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March 24, 2006

The Grind

From time to time I get questions about workouts, and what kind of training I do during my marathon buildup.

I’m not usually one to post details of specific workouts, but I know there are some “numbers” guys out there (like Rob or Jeff) who would like to know what I’m up to – you know, besides watching American Idol and complaining about the weather.

So today I’m throwing them a bone. One of the staples of my marathon training is a workout of 1-mile (road) or 1600m (track) intervals. Yesterday I had one of my better sessions, doing 8x1600m with a very slow recovery lap between each.

This season I’ve slightly changed my approach to this workout. In years past I ran each interval at about 90-95% of my top effort, for as long as I could hold consistent splits. Typically this meant 5 or 6 intervals in the 5:45-5:55 range, with 6:00 or greater being my “cease and desist” line.

Lately I’m trying to complete more intervals by dialing down the intensity one notch. I’ve found that just a small decrease in effort makes a huge difference in how long I can continue the workout. As an added bonus, I don’t feel quite so beat up afterwards.

Yesterday I warmed up with 1.5 miles, then got down to business. Here’s how the 1600m intervals played out:

Mile 1: 6:07 (nice, smooth, easy – no worries)
Mile 2: 6:02 (more of an effort, but still cruising)
Mile 3: 6:03 (OK…now we’ve got ourselves a workout)
Mile 4: 5:55 (too fast, and too stupid - I got sucked into keeping up with some of the big dogs, which may have been a mistake)
Mile 5: 5:59 (that’s more like it…but suddenly I’m not so comfortable anymore)
Mile 6: 5:59 (working very hard now, but under control…and no longer trying to keep up)
Mile 7: 6:01 (thought I would slow down a lot more, but my leg turnover stayed right on pace)
Mile 8: 6:00 (close to race effort, legs very heavy, fuel tank nearly empty)

I finished very exhausted but happy, and cooled down with another 1.5 miles. During the cooldown, my running partner said, “God, that workout was a grind.” It’s a pretty accurate description. The workout required a lot of mental focus as well as physical stamina. It’s the kind of workout that feels great to finish.

Overall, these track sessions have been going pretty well. But like everything else I do nowadays, I’ll withhold judgment on their effectiveness until May 1st - the day after Big Sur.


5K Kid training update: Monday’s workout: rained out, rescheduled for Tuesday. Tuesday’s workout: rained out, rescheduled for Thursday. (Note: sure, we could have run in the rain anyway, but my son wasn’t crazy about getting wet, and my main concern at this point isn’t to instill toughness, but to help him enjoy running. Besides, he doesn’t have any coolmax gear.)

Thursday’s workout: 800m jog, 200m walk, 800m jog, 200m walk, 400m jog w/ fast 100m at the end, 200m walk, 500m jog w/ fast 100m at the end. Total distance 3100m. More than halfway there!


olga 3/24/06, 10:20 AM  

OMG!!! 8x1M, and they are flying! You are Da Man, man! I can't believe people actually run like this:)

backofpack 3/24/06, 12:11 PM  

I'm tired just reading it! Wow -good job. You'll be strong at Big Sur.

Brian,  3/24/06, 8:45 PM  


When you say "slow recovery lap" are we talking 1600m or 400m?

Donald 3/25/06, 9:40 AM  

Olga - It's hard to think of myself as Da Man when I'm firmly a "middle of the pack" runner with my training group. On any given day, there are at least three people who are way ahead of me. But thanks.

Brian - 400m recovery, mostly jogging but sometimes walking, probably about 3 to 3-1/2 minutes between each interval.

robtherunner 3/25/06, 7:29 PM  

Nice workout Donald. I can tell you the thought of that kind of workout for me right now seems impossible. I had some more shin pain today so I guess I will have to stick with long and slow and worry about speed when my body lets me. Thanks for the bone.

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