Okay, so this post is based on after just watching the flotrack "Wednesday Workout" (always a great watch) and seeing the session they were doing.
It is definitely worth watching below...
For those who haven't watched it the workout is 12 or 16 x 400 at a target HM pace of 68/69 per lap and a fast 200m jog recovery.
Now unsuprisingly I saw a reasonable degree of similarity between this and my own work-out last week! 10 x 400 with a fast 200m jog av. 69. (for a list of excuses as to why this wasn't faster see below!)
The differences were (aside from my illness, running solo, not in spikes didn't think you'd escape that easy did you!)...
A) They are at a very significant altitude
B) They introduced a "Hammer Interval" for every 4th interval.
C) They were meant to be operating at HM pace whilst I was at mile pace.
All of which I think introduce a very interesting element of training.
The first is the sheer effect of altitude training which I don't intend to dwell on at length here but the simple fact is that altitude and the amount of time you spend at it seem to produce the best runners by far. Whilst to some degree there is a selection bias (all best runners are from Kenya and Ethiopia and they are at altitude which therefore means that people assume altitiude creates great runners and so the best runners go to altitiude, particularly when trying to break into "the best") the evidence does seem to be on the side of altitude training as a very useful tool. Altitude does however slow you down on runs considerably, particularly it appears when trying to operate at anything much above a walk.
The second interesting part is the "hammer interval" which is an interesting device in two ways. In the first it concentrates the athlete on not racing the other reps but keeping them consistent with their competitive juices being allowed to flow on the hammer interval. It also introduces significant levels of lactate to the blood stream (yes I am aware that lactate isn't the direct cause of the "rigging" up you get and that there is a complicated process that leads to it but that is unimportant I think for the purpose of this) and so giving the body an introduction to the high level of lactate concentration in the "off" season keeping the system "maintained". It also then allows the body to get used to running with higher lactate levels at a HM pace and whilst a HM will rarely use the lactate levels being able to switch from HM pace to a faster pace is very important and particularly when looking at covering mid-race surges (partly possible due to lower lactate levels whilst ina flat out 1500m it is near impossible) it could be very useful to get preparation done at experiencing that lactate levle and then settling back into HM pace. Particularly the pace the athletes had on the final rep was very impressive. I still need to think a bit more about exactly the benefit that hitting random(?) intervals hard in the middle of a session has but I'm certainly interested.
The third interesting part was the work-out itself- particularly in reference to my below post about running work-outs slower sometimes. As a fairly respectable work-out they were considering doing 12 x 400 @ HM pace with 200 jog. Altitude and hammer intervals excepted that really isn't a particularly difficult work-out and I'm not saying that as a bad thing at all (even pushing it out to 16x400 it still isn't that difficult as it's roughly the same amount of work @ their tempo pace as a 20 minute tempo run)! It's the sort of work-out that gets the legs turning over a bit whilst not pushing the body amazingly hard aerobically allowing for long-term continued development. They could undoubtedly hit that workout week-in, week-out and come race-day they will be able to race significantly faster. They're training not racing and that is a great thing.
Personally I think incorporating more work-outs like this (maybe at sea-level dropping the pace down to 10k pace?) could well be a very interesting addition to a training program and definitely worth thinking about hammer intervals and their use in keeping speed topped up.
Great video by the flotrack guys and keep up the great work. Same to all the guys with McMillan and especially our own Andrew Lemoncello.