Thursday, December 22, 2011

C25K, How about 5K242K(marathon)2Ultra - Part II

Back in October I started a post about how to advance from a 5K, to a Marathon, to an Ultra.  I never even made it to the 10K.   .

First, I don't run like most people run.  I always run very hard.  I always run as hard as I can run for the distance I am running.  If I'm running 6 miles at Veteran's Park, (just down the road from my house), I am exhausted at the end of the run.  If I am running seven hours at Oak Mountain, I am even more exhausted at the end of the run.  In other words, I run hard every time I run.  I obviously run much faster when running short distances.

It is not necessary to always run as hard as you can.  You can accomplish your goals faster if you do run very hard,  but many people prefer to enjoy the journey and proceed a little slower.  If you choose to run at an easier pace, you can still follow the basic schedule I will set out below, just advance in smaller increments.  For example, when I suggest adding two miles to the weekend workout, add one mile and so on.  This will work just fine.

I ran a very hard 50 mile race Saturday.  My legs were quite stiff for a couple of days.  I really wanted to run Tuesday as a recovery run to loosen them up, but I  couldn't. I need to run today, but I can't.  My daughter, Mallory flew in from NYC for Christmas on Tuesday and running just didn't fit in.  If I had run today, instead of my usual 23 to 24 minute per lap pace for two or three laps, I would have run two laps at 25 to 26 minutes per loop on the three mile course.  Even though my time would be much slower than usual, at the end, I would still be zapped.  Five minutes later I will be fine, but never-the-less I would have run as hard as I could.

My point is, when you run, run hard.  Don't sprint at the end to get tired, try to run a steady pace that will exhaust you by the end.  That is important.  Anyone in fair condition can go out and run three miles talking on a cell phone and sprint the last 300 yards and be gasping for breath.  That does little or no good.  Run the three miles hard enough that at mile two, you don't think you can hold that pace for another mile, but hold that pace for that last mile.  Do not slow down.  Now it takes some practice to get a grasp on what you are actually capable of but always try to run so that by 2/3 of the way through your workout you are not sure you will be able to finish without slowing down.

The exception:  If you run every day, then you have to run an easy day after every hard day.  If you try to run extremely hard every day you will find  your running times are getting slower instead of faster.  At other parts of this post when I say run hard every time you run, I am talking to people, like me, that work and have a family and have a hard time finding time to run at all during the week.  As I have stated before, I run on Tuesday and Thursday at Veteran's Park here in Birmingham.  (Actually, I try to run every Tuesday and Thursday but it ends up being  more like three out of four weeks each month.)  At least one week a month I just can't fit both runs in.  Sometimes, like this week, I don't run at all.  Almost without exception, I will manage a long run over the weekend.  You can miss an easy midweek run.  You can't miss the big weekend run.  One other note for those of you running every day.  You should also skip one day a week.  Even world class milers, marathoners and ultrarunners take off one day per week.

So, I am going to assume you are running about three times each week and you have run several 5K races recently.  If you have not, stop right here and find three or four 5K's and run them.  Then come back and start reading again.

Your first goal is to run a 10K.  That means you must build your distance, obviously.  You also want to work on speed and developing a feel for how fast you are running.  We will discuss these next.  First, build distance. 

Building Distance:  This is the easy one.  (By the way, I am going to use a 9 minute pace as an example only.  Your starting pace should be based on how fast you can run three miles.  You may be able to run a 6 minutes per mile, or you may run at 12 minutes per mile.  What ever your pace is, that is, that is your starting pace.) First, try to run 2 miles a couple of days during the week.  Run three miles on the weekend.  Run at your starting pace.  If you are already running this much, figure out your pace an skip to the next weekend distance.  For three or four consecutive weeks run this same weekly workout schedule.  The three mile weekend workout should be getting easier.  On the fourth or fifth weekend add a half mile to your weekend run and run 3.5 miles.  The key is to run the 3.5 miles at the same pace as you ran the 3 miles.  Example pace, at 9 minutes per mile.  Repeat this weekly training schedule for four consecutive weeks.  That is, run two miles on Tuesday and 2 miles on Thursday and 3.5 miles over the weekend for four weeks.

