 1 May, 150km in June is deceptive as a lot of it was poor mileage, run while nursing rapidly worsening ITB syndrome. That seems to be past me now and my knee is getting stronger with every run, as opposed to worse in June.

With the confidence I've gained from 4 weeks of solid running, I have decided to start officially training again. Instead of adding more fast stuff at the end, the extra two weeks will be base training. That extends my base from 12 to 14 weeks. I was hoping to be at around ~40km/week in two weeks times and I'm going to use these two weeks to run easy, no hard running, and establish a routine. This means getting my warm up and cool down sorted to complement the run as well as supplementary strength work three times a week.

The basic overview is to use weeks one to four to escalate my weekly volume to my base level. Typically I can knock off 45-50km which translates to about four to four and a half hours on my feet depending on the workout composition. I can do that for weeks on end with no obvious signs of fatigue. And though I've run in the 70-80km/week range when training for the marathon I feel that my natural maximum right now is around 65km/week. Any more than that and it's hard work. So the goal of weeks five to ten will be be to sensibly build up to and exceed this volume and get into 70-80 km weeks or about 6 hours of running. In weeks 11-14 the goal will be maintenance of that volume. There are low mileage weeks planned for week 8 and week 12.

14 week base training guideline
It's not dissimilar to what I had planned before but is probably a bit better balanced. The first 4 weeks don't have any workouts in the strictest sense of the word. In weeks five to ten, I alternate a fartlek and a marathon pace tempo. In week 11 to 14 the fartlek and tempo are done in the same week but volume is held steady. Throughout there'll be neuromuscular work in the form of first hill sprints, then adding proper speed work, ie short fast sprints, nothing longer than 30 seconds. I'm using a speed development progression devised by Coach Jay Johnson. There are two races in there, the first in week eight is tentative while I'm very keen for the one in week 12, which is a known variable and it very late into the base phase and I'm sure it will be safe to race. It's time based because I know that if set a distance I am more likely to try and get through the distance quicker. It's also not set in stone. The weekly totals there are going to be variable and I just guesstimates based on my 5km race and the sort of pace I would expect to manage. I have thought about using a heart rate monitor but honestly find it uncomfortable for more than 30 minutes. I will use it on my recovery runs to conscientiously keep my heart rate down; 150 corresponds to ~5:00/km which feels slow to me and is fully conversational.

So that's the plan until the end of November. I saw some great results last year with a similar if unplanned progression. Basically I'm going to training for a marathon that unlike last year I have no intention to run, which also removes the need for 2 weeks recovery post marathon! I'm confident in this plan, I've been there before but I've used my training history to inform the detail of this new plan. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding, so time to lace up those shoes!

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