Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ready to Rock 'n' Roll...

I had a great workout last night. I suspect it is one of those which are designed to make you feel good and ready and that that is why Jonathan set it for me in the days running up to the race on Sunday. In spite of a slew of hard workouts last week, I felt pretty strong going into it. The workout consisted of running 3000m, 2000m and then two sets of 1000m, all at above anaerobic threshold. This is why it is a "feel good" workout, because each set is significantly shorter and therefore much more tolerable than the one before. Now, either I ran them hard enough - even though my heart rate didn't agree nor did my perception of effort - in which case I can be pleased with my mental toughness, or I ran them too easy in which case I can be pleased with my physical form. Either way, it was a great confidence booster.

I've started to think that having a treadmill at home has been one of the biggest contributing factors to my increase in speed over the last year or two. The fact that I can set it up with a huge industrial fan and that I can run in just a pair of skimpy shorts means that I don't suffer unnecessarily from overheating and I believe that running fast on the treadmill helps improve running mechanics. Of course, one should also run fast outside - I'm not claiming that the treadmill is a panacea - but, in my case, it has helped me reliably complete my hardest workouts. I think that running series has several benefits. One is that your body adapts to metabolising the lactate produced by high intensity efforts more effectively because you have a window of rest between each set. Another is teaching your body to run well at high speeds - as Chrissie Wellington says in her autobiography, if you always train slow, you'll end up racing slow too. I also believe that good running mechanics at high speed can lead to more economical running at slower speeds. Lastly but not leastly, I think that you get to prove to your "Central Governor" that you can run at those speeds without keeling over. This last point is very important because, according to the theory put forward by Timothy Noakes and company, having a more lenient Central Governor allows you to effectively push yourself harder in competition before reaching the point at which you are ultimately forced to slow down. By this token, it is very important to complete the hard workouts because, by giving in to your Central Governor, you are perhaps telling it that it is right to hold you back.

I decided to run the first set of 3000m and the second set of 2000m at 16.5kph (17kph according to the treadmill) and the last two sets of 1000m at 17kph (17.5kph according to the treadmill). It felt like a good workout but it wasn't a struggle to maintain by any means. Perhaps it was aided by the fact that I wore my "competition shoes", the Vivobarefoot Ultras: I weighed them the other day and they came in at 130 grams per shoe compared with 230 grams for my regular training shoe, the Soft Star RunAmocs (which are still very light as things go). To put this in context: if I run the 10k on Sunday at 16.5kph then that equates to a time of 36m22s; if I run it at 17kph then I'll finish in 35m18s. If my heart rate from last night is anything to go by, then at least the first of these is certainly possible. According to the tables based on my Half Marathon time of 1:19, I should be able to break 36 minutes, but this assumes that I have been training specifically for the 10k distance, which has not been the case.

The first 4 kilometres of the race are uphill along the familiar route of the Castellana up to the Real Madrid Bernabeu stadium; the next 4 kilometres are back downhill, with the final two leading to the Retiro park being uphill again. Should be fairly conducive to a good time, as long as I grit my teeth for those last two kilometres - and that will depend on my motivation which will, in turn, depend on whether I see that I can get below 38, 37 or 36 minutes. The plan, in any case, is to focus on breaking the 38 minute barrier - which I know I can do - while using my heart rate as a guide to how hard to push. This means keeping my heart rate at or below 178 bpm until the last two to three kilometres. 10k races were my strong point a couple of years ago, relative to my times in longer distances - it will be interesting to see if all this long, steady Ironman and Marathon training translates into speed over a shorter distance.

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