Posts Tagged ‘Intervals’

Day 2: Speed Work

In Thought of the Day on June 20, 2012 at 3:59 am

Day 2 of marathon training starts early. I couldn’t sleep. I woke up a 4 am in a nervous panic. My son’s lacrosse team is in a playoff with a team from Burnaby, a neighboring town and the league commissioner was suppose to give me a ruling on when and where we play. In turn I would have to notify the waiting parents and the team to ensure we could field a team. His last email said ‘I will let you know tonight’. How ominous those words were. I checked my email before I went to bed at 10:30, nothing. At 4 am I check again and he had notified us just before midnight that the game would be played today. It’s less than 15 hours before game time. I put the email out.
I make myself a cup of coffee in the hotel room. Hotel coffee is bad but at 4 am standing around in my underwear, it’ll do. I gather my running clothes together, lay out my work clothes for the day and pack the rest of my stuff into my suitcase and then head down to the car. As the alarm on my watch beeps telling me it’s 5 am I pull into the parking lot of Mill Wood Rec Centre, a local track that I find through Google Maps.
The Hanson brothers marathon program says that Tuesdays are for speed work. Unlike Higdon that says do this many intervals at this pace for this many sets, the Hansons are little more forgiving. There is a little more left to interpretation so long as the end result is a cumulative amount of miles. I like that!
I walk out to the track with my Ultimate Direction Access hydration belt which I dump off to the side. I shuffle into a warm up jog and as I round the backstretch I see kids in the adjacent skateboard park. It’s 5 am?! They are dressed very warmly and are riding around the park on their bikes. I get a bad feeling. I complete the first lap and stop to pick up my belt. On the second lap it seems I have attracted their attention. Two of them ride over and do wheelies and fish tale their bikes in my path. I am mildly irritated but don’t break stride. They can’t be more than 15 years old. I have a son that age.
They ride back to the skate park and start shouting and jeering. ‘Run Jackie Chan run!’ How original! Rednecks in the making! There are three of them. The one that didn’t come out for the ride along looks like he might be sleeping. Did they sleep out here? This is a residential area there is no malls, no restaurants, not even a gas station nearby. Were they street kids or just kids with no limitation parents?

I break out into interval pace. Without a steady training regime and mostly heart I soon find a comfortable groove. I am reluctant to glance down at the Garmin to see what my pace is or even my split at the 400 mark. Eyes straight ahead, focus. The first 800 is done in 3:35.
The kids have now attracted some attention from a city worker who looks after the park. A pick up truck with the City of Edmonton logo parks itself on the grass near the skate park. I feel a bit of relief as I know I’m not alone out here. My shoulders relax and my pace smoothes out. Second 800 done in 3:34.

I can’t hear anything but the kids occasional shouts of profanity. They keep circling the bowl of the skate park like sharks in the tank. The city worker drives away and I am alone once more. I remain focused on the task 4 x 800. Yasso 800s they are called. Named after Bart Yasso who discovered that training your speed in consistent 800 meter intervals equates to your finishing time in the marathon except minutes become hours and seconds become minutes. Third 800 in 3:31.

I used these 800s in my last training program, quite successfully I might add. I consistently trained at 3:30 for 800 meters and I ended up with a 3 hour and 29 minute PR. The guide I read said not to exceed 3 miles of intervals which would have been 6 repetitions but because of my recent lack of training I shoot for 4. I still feel good but at this point why should I push I’m still building not refining my pace. Defining not refining! The final 800 is complete in 3:29.

As I warm down I take notice of what is happening over at the skate park. The city worker has returned and a shouting match ensues. I casually walk back to my car as the kids mount their bikes and head off towards me. They ride right by and behind the Rec Center. A police cruiser pulls in. Show’s over!

I drive back to the hotel in a slight euphoria. I finished my speed workout unscathed. It’s just after 6 am and I have the whole day ahead of me. As I get in the elevator and the door is backed open by an older man. He’s dripping with sweat as he towels off, fresh from a few miles on the treadmill. “Great morning!” he says as the door closes.

