I can still remember the chapter entitled Intervals in the book Once a Runner by John L Parker. Quenton Cassidy doing endless intervals pushing himself to his ultimate limit lap after lap and just when you think he can’t do anymore he resigns himself to another set. In the end he goes home after his ‘make or break’ workout and collapses into a deep sleep on his bed. Awesome!
My own experience wasn’t quite as dramatic as the fictional Mr. Cassidy’s but it was a new experience for me. I am on Week 3 of Hal Higdon’s Advanced I Marathon Training Program. This is the weekly ‘Quality’ workout which rotates from Hill Repeats to Tempo to Intervals and back to Hill Repeats. Since Week One I have been kind of looking at this workout as my biggest challenge. My trail running told me I would be able to do Hill Repeats and Tempo is just a slow build to pace and back down again. What’s so hard about that? Intervals are done on the track, this is speed work! What have I done? I’ve given up my beloved trails for a 400 meter oval. Jen said to me the other day, “You don’t run trails anymore do you?” I didn’t answer. I couldn’t answer. Definitely I have resigned myself to the roads, the pounding pavement all for the single minded purpose of qualifying for Boston.
My work schedule took me to Kelowna, BC, a beautiful place, which is no secret to anyone in the know. That being the case hotel rates sky rocket during the summer months. I couldn’t justify paying an extra $70 for the room I stayed in a month ago. So in searching for a place I chose my hotel based on proximity to a track. Using Google Earth I noted that there is only one ‘local’ track. What gives? Kelowna has a population probably double maybe triple that of Mission and only has one track, or at least that’s what I could find via Google Earth. The Apple Bowl sits in the heart of the city and is close to several hotels but it mystifies me as to why the city has just one track. This track is where I did my infamous barefoot run a few months ago and is a beautiful rubberized track. So if you are going to have one track it should be a good one.
My warm up was a direct route one mile straight to the track. Perfect! Lap 1 with a target of 3:30 was a little shaky. I wasn’t used to the faster pace and I felt like I was speeding up then slowing down but I ended up with a 3:22. A little fast but I was looking more for consistency rather than being bang on 3:30.
After a one lap rest in 2:24 (Hal says to keep rest between 2 and 3 minutes) I sped off again. This time I was a little more controlled and finished the 800 with a time of 3:24. Not bad!
Another rest lap and my third 800 was another 3:24. Now I thought I was getting the hang of this.
The final 800 was also a consistent 3:23. So taking into account hundredths of second the total range of values was within 1.5 seconds. I stepped off the track totally satisfied. Intervals were not as daunting as I had thought. I felt like I could have done more but I wanted to stick to the plan. I can hardly wait another three weeks before I get to do 5 x 800.
I ran back to the hotel and stepped into Starbucks for a Grande Dark Roast and it was barely 6 am.
I used to love coming to Las Vegas. So many lights, the casinos, the all day party atmosphere it was continuous fun. “Was” is the key word in this sentence. I am just returning from 3 days in a desert town that I think was Las Vegas at least that is what they told me when I landed at McCarran International Airport. Of course I was there on business and I’ve been there before on business but this time was in a class all by itself.
I’ve heard it said that if you go a block or two off the Las Vegas Strip you can’t tell it’s the same place. Try 5 miles away and it could very well be Anytown, USA. I was there for meetings all day so it really didn’t matter but still the excitement from travelling to Sin City was gone. The hotel didn’t even have a slot machine in the lobby.
RUNNING IN LAS VEGAS
The last time I ran in Vegas was last summer. We went with my kids and we even took the running stroller. I ran off Strip from the MGM Grand and I explored the areas in and around the UNLV campus. By doing so I was also able to scope out places to buy groceries, bottled water, and of course diapers. In August the temperature hovered in the high nineties and one day broke a hundred for one of my runs. It was fun, I imagined myself running the Badwater and it was only beginning to warm up.
I run before in Vegas up and down the Strip which from a tourist perspective is kind of fun because at 6 in the morning the streets are empty and you get an unobstructed view of the city. I can only imagine what the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon would be like. I think you actually get to run down the middle of the Strip. Just imagine it no sidewalks, no escalators and walkways, that sounds like fun. Bucket list are you listening?
On this trip I was down to business, I am in week 2 on my marathon program and I had to get in 3 miles, 5 miles and then another 3 miles.
