After training for the Get In Gear 10K in April and the Brian Kraft 5K on Memorial Day, I took it easy in June. My hope was that this block of time with no speedwork, moderate mileage and fun hilly trail runs, I’d be more ready than in previous years to really put my heart into focused training for a goal race in the fall. Since I won’t be running the TC 10 mile, this year’s goal race will be the Victory 10K on Labor Day. At this point I’m so excited I want to share my plan, so I’m putting it here rather than annoy all my Facebook friends with training reports.
How do you write your own training plan? There are too many books to guide you on this. Hundreds of pages of conflicting advice. I’ll break it down for you into a few basic questions: Do you like long, steady runs? Do you like shorter bursts of speed? What has worked for you in the past? What’s your fitness level now?
The one thing all the books agree on is that you have to do all types of workouts in order to reach your potential: Long runs, tempo runs, and interval speedwork. There isn’t a real consensus about exactly how long the long run should be or how the speedwork should be done. In general, a workout has to keep your heart rate in a certain zone for a certain length of time to boost your fitness, but there’s not an exact point of agreement on that either. The most important thing about your training plan is that you actually do the workouts. This may seem obvious, but most runners seem to have a special way of obsessively following a training plan when they feel like it and talking themselves out of a workout when they don’t feel like it. I’m too
old experienced to kid myself anymore.
I love the challenge of speedwork and like long runs in moderation. My sticking point is the in-between training at the lactate threshold: steady-state, tempo runs and cruise intervals. When I was training for the spring 5K, my tempo run was a simple 20 minutes at about 7:15 pace (25-30 seconds slower than I raced the 5k). In the summer, it’s a little trickier, since heat will send my heart rate up to 85% max even at a 7:45 pace. Probably most weeks, my tempo run will be a little slower and a little longer. I don’t like these workouts as much, so I’m not going to worry about doing them perfectly as long as I can keep my heart rate in the threshold zone (160’s for me) for a good amount of time sometime most weeks. Some weeks I’ll kind of sneak it in, like a mom sneaks a vegetable into a meal. More on that later.
The intervals are my favorite part. Short, fast repeats can sharpen your speed; intervals of 3-5 minutes with shorter recoveries improve your VO2 max; and mile repeats at 10K pace can get you in shape for any distance – if you can do them without risking overtraining. However, this year as I ask myself the important question of what has worked in the past, I have to admit that mile repeats at 10K pace haven’t been working for me. VO2 max workouts will boost my performance for a few weeks in a row, then I may plateau or even decline. So in the no-burnout 8-week program, the speed workouts start with short intervals for the first half of the plan and longer intervals in the second half, with the last workout being 10-11 days before my goal 10K.
I don’t want to miss the upcoming Grand Prix or team circuit races, so those are included – a 5-mile race in week 2 and a 15K in week 5. I probably won’t do them at more than 90% effort (It’s too hot anyway). The 15K will serve as a long run with a couple miles each of warm-up and cool-down. If I get talked into any more races, I’ve found that it doesn’t hurt to do the long run the day after a race, as long as the overall stress of that week wasn’t too much.
Six days after the Victory 10K is the City of Lakes Half Marathon. Last year, I started City of Lakes still strained from Victory, and ran my first and only DNF. In the years 2014-2016 I ran both without too much strain, but that has become increasingly difficult and I’m now convinced that it’s not possible to really race them both. However, I want to make up for last year’s bad experience and I want to stay in the running for the MDRA Grand Prix, so I’d like to run COL at a moderate effort with the goal of being cheerful and positive at the finish line rather than weepy and frustrated.
Thus, I’m including a long run of 10-14 miles. Not only will this enable me to comfortably finish the half marathon, I think it will help my 10K training. Based on previous years, it looks like a weekly (or almost weekly) long run of 90-120 minutes is helpful for my 10K. More than 120 minutes does not help, but if I don’t get my body used to at least 90 minutes of easy running, it seems to want to give up too soon. I did several runs of 90 minutes in June to make sure I’m comfortable progressing from there. Maybe this is a mental block; if I’m used to running for over 90 minutes, I can tell myself in the painful last couple miles of a 10K that I can suck it up because I’m used to running twice as long. Whatever it is, I’ll keep it in the plan, and if I have to cut some long runs short, no big deal because the half marathon is not my goal race.
I could write a plan with an exact number of miles for each day, but since I’m my own coach, I don’t have to. Instead, I’m setting a goal for the amount of hard training to shoot for. On the other 4-5 days of the week, I’ll aim to do some kind of workout: cross training or very easy running, preferably trail running.
