Sunday, September 03, 2023

Threshold training for 5k racing

 I've become fascinated by the recent trend towards threshold training, no doubt due to its successful use by the Ingebrigtsen family and other Norwegians. The basic theory is that the runner spends as much time as possible running at a threshold effort which is arrived at by measuring blood lactate. Gradually your speed at threshold becomes faster and along with that, your race pace. It's important not to run threshold sessions too fast or the accumulated lactic acid in the muscles extends the recovery time. Jakob Ingebrigtsen runs two days of 'double threshold' (a morning and an afternoon session) on Tuesday and Thursday with a 'special session' (often hill sprint repeats) on Saturday mornings with another threshold session that afternoon. His weekly training volume is around 160 kilometres.

Can the average recreational runner learn something from how Jakob trains and possibly adapt those methods for use in our own training? I think we can, and Irish 2:09 marathoner Stephen Scullion has produced a detailed video on what we can learn from the Ingebrigtsens. Jakob's older brother Kristoffer is a recreational runner and his training (you can find him on Strava) gives an insight into how an average runner uses a threshold training system to improve race times. Kristoffer runs around 105 km per week or for 8 hours 10 minutes and he doesn't do 'double threshold' days. His week usually consists of one rest day, three threshold days and three 'steady' running days, one of those being a long run. He uses a Lactate Pro 2 Meter to check blood lactate and make sure he is running at the correct threshold effort. His 'best times' on Strava include 16:22 for 5k, 33:09 for 10k and 73:43 for a half marathon, all very good results for a recreational runner.

If I'm to train similarly to Kristoffer Ingebrigtsen but at 6.5 hours per week, it seems I need a way to judge threshold effort correctly so I can recover sufficiently with one steady running day between threshold days. This will call for some experimentation as the key to good recovery is to run threshold effort 'just right' erring on too slow rather than too fast. I'll use heart rate as a guide. I race 5k at an average heart rate of around 146 (my maximum HR is close to 156). For a start I'll try threshold effort runs/intervals with my heart rate between 130 and 139. General and easy running days will be under a heart rate of 130. My days of the week will go: Monday a variety of threshold running with the Speedygeese group, Tuesday a steady Lake Stakes, Wednesday a threshold BBQ Stakes fartlek, Thursday a steady 65 minutes of running, Friday a threshold Customs Joggers session, Saturday an easy parkrun, Sunday an easy short run or bike ride. Sometimes I'll run the Customs Joggers 5k as a race effort if there are no suitable local races. That's the plan until Masters' track racing starts in October so I'll report back before then with how things are going.

A few of the Speedygeese group at the Coombs parkrun

Friday, April 07, 2023

Running even faster!

It's hard to know where to start with the ACT Masters' 5000m Championships, held last Thursday evening in Woden. Coming into the race I knew my form was good, having run the 25:47 parkrun in December and 14:57 for 3000m in March. My goal was to improve on my last 5000m track race, 26:04.67 in 2021 and be under 26 minutes. I reallly didn't think I'd be close to 25 minutes. How did that happen?

We nineteen starters were blessed with good weather conditions, a light breeze (tailwind in the home straight), a temperature of 13 degrees and low humidity. I knew the form of my competitors and thought Jacki, Dale and Gordon were good for a 26-minute 5k. At 7:15 PM the starter's gun fired and we were off. I settled in behind Jacki, with Geoff, Dale, Gordon and Robbie up ahead. After two laps I passed Jacki into the 15 metre gap to Geoff. The clock at 1k read 4:57 and I was feeling okay, but thinking maybe the pace was too quick.

During the next five laps I concentrated on not letting the distance to Geoff grow larger and was surprised when he began slowing (due to a pre-race calf injury). My time at 3k was 14:59 and I thought 'that's quick, can I keep it going?' I passed Geoff and spent the next three laps closing the 25 metre gap to Gordon. I sensed my pace was slowing down (the 4th kilometre took 5:11), but Gordon was slowing more. I was excited that a finishing time close to 25 minutes was happening. I just had to maintain the pace. I passed Gordon and ran the final two laps as fast as possible, finishing in 12th place with a time of 25:07.60. 'Wow, that's good!' was my immediate thought on crossing the finish line. When I got home I checked my previous 5k results; the last time I ran faster than this was in July 2019, 24:51 for the Runners Shop 5k. I'm excited for the rest of 2023.

The winner of the race was M40 Jeff van Gangelen in a fantastic 16:49 ahead of M50 Steve Rohan-Jones in 17:30 and M45 Grant McKay in 18:39. The first lady was W55 Ann in 23:27 from W55 Jacki in 26:00. Dale ran 24:40, Mark 24:46, Robbie 24:46, Gordon 25:22 and Geoff 28:56. There was also an Australian Record for W80s run by the amazing Caroline Campbell, 28:52 to break Norma Wallett's equally amazing time of 31:11.58.

A few Speedygeese, including Caroline in the red cap