Saturday, November 13, 2010

A stunning revelation

I'm slow. Not in the way you might think (how fast I can race a 5k), but in a different way. I have run a couple of low-key 5k races in the past two weeks, and I must admit they weren't speedy (for a person wanting to run 5k in under 20 minutes) — 25:57 and 26:43. I tried to run these at "tempo effort", so I'm expecting something quicker next Thursday in a track 5000.

The slowness that stuns me is the time it takes me to run 200 metres. Last Sunday on the lovely grass at Calwell I ran 10 x 200 metres, with full recoveries between each run. Average time: 46.7 seconds. This is not nearly fast enough for someone who wants to run 48 seconds for each 200 of a 5k race. History shows that I need to run 10 x 200m in 36 to 37 seconds. When I was doing that (2001), I raced 5k in 20:06. In 2004, with 200 metre interval speed of 37 to 38 seconds, I ran a road 5k in 20:43.

I ran another session yesterday to check my basic speed — 10 x 100 metres, again with full recoveries, and running pretty much flat-out. These averaged 20.2 seconds, so quicker than the 200s, but still slow. I put this lack of basic speed down to weak fast-twitch muscle fibres. I've been lax in doing fast speedwork in recent times. I should exercise my fast-twitch muscles regularly to improve their strength. I'm wondering how fast you are in terms of basic speed? How fast can you run a session of 100s or 200s? How fast can you run a lap of the track? Do you think it's important to be fast over 200 metres in order to run a fast 5k race?

Racing on the grass at Weston ParkAn 8k race at Weston Park in June 2010

24 Comments:

Blogger Andrew(ajh) said...

I'm slow too, in an additional way, in that I've never even thought about this, or even tried to time myself over shorter distances. Come to think about it, I haven't even run on a track since high school. Maybe if I did some serious training I might get my 5km PB down a bit. Maybe I need a coach?

8:09 pm  
Anonymous Julie said...

200s for a 5K? Maybe for the 1500. For some of us, our speed curve plummets in relationship to the distance. Running shorter intervals just makes me feel bad about myself. It looks like it has the same effect on you. You're not slow. You're just slower than all the stupid calculators say you "should" be at very short distances.

I would think for the 5K you'd do better with 800-1600 repeats, focusing on dropping the times by a few seconds for each repeat. A 5K is an endurance event. A 200's a sprint.

But what the hell do I know? I can barely run these days. :)

11:25 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

Ewen I'd say 200s are too short for you. It all depends on the base you're coming from - Speed or Endurance.

By the sounds of it you're more fatigue resistant at the moment. If this is the case you're invervals should be longer and slower than race pace and gradually increase the pace over the weeks until your doing say 4 x 1000 in 4:00 as your peak session.

On the other hand if coming from a base of speed you'd be starting intervals at race pace (as you appear to be doing now) and gradually building up the distance to the same 4 x 1000 @ race pace.

Same destination but different routes. My tuppence worth.

12:23 am  
OpenID sweatykid said...

Oh goodness, 10x200m would be an ego-bruiser for me too! Props to you for giving it a go. I'm not one to dole out good advice on track-based speedwork... I probably average about four track workouts per year. However, I doubt it's important to be that speedy over 200m in order to have a successful 5K. 200's might be helpful for developing some turnover and sharpening up your speed a week or two out from your race event, but they certainly aren't an indicator. 800's, 1200's, and ESPECIALLY 1600m repeats are the meaty mental and physical indicators for me!

7:55 am  
OpenID canute1 said...

I think it is likely that increasing the strength of your type 2a (aerobic fast twitch) fibres will help you to achieve your goal of a sub 20 minute 5K, but I suspect that you might strengthen these fibres more efficiently with about three sessions per month in which you do long hill repeats at a moderate pace, rather than sprint sessions.

8:34 am  
Blogger Girl In Motion said...

How timely! I just realized last week that I'm completely missing that top end speed. I seem to be able to get a bit faster than 5K pace, but going faster is a whole 'nuther thing. When I tried it last week, just as a stride-type addition, I realized it required a change in form and that I really need to get used to pumping arms hard and getting the legs up. So you're not alone! I'll join you in the hunt for the top end.

9:02 am  
Blogger Dubs said...

