... my journey from ballerina to triathlete

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Speed Interval Training

For as long as I've been training, my focus has been "just get through the distance and gradually try to increase your speed." I never gave much thought to controlling my speed within a run. In fact, it seemed more like my speed was controlling me -- I would run as fast as I could maintain, throughout each workout. Over time, I got slightly faster. I mean let's be honest, I was just glad I could get through the run, I wasn't trying to get fancy with my pace.

When I started looking at training schedules for the Hilo Marathon, every single one of them had "pace runs" and intervals, and this idea started to sound interesting. Being completely forthcoming, I never really picked a training plan and really didn't do any actual training. I kept running my 3-5 miles three to four times a week, and once I ran 8 miles. That was my marathon prep. It was terrible and stupid and intervals or speed work never crossed my mind.

Well, the Hilo Marathon was free, but the Ironman 70.3 Hawaii, aka Honu, is not, and for the $350 I paid to enter the race, I am sure as hell not going to go in unprepared. My first step, which I went into more detail about in my previous post, was to pick a training plan and work it around to fit my schedule. The one that I settled on, like the ones for the marathon, includes frequent and consistent speed work, not only in running but in all of the disciplines. It has taken me this long to consider integrating speedwork into my workouts because I really felt like I was still just trying to get the basics down, but two years into my training, it's time. I am officially at the point where I feel like I have enough control over the basics that I can wade into the next pool of uncertainty and challenge. The basic layout (with my adjustments) is something like this:

Short (with intervals at "race pace" -- still working on finding my race pace!)
Medium (pool workout - at Steve Borowski's mercy)
Long (consistent, moderate pace)

Short (warm up easy, intervals of high effort, cool down)
Long (consistent, moderate pace)

Short (warm up easy, few short sprints with easy recovery intervals, cool down)
Medium (warm upeasy, longer sprint intervals, sometimes including hill sprints, cool down)
Long (consistent, moderate pace)

The first adjustment I had to make was to slow down a little. Up until this point, I have been doing everything except swimming at maximal effort, 100% of the time. I push my run pace until I lose my breath. I push my bike pace until my legs give in. The idea of backing off took some getting used to. My first project was the run, and I tried just starting out slow. I had noticed during the Hilo Marathon that although I could only run 3 miles or so during my workouts before my breathing got labored, that distance stretched considerably during the race when I went in with a "just finish, don't kill yourself" mentality. In fact, I made it up to about 8 miles before I felt fatigued.

When looking at interval training, then, I decided to try and recreate that slower "jog" pace that gave me 8 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed miles, inspired by an article on ironman.com which described an "easy" pace as the following: "if people aren't giving you weird looks and asking why you're going so slow, it means you're going too fast." I chose to run on Lalamilo Farm Road in Waimea, remembering that it was long, straight, and beautiful. It is bordered on either side by farm after farm, lots of green fields and animals to look at, and views of the Kohala mountains in one direction and Mauna Kea in the other. I forgot that it is also one giant hill, gradual at the beginning, then not so gradual as it continues. I did the first 10 minutes of the run at a laughably slow pace, then ran as fast as I could possibly maintain for about 30 seconds before taking it back to a jog. By 30 seconds, I mean the distance it took me to pass 3 telephone poles, because I didn't actually have my watch. Here in rural Hawaii, we measure distances by telephone poles. As soon as I got my breath back to baseline, I repeated this. It was a very interesting feeling to sprint, then go back to a jog and feel my breath, heart rate, and legs recover while still running. As far as I can remember, I have never sprinted without coming to a stop (or at least a walk) afterward until this workout.

Lalamilo Farm Road
At this point, the grade of the hill was starting to get severe, so I just ran normally, hoping that it would eventually level off. It didn't, so I turned back. I did one slight pace increase interval going up the hill, but decided it was pointless when I realized that the hill basically served as one giant interval as I was unable to recover my breath. I did two more sprint intervals once I got to the flatter part of the road before getting back to my car.

It definitely felt different. Something about it was invigorating in a way that my all-one-pace runs are not. Perhaps the child-like "run as fast as you possibly can" feeling takes over, or perhaps it just wakes up your heart a little, but whatever it was, I liked it. Lalamilo Farm Road, however, is not an ideal route, both because of the hill and because of the plethora of farm workers on golf carts dodging me and shooting me wordless less-than-impressed-with-my-presence stares.

Since then, I've done at least 5 runs with intervals worked in, and they are gradually getting more sophisticated than counting how many telephone poles I can sprint past (although after arriving at work minutes after my first attempt at hill sprints my boss told me that I "looked like I just got chased by a wild animal"). My latest addition is Fartleks -- yup, laugh away -- in which I jog for a warm up, then do several intervals of slow-moderate-sprint sets, and I can say with absolute certainty that I am seeing a difference in my stamina. I am not timing myself on mile times right now, so I'm not sure if my pace is improving, but my endurance definitely is. I can run much longer at a slow-to-moderate pace than I could just weeks ago, and the ability to control my speed is very liberating. I am also noticing big gains on control of my heart rate, which was something I was struggling with. It feels like my heart, legs, and breath are all getting on the same page, finally!

No comments:

Post a Comment