Block Review: Oct 15-Nov 7

I just completed my final training block of the season: a 1-week deload followed by a 2-week “competition” block in which I did all of the following:

  • Mile Time Trial
  • 800m Time Trial
  • 400m Time Trial
  • 5k Race (which turned into two 5k Races – more on this below)

Training Block Purpose

I did this for several reasons:

  1. Compare my times across several events to help me determine which Track event would be my “best” event. I figured it would likely be the 800m or the Mile. I was mistaken.
  2. See how much speed/fitness I developed in my previous training block. It was the best 4-weeks of exclusively run training I have done in many years. All season I had been splitting my time between cycling and running. But I decided to full bore into running and see the results. Also within this block I gradually evolved my training approach to what I feel was a better match for my underlying physiology. This was experimental however and I didn’t know if it was actually going to work! Ultimately I wanted to run a 5k in under 17 minutes. Would I be able to do it?
  3. Get a feel for what it’s like to compete more regularly in “races”. I put races in quotes because I really only did 1 race. Most “races” were Time Trials I did on my own. But I did them as if they were competitions. I have always been the type to train for a small number of races spaced apart. I wanted to see how I would respond to many “races” back-to-back.
  4. Determine the volume and intensity of running I should do in the few days leading into a “race” to feel fresh but not fatigued. On more than one occasion I have felt “flat” at a race doing too little in the days leading into the race. I wanted to be careful to avoid this while at the same time not arriving unnecessarily fatigue from too much running leading into the race.

Deload Week

During the deload week before the competition block I ran three times:

  • On Tuesday and Thursday I did 5k Easy. 8 x 100m Strides with Walking rec. 5k Easy
  • Then on Friday I did a 5k-specific run: 3 x 1600 @ 5k-pace

I performed very well in the 3 x 1600m wokrout. But I did enter the workout a little more fatigued than I would have liked from the Thursday run. I noted this and adapted the pre-run in the following week to do 5k Easy, Strides and 2.5k Easy.

Competition Week 1

  • Monday: 5k Easy. 8 x 100m Strides with Walking rec. 2.5k Easy
  • Tuesday: Race Warm-Up. Mile Time Trial
  • Thursday:  5k Easy. 8 x 100m Strides with Walking rec. 2.5k Easy
  • Friday: 5k “Dress Rehearsal” –  Race Warm-Up then 3k @ 5k-race pace

My Race Warm-Up is: 5min Jog. 3k Easy. 2min Walk. 4 x (100m Strides with 54s Walk). Rest 8-10min

Mile TT: A New PB!

I was very pleased. For the first time I was able to run a sub-5 minute mile finishing in 4:55. I did the TT on a 1-mile loop near my house. My previous best on this loop had been 5:09 and 5:07. So that’s a pretty big improvement!

I used my watch to calculate the distance for me via GPS which was a mistake. After manually measuring the distance I had run 1625m, about 15m too much! So in reality I was a little faster than 4:55, but let’s just call it 4:55.

In the past, the Mile race strategy I had used (that I heard/read in books) was:

  • First 400m a few seconds slower than goal pace.
  • Increase the pace from 400-800m to set-up a good pace for 800-1200 (the hardest part)
  • Give it everything you had in the final 400m

However, every time I would try this strategy, I would slowdown from 800-1200m and not be able to make up the lost in the final 400m. So I decided to use the following approach:

  • 000-400m: Faster than goal race pace
  • 400-800m: Back it off a bit slower than goal race pace
  • 800-12000m: Increase pace
  • 1200-1600m: “All-Out”

This worked extremely well for me! My 400m splits were 71.4s, 76.7s, 74.8s, 70.2s. The conditions of the day almost forced me to adopt this approach since I had a 24kph head/crosswind from 400-800m. For me running the first 400m at faster than race pace is effortless for me (more on this later). Then planning to back-off a bit from 400-800m gives me permission to ease down without guilt or psychological stress around the time difficulty may set in (typically around 600m for me). Then I was to increase speed from 800-1200, a good feeling. And the final 400, well that’s always tough, but there’s only 400 to go!