Here’s my starting point: I can comfortably run 10 miles at a 9-minute-mile average pace, and I can run 400 meters in 100 seconds without straining.
Here’s the plan! It probably won’t go exactly like this, but we’ll see.
Week 1 (July 6-12)
Long Run: 11 miles
Tempo: 20 minutes
Speed: 6 x 400 meters, 60 seconds rest, 6 x 300 m, 45 seconds rest, 6 x 200, 300 rest, jog a slow lap in between sets
Week 2 (July 13-19)
Long Run: 12 miles
Tempo: 5 mile race!
Speed (Two days before race): 10 x 2 minutes at 10K pace, 10 x 30 seconds at mile pace, with short jogging recoveries
Week 3 (July 20-26)
Long Run: 11-14 miles
Tempo: 25-30 minutes
Speed: 12 x 400 m with 90-second jogs
Week 4 (July 27-August 2)
Long Run: 90 minutes on hilly course, middle 30 minutes at tempo effort
Speed: Whatever Coach Laurie says. Or, if tired, repeat Week 2 speed workout.
Week 5 (August 3-9)
Long Run: 15k Race! Plus warm-up and cool-down to total 13 miles
Speed: 5 x 600 m 10K pace, 5 x 600 m 5K pace, with short recoveries
Week 6 (August 10-16)
Long Run: 10-12 miles
Tempo: 20-30 minutes at Week 4’s 15k pace or a little slower
Speed: 2 x 200 m at mile pace, 2 x 800 m at 10K pace, 6 x 800 m at 5K pace, with short recoveries
Week 7 (August 17-23)
Long Run: 10-13 miles, last 2 miles at tempo effort
Speed: 5 x 30 seconds at mile pace, then 4-5 sets of 4 minutes at 10K pace, 1-2 minute jog, 2 minutes at 5K pace, 1-minute jog (a variation of the Nickel-and-Dimer workout)
Week 8 (August 24-30: Taper Week)
Long Run: 8-9 miles
Tempo: 20 minutes
Speed: 5 x 2 minutes at 10k pace, 5 x 30 seconds at mile pace
Week 1 is already complete! I ran a perfect 11-miler on Sunday, a nice 5-mile run with 20 minutes at 7:45 pace on Monday, 7 miles on trail on Tuesday, 40 minutes cross-training on Wednesday, and on Thursday, my first MDRA Track Thursdays workout (a series of short intervals described above) and another easy cross-training day today. Week 2 begins tomorrow. I could either do my long run tomorrow (at a very slow pace since I probably won’t be fully recovered from the track workout) or Sunday.
I’m saving my best effort for the speed workouts in weeks 5-7. When I say “short recoveries,” I mean slowing to a very slow jog for probably less than 90 seconds, not nearly a full recovery. I need a long warmup, so the total mileage on these days will be over 10K, maybe up to 15K. These are hard workouts! For this reason, I’ll make plenty of room for them; ideally, two easy days beforehand.
Notice that in week 4, I’ve put the tempo portion in the middle of the long run. This is partly to prepare for the 15k, but also to allow extra recovery days. In week 7, I’ve put the tempo effort at the end of the long run. I’ll keep this as an option in other weeks also. The 20-30 minutes of tempo can be done in a number of different ways: in the middle of a long run as mentioned; a couple days after the long run as a steady buildup in the middle of a 7-8 mile run, followed by a gradual cool-down; or as a fartlek alternating tempo and easy pace with the fast portion totaling 20-30 minutes. In Matt Fitzgerald’s book 80/20 running, he designs some runs with 3/4 mile easy and 1/4 mile faster, repeated throughout the run, or “fast finish” with the last couple of miles at marathon pace or faster. I enjoy those long mixed-up workouts and they do wonders for my performance if I can complete them a few weeks before a race. But they don’t always come together, plus if I’m running with other people they sometimes hate it, so I’m leaving that as an option for if the stars align. Otherwise, my long runs can be nice and slow and the tempo training can wait for another day.
If this sounds tortuously complicated, well, it is, but we are complicated beings. Bottom line: Adapt to whatever conditions arise. An adaptable plan has a lot of benefits. If you want to run with someone slower or faster than yourself, you can. If conditions are unusually good or bad, you can aim higher or lower (within reason).
Back to the drawing board if I’m seeing signs of burnout (soreness, fatigue, stomachaches, yelling at waiters if my food is taking too long).
Wish me luck!