"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Old dog, new trick

Sometimes you look at something and see what you've never noticed previously. I just saw that there's a common workout that I've always ignored that has a benefit I couldn't see, but which just might be one more missing piece to the puzzle of why I never do well at the marathon distance.

The long interrupted threshold run

It's everywhere, if you look for it. In Jack Daniels' Marathon Plan (Runner's World Sep. 95, vol 30 issue 9, p.45 or from his book, plan A), it shows up in weeks 14, 17, 20, 21, 22 and 23. For example, in week 17, he has a 2 mile warm-up, 2x10-12 minutes at threshold with 2 minute recoveries, followed by 10 miles or 80 minutes of easy running, then another 15-20 minutes at threshold and a 2 mile cool-down. Pfitzinger, in Road Racing for Serious Runners has it in weeks 15, 14 and 12; in week 12, it's 2x2 miles at threshold (1/2 marathon to 15K pace). It's harder to find in Hudson, but he has has in-and-out miles (Table 5.1, pg 109), which is similar. It even goes back to Ron Daws, who n sharpening for elite marathoners has 3x4.5 miles with 3/4 mile recovery.

One plan is seemingly based on the idea. Scott Douglas had a plan in Runner's World that starts with speedwork and then develops endurance (here). Here, long repeats of 2-4 miles are done at marathon pace (or slightly faster), with 1/2 mile recoveries.

Where I went wrong

Interval workouts were originally designed to allow one to do more work at a pace than possible with continuous runs. For example, a 4 minute miler can run 10-12 x 400m in 60 seconds, or  2.5x3 times as far. The idea that the rest period can make the run harder escaped me. It is harder to run 2x3 miles at marathon pace with 2 easy miles in between than to run 6 miles at marathon pace, because one starts to "get cold," to feel the stiffness of beginning recovery from the hard run, and then has to overcome that to run fast again. I've always been of the mind of "why not just skip the easy bit, since you can do the workout without it?"

I just might need to think up a plan that includes this type of workout.

These eyes are creeping me out a bit.

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