Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Workout of the Week (WOW): Running Tempo Intervals

Molasses Legs
Lately, I've been feeling slow. Especially when I compare my running pace with my Oklahoma running pace. When I went to visit the BIL, I was on top of the Banter Pace World. In the several times I ran, I hit an average of 7:26 while keeping my HR in Z2. Ahh, the sweet Oklahoma air. Ahh, the sweet Oklahoma food. Oh and Ahh, the sweet late-February Oklahoma temps.

Return to Western NY... not so much. It's as if crossing the border sucks stuff right out of you. Sure, we have the 2nd highest taxes in nation, depending on who you believe. One resource listed NY as first, but I'm an optimist, so I went with the lower, more crowd pleasing number. (Aside: I did a little research on this with the intention of making light of the tax situation here. Income, housing, fuel, etc. The news is so depressing that I couldn't find a way to spin it funny, even by my low funny standards. It's like trying to make a joke about the ending of Old Yeller, except that the dog in this case is my bank account. End Aside.) Unlike most people, I'm not gonna blame the politicians for my running woes as I'm pretty sure that most runners blame politicians when they are slow. I will hypothesize that the added weight from eating the Oklahoma food (see above, 2nd Ahh) in excess (repeatedly) coupled with the added pounds of layered clothing may contribute to decreased mph. I might just be a pansy but I'd prefer to blame the weight. It's never really my fault.

Looming Slowness
I've been doing some heavy thinking about my race schedule and my first race of the season. In a mere 3 weeks, I kick off with a 15 K on a hilly course. For some reason, I've got this frightening number stuck in my brain. It's 7:30. The first reason I'm frightened is that I'm really a little girl this is the race start time. I am not a morning person and definitely not a morning runner. Even with Daylight Savings Time in full effect, this is early to me. Plus, in order to make it to the starting line on time, <shivering> I don't even want to think about what time I have to wake up. I'm guessing by 7:00 as it's a 20 minute drive from my house to the race. There's also the pre-race stuff that needs to be taken care of. This includes fueling, hydrating, urinating, finding my clothes, changing, finding my shoes, shoeing, finding my toothbrush, brushing, and Tweeting about the experience of getting ready. I'm guessing that I can fit all of that in to 10 minutes. Optimal sleep while meeting the rest of the body's needs.

Second, 7:30 is also my goal pace for the season in non-triathlon related events. I'm not sure where it came from. I have no real data or support for this number. I just made it up. For some reason, though, it's sticking. This means finishing a 15k in under 1:10. Last year I was 1:16 and distinctly remember bonking around the 6.5 mile mark. It was not good. There may have been some walking involved. Tears may have flowed (but not mine of course, I've got an ego to maintain). At the end of April, I've got a double race weekend planned with a duathlon on Saturday followed by a half marathon on Sunday. The Du features a broken 10k, meaning that I want my total run time to be under :46.30. The HM should be a bit trickier demanding a 1:38 for the achievement. Last year, I went 1:42 in the HM without the duathlon precursor. I'd better get a move on (literally and figuratively). Therefore, pace work.

Data Comparison
Check out these 2 workouts (click to enlarge). They were run on consecutive days on the exact same course. The run on the right was first while the run on the left was second (not sure why the Garmin comparison software did that). Both were bricks.
Brick [noun]- 1. the rubbery, robotic feeling in your legs during running characterized by a slow cadence, underwhelming pace, elevated heart rate, and overall feelings of anguish.  2. any run immediately following a bike session, which subsequently produces meaning 1 (in case any non-triathletes happen to stumble upon this post. BTW, welcome!).

There were 2 main differences between these runs.
  • The Wednesday bike session was a trainer hill session (description can be found here). The Thursday bike session was also on the trainer (duh), but less strength intense.
  • The Wednesday run session was a steady state run. The Thursday run was tempo intervals.
The protocol for this run was as follows: Warm up 1 mile, slowly bringing HR into Z2. Then do 0.5 miles in Z3 followed by 0.5 miles in Z2. Repeat until you fall over dead or until you arrive home, which ever comes first.

Look at the HR data at the right. My running zones are higher than my cycling zones. Z2 ends at 173 (compared with 154 on the bike). Z3 ends at 183 (161 bike). There is a gradual rise in HR during the WU. Around the 8 minute mark, HR breaks the 170 line AKA, the Tempo line for me. Roughly 3:30 later, it drops below. The middle set was the toughest to recover as I was traveling uphill on the easy. After that, there is a sustained over 170, under 170 pattern. I did make the mistake of jumping into Z4 for a short period, this time on a tempo interval going uphill.

When you compare the data from Wednesday and Thursday, the total time is not much different (40 seconds) nor is the pace much different (8 seconds). Yet, the Thursday run got my legs moving at an average pace of 7:20 during the tempo with a Z2 recovery of around 8:00. This should speeden me up. Now, if there was only a tempo workout that could lessen my taxes.

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