Thursday, July 28, 2011

Now that's quality!

My workout plan has me running two "quality" workouts per week. I've decided to do one on Thursdays and one on Sundays. I did the first one last Sunday -- A couple of short tempo runs mixed in with some marathon-pace runs. I should say I did about half of one because I went out too fast in the heat and ended up with a bit of a death march at the end. I didn't want that to happen today.

The plan was to run 5, 3-minute intervals at a 6:45 pace, then 6, 400-meter repetitions at a 6:00 pace. I didn't want to do this on the track, so I used my Garmin to measure the intervals on the road. Given the heat I might have to slow my pace by about 15 seconds per mile but I didn't want to go much slower than that. The reason you do intervals, says Jack Daniels, is to maximize the time spent running at VO2max. Normally you can only sustain a VO2max run for a few minutes. But if you do intervals, you get up to VO2max, then take a break, then get right back up to VO2max at the next interval. Instead of spending 3 or 4 minutes at VO2max, you spend 2 minutes in each interval at VO2max, for a total of 10 minutes when you do 5 intervals. You want to recover enough after each interval that you can do the next one at the same pace, but you don't want to fully recover because that just means it takes longer to get back to VO2max.

One problem with using the "interval" feature on Garmin is it doesn't give you much information. It tells you how much time or distance you have left and what interval you're on, but nothing else -- you have no idea what pace you're running. In some ways, that's good, because it forces you to run based on feel, and by now I should have a fairly good idea of what a 6:45 pace feels like.

Unfortunately, my first interval ended up being up a steep hill, so 6:45 was pretty much out of the question (remember, I had no idea how fast I was doing any of this until I got home). I did it at a 7:32 pace. Here are the remaining paces: 7:35, 7:03, 7:22, 7:01. So none of them were at the 6:45 goal pace, but given the sweltering conditions, not bad. The slower intervals were uphill, and I especially like the 7:01 pace on the final leg.

I set this run up so I'd be back home after the intervals, giving myself a chance to eat some gels and drink water without having to carry them around. Next up were reps. With reps, you're working on strength, speed, and form, so you want to be fully recovered after each rep. So despite the fact that they were about half the length of the intervals, I got 3 minutes of rest between each. Here were my times for the reps (remember, they're a quarter-mile each, so multiply by 4 to get the per-mile pace): 1:30, 1:31, 1:32, 1:35, 1:34, 1:39. My goal pace was 6:00 per mile, or 1:30 per rep, so I was quite close to that on all but the final rep. I'm not sure what happened there; I don't think I was especially tired -- I imagine I just lost concentration a bit.

After this workout, I was definitely spent. Between my two cool-down miles, I actually slowed down to a 1-minute walk before bringing it home. A total of 11.4 miles, an average of 8:22 per mile during the intervals and 9:00 per mile during the reps, including the warm-up, cool-down and rest between intervals/reps.

Details of today's workout are below:

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