The Ultimate Weekly Run

Looking back through my years of training and racing, I've attempted to sort out the common elements that have lead to my successes and the also the what has been a feature of my failures. Unsurprisingly the elements leading into my better races were mostly the opposite of my not so successful events. The usual standards of consistency, good volume and long gradual progression featured. That's all well and good, but very generic. Could I zero in on a certain run or type of training session that was consistent with my better races?

Surprisingly I could. That training session is what I tend to call my Threshold Run. Looking back through my training logs it is clear that this particular training session is a consistent leading into my best races. With hindsight, it is also noticeably lacking leading into races that were well below par. So what is my Threshold Run?

First up I will say state it isn't an exact pace or an exact intensity. Over the build up of training the session gradually changes to ensure progression. Back in 2008 I wrote a post defining this session. It is worth a read before continuing on.. Threshold Training Rehashed. While there is still plenty of argument about definition of the various thresholds in endurance training, I tend to work from the following definition:

"Basically I like to accept that there is an area of intensity at which the body's production of anaerobic byproducts (lactate) is greater than the body's ability to absorb these byproducts. The biggest problem with understanding this is that most people assume it is a set point to be defined as an exact heart rate or blood lactate reading. This is not the case. Lactate dynamics is a very complicated process in the body, is influenced by blood supply to the working muscles, substrate availability, muscle fibre types recruited, fatigue levels, muscle buffering capacity, blood buffering capacity, ambient temperate, core temperate, hydration status, hormone levels, duration of exercise and many other factors."

I won't go heavy on the physiology, but will point out threshold intensity, endurance and the progression are dependant on a multitude of inter-related adaptations in the body. These include central heart and lung dynamics, substrate metabolism, local enzyme activity, neuro-muscular efficiency and local muscular fatigue resistance amongst others. This is important because training needs take into account the rate of improvement of all elements. Pushing threshold training too hard and fast typically leads to problems. Historically I find it tends result in me getting run down and picking up something like a sinus infection, or my legs start feeling more and more hammered each day leading to an inability to run well in most sessions. On the other side if I get it right, all my running improves. This is where having a reasonable knowledge of how your body adapts to training. The science is important, but the art of training takes the higher ground.

My weak points tend to be my immune system and the muscles themselves. My central cardiovascular gains tend to improve at a much faster rate than everything else. The end goal combined with current training status and time out from the race play a role in how I conduct threshold training. In simple terms it comes back to choosing between going faster or going longer. For shorter events I'll choose less distance and increase the pace.

In preparation for Two Bays Trail 56km about three months away the threshold run will be a simple progression. Each week (which is about 9 days for me), I will aim to increase the distance by 2km. Starting at 10km (plus warm up and cool down) in the first week and hitting about 24-26km close to race day. Pacing is based on perceived effort combined with ensuring a solid technique is maintained. This amounts to something a reasonable step faster than race pace. It is slower than a full on half marathon race pace. The terrain will be mainly trail, not overly technical, and is a mix of surfaces with a variety of hills, all very runnable.

My expectation is a become more comfortable with running at this level and the progress gets made by pushing out the distance. Most of the run should be relatively comfortable and only the last part should take a concerted effort. My hope is that the average pace will creep up slightly as the weeks go by, even though I will not be focussing on maintain any set paces. Combined with the rest of training, this session should initial set down a good foundation, and when the distances hit the longer end of the range should be a good race specific session. Consistency here should bring a good return further down the road. Another advantage is I just enjoy running at this intensity.

Comments

  1. Interesting post Jason. I can recall threshold runs leading to PBs when I was a young runner (30-35) and they were very enjoyable - running with a group that liked to run comfortably hard. We used to run 10k training runs in 40-42 when racing 37s and 21k in 1:30-40 when racing 1:25. No particular pace though - some days faster, some slower. Even now, there's been a pattern of 'solid' 10k training runs leading to good shorter race results.

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