Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peaking and Pausing

I ran a 17:45 5k Sunday night.  It was a workout, with rests in between the repeats, and it was tough.  After it was over, I questioned how on earth I will manage to run that time in a couple of weeks without those breaks and then decided that this was not a fruitful way to think.

The dual purpose of a race-pace workout is to stress your body so that it adapts in a way that allows you to hold that pace for longer and to train your brain to handle the discomfort that most certainly accompanies the stress you endure holding that pace.  I know these things, but that does not make the workout any easier.  I guess I was hopeful that, at some point, 5k pace would feel easier than it does.  Then I realized how stupid that is.  When 5k pace feels easy, it's no longer your 5k pace.   

Last week's workouts proved to me that my 5k training plan is working its magic.  My last post described my speedy 12 x 400m midweek workout.  I really have never run a faster workout than that.  Sunday night, I ran 2 x 2000m @ 5k pace with 4 minute pause rest + 1000m @ 5k pace.  This was a tough workout.  I ran the first repeat in 7:03, the second in 7:11 and the last 1000m in 3:31.  That second 2000m repeat felt really hard, and my slower time reflected what I was feeling.  However, when I added the time up, I realized I had exceeded my total time goal and felt content.  

I was able to get a little more information about the "pause" rests in some of my workouts from Coach Bruce Lahane, the co-author of the training plan I'm following.  I asked him about complete rest versus jogging and told him how I felt kind of sluggish walking rather than jogging during the first workout where I tried the pause.  Here's what he said:

"The "pause" comment suggests that the recovery between the runs could be a bit easier than straight jogging.  I don't think too fine a point needs to be put to it.  Many runners might walk for 30 seconds, then jog for 3 minutes, then walk for 30 seconds and off they go.  The little bit of walking restores them a tad more than straight jogging.  When greater effort is being put into intervals, sometimes a little walking helps people to recover a bit more. 

However, you seem to be experiencing the reverse, that is, you feel sluggish after walking.  I'd suggest that you do whatever feels better to you. 
The bottom line for any training is the result that it produces in the individual.  So, it doesn't matter much how most people react to training, but rather how you react.  Part of the fun of running is figuring yourself out - adjusting training according to how your body reacts."

In Sunday's workout, I tried the walk/jog/walk suggestion with much success.  I felt recovered, but not sluggish.  Thanks, Coach Lahane!

I really loved his response.  What a great reminder to keep the focus of my training on me and how I respond to various workouts as well as the recovery.  This is the main reason I'm trying a new plan--to see how I adapt to different types of workouts and recovery regimens.  I was successful with my previous training, but how can I know that was the best plan for me?  Is there actually any "best" plan for any of us?  There's no way to know of course.  What I do know is that I was not recovering properly in my previous training.  There was way too much going on for my body to adapt to, and I actually thought that rundown feeling was how I was supposed to feel all the time.  This notion was supported by reports from other friends in heavy marathon training.  

Given how I am responding to high mileage, doing very tough workouts, I know that I was working too hard before.  Please don't read this and think I'm dissing my previous training plans.  They obviously made me very strong and got me to my OTQ!  I just think I will get faster and stronger by focusing on smarter recovery.  If you didn't see this nugget from Ryan Hall's triathlete coach, Matt Dixon, on recovery, you might be surprised to know that he took one day off completely each week from training (that's right, no cross training) before Boston.  It was a revelation for me to hear the obvious: you shouldn't feel like you need the taper at the end of a marathon (or any training plan) to recover from your training.  You should be recovered and super-charged going into the taper!!!    

So, a little over a week of sharpening and a short taper should line me up well to shoot for a fast 5k.  Incidentally, I do feel totally fresh going into this taper! This will actually be my first 5k race (not counting the WMA 5000m on the track) in a year.  That's right--the last 5k I raced was the Race for the Arts last year.  While I think I'll be in good racing shape in a little over a week, I also know that there are other factors that play into how well I might actually perform (look at Lauren Fleshman's wild ride this summer).  So, I have two other 5k races lined up in September that I will use as back up races should the Race for the Arts turn out to be a bad day for me.   The other thing I am constantly reminding myself of these days is that my real race is in January.  Regardless of whether or not I get a chance to best my 5k time, all of this speed work and consistent training will pay off in a big way in Houston.                        


  1. Speedmeister! Did you read Lauren Fleshman's blog post titled something like "Welcome to the f%&/ing 5k, love"? Which is apparently what her coach said to her after a particularly tough speed workout :) Anyway, isn't this nearly always the case with speedwork? I don't know how many times I've run a 5km tempo run at "half marathon pace" and wondered how on earth I was supposed to hold that pace for 21 km when I felt ready to die 2km into my workout. Somehow, though, it generally happens!

    Interesting info re: recovery. It's nice to get some counterbalance to the usual macho "I've run for 47 days in a row without a break, why do you need a rest day once a week" kind of thing!

  2. Awesome 5K time! I've been following along your posts but for some reason my comments don't always go thru. I'm sure its user error, but to go back to you. Your training is progressing wonderfully and I admire your attitude along the way. It's also a comfort to see that sometimes high mileage combined with intense intervals may not be the magic potion for success. I learned the hard way that doing too much, was just too much for me. I could do it in my 20s but I have a different body as a masters. I am now taking the less is more, but faster for intervals route and I am starting to feel better. Thanks for sharing about your training, I appreciate the openness and good luck with your miles ahead.

  3. Hi Heather, Thanks for that! I totally read that post from LF. It actually popped into my brain when I was out on the track heaving after one of my reps and reminded me that 5k pace should NOT be easy. Totally guilty here on the attempt to be macho and run myself into the ground. No longer.

    Willie, Thanks for your support and following my blog! Bummer that your comments don't always show up, though. Thanks also for sharing your experience with how your training has changed as a masters runner. I think there are a lot of us out there learning as we go, and it's nice to get corroboration that we're not alone. Feedback like yours and Heather's makes the time I spend recording this stuff so worth it!

    Thanks to your both!

  4. Glad I didn't miss this post! That was a nugget of a video - "once an athlete experiences (the benefits) of recovery... it's very hard to go back." I recall reading about Paula Radcliffe too, having the 8th day of her training as a rest day. Excited to see how you go with this plan. Also great to get that feedback from Lahane about the 'pause' between hard efforts. I used to do a walk/jog/walk in the old days.