Friday, January 20, 2006

Testing, 1-2-3

Today was my last O2 Training, and the first useful benchmark of the year. If you click over on the Training Log and then follow the links to actually see my daily logs, you can go back to December 16th to the first test. That's what today's test was compared to.

So a refesher:

In December, I started O2 to get a jump on my base conditioning, which I don't usually start until January. I was in magnificently bad shape, having intentionally done hardly anything since the October Marathon. So in our test, which was essentially our 2nd meeting of the O2 class, we are to run 3 miles as fast as we can.

In December, I ran my first mile at an 8:12 pace. I generally consider 9:00 - 9:30/mile my 10k pace, so this is pretty generally consistent with my 5k pace when I'm in form - during the season I usually run a 5k during a Sprint distance triathlon in 25 minutes or less. This day, however, I was not in form. So my heart rate is going through the roof near the end of this first mile, and I'm really struggling. I'm well above my Anaerobic Threshold (AT), which means I'm burning sugar now instead of fat. It's a far less plentiful fuel, so the body has to work harder, and is sending lots of signals to the brain to slow the hell down. When conditioned, an athlete can push his AT up, and exist longer beyond his AT without the body rebelling. It's still not ideal, though, because sugar is an inefficient fuel. This is why, ideally, you like to be chugging along at a comfortable pace with your heart rate well below your AT, giving you room to work harder like climb hills or speed up, or go longer distances. Anyway, back to our story. So my AT was, at that time, a heart rate of about 164 beats per minute. At the end of that first mile I had an HR of around 175bpm. Not sustainable at all, and so when that first mile came up on the treadmill I immediately slowed way down - to 11 minute miles - so I could get back to my senses, settle my heart rate, and get back to burning efficient fuels. It was an ugly mess. So my second and third miles of the test I'm a blubbering idiot, and I finish at a not very respectable 30:04 - that's just over 10 minute miles. This, for me, in a 5k, is terrifically slow. Of course my first problem was starting out so fast, and I knew I'd suffer for this when I started, but I was curious how bad it would be. It was pretty bad, and that was a fair representation of my level of fitness then.

In the 6 weeks that I've done the O2 regimen, my base level of fitness has improved considerably. After about 2 weeks I had my breath back, and after about 4 I was already starting to have a sense about myself that I usually don't develop until later in the season - an intuition of where my heart rate is without checking the monitor, of how far I am from my AT, of how long I can sustain a given pace. This is all useful and productive stuff.

So for yesterday's test, I intended to negatively split the workout - that is, have my second half be faster than my first half. This requires sensible strategy in the first half so that I'm still going "as fast as I can" while holding something back to use later.

So my first mile, I ran about a 9:00/mile, actually 9:06. I concentrated on keeping my heart rate far away from my AT, and kept it around 150. If I were to sustain that pace, I'd finish in just over 27 minutes - 3+ improvement over last time, and I could've done so easily - I wasn't working hard at all that first mile. This is encouraging considering how much work went into my first mile 6 weeks ago. My second mile, then, I sped up to about 8:30/mile. My heart rate started to climb, until it settled at around 163. From this I know that my AT has probably climbed to around 169 or 170, because I was still feeling good. Working harder, no doubt, but feeling good. Sustainable for another two miles or so. My third mile, then, I sped up to right around 8:00/mile. Now my HR started to climb, and I was at about 171. Now I passed my AT, and I was working hard. Never struggling, though - I was never miserable, but I could tell at that point that I'd gone AT. With .5 miles to go I sped up to 7:45/mile, and the last .25 I sped up to 7:30. This kind of training, if done routinely, will train my body (hopefully) to speed up and finish strong the last half miles of races.

So I finished with a final time of 25:29 - almost 5 minutes faster than 6 weeks ago. I'm pretty satisfied with that progress. The breakdown, if you're interested is:

December 16th:
Mile 1 - 8:12
Mile 2 - 19:07
Mile 3 (total): 30:04

January 19th:
Mile 1: 9:06
Mile 2: 17:29
Mile 3 (total): 25:29

From here I need to continue to work on strength in my running - it's been a weakness of mine forever. I also need to continue to try and raise my AT, and become as efficient as possible in burning fat in my zones 3 and 4 - so that when my body is in my heart rate zone 4 - just before I go AT - I'm efficiently burning fat, which will allow me to go further, faster in that zone. I'll do that by continuing to work tempo and interval runs into my workouts, where I spike my HR up, and also treadmill workouts with steep inclines. I'll now start to slowly increase my mileage as well, so that I'm at around 15 mile long runs by mid April.

So far, so good. I feel just a bit ahead of schedule with my base training, which is great. Starting next week I work the bike in once a week, and swimming. Looking forward to it.

1 comment:

Todd said...

I missed this post and the previous one, whoops. Incredible. I take it you wear a HR monitor whilst running. What do those babies cost? Also, do your calves ever get sore? Not so much my calves I guess but just below in the achillies tendon area. I ran 5 miles on Wednesday and I could barely walk that night I was so sore. Enough of the bally-hoo, time to pound some rubber, have a good weekend man!