Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Racing my fastest 5k of 2016

I decided to race as fast as I could at the Tuggeranong Parkrun 5k on Saturday if my legs were feeling up to a hard effort. In the midst of LSD training I never quite know how my legs will feel, even after warming up. For this run I felt about average (somewhere in the middle of the range from dead awful to skin-jumpingly brilliant). I jogged for 2k, some with Dave (an 18:39 5k runner), then lined up in the start chute a little more towards the front than is my habit.

On "go!" from Nick it took me about 2 seconds to cross the start line. Great start! But still many runners ahead, sprinting through the park. I settled into my race pace, my progress a little zigzaggy for the first kilometre. One pleasant surprise — passing Jim after just 500 metres. As I was concerned about time, I glanced at my Garmin at 1k and was a little disappointed to see 4:55. Oh, well... just keep running by effort. I passed Peter after the footbridge, then Judy flew by effortlessly — I thought she'd run around 23 minutes (23:17 as it happened) but I couldn't quite stick with her pace. I glanced again at the Garmin at the turn and saw '12:01' — is that all?!

Returning on the out/back course I was racing runners I was unfamiliar with — Liz was there, some other veteran men and a teenage boy (who would surge every now and then). I added '5' to my time at the 4k mark (19:09) and was happy that I'd run a sub-24 unless the wheels fell off. Scott overtook me coming back into the park but I think my finish was fairly strong (if not an all-out sprint). 23:46 for 50th place! Yes!

If you'd asked me at the beginning of the year would I be excited about such a time, the answer would have been in the negative. My goal back then was 22:00 for 5k but the first 6 months of the year was written off with illness and injury. So to come from 27:26 on 16 July down to 23:46 in December is pretty exciting. Interestingly, both those times were at the same average heart rate of 143, so pretty good evidence that LSD training is working. I'm fitter, enjoying my training AND running faster.
Running out of the park, shortly after the start
A disinterested spectator, 600 metres from the finish
LSD trail run around Mt Stromlo with the Speedygeese

Friday, December 02, 2016

Attempting to perfect LSD training

I'm reading a book by Rich Englehart: 'SLOW JOE: Joe Henderson and his LSD (long, slow distance) writings that changed running' — it's about author Joe Henderson and features his seminal book of 1969, 'Long Slow Distance: The humane way to train.' For those who don't know, Henderson was Editor-in-Chief at Runner's World in 1969, ran his first race in 1958 and ran in university with coaches that believed interval training and hard sessions produced fast runners — the philosophy being 'the only way to race fast is to train fast' and 'running long and slow will make you a long slow runner.'

In high school Joe Henderson didn't finish his first mile race (after a 69 second first lap) and ran 5:25 in his second. He read in Track and Field News and Long Distance Log about how his Olympic heroes trained. The New Zealanders under Arthur Lydiard ran 100-mile weeks so Joe decided to run half that, averaging seven-plus miles a day. In his final high school race he ran the mile in 4:22.2. In university Joe struggled under a regime of intense interval workouts and rather than improving, his time for the mile slowed. He took a month off and during that time, missed running and decided that he never wanted to stop again. He realised that gentle running and LSD training was the only way to make running last beyond university. In his final year he ran 4:18.2 for the mile off LSD training and was in shape to run 4:10 but suffered a calf injury that ended his season.

Joe Henderson discovered that his sweet spot percentage of fast running was between 5 and 10 percent of total weekly mileage. He raced regularly and these races were his fast running. The rest of his 'training' was done at a gentle at 7:30 to 8-minute mile pace (4:40 to 5:00 per km), this for a runner who raced the mile at 2:40 per kilometre. Joe's training in those days is not unlike that of Ed Whitlock now — long easy running with short races as the only speedwork.

I've realised that my training since coming back from the calf injury has been very similar to Henderson's LSD. Long Slow Distance, with regular short races as the only speedwork. I've averaged 92 km per week over the past 4 weeks, with 5 km per week being fast running (usually a Parkrun 5k). I think I'm close to that sweet spot of 5 to 10 % of mileage being fast with the rest being slow or easy. I suspect that for LSD training to work well, one needs to do a small percentage of weekly running fast. You can't leave it too long between fast efforts. If all running is slow for months at a time I imagine it would be difficult to switch on to a fast pace in a race.

My most recent race was an enjoyable 5k on the grass XC track at Stromlo (using the mountain course). I started easily, keeping my eye on the gradually reducing distance to Jim up ahead. I caught him on the U-turn just past the lake after 2k. It was just like the 'miracle mile' of 1954 when Bannister beat Landy — Jim looked over his left shoulder as Landy had done and I passed him on the right like the sneaky Bannister! On the second lap I closed on Natasha but couldn't quite catch up before the finish — 25:37 for her, 25:48 for myself and 26:52 for Jim. It had been a successful and enjoyable race once again.

Enjoying a hilly LSD run with the Speedygeese last Sunday