5k “Dress Rehearsal”

While I quite happy with the Mile TT, this dress rehearsal didn’t go as well. My splits for each km were: 3:22/km, 3:28/km and 3:25/km. Not too bad, but the last two kms were slower than 3:24/km which I needed to run to go sub-17. It was very windy which didn’t help my situation. But even with the wind I should have been able to hold at least 3:24/km. Based on this I figured that my training perhaps did not develop the “endurance” necessary for me to go sub-17. And that the Mile may be my best event. But read on…

Competition Week 2

  • Monday: 4k Easy. 8 x 100m Strides with Walking rec. 2k Easy. I decreased the distances even more than the previous week.
  • Tuesday: Decided to add a rest day here to see the effect
  • Wednesday: Race Warm-Up. 800m TT
  • Thursday: Another Rest Day
  • Friday: Race Warm-Up. 400m TT
  • Saturday: Rest Day
  • Sunday: Race Warm-Up. “Real” 5k Race

800m TT: A Surprise

I had never run an 800m before so I didn’t quite know what to expect. From some of the reading I had done, I learned that some coaches suggest something similar to

  • 0-400m at 93% of your best 400m (i.e. 7% slower than 400m)
  • 400-800m at 89% of your best 400m (i.e. 11% slower than 400m)

My previous best 400m was 61s on the nose. So my strategy should be something like:

  • 0-400m: 65.2s
  • 400-800m: 67.7s
  • Finish time around 2:13

In the end I ended up doing:

  • 0-400m: 62.2s. To my big surprise, this was “effortless”. This was almost the same as my previous 400m and it was easy! Nice.
  • 400-800m: 68.5s. I was a bit slow to press stop after finishing the 800m, so this is really more like a 67s, but I’ll going to leave it at 68.5s
  • Finish time 2:10.7

I really enjoyed running the 800m. Any race that promotes a positive split (first half faster than the second) as the most effective strategy is my kinda race! I honestly know that I can shave about 2s off the second 400m simply by stopping he watch right away at the finish and running the turn from 400-500m a bit cleaner (I was a bit in shock about the 62s after the first 400m and slowed a bit too much). Plus if I ran in racing flats or spikes rather than my regular shoes I imagine I could run faster too, something I will try next season for sure.

I am really excited about doing more 800m Time Trials next season.

400m TT: Speed Confirmed

Let’s cut to the chase on this one. I ran a 57.5s! 3.5 seconds faster than I had done before.

  • My first 100m was sloppy. I didn’t accelerate well. Didn’t run “along the tangent” of the curve. Finished the bend with soreness in quads already! It’s funny because I had this vision of myself running the first turn clean. But the moment I pressed start on my watch, everything feel apart immediately! I need to practice this more often for sure.
  • 100-200m was very clean running. Upright. Good power. There was a big headwind of 23kph. But hamstrings started to really kick in and I was moving fast!
  • 200-300m I am very pleased that I accelerated at 200m. That was part of my race plan and I executed. Plus I ran a much cleaner bend than 0-100m. I started to fall apart at 300m though.
  • 300-400m was just hanging on. Running was sloppy. Everything was tight. I could hardly open my eyes for whatever reason.

Overall I am pleased. I need to practice more of these 400m and 800m TTs to bring together the different skills I practice in training. In this case specifically I ran with my hip too low especially from 0-100 and 300-400m. But I didn’t realize until it was over.

It took way longer for me to recover from this TT than from the 800m TT. After the 800m I was ok to run with good form in under 10min. I started running 10min after the 400m TT and it was ugly for 1km. Then it got a bit better. But I was still feeling the 400m. Mostly tightness around the face/head. I really emptied myself.

5km Race: Poor Pacing

Next up was the only real running race of my season: A 5k Race Oka National Park. The race is flat. About 1.5k paved and 2.5k dirt/gravel then 1k paved. I had two goals:

  1. Don’t Start too Hard. I tend to go out too hard because it feel so easy for me to run at 5k pace near the start. So this time I wanted to ensure that I did the first 1km slower than my target pace. Speed up to target pace in the middle. Then make up the differential in the final km. My target pace was around 3:24/km to finish in 17 minutes or a bit less.
  2. Keep the running form good in the dirt. I run with a lot of elasticity. So my form tend to deteriorate on softer surfaces. I want to do my best to keep on pace on the dirt. Then immediately increase pace when I got back onto the paved sections.

