Friday, July 3, 2009

Funky Fartlek

I'm back in Marathon training mode now, targeting the Toronto Waterfront marathon on September 27. I created my own training plan, based on the principles and the workouts featured the book Run Faster by Brad Hudson. I've been meeting with a running coach periodically for feedback and suggestions, and she helped me tweak the plan. It's a 12-week schedule, averaging about 54 miles a week, with a focus on speed work.

I also took a VO2 max test, which showed the proper heart rate "zones" I needed to be in for various workouts, based on how my body uses oxygen. The test confirmed that I am naturally built for endurance, because my body is still working aerobically at a very high percentage of my maximum heart rate. The test also gave me approximate paces for each zone, with my "Lactate Threshold" pace being 7:30, suggesting a marathon pace of around 8:15. Physiologically, I running a 3:40 is completely feasible for me, and I could probably even run a 3:35 in good conditions.

Today was an interesting workout that I took from Brad Hudson's book. It was a 14-mile run composed of the following sections:
- 6 miles easy
- 5 miles of 1:00 @ 10K pace/1:00 easy
- 1 mile easy
- 2 miles hard

I didn't want to have to be constantly looking at my Garmin for the one-minute intervals, so I learned how to program a custom-built workout into the Garmin. I downloaded the Garmin Training Center software and built the workout just as prescribed on my computer. And then I transmitted the workout to my Garmin device. It worked like a charm! Once the six miles were over, it started to beep at me every minute, and then once the 5 miles were done, it beeped at me to start the easy mile, and then the two hard miles. I had to keep my music low to hear the beeps, but this system worked great! Here is how it went.

Six miles easy
My boyfriend, Greg, is training for the Army Ten Miler and he had six miles on his schedule today. I ran the first six miles with him, average 9:54 pace. Technically, I should have been going a bit faster because my heart rate never got into the "easy" range (it stayed in the "recovery" range) but it was worth it to be able to run with Greg. We had a nice conversation and the time flew by. Plus, I knew I would be going fast soon enough! Toward the end of the six miles, I did speed up so that my system wouldn't be "shocked" when I started going at 10K pace.

Five miles of 1:00 @10K pace/1:00 easy
I estimated that I would end up averaging an 8:20 pace for the five miles, so I programmed the workout to be 42 segments of 1:00 each. I was impressed with my estimating skills because as soon as I was done with that 42nd segment, I had gone almost exactly five miles.

This was actually fun. I have never done anything like this before, and I was sure I would annoy people on the trail who were actually keeping a steady 8:20 pace, as I flew by them, and then would go at a slow pace. Luckily, I didn't encounter anyone like this. Having the Garmin beep at me was great because I could just focus on running. I interpreted "10K pace" to be the upper end of my "Zone 4" heart rate zone. So, running partially by feel, and partially by looking at my heart rate monitor, I tried to get my heart rate in the 180-183 range during those "10K" segments.

I didn't pay attention to pace, which changed based on the hills and if I was in a shaded part of the trail. (It was really sunny!) All of the splits were recorded and can be viewed here. The fastest interval was a 6:58 pace and the slowest was the very first interval, at 7:57. Aside from that first interval and that super fast one, they ranged from 7:04-7:51. The heart rate was where it needed to be on each one, which is what I was really aiming for.

One easy mile
I was really pleased when I got to this point. I really didn't think I would be able to complete that tough Fartlek portion of the run. I decided to take this mile very easy. Fortunately, there was a water fountain during this mile and I stopped to fill up my bottle. The average pace was 10:33, but it included about 15 seconds to fill up my water bottle.

Two hard miles
I interpretted "hard" to mean at the upper end of zone 4. Once again, I was trying to keep my heart rate between 180-183. I knew that the pace wouldn't be very fast after everything I had just done, and the fact that it was approaching 9:00am and it was getting hotter, sunnier, etc. And there was a pretty substantial hill during this segment. I thought I would be lucky to keep it under 9:00.

But I was determined to keep my heart rate between 180-183. The average pace for the two miles ended up being 8:22, with a 181 average heart rate. I was really shocked by this. I thought I would be completely dead by this point. Especially given the heat and the big hill. But I pushed through, and I was really happy with the result.

I think it's workouts like these that are going to make me see huge gains in speed. The person who did my V02 max said that I could easily go out and run 26.2 miles any day of the week, but getting my speed where I need it to be is the challenge.