Sunday, February 10, 2013

Making the Transition Part 6 - Mile Pace Training

So you've run your 5k and 10k pace intervals, are storming through your tempo runs and are still managing to keep the volume up high. Firstly - congratulations! You're likely in better shape than you're ever been and after a week of easier running could probably run a personal best at any distance from 3k to 10 miles. If you just keep up what you're doing you'll be streets ahead of the rivals you used to race head to head with.

You've just got one problem. You've got new rivals and these guys can run hard for 10k and still lay a monster kick down. You're running hard and by the time the final 400m comes they still look easy.

How do they look that good whilst you're still running hard? Simple - they're running at a much lower percentage of their VO2 max than you are because they have a substantial speed reserve. If you take two endurance athletes - one of whom can run a mile in 5 minutes and the other in 6 minutes then provided they're both endurance athletes then no matter how hard our 6 minute miler trains aerobically he'll always find it difficult to make up that gap.

What we need to do is to start the work to close that gap.

Mile Pace Intervals

Mile pace intervals are hard efforts done at pretty close to your maximum. You're not sprinting in these efforts but you'll often feel pretty close to it. If you'd been thrown into these in the first week of training then you'd have likely sprained your hamstring trying to run flat-out (and even now you'll need to take it carefully and do a thorough warm-up before starting).

The Theory

The theory is that by training at significantly faster speeds than you'll ever need in races when it comes to running at "race pace" you'll feel ridiculously easy. If all you've ever run is 7 minute miles and that's your 5k pace then that'll feel pretty hard come race day. If on the other hand you've done a couple of weeks where you've run at 6 minute mile pace (if only for a while) then 7 minute mile pace will feel much easier and you'll be able to relax into it. In the long-term as 7 minute miles start to feel relatively easy then you'll be able to maintain that pace for a 10k.

This will happen because by improving your speed reserve you'll also have improved your running economy.

The Practice

The basic structure of the work-out is that you should be running between 3000m and 5000m of repetitions. Much less than that and there's limited benefit. Much more and you're starting to tax your body too much and will be dropping towards running slower than 3k pace. It's fine to run at a pace somewhere between your mile and 3k pace for these sessions depending on how you're feeling on the day.

You'll want to split this distance into repetitions of between 200 and 600m. In contrast to the 5k/10k pace work if you're doing the longer reps then you'll want to run a lower total distance as you will experience significant lactic accumulation over even a 600m repetition.

Between each repetition you'll want to take a jog recovery. The recovery is very much up to you. I usually like to have a recovery roughly similar to the time of the previous repetition. If you're looking to run a fast mile or 3k then you'll want short recoveries but for our purposes a longer recovery is fine, although I wouldn't take much longer than the time it takes you to mostly recover your breath.

My favourite work-out of this kind is on a track and comprises 3 sets of 5 repetitions of 300m. Between each 300m I jog 100m and then start the next one. Between each set I'll jog 500m.

These sessions can be very tough and often middle distance training is thought to be the most difficult form of training for any athlete. That said for a distance runner you don't need to be running these sessions incredibly hard as you aren't looking for substantial improvements in lactic acid tolerance (although that will help when you launch your killer kick!). Instead you're looking to develop the ability to run fast and relaxed at pace. If in doubt take more recovery.

The Schedule

If you're looking to run 5k to 10 miles then you don't need to be doing these work-outs every week. That said if you run them at a relatively relaxed effort then you should be able to incorporate them on a Saturday morning or afternoon (provided you're not also doing a long run on the Sunday). If you do your Vo2 max work on 
Tuesday, your tempo on Thursday and mile pace work on Saturday then you'll have an easy day or a rest day between each workout.

So for 3 weeks your schedule will look like:-

2 x 40-60 minute easy runs
1 x 20 easy, strides, 20 easy
warm-up, 20 minute threshold session, warm-down
warm-up, 5k-10k pace intervals, warm-down
warm-up, mile pace intervals, warm-down

With the three mile pace sessions being:-

Week 14: 3 sets of 5 x 300 (100 jog between reps, 500 between sets - as per above) at just slower than mile pace
Week 15: 6 x 500m off a lap jog at mile pace
Week 16: 10 x 400m (equal recovery to repetition time)

This leaves us with an overall schedule as per the below:-

Weeks 1-4 - Get used to running 5/6 times a week
Weeks 5-8 - Incorporate threshold running and strides into your schedule.
Week 9 - Easy Week
Week 10-12 Hard Training (5k/10k Pace Work)
Week 13 - Easy Week
Week 14-16 Hard Training (Mile Pace Work)
Week 17- Recovery Week

Which comprises the 16 week programme to making the transition. The programme isn't intended to make you a superstar in the 16 weeks but to give you the tools to run a serious training schedule. Once you've completed this program you can then look at altering your training by adding in morning runs, a long run on the Sunday, long continuous efforts etc. But that starts to make the whole thing a bit more complicated. The above is a relatively simple way to get you making the most of 90% of your talent.

If you schedule yourself in for a race at the end of your recovery week then you'll have a great chance at running a PB.

I hope the above has been useful - if you've followed it then please comment below and let me know how you did!  If you have found it useful then you may find my other training articles useful as well.


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Bryn Running

Training diary and musings on running in general.