Chasing Times

Into the final few days before the first of a series of races means there isn't much training I can do to add to my fitness. Call it tapering, peaking or whatever, the focus is now on ensuring I am recovered from training, have skills, efficiency, mental state and tactics to make the most of the fitness I have built. Seems like the ideal time to go over my recent preparation.

The outline for the training plan was:

  • My version of week is 8 days
  • 2 key runs:
    • 1 long
    • 1 intervals around race pace
  • Long run alternates between 3 hour on trails, with 23-25km at set speed faster each time
  • Intervals progress with distance of fast pace, then increase recovery pace
  • Hill repeats are included
  • Near weekly hill sprints or drills for speed and technique
  • All other runs vary between recovery to easy but moderate volume efforts
  • Recovery is important
  • Being able to perform the key sessions at required standard is paramount

  • The details can be read in: It Goes A Little Something Like This.

    Did everything work out as planned? Not quite. I was expecting to consistently average about 100km per week, but instead I hit 76-80km for every 7 days. The biggest influence on volume were the numerous challenges to achieving enough sleep. Rotating shift work, kids, various responsibilities and some unfortunate incidental overtime ate into the planned sleep time. As a result I dropped quite few easy runs to ensure I could get at least 6 hours of shut eye per night.

    Dedicated sessions for hill sprints and drills were creating too high a recovery cost and impacting on the key runs. The change of plans was instead of hitting 12-15 repetitions in a single session, I covered 4-6 repetitions in most of the easy runs. Has it worked? I'm not sure. It has eliminated the extra recovery requirements, and for the most part I now seem to have a much improved ability to sprint both on the flat and uphill over short distances. Whether this has been improved with the higher frequency, but low volume or was just developed through the earlier 12-15 rep sets, I can't answer. At least I am confident I now have my best form if the races come down to a sprint finish.

    The intervals at race pace, which I have marked with AnT on my training plan, have been an interesting development. Some detail on the why and how I planned these sessions can be read in: AnT. Out of all my training this is session that was a long way off what I planned on paper. So instead of progressing from 8-12x1000m @ about 3:42/km I discovered I that was beyond my abilities most times. Nearly all these runs I hit repeats of 1000m chasing speeds of 3:45/km or less, with 1000m comfortable jogging in between. Most of the time I struggled to hit those times, and definitely couldn't hold them repeat after repeat. The good news was I could see significant improvement at each attempt. About a month out, I changed the format, just so wasn't just going to get better at running 1km repeats. A series of 750m lung searing, leg burning hill repeats was used as a kick start, then I moved to repeats of 2000m. Aiming for 5 repeats and targeting paces down around 3:45/km was met with plenty of failure. Again I saw further improvement. The clock was the challenge, and it definitely had it over me.

    The long run was where I have seen the most promising improvements. Initially I alternated between a 2.5-3hr easy trail run with a set paced long run each 8 days. The trail runs were just fun and except for a few sections of challenging terrain, were slow and comfortable. The paced runs progressed from 21-23km plus 5-6km worth of warm up and cool down (26-29km total). The paced section was initially 5:00/km, working down to 4:40/km was a surprising challenge, but more than doable. Then initial attempts at getting that down to 4:28/km was met with a couple of sensational blow ups. Combined with the AnT intervals, I was getting a good idea of my limits. Despite that, I made of point of really challenging my boundaries on the key sessions. I kept chasing those times.


    Over the last week or so, I stopped taking notice of the clock during the key runs. Instead I zeroed in on getting the right feel for the races coming up. I've mixed in the terrain I expect to encounter and practiced running quickly over each type. I've worked at relaxing while running quickly and concentrating on eliminating the little tricks the body tries to get a rest or slow down when you don't want it too. What I have found is I've now managed to hit a set of 5x2000m at some good speed over slower terrain and feel pretty good while doing so. My long run speeds have skyrocketed at lower heart rates and lower perceived exertion,
    faster than 4:28/km with a some finishing kilometres under 4:10/km.

    Am I race ready?


    Will I run some personal bests?

    No idea.

    Chasing the times and missing so many creates a lot of doubt, but having a short glimpse of big improvements also fuels the fire. The main reason I don't know if I can really take on my previous bests, is my fitness and preparation is substantially difference to the past. Part of the reason is that I am just older. The rest is I have found previous approaches only get me to a certain level and that's it. This time I've challenged myself a fair bit more and really tried to push that envelope. As a result it's played havoc with some recovery, there's been a lot of misses, but this approach has allowed me some further insight into what I need to do. Of course the real test is the upcoming races.


    1. Looking forward to seeing how you go off the different prep from previously. Hope there are a few occassions where you can use the sprint finish, or otherwise kick away from the competition mid race. Good luck!

    2. Looking forward to it too Ewen.


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