I achieved both these goals. I started slower than usual. But too slow. I did it “by feel”. I ran what I felt was fast by comfortable. I didn’t look at my watch until the 1k marker. Then I saw I did the first km in 3:45!! What the heck was that all about. So I immediately increased the pace. But not enough. The next 3 km were 3:30, 3:35, 3:30. Then I unleashed a 3:10 in the final km.

It was strange. The race wasn’t hard. I wasn’t struggling. I just didn’t go fast enough period. I finished in 17:28. It was definitely the easiest 17:28 I ever ran. But it wasn’t sub-17. Did my updated training method fail me?

5000m Time Trial: Finally!

The day after the race I had no soreness at all. I felt really good actually. The 5km race felt more like a threshold run workout with a hard finish. It was like I was feeling the fitness benefits of the race/workout. I felt even better the next day.  So I decided to do a 5000m Time Trial at the track. I really felt that I had a sub-17 in me and I wanted to give myself a chance to do it.

I decided to do two things based on my Mile TT experience 2-weeks before:

  1. I don’t trust the distance or pace calculation on my watch for an important event like a TT. So I went to track and did 12.5 laps and pressed lap manually every 400m. From now on all TTs are going to be done at the track with manual timing.
  2. Adopt a similar pacing strategy to the one I used for the Mile, but stretch over 5 x 1km segments instead of 4 x 400m segments. Basically go out faster than target pace (but not the point that it was actually “hard”), plan to slow down a bit, and of course finish hard.

Lo and behold, I DID IT! I finished in 16:54. My splits were: 3:17.6, 3:23.2, 3:24.9, 3:26, 3:22.

Funny enough this run wasn’t physically hard either. It felt about the same as the Oka 5k Race. But for some reason I had terrible negative voices in my head all the way. I don’t what that was all about. My mind was negative until about 3 laps to go. Then I was ok. So it seems that my limitations with the 5k are mostly mental.

Maybe my brain just didn’t believe that I could do a sub-17 and my body had to convince it. I’m hopeful that finally passing the 17min barrier will prevent this in the future. Further, if I practice more longer duration intervals in the lead up to the race, hopefully my brain gets used to it. Then 5k’s won’t be such a psychological drag.

My Training Plan

So in the end the adjustments I made to my running programming proved very successful. I am eager to continue with this next season. I only really did an honest 4 weeks of proper run training this season. I’m excited to see what a solid 12-16 weeks program will deliver in terms of results.

Based on my 5k race and 5000m TT experience, I will add in an additional 5k-specific workout like 2 x 3k @ 5k-pace as the final step in my 5k progression. I feel like in at least one workout I need to run at 5k pace for longer 5k and for intervals of longer than 1 mile (the longest that I did this season). The reasons are mostly mental to convince my brain that my body can do it.

Also, I am going to do a lot more TTs next year. Plus doing all my TTs at the track will be important because the pace calculation on my watch were consistently off. During my 5000m TT my watch calculated that I ran 5.34km instead of 5.0km. So it overestimated distance A LOT at the track. And it underestimated distance A BIT in my Mile TT (by about 15m as mentioned above). I won’t need to think of this at all by doing TTs at the track.

So What’s my Best Track Event?

Interestingly, the best result of the season on a relative scale was the 400m in 57.5s.

Supposedly (according to McMillan Running) 400m in 58s is equivalent to a 2:07 800m (I did 2:10), 4:41 Mile (I did 4:55) and a 16:25 5k (I did 16:54). I think I could come very close to 2:07 for the 800. But no way for that Mile or 5k time at the moment. All this really tells me is that my endurance/threshold pace is lower relative my top speed, something that I kinda already knew.

Interestingly, I made a lot of progress at the shorter distances of 400m and 800m by following a program more weighted toward 1600-5000m running. So perhaps I am a “speedster” or “fast-twitch” runner that benefits from “over-distance” training (i.e. training for slightly longer distance events). This I didn’t necessarily think of until now. Another thing to experiment with in the future!

The Chart

In order to remain consistent with my other Summaries, here are is the Pie Chart of the last block to see the breakdown

Block Summary. Oct 15- Nov 7


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