Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Run Training Phase 4 - Bringing It All Together

So here we are into the heart of Phase 4 of the training season for running.  Exciting times. I would have posted about this phase earlier, but as usual, life got in the way.

For the past 2 weeks I have been busy both at work and at home. Well I guess I should say away from home as I traveled to Colorado last week for 8 days. But before we discuss that, what exactly is Phase 4?

So first we built a base in Phase 1. Then we introduced endurance in Phase 2. In Phase 3 we brought about speed. Now? Race preparation is the name of the game. In the final 6 weeks we aim to train specifically to the conditions of the "A" race we are looking at.

For the Bluenose Half Marathon both I and my trainee are aiming for, that means, more endurance and hill work.

For now, we will start to taper back to 4-5 runs a week at most with some cross training like cycling and swimming thrown in. Why? Well as we push ourselves on slightly longer endurance runs and hill intervals, we want to make sure we are fully recovered from each session prior to heading back out. And most of all we want to be as fresh as possible come race day.

Another key session this phase will be race pace sessions. It is one thing to run fast intervals or long slow distance to push our limits, but it is also essential to train the body and mind, exactly what the pace is we hope to be able to sustain. The less you have to glare down at your Garmin or Polar to see how fast you are running, the easier the run will be. For us, this means warmup, race pace session of 8-10 km and cool down.

Likewise, hill sessions will take over from intervals, where we push ourselves to conquer hills in 3 minute segments. Here we want to actually run faster than race pace as this will make the hills we encounter in the race (ie Point Pleasant Park) seem so much easier at the slightly slower pace we will race at.

Finally the main event is the long run. As usual this is done at a slow pace that will allow for easier recovery. Here we are just continuing to build endurance and time on our feet. Depending on the length of time the race will likely take you, long runs for a half marathon can be up to 2 hours long. Other people may opt to try and run the while distance in practice, but in my opinion,  a 2 hour run will get you most of the benefit you need while minimizing the chance of injury. Assuming you are keeping up with the rest of your runs in the week, 2 hours (tapering slightly the week before the race), will be more than enough.

Any other runs that occur will also be done at an easy pace and used as recovery runs after a hard session. Remember that much of the good hard work has been achieved in the first three phases a now is not the time to push the training too hard.

So all this being said, I traveled last week and the results was that I had trouble getting all of my runs in. So what did I do? I looked at what the idea being the runs was and tailored my training to what I could do, and not worry too much about what I could not do. And as I was in Colorado, that meant hill training. Due to altitude, I couldn't push myself as hard as normal, but I had a decent long hill and used it as often as I could to get a proper session in. The altitude also meant that I had to allow myself more time for recovery. Again remember that the goal here is to make it to race day as fresh as possible and not hurt. So adjusting your training accordingly is important.

Following Phase 3 I got my checkup from my physiotherapist and we found a slight weakness in one of my legs. So I am also incorporating a little more strength training into the week's work. Being as strong and balanced as possible will lead to a strong finish you can walk away from with a smile.

And I also went back to Kinesic Sport Lab  to get another Blood Lactate test done. Initial results looked really good with only slight alteration to my heart rate running zones. That is great to see that I haven't fallen back into  my old routine of running in the "junk" zone.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Race 3 of 2013 - The MEC Highlander Citadel 5K

So this past Sunday I took part in the next of the MEC running race series, as put on my the Halifax MEC. These are meant to be grass roots, simple, cheap and accessible races. In my experience they deliver a great bang for your buck timed event with a fun atmosphere.

This was the third time I ran this specific race, which takes place on Halifax's hilliest course. In the past I have run both the 5K and 10K options. This year I opted again for the 5K as I like to see what sort of speed I can put on with the incredibly steep hills on offer. Last year I won this event and was at least hoping to better my time from last season.

The weather was decent when we arrived before the start but it was obvious that the wind was picking up and the sun was disappearing behind the clouds. I had opted to run in shorts and just did my best to keep warm prior to the start (heavy coats do a good job).

Thanks to Parks Canada, the send off for this race is great. The Historic Sites Highlanders show up and send us off with a booming fire from a black powder flint lock gun. Nice.

In this racing series all competitors start at the same time and for this race we race the same course (the 10K does 2 loops of the course). So if you want to find your competitors you need to look for the colour of the bibs and do your sleuthing ahead of time. Not really knowing the speed of most of the other runners, I opted to just go for it.

The course starts inside the fort, then you pop out across the drawbridge and onto the perimeter road. At this point in the race I was in third place overall and running a fine pace, of course this was maybe 400 meters in (ha ha!).

As it turns out the guy right in front of me was actually running the 10K race, so I wasn't too concerned about him and put my sights on the 1st place runner.  Sadly as we approached the first drop to street level (and quite the drop it is) I was becoming aware that the guy in first overall was darn fast.  His lead started to increase by the time we reached the second drop to street level and my legs were burning on these super steep hills. So I was starting to settle for holding my decent pace and not worrying too much about the win.

I also started to realize that second place was mine for the taking or losing. I had a clear advantage over third place and was happy to even be second in the race overall. Last year some of the runners from the 10K were so fast they stayed ahead of me the whole way, whew!

Now having second place in your sights and losing sight of the first place runner starts to make you a little complacent and at one point on the back side of Citadel Hill I noticed my pace sliding. I wasn't over extended, I was just mentally not there. So I talked a little smack in my head and picked up the pace back to where it should have been.

I entered the fort for the last time and ran up to the ramparts, dodging the guns and watching my footing as best as possible, all while taking in a bit of the view.

As I was starting to approach the finish I actually checked the time on my watch and it was at 18:40. I kicked it up a bit again, really trying to see if I could go sub 19. I pushed through the finish line and stopped the clock at 19:19. Darn, but still close to 10 seconds faster than last years time. I also know I could have run this faster, had I had the first place runner in my sights and not had a mental laps. But that first place guy ran a staggering 16:50, and I had no chance of keeping anywhere near him. Huge congrats on that time. I can only imagine what he could do on a flat course.

So two races into the MEC series and 2 second place medals for me. Though they now have a nice new look!

Last season I managed 3 second place medals and 1 first. We will see how things go.

Okay, other than second place, how did I do from a racing stand point and how is my training going. Well, I think I can say it is going really well. I have limited any serious injuries, put in a lot of low intensity Zone 2 training and it is paying off really well. Here is my chart from the race:

As you can see from the bottom graph, the hills are in green and quite up and down while the red and blue lines are pace and heart rate. I would normally have expected to see those go crazy all over the place as well, but I managed to keep them nice and steady. That bodes well for a strong aerobic system as the season of longer races is coming up. But we will visit how this are really going in the next post as I just had another Blood Lactate test with Jeff Zahavich at Kinesic Sports Lab.