The first run I had to squeeze in between meeting end and dinner plans. Three miles, the prescribed distance fit in perfectly to the allotted time. At this point in the program I didn’t want to skip any workouts for any reason. I found a park right across the street from the hotel. What strikes me as odd is talking about going for a run in a park in Las Vegas. I saw trees and plants I even saw a rabbit scurrying into the sagebrush.
The second run was a five miler. The park was small and doing loop after loop in the park didn’t seem to inviting so I ventured into the industrial park right next to the hotel. Like I said this was an atypical visit to Las Vegas, industries, warehouses, and parks.
Run three I went back to the park for three. I don’t know if it was the heat or the elevation (2000’ above sea level) but my easy pace went from a typical 10 minute pace to just over 9 minutes for all three runs. I never focused on pace. I never focused on anything. I recorded my thoughts on one run but for the most part I ran by feel and ended up too fast. My HR was too high for all three runs. The saving grace was they were shorter runs. I recovered well but I’m going to have to pay better attention to the HR zones.
Tomorrow is my Tempo run. A 40 minute run of increasing effort to a tempo just below 10K pace and then back down again for the final minutes. Question is “What is my 10K pace if you haven’t run one without a running stroller in front of you?”
Monday – 3 mile easy run. Week 1 Day 1 and he starts it with an easy 3 mile run. The temptation for me was not to go farther or harder. Koda, my Golden Retriever with the onset of hip dysplasia appreciated the pace.
Tuesday- 5 mile “Sort Of” long run. I think I’ll call these SO Long runs because I can’t type fast and holding the shift key down twice to make the term “Sort Of” is annoying. So a 5 mile SO long run was okay! A no event, I know I can run farther, faster but I stick with the plan.
Wednesday- easy run for recovery from the SO long run left me wanting more. A 3 mile run but I wanted to stick to plan.
Thursday – I woke up with a little fatigue in the legs. I’m usually not a streaker. I define being a streaker as running consecutive days anything longer than 3 days. So usually by the fourth day if I wake up and before my feet hit the ground I’ll decide whether or not I’ll run or not. Today I had no choice. In sticking with the plan I knew that today was a hill workout. Hal says to find a hill, any pitch will do about a quarter mile long. I have just the hill just outside my house. I started with a warm up of 2 miles and hit my hill. The hill is exactly a quarter mile from bottom to top so cresting it each time was the plan. It rises about 140 feet in the quarter, it is fairly punishing it is steep to begin with the grade lessens for about the middle third and the final third is the steepest grade. This is the type of hill the city closes down during snow events. I’m going to call it “the Horn” not only because the name of the street is actually Horne Street but because I know this horn will actually prod me to improvement.
I’ve attached a graph from my Garmin Training center. As you can see at mile 2 is where the hill repeats began. After a quarter mile I came close to maxing out on my heart rate, something I’ve always had questions about. My speed is kind all over but never drops to zero. It’s neat to see how my heart rate recovers on the downhills. I wish my speed could have been a little more consistent on the downhills..
By the third repeat I was spend I did everything I could to hold my pace to the top and was reduce to a walk once I crested the hill. My heart rate was 98% of maximum but I felt victorious. I completed the hardest workout of the week thus far and I didn’t die.
Friday –rest day. Remarkably I felt good when I woke up and I resisted the urge to do anything but rest. Hal has been around a lot longer than I have so I trusted his wisdom.
Saturday – 5 miles at Goal Marathon Pace. The 8 minutes I knew would not be hard for 5 miles. What would prove to be hard was finding a relatively flat course like the marathon course where I could test the pacing. My hometown is not flat. It is built on the side of a river bank so anything north to south gains a lot of elevation. East to west is flatter but still rolls a lot more than wanted so I picked the flat city block I could find close to home and ran in circles. Unfortunately, I’ve kind of lost touch with pace and my pace ended up being closer to 7:49 than 8:00. For 5 miles at 8 minute pace I expected to be around 40 minutes exactly. I ended off the day at 38 and change.
Sunday - The long runs may prove to be my undoing. Not so much the distance but fitting the distance into a specified time slot. With my ultra training I always scheduled long runs for Saturday early am. Although Hal says you can switch them up he has a preference for the GMP run to precede the long run. Sundays for my family usually involve early morning commutes to a swim meet in some far off locale. The more kids involved the more time is needed to embark. This year we have four kids. I woke up at 5 am and we planned to leave the house by 7:30. So fitting in a easy 10 mile run in between was going to be tight. I did it but I had to increase my pace in the back half to get the job done.