I've done a lot of 200's towards the peak part of my 5K seasons. I'm surprised you are not hitting the faster times with ease. Maybe just an off day? Of you mentioned your fast twich - I am behind a bit on blogs - but have you been doing much speed work? I know when I was overly fatigued in the spring I was having a tough time and my legs just wouldn't turn over. So if you have done a lot of speed work and this keeps happening and you are tired - check things out - that is when I got my overuse injury. If you are doing a lot of speed with no issue and feel good other than a crappy workout - blow it off, maybe you were just off. If you haven't been doing a lot of speed work and are doing fine with your other workouts - then maybe this is just you getting those fast twich muscle fibers back in shape - when that happens to me, I just add strides (or gliders since I forget to add the strides at the end until I'm already in the shower - I just do 4-5 100m pick-ups duing the last couple miles) - that engages the fast twich fibers, but you still get an easy/recovery run. 26 for a 5K, was that the goal time for a tempo? If not, what was your goal? I believe I was hitting 24's for tempo, but I can't recall - I lent my calendar/log to a friend to compare to his plan for training. You may just be a bit tired and sluggish as the heat is starting up there.

9:16 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Andrew, I think you could get your 5k time down 'quite' a bit with some serious training. A 'good' coach can help, but finding the right one is no easy task.

Julie, you know heaps. I intend to do longer intervals/repeats. I was curious to find out how much my sprinting speed had declined through lack of practise.

Grellan, that's a good tuppence worth. I sort of want to come at the problem from both ends... improve my sprinting speed and also gradually bring the pace of long intervals down over time.

Thanks SK. My ego wasn't that bruised, as there was only one man (and his dog) who witnessed the session. I recall when I was (much) younger that my 200m speed was what it was (30-32 for a session of 200s), and didn't need regular practise. One of these days I'll be game enough to try your 1600m repeats.

Canute, thanks for that. I'll start some long hill repeat sessions in the coming weeks.

Flo, we'll be hunting top-end speed together then. It's funny, but without the stop-watch I wouldn't have known how slow I was. I felt like I was running 42-3 for 200!

Dubs, I haven't been doing anything approaching top-end speed at all, so it's pretty much down to out-of-shape fast twitch fibres. I should do that, and run some 100m strides at the end of easy runs. For the tempo runs, I didn't have a goal time... I just kept my HR at about 150, whereas in a 5k race I'd be pushing 156. The second course was very slow, so the time would have been 24:30ish on the flat.

11:03 am  
Blogger Love2Run said...

Truly stunning! Are you sure you weren't dragging a spare tire? I'm sure a good month or 2 of hills will fix you up as canute suggests. I'd also recommend doing some strides and drills but never seem to get around to it myself so don't pay any attention to me ;-)

11:22 am  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

Unless you are going to compete in short distances on the track I reckon short efforts are over-rated. If the goal event is 5km and the goal time is ~20mins then I'd recommend 5 X 800s or 4 X 1km efforts. I also think you'll get the most benefit from your faster training if you just do one of these kinds of sessions per week and either a "training race" (ie, a hit out under race conditions but not a goal race, like the ACTCC summer series) or a tempo session, and then make your other run days easy or moderate both in terms of pace and distance. I have to add though, that while I think this kind of strategy will be effective in speeding up your 5km race time, these sessions aren't always "fun" and that's one of the reasons why I fail to maintain them as regular features of my own training. Sigh ...

11:46 am  
Blogger Two Fruits said...

I'm with Jog on this one, the speed sessions are too short. 800s to 1000s or tempo laps may be a better option. Short sessions are hard, that's why both Jog & I dodn't do enough of them. Enjoy Calwell oval, the place to train.

1:39 pm  
Blogger Dubs said...

OK - then I totally would not even worry about this Ewen! Just get some strides in on your recovery runs and as you do more speed work the fast twich fibers will get in line and realize it is time for them to behave.. they are just enjoying a nice beach vacation so they are good and rested for when you want them back at work and doing their job well. :) I need to start training on HR! I'm having quite the debate on what training plan I will use to prep for Boston. I keep thinking HR would probably be a smart idea!

2:43 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

Do we have the perfect session for you. Sunday mornings and/or Monday nights. See you there!

2:54 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Mike, no dragging spare tyre. Although I could probably drop a couple of kgs, I've been told I have a good six-pack ;)

Jog, thanks for that. One long interval session and one "training race" sounds good. That would be two "hard" days per week. I'll try Canute's hill repeats on another day - a "moderate" day, vis-à-vis this schedule from Steve Magness. I want to strengthen my fast-twitch fibres, hence my idea of short sprints (long recoveries).

2F, yes, Calwell's great. The grass is just about perfect these days.

Dubs, they've had more than a nice beach vacation... they've had long service leave! HR training is good to keep easy runs easy. It's also a good way to test your aerobic fitness with something like the MAF Test.

Speedygeoff, that's right! I'll see you there... unless I've been up partying Saturday night ;)

7:47 pm  
Blogger rinusrunning said...

I don't now how to train the 5k?.
I run one time a 5k and i think that when you train a lot for the 5 k?, than you have a problem.Most time it wil not go fast.
But when you run whit fun and your feeling?, than wil it happend, a fast 5 k.
Goodluck.
You can train a marathon and yoy see that your 5 k race will be fast ;-).
Rinus.
www.rinusrunning.nl

4:13 am  
Blogger RICK'S RUNNING said...