On the fifth  weekend raise the weekend mileage to 4 miles.  Again, run at the same pace, 9 minutes per mile, just as you were running the three miles. Repeat the same workout schedule for another four weeks. Add another mile to the weekend run, now 5 miles.  Again, try to maintain that 9 minute pace (your pace.)  By now, it may be starting to get tough to hold your pace.  You probably should add one mile to one of your weekday runs, too.  If you are able to run 5 miles at something close to your pace (9minutes/mile), keep training at 5 miles and enter a 10K within the next month or two.  By the way, it is a good idea to keep running an occasional 5K.  You will find that you will be able to run a faster pace than you could when you started all this.  Even though you may have never run 6 miles in you life, you are ready to try that 10K.  The adrenalin will get you through it.  In fact, be careful.  You may reach the one mile mark and find you are running at a 7:30 pace instead of the intended 9 minute pace.  Don't worry about it.  Just slow down a little and keep going.  You will make it.

If you just can't hold that 9 minute pace for 5 miles, you may need to adjust your pace a little and that is OK.    Just keep your pace as fast as you can and still run every mile at very close to the same pace.  If you are running on a road, go out and mark where each mile is so you can check you pace.  I used to go out with a can of spray paint and spray a small line on the road at each mile.  If you pace drops dramatically when you go the 5 miles, then you may want to drop back to four miles and work on speed.

Building Speed:  If you are finding that you are not able to hold that "9 minute" pace for the 5 miles there is a way to increase  you speed.  It also works great if you wish to increase your pace.  The technique is called interval training.  The purpose is to get your body accustomed to a faster pace.  I like running intervals on a high school track and I would recommend you do the same.  WARNING!  If you have never run intervals, believe me, this is a hard workout.  I like running quarters, 440 yards (400 meters) which is one lap around a standard track.  Some like 220s others prefer 880s.  I would stick with the shorter distances for now.

Using our 9 minutes pace per mile, that means you are covering each 1/4 mile (440 yards) in 2:15.  What I would do is go to the track and pick a starting point and run 8, quarter mile intervals.  You are going to try to hit each 1/4 mile at 2:00 exactly.  That is slightly faster than you have been running in training.  I don't like to walk so I run constantly while doing intervals and I would suggest you do the same.  Start by running a slow lap or two to warm up.  As you start the third lap, pick a starting point and build up you speed as you hit the start line to the pace you want to hold.  Start you watch on "split timer" as you cross the start line.  Run one lap at the 2 minute pace, back to the exact spot you started.  Hit the split timer again.  Now slow down to a very slow "JOG."  (I despise that word)  Most watches display the split time for 10 seconds so check you lap time quickly before it shifts to displaying the next split.  You will immediately know if you are slow or fast and by how much.  The first couple of quarters may seem very easy.  By the fifth or sixth, they will not be easy, believe me.

You will probably be fast. As you come around the track for the slow, second lap, start the watch split time as you cross the line.  Run another fast lap and check you time at the end.  Slow down again to recover and jog a second lap.  Adjust your pace as necessary and run the third interval.  The goal it to run that 2 minute pace every "fast" lap.  You will be amazed how close you can get after a few workouts like this.  If you don't feel you need the entire lap to recover, then alternate starting at the 220 marks.  That is, run you quarter at speed and jog 220 yards and start the fast lap again.  This workout will substitute for one of the mid weed workouts in the beginning.

If you find you can comfortably run the 2:00 pace, then speed up a little.  Try the same workout at  a 1:45 or 1:50 pace.  Next you might try 10 intervals.  You can also vary the distance, running 220s.  Another great way to increase speed in run negative splits.  That is, start the 1/4 intervals at a 2:15 pace on lap one.  On lap two run 2:10.  On lap three run 2:00.  Keep reducing the time until you are no longer to hit the rime.  As you get accustomed to intervals, make the workout an extra midweek workout, say on Wednesday.  You will probably need to take it a little easier on the Thursday workout if you do.

At this point in your training I can almost guarantee that the next 5K you enter you will run a PR. (If  you are a new runner - not if you were a college miler or CC runner that has not run for 20 years.)  Enter another 10K after several weeks of interval training and you will be amazed at how much faster your time is.

You have now been running on this training schedule for about six months, possibly more and you will have have a very solid base and a good sense of your pace.  It is now time to start getting ready for the first marathon.  You will need to start running longer mid week runs as you lengthen your weekend runs.  That's next.

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