Saturday, September 25, 2010

40 x 400m

Doesn't that sound like a killer workout? For those of you who are lucky enough not to follow my stupid posts on Facebook, you missed the comments that followed when I posted that I had completed this workout. Let's just say it ended with people wondering whether I would pee blood the next day.

What if I told you I ran 5 x 2 miles with reps 1,3,and 5 @ 10-12 seconds per mile faster than goal marathon pace (GMP) and reps 2 and 4 at GMP (~6:15) w/ 2 minute jogs in between. That doesn't seem as bad, does it? Well, I did run 44 times around the track (including rest laps) Wednesday night, 16 miles for the workout and 20 miles for the day and it was hard. I made it harder, intentionally, by doing the workout around the track versus along the bike trail because I wanted to test my brain as well as my body.

I experienced all of the pre-workout drama that I normally do including feeling like I might be coming down with the flu, having an achy back, worrying about how windy it was, etc. I knew that my emotions would be enhanced by doing the workout around the track because 40 times around the track seems so overwhelming regardless of how fast or slow you're running the laps.

I ran a couple of miles warm up before heading to the practice track at Sac State. I started the workout and experienced the normal downer emotions right away. Here's a snippet from my internal conversation during that first two-mile repeat:

"6:00 pace feels so fast." Lap 1 complete. "How in the hell am I going to hold this pace for
39 more laps?" Lap 2 complete. "I think my breathing is way too hard for this pace." Lap 3 complete. "Well, the workout was written as 4-5 x 2 miles. I could always just do 4 repeats instead of 5." 4 laps complete. "6:03. That was okay. My target is 6:05-6:07 pace, so I can even slow down these next few laps and still hit my target." lap 5 complete. "Hey, this is a pretty cool song on my iPod." lap 6 complete. "Wow, I only have 2 laps to go this rep and then I get to jog." lap 7 complete. "Cool. The next repeat will be slower."

I finished that repeat in 12:06 and took my jog rest. I was now feeling warmed up and excited about running marathon pace. During this next rep, I let my mind continue thinking about how I felt and what I had ahead of me. However, I started to bring myself back to the present moment as often as I could. Having music in my ears actually helped with this. I would think about the song I was listening to in order to distract my brain a little and was then able to focus on more positive things.

That repeat felt good. I ran the 8 laps in 12:22. I jogged for a couple of minutes while taking a gu and sipping my water. I knew the next one was going to be my biggest challenge.

I really wanted to try out some tools to help keep me focused in this next repeat. I started the first lap and thought only about that lap. I took it out a little hot. I let myself relax a little. The next lap was a little fast too. It felt fine, though. So, I decided to go with the feeling instead of the watch and clicked off lap after lap. I passed through 4 laps in 5:56 and felt good. I practiced focusing on the 5th lap. I thought to myself, "just stay strong through this lap. The next lap will take care of itself." I used the same thinking for the 6th lap, and the 7th. Then, I decided to focus on the finish into Grant Park in Chicago. I thought about staying strong, pumping my arms all the way to the finish line. I finished lap 8 in 11:59. Two minute jog.

The next repeat would be relatively easy, because it was at GMP. That's why I love workouts that switch between slightly faster than GMP and GMP. They trick your mind into thinking that GMP is easy. I realized that this could also be my last repeat if I wanted it to be. I thought this to myself and quickly dismissed it. I knew I was going to finish all 5 repeats and they were all going to be great. I clicked off another 8 laps in 12:21, jogged for 2 minutes and jumped right into the last two-mile repeat.

I used the same tactics as before: think about the current lap only, finish the last two laps in Grant Park, etc. What was really surprising in this last repeat was how much more I enjoyed the experience of running even at a fast pace. I felt free. I was enjoying the songs that played on my iPod and did a little ditty while singing "Kitty on my foot and I want to touch it" followed by "Meow meow meow meow meow meow".

I ran 12:06 for the last repeat and felt very strong. I could have done more. I ran a few more miles in the dark back to my car and was ecstatic with what I had experienced in this workout. I ran 10 strong miles at the end of a 20-mile day and made some progress with my mental game.

I really like the approach I'm taking right now: letting myself experience the nasty junk and dealing with it head on. I'm building confidence in my ability to deal with the tough stuff and even more confidence in my fitness. All of the tools I'm employing including the hypnosis/visualization, Fearless Athlete workbook and various articles I'm reading are paying off. Whether or not they give me an edge in Chicago doesn't much matter. I'm enjoying my running more already and feeling great about my fitness. That seems like a winning combination.


  1. The closest I came to doing this in 2006 (when I did 2:48) was 20 mins. on track at about 5:55 pace, 20 mins. easy, 20 mins. 5:55 pace. What you did was harder, especially on the mental side. I think it easily indicates sub-2:50 shape. I think you'll go much faster, but that's a given.

    What is most impressive is that fourth one; the last one is always easy. The same is true of laps 5 and 6 of 8; they're the tough ones. You went right through them, took a brief recovery, and went on your way. That it was part of a 20-mile day was the more impressive.

    I think conquering these small mental battles is the key to raceday. Again from 2006 for me, and I'm sure you've done this too, I had so many blow-the-roof-off-the-joint workouts that felt easy and from which I had no recovery issues that when I got to the start I didn't worry. Sure, I worried before some of those workouts (for me a sure sign of a good workout), but not before the race.

    And thanks for reminding me of the basics, the simple steps that should help me get my head back on again.

  2. I love that you were listening to The Presidents of the United States, they were such a great band. Awesome workout!

  3. Great workout and mental approach! I've truly learned a lot from you. Thanks, and good luck in Chicago!

  4. I'm disappointed. When I saw it on FB I was thinking 40 x 400 at about 1500m race-pace with a 100m jog recovery ;)

    Anyway, a great mental exercise for sure. I've raced for an hour on the track - would rather do that than attempt your workout! I remember Jamie Harrison (former Aus World CC rep among other things) said he once ran a 20 miler on the track at a good clip - something like 2 hours. That's crazy. What you did seems pretty normal!

  5. Thanks, Joe. What I like about this training cycle so far is that goal marathon pace is feeling reasonable. Last year leading into my 2:46 marathon at Twin Cities, I did not have a single training run where I could say GMP felt reasonable. Yet, I ran damn close to it anyway. Glad that this served as a reminder for you, and I do hope your head finds it's proper place.

    P--I listen to the President's most runs. Lump is a fave.

    Mark--thanks for being so supportive. I've learned a lot from you too. I really do hope we cross paths in Chicago!

    Ewen--I suspected you would be disappointed. I think I remember reading about your hour-long race on the track and remarking that it was crazy. 20 miles on the track trumps us all!

  6. Yes, great workout!

    I just saw the Ryan Hall is pulling out of Chicago as his preparation and races leading up to it haven't been like he expected.

    It is key to have a good run into the marathon as it sets you up mentally for the race.

    I'd be interested in hearing more about how you are mentally preparing for Chicago as I too think it makes the difference between a good race and a great one ;)

    All ther best