For the past month I have adopted a new training strategy. All of my running this year has been geared towards one thing – going the distance. Now that I have a really good base built up, I thought it would be a good time to start adding some speed. I also wanted to toughen up my legs some more and just get them used to running a lot more frequently. Even though I have put in some big miles, my typical week only consists of 3-5 runs. I wanted to up that total to 6/week, and shoot for having one hard speedwork session, one tempo run, and one long run. The rest would be slower 5-8 mile recovery runs.
I picked out a half marathon coming up in December to give me something to focus on and got to work. After quite a bit of searching, I found a training plan that fit my ideas and plugged the workouts into my training calendar. Some of them were a little complicated and tough to do:
Standard warm up. Run 2 x .5/.75/2 mi supersets. Run .5 @ 7:15, .75 @ 7:30, and 2 mi @ 7:45. Do not rest between the distances. Recover between the sets with .5 mi at an easy pace. Cool down with .5 mi at an easy pace.
Standard warm up. Run 30 minutes alternating between 30 seconds at 20 seconds per mile faster than 5K pace and 30 seconds at an easy pace. Cool down with 5 minutes at an easy pace. 6:50/easy
I started out well and nailed the workouts as planned. I struggled through some bad shin pain for a couple of weeks, and still got it done. Then the wheels started coming off. I started bailing out on some of the workouts, which is something I hadn’t done before. I would have to cut them short because I just couldn’t do all of the specified repeats or mileage at the prescribed pace. At first it was just once in a while, and I chalked it up to being fatigued, but then it started happening on every key workout. The training plan cracked me physically and mentally. I was beat down with failure, my legs were shot, and my attitude in general had taken a turn for the worse.
I hopped on the treadmill Monday to do a challenging workout (considering my condition) with 3 miles easy followed by 7 miles at my planned half-marathon pace. I did the first 3, then ramped it up and started going faster. At 3.91 miles I pulled the plug and got off the treadmill. It just wasn’t happening. I hardly ever quit anything, but I was in a real rut here and started to question my running in general. With that, I made a decision to take some time off and wait until I actually wanted to run again.
That only lasted 4 days. It was a much needed break, though.
Today I laced up my trusty trail shoes (which was nice because I’d been running roads all this time) and got back to my roots – or rocks as the case may be… I’ve had my eye on Carpenter Peak for a while and have wanted to run to the top and back from my house. It’s one of the dominant features above our subdivision, and I hadn’t ever been up to the top despite living here for almost ten years.
I took off under an overcast sky, 49 degrees, in shorts, t-shirt, and gloves. Perfect. I had no idea how many miles it would be, but kind of had 2 hours as a time goal to get to the top.
My calves complained mightily under the strain of the first climbs. My right one burned with a steady fire for a couple of miles, and my left caused my foot to go numb for a while. Need to get those puppies loosened up! Once I hit some rolling terrain I was feeling much better. Even though I was working, I could tell that I felt pretty good in general and would be able to hold my pace for a long time. I also didn’t want to stop or take any walk breaks (which is pretty standard practice on a mountainous trail run).
I got to the base of the mountain proper in about an hour and started up the singletrack trail that switchbacked its way up the slope. Man, I was really feeling good here! I ran the whole thing without ever going over my anaerobic threshold. When my heart rate hits 172, that is the point where I start producing lactic acid faster than my muscles can clear it. After that, it’s only a matter of time before performance really declines. I was able to keep a steady effort with my heart rate at 165 and the legs felt great. Hmmm, this is new. Even with all of the miles I’ve done, a climb like this would normally have me crossing the line into the red zone if I tried to run it.
I think all of the training I had been doing (even though it wiped me out) really boosted my ability to work more efficiently below my threshold, and also to continue working well when I was near my threshold. I guess that’s what spending all of that time running at that point will do for you. Anyway, it was great to be able to run that mountain strongly. I think I will definitely stick with this type of training, but I need to make sure I’m recovered from one hard run before doing another. Can’t just blindly follow a plan anymore.
It was 9 miles and 2,000 feet of climbing to the top and I made it there very comfortably in 1:52. Nice.