Sunday, February 24, 2008

Did Hadd do it for me?

Does Hadd-training work? Did six months of running slowly make me faster? The short answer is that it did, and it didn't. As John Hadd predicted, my lactate threshold improved, and my running speed while 'sitting on' various heart-rates became faster. This translated into some marginally quicker races compared to 2005, my last good year: 1 minute faster for the half marathon, and 6 seconds for the 3000 metres. Hardly earth-shattering, however there was one race which did show dramatic improvement. The wondrous 5k at Stromlo – 20:54, finishing ahead of people who usually leave me far behind in races, like road-kill left to decay on the Stuart Highway. This one race has me convinced about the importance of aerobic conditioning.

How slow did I run when doing Hadd-training? The upper aerobic (harder) runs eventually got down to 5:06 per km (8:12 miles), while the lower aerobic (easier) runs were around 6:00 per km (9:39 miles). How much did I run? 91 kilometres per week, or for about eight and a half hours per week.

So, towards the end of Hadd-training, I became faster, but there was one unforeseen consequence. My maximum speed became slug-like. When asked to run significantly faster* than the speeds used in Hadd, my body protested. I suspect this is because one becomes so expert at the shorter stride used when running slowly, that suddenly switching to a more powerful, longer stride causes bitter complaint from the body. The marathon-shuffle I used for slow running was too far removed from the expansive stride needed for a fast 3000 metres. My running economy (use of oxygen) with an unfamiliar stride was poor.

Discovering that I've become both faster and slower is my epiphany. I like Hadd, but the downside is that it takes too long after finishing Hadd to regain maximum speed. I can see now why Nick Bideau (Craig Mottram's coach) recommends one session of sprinting in the weekly schedules of his distance runners – 4-5 x 80 to 120 metres at 95% of maximum speed, with full recoveries. The 'fine speed' that Arthur Lydiard talks about is therefore retained throughout the year.

I hope everyone has a good week. For my up-over readers struggling through icy blizzards, you'll be pleased to hear our final weeks of down-under summer have been mild and idyllic with temperatures around the 70°F mark.

* My 11:07 goal for 3000 metres requires a speed of 3:42 per km (5:58 per mile).

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Speed, come back!

An unforeseen consequence of doing six months of Hadd-training is that my speed has departed on the last train to Clarkesville. By speed, I mean my ability to sprint. Okay Geoff, you can stop laughing. I've never claimed to be the bearded answer to Cathy Freeman. As a clean-shaven 28-year-old, I could only sprint 400 metres in 62 seconds. "Anyway", I hear my vast readership asking, "why does a distance runner need to be able to sprint?" Because I need some difference between my top speed and 3k race-pace.

In my first post-Hadd interval session, I ran 200 metre repeats averaging 41 seconds for each. If I'm to run 11:07 for 3000 metres, I need to run every 200 metre split of the race in 44.5 seconds. Clearly there's not enough space (yet) between my top speed and goal race-pace. In my ancient sub-10 minute 3k days, I could jump on the track any time of the year, and run 10 x 200 metres in 32 seconds. Race-pace for 3k back then was 40 seconds per 200 metres, so about 25% slower than top speed. If I can eventually run a similar interval session in 35.5 seconds per 200 metres, my top speed should be sufficiently fast enough to run 11:07. At least top speed won't be a limiting factor to my goal.

When this season of track racing finishes in March, I'm thinking of using the 'conditioning' phase outlined by Arthur Lydiard, rather than simple Hadd-training. What I like about Lydiard's 2-week schedule, is that it includes one day of 'relaxed striding' – 4 to 8 repeats of 200 metres, and one 'time trial' of 3000 or 5000 metres. The 200s should help maintain some sort of fast-twitch muscle condition over winter.

Recent races:
17 Jan - 1500m in 5:51.01. 2 Feb - 5000m in 21:29.58. 7 Feb - 3000m in 12:16.07.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Progression – 1992 to 2007

Commenting on my last post, Rachel asked "Why the 3000 metres?". In short, I like it because a fast 3k is challenging, and the distance suits my physical abilities. Speedwork and other specific training is needed for a good 3000, whereas it's possible to run reasonably well at distances of 5k and above, purely off the base mileage phase of Lydiard, or with simple Hadd-training.

I'm not a marathoner, and I'm definitely not an 800 metre runner. The 3000 sits in that happy running place that requires both endurance and speed. There's no wall to be broken through, like the tank-proof one Kayoko Fukushi found in Osaka. There are many opportunities in Canberra to race 3k over the summer months, and our Arizona-like heat is less of a problem when racing shorter distances. Speaking of which, I never claimed it was humid on that hot January night! That was a rumour initiated by some toast-hating, juvenile lipstick wearing dame; now sporting a wrinkled, collapsed bag of a face.

I always find those 'progression tables' seen on elite athlete profiles interesting. They usually show a trend of steadily improving PBs over the years – such as the ones for Benita Johnson and Craig Mottram. The table below shows the progression of my race times since 1992 – the last year I broke 10 minutes for 3000 metres. If I'm to run Eleven-07 in O-eight, it looks like I need to somehow drag my decrepit doddering body back to the year 1997. I hope my goal doesn't need a DeLorean.

Year800m1500m3000m5000m10,000m1/2 M
20042:42.495:32.5912:23.020:54.942:20 (r)1:38:40
20032:40.75:28.712:02.721:48.1844:14 (r)1:42:39
20002:33.75:09.111:32.8-39:16 (r)1:37:39
19992:29.25:11.911:19.420:04.041:15 (r)1:36:55
19982:31.45:08.111:21.319:46 (r)41:09 (r)1:39:26
19972:24.64:58.910:53.7-38:51 (r)1:33:22
19962:27.94:59.410:34.218:58.439:33 (r)1:25:18
19952:19.84:56.410:31.818:36.538:17 (r)1:23:31
19932:22.24:49.110:16.417:59.839:39 (r)1:25:25
19922:20.24:50.99:56.918:17.537:57 (r)1:24:01
(r) = 10k time run on a certified road course.

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