It wasn’t too bad! It was definitely a full week and I feel like I’ve accomplished something big. Confucious says “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Week one down, 17 more to go.
I have embarked on a journey that is ground breaking for me. I have started following someone else’s marathon training plan. The final destination is as yet to be determined but I have a few places on my bucket list that are definite possibilities. The date is confirmed as 10-10-10 that is October 10th 2010 and there are two marathons to choose from one is the Okanagan International Marathon the other is the Good Life Fitness Victoria Marathon. It is a bit of a mystery as to why race organizers would schedule identical dates when perhaps if they separated the two by a week or more you might increase participation from a few Marathon Maniacs out there.
This time around I’m following Hal Higdon’s Advanced I Marathon Plan. Mr. Higdon is a well known guru of sorts and his training programs have been around for years. I’ve actually tried one of his plans before. Actually let me clarify that, I’ve looked at his plans before and I thought to myself “ Are you serious?” because even the Novice plans aren’t exactly novice. They are definitely serious plans for serious committed athletes and for the longest time since first looking at them I’ve wanted to re-visit them and actually see if I could commit myself to following one of the plans.
I’ve done three marathons, all spring marathons and all of them Vancouver, 1999, 2000, and 2005. My personal best is 3:31. Since then I’ve moved up to ultras. I figured if couldn’t get faster then go farther. I’ve run two ultras to date, a 50 miler in 2008 and the longest ultra I’ve run is 100K which was last year’s Haney to Harrison 100K Ultra. That definitely pushed my limit for distance. With 4 kids, a wife, a job, and also being part-time firefighter I don’t know if I have the time to train any longer than 4-hour training runs, something that it is a requirement for longer ultras. Now that I can’t go farther let’s go faster, I was inspired by the many stories of people trying to qualify for Boston and it too has been on my bucket list for a long time.
CHOOSING THE PLAN
With three plans to choose from: Novice, Intermediate, and Advanced and two levels for each. The Novice plan was for lack of a better term too novice. The Advanced Plans looked serious enough but lacked the speed work that I felt I needed to achieve my goal of a Boston qualifier. At 45 years old the BQ time must be better than 3:30 which is not too far off of my personal best but that was 5 years ago and there is a lot of miles on these legs since then. One thing ultra running does is sap a lot of speed from you. Whether it’s the shifting focus on endurance, the lack of speed work in your training regime or the cumulative miles I don’t feel like I could pound out 8-minute miles like I did 5 years ago. Hence my choice for the Advanced I program.
For the next 18 weeks I’m going to review the program week by week. Hopefully my schedule will permit me to keep up with the program and to keep up with the blog posts. The program runs 6 out 7 days. Monday is an easy recovery run from the weekend duo. Tuesday is what Hal describes as a “Sort of” long run it starts at 5 miles and builds up to 11 miles over the 18 weeks. Wednesday is a recovery run from the “Sort of” the day before. Thursday is the quality speed/power workout alternating between Hills, Tempo, and Intervals. To be honest I’ve always hated this regimented type workout which is probably why I abandoned marathoning all those years ago. I knew if I wanted the BQ this is what I needed to do, this would define me, this is where it would start. Friday is the only rest day of the whole week, something tells me I’m going to look forward to Fridays . . . TGIF. Saturday is a shorter distance (starts at 5 miles and builds) at GMP, Goal Marathon Pace. A run to make you feel the pace you want to run at, in my case 8 minutes per mile. And of course Sunday is the long run. The Advance I program builds its long runs to 20 miles and does it 3 times prior to race day. I think my ultra experience made this program seem less daunting than in the past. In fact, last year during my 100K build up my 20 milers were the most enjoyable part of the whole program.
So there you have it. There is the goal, the history, the plan. All I have to do is commit to the plan and carry it out. I still have to choose a marathon, sign on the dotted line and ‘git R dun’. Wish me luck!
I have a gorgeous wife and four kids. I am a volunteer firefighter in a small suburb about 50 miles from Vancouver. Before the duty bell rings and before the sun rises I run. My priorities will always be wife and kids so fitting running into the schedule can be challenging.