YES Ewen, you are S L O W !!! :]
Have you got over your illness fully?
Next time you do the 200's Think leg speed, concentrate on turning the legs over as fast as possible and your stride length will take care of it's self.
This works!

6:17 am  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Well I had a red-hot go at a 100m race this year with the result being 14 seconds. I habitually run the first 200m in 36 seconds for most races, so I'm very used to that speed, and while I don't often do 200m intervals sessions, I can remember going after 32-34secs as average times. Of course I'm aged 36 so thats a factor. I also come from a sprinting background in little athletics 25 years ago or so where I ran 200m in 26 seconds as an 11 year old.

My thinking is that 800m-1600m intervals are of a lot more value in 5k times pursuit.

However I also think that by doing some speed drills over 30m-100m-400m intervals (or hill repeats) you can improve your 800m or 1500m time. If you improve your 1500m time your 5km time should come down also, and your ability to run the 800m-1600m intervals that are 5k race focused is improved, so its a building thing, just so long as you remember that the spoeed drills and the longer intervals have a slightly different focus... Also you can gain 10-30 seconds by having a fast start and/or even better a searing finishing kick over the last 200-800m...
Ladders sessions are the best of both worlds, you get the speed drills AND the benefits of longer intervals, although you may need to back them up with intervals otherwise they encourage uneven pace too much...
One of my favourite strategies is to work the speed drills early in the week, then try the longer intervals and/or ladders, and repeat that process...so i think both are worth doing although you need to remember what you are focusing on/trying to achieve and the longer intervals are more important. I think to run sub 20min you need to be able to run 200m in 45 seconds or quicker, otherwise holding 48second 200m splits for 20 minutes isn't going to happen...However once you are comfortable at 40-45 seconds, you need to spend a much longer time doing 800's to 1600's...
Go for it Ewen, and well done on exploring this area...

6:33 am  
Blogger Dave said...

I tend to agree that 200's might not be optimum for a 5km prep. For me I think that 400's and 800's would get the right leg speed going

12:44 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Rinus, I'll take your advice and try to run "whit fun". I tend to get too nervous before short races. I want to do training not dissimilar to marathon training, in that I want good weekly mileage and a good weekly long run.

Rick, I love your honesty! Re the illness, I have to see the specialist in December, but I'm not feeling too bad. Thanks for the tips on running fast 200s.

Jonathon, that's interesting. Now I know where your speed comes from! I've tended to look at the 5k that way too... Improve the 1500m time, then the 5k training pace and race pace feels easy.

Dave, I'd agree with you too... if I wasn't so slow at 200 right now. I want to get some sprinting speed/leg speed back without dipping into anaerobic territory just yet(which long intervals would do If I were to run them at goal pace), hence my thoughts about running short repeats with long recoveries.

8:33 pm  
Blogger nev said...

great blog Ewen - it created a lot of interest and discussion. For my 2 bobs worth - also do activities that will increase your leg speed and do not need a stopwatch (such as drills, skipping, etc).

11:44 am  
Blogger jojo said...

well im only allowed to walk at the moment so id be even slower.
im no 5km runner tho so its hardly a comparison. When i do 200 reps with 90s-2 min-stu gets me to run at 800m pace-approx 40s. if longer recoveries-then faster of course

if i was training for a 5km id be more concerned with my 600m/800m reps at the right pace!

10:31 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Nev, thanks. It's great when people are keen to contribute on a topic. Re the drills - yes! Good idea. I was doing them last summer, so need to start them up again. Maybe more than once a week too.

Jojo, I used to do 200s at 800m race-pace too. My problem at the moment is lost "basic speed", through lack of practise. You have more fast-twitch muscle fibres than I do, so I don't think you'd ever have that problem.

9:29 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

Yeah, I don't know Ewen. I haven't really done much running of 100s and 200s but interested to try.

If as they say you have to run a fast 5K before a fast 10K and on up until the marathon, it would follow that a fast session of 100 meter sprints would translate into a faster 5K.

Just like the world is watching to see how Japan handles its problem of the general population getting older and entering the pension age. Everyone is watching you to see if you can indeed pick up the pace and get faster!

Plenty of pressure, the kind a few friend blogger like me can't really understand ;)

12:06 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Scott, that's right. To run a fast 5k you need a fast 1500 metres. 100m speed is needed for that. For example, Keith Bateman running 8:56.80 for 3k at age 55 - that's 17.9 per 100m. His 'basic speed' would be considerably faster than that. Grete Waitz was a 1500m runner before she became a marathoner. I learn from you about handling pressure ;)

9:16 pm  

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