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.


  1. Elizabeth-this may be a silly question, but how do I go about finding what my "recovery" "easy" etc heart rate is?

  2. Heather,
    I learned about my heart rates by taking that V02 max test. If you are interested in taking one, you could probably Google "VO2 Max Test" and your city.

  3. I have been looking at the book a few times. Good idea about the VO2 test, I would love to do one of those just for my own curious nature. I think you are going to kill that marathon later this year and get that BQ. You have had some good training but just some bad luck when it comes to races (ie AZ-can't control weather). Keep training hard and you got that BQ!

    There is one thing you need to do to improve, I think a matching Zebra colored top and shorts (or one of those skirts) will help you run faster... just sayin :P

  4. I love the idea of a short training cycle for you! You'll be ready for a BQ when race day comes.

    I think I'd need a cheat sheet for that workout....I have a hard enough time remembering what mile I'm in on a basic tempo!

  5. Just found your blog while googling away on marathon training and BQ (via runner's world forum). Love your post and all the stats and analysis - you seem to be analytical like me, though a much more accomplished runner. You will totally get that BQ! Are you running the Toronto Waterfront? It will be my first, and it's a super flat course. Also, the weather is almost always awesome for running at that time of year up here.

    Good luck!

  6. Duh! It says you are running the Waterfront right in the first sentence! Man, the IPhone is great and all, but perhaps a bit too small for my eyes...

  7. Elizabeth, tell us more about the custom workout program from Garmin. I thought I had downloaded everything from Garmin for my 405 and I don't remember a program like that. Maybe your next blog can explain the program and how you used it.

  8. Corey,
    You need to download a piece of software called the Garmin Training Center. Within the Garmin Training center, you can customize workouts on your computer and then send them to your device as "Advanced Workouts".