Posts Tagged ‘track’

FFOS 400’s

In the spirit of Festivus, I set out early this morning to complete my annual Feats of Strength on the track. My original plan was to see if I could survive up to 60 400m repeats or run as many as I could until failure – whichever came first.

Unfortunately it didn’t go quite as well as I hoped. All of my usual running partners stayed home to sleep in so I was stuck running these solo. And the weather didn’t cooperate dropping to the low 20’s.

I broke up the intervals in sets of 4 with a 200m recovery in between intervals and a 400m recover in between sets.

I started out a little tired from a big mileage weekend and the cold made it hard to get going at full speed. But I still managed to run the first 16 at a decent pace averaging 1:25, 1:24, and 1:25 for the first 3 sets. On the next 3 sets, I slowed down a bit to average 1:27, 1:27, and 1:28. After the 24th repeat, my legs were pretty shot and I averaged 1:34 and 1:35 for the final 2 sets.

After the 32nd interval, I decided to try to take a short break to try to warm up in my car. I went out to attempt a few more repeats but only managed to jog around the track once before I was shivering again and decided to call it quits.

Aside slowing down considerably, my legs really didn’t feel that bad. So I’ll have to schedule a rematch with the track sometime later this spring when it’s a bit warmer.

A new PR but no Thanksgiving pie

Well I didn’t manage to run fast enough to win a pie at the Thanksgiving 4 mile today but I still had a pretty good run and shaved 2 seconds off my time from last year for a new PR. Nick, of course, made off with the first pie in my age group easily and the time for the third pie was about 22:27.

It’s going to take a lot more work to shave 2 minutes and 9 seconds off my 24:36 finish time. I know I’m not in the same peak condition that I was in last spring leading up to Western States. But regardless of overall fitness, I definitely feel like I’ve hit my top speed at this race.

The speed workouts that I ran this last month may have helped slightly but I don’t think I started these with an adequate running base to work from. Looking back, I think I would have benefited more from the extra speed work if I hadn’t completely bottomed out after Wasatch. I don’t think that adding speed work while building or re-building a base fitness level is the best approach in the long run. But now that I’ve ramped up my running back to a normal volume, I’m going to keep focused with regular cycles of track work through the winter. Since my 800 pace isn’t much faster than my 3 to 4 mile race pace, I’m going to stick with 400’s or shorter intervals until I can successfully run the longer intervals at a faster average pace.

For ultra marathons, very few people put much focus into speed work. Personally I think it’s the last exercise on the list of training priorities to add to an ultra training schedule. Most fitness and performance gains can be achieved through sheer volume and consistency over time. Adding hills – hill intervals, hill tempo runs, long slow hills, hiking hills, …pretty much any way you can run, hike, or crawl your way up hills is going to improve your cardio fitness and strength. Speed work ads a lot more stress and impact and increases the risk of injury and burn out. So when in doubt, I’d recommend skipping the speed work just to play it safe. A small performance increase isn’t worth the risk of losing your long term consistency.

But after building a solid running base, I think speed work can be incredibly beneficial to help train for ultras. The obvious benefit is that it will eventually increase your speed at all levels. With very small doses of speed work, you can increase your normal cruising speed at ultra marathon pace. Dropping an average easy pace from a 12 minute mile to an 11:24 minute mile will knock a full hour off a 100 mile finish time.

I really think that the most important benefit from speed work is the mental training. In all of the track workouts I’ve run, my legs really weren’t that tired throughout the full workout. The biggest limiting factor was my motivation and concentration level. After a number of intervals, I just really didn’t want to push myself through another. The physical ability was there but it took a huge mental effort to repeat the interval. And to maintain speed through the full interval, it took even more concentration. This is exactly the same mental battle that you go through in the end of any hard ultra.

My next ultra races aren’t until Ghost Town in January and Moab in February so this gives me plenty of time to focus on a couple good quality cycles of speed work in the next couple of months. Since both of these courses are very fast and runnable, I hope the effort will pay off with a couple new PR’s to start the year.

Thanksgiving Pie Training

So I’m finally back on another training cycle with a pretty big goal in site. No, it’s not another ultra.

I’ve decided to focus on something a little shorter – the Fort Collins Thanksgiving 4 Mile. They offer some prize money for the top finishers so it draws a fairly competitive crowd with about 4,000 participants. I won’t be anywhere near fast enough to win any money but I have my sights set on winning an age group pie which go to the top 3 finishers in each age group.

Last year I finished 5th in my age group and if I can shave a couple minutes off my time, I think I have a shot at it this year.

Unfortunately, this guy is in my age group:

So there goes at least one pie.

Based on last year’s results I’ll need to knock about 2 minutes and 13 seconds off my 24:38 time to get within pie range.

I rarely put much focus into any formal speed work but while I’m running a relatively light volume of trail miles this fall, I figured this would be a good time to try to sharpen up. In the past I’ve done a little of this and a little of that every now and then on the track. I usually get bored with too many intervals and jump around between 400’s, 800’s, and mile repeats. This time around I’ve decided to just stick with 400’s. Mostly because I suck at them. Last year I came to the realization that my average pace for everything from 400 to half marathon was almost the same. My cardio fitness and endurance is always pretty good but I just never had the patience to focus on anything short to develop a little more leg speed.

So the goal for the next month is to stick with the 400’s until I’m satisfied that I’ve been able to run them well. …which of course might involve running at least one full Quenton Cassidy interval workout. Or since Festivus is right around the corner, I might even consider seeing if I can survive a full Emil Zataopek workout of 90 400’s (I’m sure I’ll be considerably slower ….probably a full day).

So far I’ve managed to get to the track 4 weeks in a row to run 10, 12, and 16 solid sets the first 3 weeks. Today I just didn’t have the mental focus to run a full set and decided to call it quits early. I may actually need to rest up and put as much focus into these as I usually put into my long weekend runs for a change.

My split times are a bit slow for my 4 mile goal time – at least according to McMillan’s pacing calculator. But I’ve run plenty of fast races on a lot of slow training before. So it’ll be interesting to see how this latest training experiment turns out.

At the very least, it’ll be a fun race. This was the first race that I entered when I first started running here in Ft Collins. Even if I don’t win a pie, it’s fun to look back at where I started with a 35:29 finish in 2006.