Sunday, March 23, 2008

How Not To Do Intervals

Time's flying, I can barely keep track. Not only is it 3 days since my last blog update, it's only 2 weeks until the ultra. I'll be standing on that start line before I realise it. Am I really ready for it? With the interruption of pneumonia, this training cycle has been so short, it's like everything happened in fast-forward.

Following my plan of doing lower mileage at higher intensity during this taper, I started Friday with 7 miles, 2 warm-up, 3 tempo pace, 2 cool-down. I didn't have specific plans for the tempo part, apart from trying to run fast but relaxed. That relaxed bit is something I recalled just the other day; you run faster at lower effort if you're relaxed instead of pushing too hard. That's probably something I would have done well to remember in Ballycotton a fortnight ago, but it's too late to rectify that. The three miles and their heart rates came through in 6:50 (163), 6:52 (167) and 6:44 (172) . I'm happy enough with the pace, but the HR is definitely a bit higher than expected, especially for the last one, but then again I have hardly done any training at those paces, and there's bound to be room for improvement.

When you're doing tempo and speed sessions you should follow the hard-easy principle, which meant 10 easy miles on Saturday. I tried to ignore the pace figures on my Garmin and relaxed over the entire run. I was back home in about 85 minutes, but felt as fresh as a daisy, which was the point of the entire exercise, really.

I know that doing your first speed session 2 weeks before a major race isn't the normal thing to do, but I have already explained my thinking in the previous post. I think I read somewhere that your first interval session should consist of fairly short runs, so I chose 400s. And picked 10 of them, for no other reason than that it's a round number. I did give myself permission to bow out early if I felt like it, though. Up to now, with the lack of track access, these workouts were always rather awkward. I would either run purely by time (e.g. 90 seconds fast rather than 400 meters) which gave no feedback on the actual pace, or I would more or less estimate the required distance on the road, which was bound to be inaccurate. With my new Garmin toy on my wrist I had a new way, I could program the device and simply follow its beeps. The funny thing was, the way it was set up, I could not see the actual time per interval on the display, but I figured that that would be a good thing, I would have to rely more on my own feel for pacing.

1:21(173), 1:23(177), 1:24(177), 1:27(175), 1:29(176), 1:30(173), 1:30(175), 1:32(174), 1:35(170), 1:29(175)

Take it from me, you will start hating that slave driver hanging on your arm when doing those sessions. 90 seconds of recovery have never been so short, and I was always still out of breath by the start of the next one. I did the first 3 at very high intensity, and then felt like throwing up. I had the option of running until collapse (which seemed inevitable), pulling out, or slowing down a little bit, and chose the last one. I wanted to do at least 8, and started to concentrate more on relaxed form rather than pace or effort. Looking through the numbers now I can see a little jump in the times, but not as much as expected (I thought from the 4th repetition on I would be at least 10 seconds slower), which once more proves the importance of relaxed running form. The worst thing about the numbers is the fact that I got slower with each interval, exactly what you're supposed to avoid. The heart rate was pretty much where I expected it to be.

I just checked McMillan's calculator, and it would have me run 400s in 1:23-1:28, which I did for the first 4 but not for any of the others. Again, for the first session that probably wasn't too bad, but if I had started a bit slower I might have been able to do the rest of the session at the required pace as well. That's something I type nearly every time after one of those workouts. Will I ever learn?

I don't think I will do another workout like this before the race, I could not be sure to recover in time. Of course, you may ask, what's the point of doing just one workout? Well, maybe there isn't one, or maybe it will help for the races afterwards. I don't know, to be honest. I admit, I'm making this up as I go along.

21 Mar
7 miles, 53:45, 7:40 pace, HR 151
including 3 miles 6:50 (163), 6:52 (167), 6:44 (172)
22 Mar
10 miles, 1:25:42, 8:34 pace, HR 135
23 Mar
8.1 miles, 1:05:24, 8:04 pace, HR 151
including 10x400

Weekly Mileage: 69.6


  1. I have often felt like throwing up when I do intervals. I have since slowed down and that has seemed to help.

  2. No matter how ofter you give yourself permission to bow out early it's rarely availed of - I think the very act of giving such permission spurs you on to complete the session come hell or high water.

    I'd say you started out too fast on the initial 400's. When I did 400's I had 120 second recoveries which may have been just enough to keep pace during the last intervals - having said that my pace (3k) was slightly slower than McMillans.

    Take it easy during your taper.

  3. Hey there Thomas - I've been out of the loop for a while, so you may have already answered this, but with the pneumonia cutting your training short would skipping the ultra and focusing on Cork be more prudent?

  4. With the race nearing, make sure you a) stay rested and b) your legs feel light and sharp. I wouldn't worry about your 400s, given that you weren�t on a track I think you�re fine.

  5. I admit, it's a little surprising to see you running such a session before the ultra - mainly the chance of possibly pulling a muscle (or incurring some other injury).

    You're right - a session of 10, with each in 86 secs would be far better.

    With intervals, you'll improve the times (or shorten the recoveries) if you do them regularly (weekly), so not much point in one session, apart from knowing you can do such a session.

    All the best for the rest of the taper!