Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to scrap your training plan on Day 1

Okay, "scrapping the training plan" is a little extreme, but I did make a snap decision to blow off the 3 x 1600m interval run that was SUPPOSED to be the first run of my training plan. Last week I did an ad hoc interval workout and it went okay. I had to dial back the pace a few tics on the last few laps, but I didn't die.  That was the first HARD interval running I'd done since October and I was just coming off of 12 miles on Sunday and a pretty tiring cross training workout the day before.  Excuses and another way of saying, "I didn't feel like it."

But I did want to give the legs a solid shake-down and see where I really stood.  I chose to do as close to a max effort 5k on the treadmill as I could.  The last 5k race I ran was back in the summer and I hauled it in somewhere around 21'50."  My FIRST training plan uses a 5k race distance as a surprisingly accurate predictor for expected longer race distance times and I wanted to see how my 5k fitness matched up with my goal (a similar calculation tool can be found here).  I set out at a pace that was faster than I expected to sustain (4:00 per km) and finally settled in somewhere around 4:17 per km, ending up with about a 21'17" (boring run graph below).  That result puts me on a projected time of 3h 28m for the full marathon distance.  That means I've got 8 minutes of conditioning to build by Memorial Day.

That may sound trivial.  8 minutes over 26.2 miles and 3 and a half hours?  Cake, right?!  Not really.  That translates into a pace that's 20 seconds a mile faster... for 26.2 miles.  Other ways of looking at it are that it would be like running the 26.2 mile distance in the time that it should take me to run 25 miles or that I need to run almost half a mile an hour faster for the full race distance to hit that mark.  A comparable effort would be shave almost a minute off of that 21'17" 5k time and be physically able to run a 20'27" 5k by Memorial Day.

The training philosophy that FIRST employs (which is not unique to their plan) is to use each workout to stress the body outside of its normal operating zone and FORCE it to adapt the new stimulus.  Survival of the fittest.  Adapt or perish.  Push the envelope.  Watch it bend.

I may not be able to run that 20'27" 5k that would put me on my 3h20m pace today, but that's not going to stop me from training toward it.  How can you truly know what you're capable of if you don't push yourself beyond what's reasonable once in a while?  Is it better to set a goal you know you can attain and exceed it or set a goal that seems unattainable and fight and claw your way toward it and come up short?  I guess it depends on what you value more: the journey or the destination.

That will segue nicely into tomorrow's Kettlebell workout blog and another "personal challenge" I have set for myself in 2011.

2011-FEB-08 Diet Log -- yes, that's Ben & Jerry's and an Apple Turnover in there
2011-FEB-08 Run Graph -- elapsed time includes about a minute of getting everything squared away before jacking the speed up

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