Saturday, June 3, 2017

5K Training with Geese

Success (or failure) in running is never based on one workout alone. Like notes played on a piano, you need all of them at different times and different intensities to make a rich song. A single note all on its own does not make a song.

With that disclaimer, this focus of this blog is a single workout that I performed on Thursday. 

The track that Greg and I typically used has been closed for maintenance for over two weeks. They're installing what appears to be a new football field, and it's taking a long time. We first learned about it when we showed up for a workout and they told use we couldn't use the track. Thankfully, the workout was 400's, so we found a flat section of low-traffic neighborhood road and measured out 0.25 miles on the Garmin and used it.

But since then we've been using a different track-- one that's home to a gaggle of about 25 geese. The first time we used the track, the geese started out on the field in the center of the track, and migrated to the outside during our workout. We managed to avoid them, and they managed to avoid us during this process. But Thursday was a different story. When we arrived, the geese were congregated at the center of the track again, and we thought they might just stay there since they didn't look too anxious to go anywhere. 

The prescribed workout was 7 x 800m at 5K pace with 30-second rests in between. The 30-second rests were a new curve ball. Usually, 800m intervals come with 400m recovery jogs, or at the very least 200m jogs. But this time, my coach instructed me to simply rest (not run) for 30 seconds and then start up again. He also told me that he wanted me to try and run a little faster than my 5K pace so I could practice running at a sub-20:00 pace. So, looking at this workout, it's 3.5 miles (which is longer than a 5K) at faster than 5K pace, with 30-second rests thrown in every half mile.

Before the Workout
I'll admit that I was intimidated by this workout. It was almost like racing a 5K in training but with some small breaks. But, there have been quite a few workouts over the past few years that looked intimidating on paper but weren't so difficult in execution. I took half a serving of UCAN before the run just to be sure I had enough energy to get through it.

Greg and I warmed up for about two miles before starting the workout. The geese were moving around on the field but they didn't seem to be trying to cross the track yet. The plan was for me to pace the workout, with Greg running behind me. This is how we typically run workouts because I like to set the pace and it takes the guesswork out of it for Greg. Even though he's faster than me, we're close enough in speed that my workout paces still work for him.

Reps 1-4
I told Greg that my plan was to run between 3:14-3:16 for each of them. This would equal my 5K pace. I thought to myself that if I felt really good, I would push a little harder, like my coach advised, for slightly faster than 5K pace.

Part of the challenge was timing the rests. When I finished each 800, I hit the lap button on my watch to record the split. The watch face then shows the split for about 5 seconds before transitioning back to its normal mode. So I would stare at the watch until I could see the total elapsed time, and then add 25 seconds onto whatever it said. The first 2-3 seconds were spent slowing down and stopping after crossing the line, and the remaining time was spent walking back to the line and waiting. So I'm guessing I only got about 20 seconds of actual complete (non-walking) rest.

The first rep came in at 3:16. This was exactly what I wanted, and I was happy I was able to pace it by feel. My Garmin is completely inaccurate on the track, so I always pace these runs based on how they feel. I upped the effort a little for the next one, finishing in 3:12. But I thought that might be too fast, so I backed off the pace for the third, finishing in 3:14. Rep 4 was 3:15.

Reps 5-7
Being over halfway done was immensely helpful from a mental standpoint. So I must have turned on the gas a lot during the 5th rep, which clocked in at 3:09. OR. . . it could have been the geese. As I approached the 200m mark, the geese were starting to cross the track. They were in lane 1 & 2 so I moved into lane three to avoid them. Same thing at 600m. So it was either the geese or the fact that I was over halfway done that I was able to up the effort.

Rep 6 was challenging and I was really ready to be done with the workout at this point. My legs were tired and I was tired (3:13). The geese were in full-fledged migration mode so it was a game of geese dodging at the 200m and 600m point. I mentally recollected myself during that final rest, and finished off the last 800m in 3:12.

After the Workout
Greg and I were happy to be done with the workout. It was a tough one for sure, but not as hard as I anticipated. When I got home, I averaged out the splits, and they came out to 3:11 and some change. My training log allowed me see my pace without the rests and it ended up being 3.5 miles at an average pace of 6:24. This pace would squeak me under 20:00 but just barely. And of course, this was a flat track, and the weather was relatively nice.

