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Tales of an endurance athlete
Duathlete at heart, but will do aything running/cycling/swimming/multisport related. Within reason of course:-)

Get on track

tiggaby tiggaMar 5th 2012
Anyone out there despise running around and around and around and around a running track?
Anyone out there want to get fast or simply faster at running?
My best advice is learn to love the track:-) Well, learn to at least bare the track running cos in the end it does pay dividends.

I have been 'concocting' all sorts of weird and wonderful session around that oval, flat, featureless and boring 400m that somehow have kept me heading down to the 400m lap week in, week out. OK, maybe not so much of late but I'm back on the mend and have a burning desire to get f-f-f-fast again. Speed is something I've neglected over the past couple of years in favour of non-drafting long du/tri's and in 2011 a year out from running altogether.
I have always done my track sessions on my own, my own pace. My own sessions developed with complete focus on my own end goal. No-one else is getting to that same end point as me in the same way with the same training/working week¬... getting myself there is my priority and whilst enjoying the company and running someone else's session may be more enjoyable most of the time it's simply not beneficial. For most people new to intervals, just getting out and running with intensity is a benefit, but for a more experienced campaigner like me, structure to my sessions is vital to take me forward.
There are many reasons why the track is my preferred destination when doing intervals, but the biggest is simply that when I get tired I can manage and focus on my pace so much better than out on the road. Even if I go just 1sec per kilometer a week faster when training at my limit, over a period of 6 or 8 weeks that will equate to a gain of 6-8sec/km faster overall. As long as that pace is monitored and strictly kept to, the results speak for themselves.
A few key things I drum into some of the athletes I've coached, well those looking for a 'performance' gain:
1) You need to know your 400m times table. You need to know what pace you're targetting and what it's conversion to 400m laps, and then each multiple of that up to probably about 6. Even better is knowing your 200m times table but that really is only for the real anoracks¬... Yes, that would be the likes of me. Pacing is everything for maximum benefit of training on the lap.
2) Cadence is key - you have to be able to hold a faster cadence (ie 88-90 left (or right) footstrikes per minute) Any slower and it's difficult to improve without over striding¬... overstriding being one of the biggest inefficiencies in runners. Get the cadence comfortable before you get yourself down to a track for a 'speed' session.
3) Know what kind of shape you're in - It's pointless going down to an intervals session wanting to run a 10km in 38min, but you are only in 42min 10km shape. Pace is crucial, along with rest¬... don't train beyond yourself it'll only end up with a session that slows down.
Sessions that benefit you the most are the ones that are even paced or finish slightly faster than you started. The minute your body slows through tiredness (cardio or muscular), the more that session will take out of you, the longer you'll take to recover and ultimately the less benefits you get from it.
4) Be motivated for the session. No point in going if you are not ready to push yourself.
Finish the session. Even after years and years of weekly sessions, I'm still amazed I can get through some sets when I feel the way I do sometimes. Once I get going it often gets 'easier'. The hardest thing is sore often than not, leaving my front door!
5) Recovery inbetween reps/sets are key, be strict with yourself. Most importantly keep the stopwatch running, if 45sec rest is required it's 45sec from finishing the rep not from when you've stopped got your breath back, clear your watch and started the stopwatch again to time your recovery.
6) Make it count - Running a session that is 10km race pace or faster is tough, don't slack you can't do one of these sessions the next day again. When you do your session, do it properly¬... ties in quite nicely with motivation.

The next thing I look at is where I am, in fitness terms, and where I want to be. Most of the time there is a time factor involved which probably will limit where I can be, but for the most part I have always been quite realistic with my time availible and where I can be with the time I have to whatever event it is I'm doing this session on the track for. So here I am, it's been 2 years since I stepped on a track in anger and I'm deciding my pathway to getting my speed back. It's going to be a tough reintroduction to running in ovals, probably quite painful, but I'm now quite ready and most of all I'm motivated.
My next 6-8 weeks will be spent getting used to the track, getting used to leg turning over faster again, and pushing my myself to limits which having me breathing through every orifice in my body!
Starting tomorrow, my pyramid sets begin. It's basically a 'controlled' fartlek. My target pace is roughly 10km current race pace, ideally a bit quicker. I'll start with a set of 4laps, 3laps, 2laps, 3 laps, 4 laps. I run continuously and run a recovery 400m that is about 75sec/km pace slower than my faster effort. This week, my target pace is 3:25/km, 82sec/400m. My recovery 400m will be at around 1min46-48sec. Predicted session will be an 8km run, 6.4km of which will be at pace. Overall time I expect to be around 29min05sec. Pace is not critical in the first 3 weeks, although I hope to get it down to 80sec/400m as I get used to it again. My aim is to see what my heart rate does and how my average heart rate comes down for the session week on week. Key info I take from the next 3 weeks weekly session is average Heart rate, overall pace for complete session (including recovery) and also to be able to walk the next day¬...
Here's hoping my speed returns. I know I won't get it to those dizzy speeds of past, where I could push that session out at sub5min/mile (75sec/400m) and recovery at 4min/km, but I do know this session will get me in shape very quickly, improve my basic 10km base speed to within 1min30sec of my peak pace and from there it'll be a period where my sessions have a rest/recovery where I don't actually run, I rest! For now I want strength and pyramids starting long, get shorter then get longer again will be good for me. Ouch in these first 3 weeks, but good for me.
It's been a while since I hit the track like this with speed in mind¬... I am actually a little nervous!
sarahleonardby member: sarahleonard, Mar 5th 2012 21:20
I totally agree! After spending years running at the same speed and wondering why I was not getting any faster the penny dropped and after just six months of fast intervals I knocked minutes off my half marathon PB and on a hilly course in the wet! Of course the other plus is that you get to have rests in between running, but that is just the lazy part of me talking!
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