Tuesday, August 18, 2009

First Track Workout, Plus a Question

Well, I did it. I got back onto the track for a speed workout. First time in many years. It hurt a bit, but I really enjoyed it. After a 1.5 mile warmup, I ran 4 x 800 meters with 2 mins rest btwn each, followed by a 1.5 mile cooldown (5 miles total on the track). My splits for the 800s were:

3:20 (3:23.8 avg)

I wanted to run them in 3:30 (about a 7 min pace), but my track pacing skills are very rusty. As expected, my body was saying "what the heck are you doing? No lo comprendo!" (Yes, my body is often bi-lingual during times of stress). These weren't exactly "race pace" intervals, which they probably should be. There's no way I can currently sustain a 6:46 pace for anything over about 1.5 miles right now (my 5k race pace back in June was 7:12), so I'll probably have to back off the next time I do these. After my cooldown laps, my right IT band was barking a little - probably from the speed, as well as running 20 laps counterclockwise, which put more stress on the outside of that leg, so I stretched, used my foam roller and took an ice bath when I got home.

As my title suggested, I have a question for those of you who have done this: is it smart for me to start doing speedwork while I'm also trying to build up my mileage for a half marathon? Given my history of injuries, I'm a little nervous, but I really want to work on both, if it's realistic. Thoughts?


  1. First, if you can, do warm-ups and warm-downs clockwise to lessen the frequency of left turns.

    Second, as long as you are not building up your mileage too quickly, no reason not to get the speedwork in, and in fact every reason to do it. This is because of point

    Third, your interval pace is going to be faster than your race paces because you are working on a specific system, the ability of the heart to pump oxygen to your muscles, very intensely and you need the speed to make it work. (You can get an idea of workout paces (based on Daniels) here: http://runworks.com/calculator.html ) The fact that you ran these pretty consistently with the final one the fastest (consistency is the name of the game) makes me think these were not too fast, subject to how you recover.

    Since this was your first time out for quite a while, and after your diversion on the bike, and you didn't do that many, I see no problem because you didn't overdo it. See how the recovery goes, i.e., how much you feel this tomorrow and Thursday. If you don't feel anything except some little stiffness, you're in great shape. That stiffness will come because you've suddenly asked your muscles to go faster than they have for quite a while. They'll need to get used to it. But that stiffness is merely a side-effect of the main purpose of the workout, to get the heart going. So easy runs to aid in recovery.

    I would also suggest as an alternative to intervals repeats, which are faster and shorter with full recovery and are designed to improve your form. Improve form at speed translates to improved form in intervals and ultimately improved form in races and long runs.

  2. Colin,
    Good for you for getting back on the track. As I mentioned on the Runner's Roundtable, speedwork is something that I prefer to do with a group with experienced pacers to help keep my splits more consistent.

    As for your question, it's perfectly OK to do speedwork while building miles for a half marathon. In my opinion, speedwork should be a regular part of your weekly training schedule. If you get into the habit of doing regular speedwork, you'll notice that the time for your shorter mid-week runs and races will improve. Building mileage will come through your weekend long runs. The most important thing is to listen to your body. If your ITB or any other body part starts to hurt, stop the workout.

    I hope this helps. I'm by no means an expert but I'm simply sharing my experiences since I started to do speedwork on a regular basis.

  3. Build mileage and then do speed work. If you try to do both you're playing with fire and considering your past history with injuries and over doing things and having to take a long long time off, I think you already know the answer to the question.

    Just get that first 1/2 in the books and then work on getting faster. That being said I don't think a 3:30 800m is speed work for you, more like tempo running. I would say anything faster than RP – 1 minute (1:45/13.1=8:00m/m – 1:00 = 7:00m/m) isn’t a good idea and not any better than just running a 7:00m/m.

    And please please change directions every other lap or get some flour and mark ½ mile on a path somewhere.

  4. If you have a history of injuries -- I confess to not knowing -- you have to be careful with speedwork as you have to be with mileage increases. But I don't know why a change of pace and effort is bad if you give yourself time to recover and feel strong enough going in. If you are injury prone, you may want to get the HM under your belt. And remember that intervals are not the only type of speedwork.

    But I don't know where the idea that a 7:00 pace is a tempo pace comes from. That's basically saying you should be able to run 20 minutes at a pace that you race a 5K in 22 minutes. (I couldn't even race 20 minutes at HM-pace - 1 min.) Using that recent 5K time of 22:20 (the test is how fast you currently are, not how fast you hope to be), understanding that it was a bit ago and you've been focusing on the bike, gets you (using the Daniels charts from above) to a tempo pace of 7:35 and an interval pace of 7:00, serving two very different purposes. That you got into that pace (albeit a bit faster) naturally is a good pacing sign.

    But don't listen to me. I think all runners should pick up "Daniels' Running Formula" or a similar book to understand the various types of workouts. I'm actually re-reading Brad Hudson/Matt Fitzgerald's "Run Faster" now; they have interesting views about combining different types of workouts throughout a training cycle.