My legs ended up being a little tired on Friday and during today's long run. But they still held up well, allowing me to run 14.1 miles at a pace of 8:30. My next 5K is just one week away and I'm excited for it. Will I actually attempt to run sub-20:00? And if so, will I do it? Come back next week to find out!!!

The fittest geese in the Washington DC Metro area


  1. At least the geese were friendly! On Wednesday night, I ran 4 x 1200m (I do jog rests) in the outer lanes. There was a coach there for a club and he said we could have Lanes 8 and 9 to do our workout. Not ideal but most everyone programs it in their watch anyhow so the lane doesn't matter. Then the kids left their blocks, spikes, and a chair in the lanes, plus were walking in them. Ugh!

    Do you do your workouts in Lane 1 or 2? I always did, but since my foot injury I shifted to the outer lanes. This makes every rep longer, but I'm scared all the sharp left turns in Lane 1 will irritate my peroneal tendon. Depending on your Garmin you may be able to program in your laps and that way, you won't have to worry about obstacles as much.

    I know you will get the sub-20. It is hot lately but if you don't get it this summer, you certainly will this Fall.

    1. I always run in lane 1. I cannot trust the Garmin so I need to use lane one to measure an accurate distance. I run clockwise, which is backwards, because my left hip is sensitive to turns inward. I never have hip problems going clockwise, though. Thankfully there is usually never anyone else there that I would run into. I can't believe your track has 9 lanes! Mine has six. I think the fall is most realistic for the sub 20.

    2. I just go with my Garmin all the time. It may be off some, because they're never fool proof, but I figure if the 400m is .24 or .26 my body is still getting the same stimulus out of it. Our track is 9 lanes and hosts several large high school meets! But since we have teams and clubs here, it's also always busy.

  2. Remember 400m around the track is not 1/4 mile and 4 x 400 is not technically a mile, but rather the ?metric mile!" When you run 400 m or any other form of longer or shorter repeats on the track you simply manually lap the split time as you cross the designated mark on the track for whatever metric interval you running. In the case of 800 m...twice around...all you need to know is the manual split time to do the 2 laps, and then your pace is simply calculated based on 800m...asssuming you run the inside lane and stay close to inside curve. I know...something you probably don't want to hear about...but I measure courses and I am a certified marathon coach, so just going with how I see it.

    Regarding your coach and "throwing you a curve ball" with the short and no-running rest breaks between those intervals...not really a curve ball and he trying to nurture different physiological adaptations for you to run the 5k super fast or PR for you!

    I think I understand what your coach doing in the sense you want to run really fast 5k race distance. There are basically 2 forms of recovery in interval or static. Both have their advantages in doing depending on specific objectives of the training regimen. Based on my coaching training and other research...the active recovery phase is more directed to promote lactate clearance...or nurture the muscle cells in legs to get better at reprocessing that lactate accumulation reused as fuel for the muscles.

    In the "static-resting" schema....intent is duration short...not designed to clear and process lactate, but rather when you standing...blood pools up in leg muscles and lactate levels build in those muscles and cells did all the work. That's designed to promote higher "lactate tolerance" or ability for those muscles to tolerate high levels of lactate accumulation....something very advantageous if you want to push the max limits of running 5k distance!

    And it would explain some of your fatigue in muscles and such you note following day post-workout and on to the next run. You can always ask your coach the "why" short duration and standing rest (the curve ball)...and I am sure he or she would take the time to explain their intentions. I assume that with a runner of your capabilities...and that you have hired McMillan Coaching to do your are (as demonstrated)...willing and eager to run the training regimen as the coach instructed. But I assure you...that Coach or yours not tossing curve balls, but shifting a training regimen to get you across that threshold you seek in 5k. And the ability to run fast turnover and speed is one thing and something you train for....but to push the limits to beyond what you have run 5k PR....makes sense to me that Coach will shift the speedwork to building greater lactate tolerance while you run! Just trying to be helpful, though you asked for no such explanations!

  3. Were the geese a distraction? If you are that focused on a workout and hitting paces, I would think that they would be! I usually just plow through them when they are in my way, letting them hiss at me as I go. They usually scatter.

    1. Wow- you are brave! The geese were a little bit of a distraction. I like them, so it was a welcome one!

  4. You honestly put me to shame, I never do speed workouts! I should but at the moment I just enjoy running as I fancy. And to be honest I've never been that bothered about increasing speed. Although it's always nice to be near PBs or get faster, but I just rely on it happening organically which is obviously a lot slower and not guaranteed to work!!