“Yes, The best!”


Once a Runner: Ch 32 The Interval Workout

In Books, Once a Runner on November 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm

One of my favorite books on the shelf is “Once a Runner” by John L Parker.  Runner’s World has called it the best running book of all time.  I rank it amongst my all-time favorite books not just running books.  I recently re-read and re-listened to my favorite chapters.   You see if I really like a book, not only will I buy the hardcover (it’s got to be hardcover) but I also bought it on Audible.  I must admit there is some about listening to someone narrate a book after you’ve already read it.  Perhaps it’s the different intonations or maybe it’s the change in pitch they do when there is dialogue. It’s nice having a book read to you. Just saying!

On this occasion I am in awe of Chapter 32 Intervals.  If you haven’t read the book then stop reading but it is an amazing piece of prose.  In this chapter, the hero Quenton Cassidy has abandoned all norms of social life, living in the woods in an environment only Thoreau would understand (Was Thoreau a runner?) His mentor, his teacher Bruce Denton has built up anticipation in the young students mind.

It starts with 20 x 440s in sets of 5 with 110 yard rest jogs in between.  The speed at which he is suppose to get to is 62 or 63 seconds per ¼ mile. This works out to 4:12 pace.  Parker was careful in his setup of this pace as an earlier training run with a young upstart Jack Nubbins was at around this pace, easy for Cassidy but difficult for Nubbins.

Do the math! 4 sets of 5 x 440 yards is 5 miles add to that the 110 yard rest intervals in between reps and the 440 yards of rest in between sets or another half a mile.  That would be the five miles in 21 minutes.  Let’s say the interval rests he does at half speed maybe 10 minute pace (Just for kicks!) Grand total for the first set is 36 minutes and he just ran over 10K at run/walk intervals (6.75 miles).  Jeff Galloway probably never knew it could be so fast using his run/walk method.  It is credible don’t you think? People run low 30s in everyday fun runs (Just not me!)

Okay I know what you are thinking.  “Rob, it’s fiction! It’s only a book”.  Yes it’s only a book but a believable book.  Parker laces his tome with endless believable workouts and paces that we get sucked into this one as being believable when the paces and distances become mythical.

Let’s keep going shall we? I mean it is just for fun.  That was the first set, now but another set of 20 reps at the same pace. And another after Bruce Denton says to do this one by yourself.  All tolled, he does 30 K, give or take rest breaks he does it in way less than 2 hours.

More Myth

Parker is careful to note that the young hero does not take water for the entire session.

Parker also notes that Cassidy has urine in his blood upon passing out.  A very believable fact that gives credence the heroic effort is plausible based on physiologic evidence of taxing the body.  Dehydration followed by overhydration?  Maybe some rhabdomyolysis (acute breakdown of the muscle caused by overexertion).

Add a little more to the myth, Cassidy does the session barefoot because he likes the feel beneath his feet. A little like Peter Snell I believe but clearly a precursor to Christopher McDougall’s philosophy in Born to Run.

What appeals to me?

I could never run 10K in 36 minutes.  I couldn’t even run 1 x 440 yards in 63 seconds maybe not even 73 seconds.  To do 20 of them and then another 20 and another is brilliant. Parker clearly must have based this chapter and workout on personal experience.  After all he was southeastern conference champion for 3 years in the mile.

When I did intervals for marathon training my pace was 3:30 for 800 meters (Yasso 800s). It worked and I PRed with a time of 3:29.38. That’s about 1:45 for once around or 105 seconds. So I look at milers with awe.  Their sheer speed impresses me.

After reading Once a Runner I was tempted to run the mile as an event. The training mileage is a lot like marathon training or so it seems in Parker-like fashion.  I was also inclined to read the sequel to this book Again to Carthage.  Thank God Quenton Cassidy grew up and trained for a marathon. I settled on the marathon but the mile is calling me.

Thanks for reading!