Coach’s Blog: Fall Training September 1-8

Last week I hinted that the theme for this week would be borrowed workouts. Indeed, each of the three workouts I have lifted from a different, reliable source. Let’s start with Monday.

Monday we met at Molson Stadium and did the usual warm up around the cross-country course. There were a few more people again, but the workout seemed do-able for most. I did send a couple people off to do easy running, as they weren’t ready to roll fast just yet.

The workout was what Steve Magness calls “aerobic refresh.” It’s pretty simple: 10min at steady state pace, 7min at tempo pace, 5min at 10k pace and 3min at 5k pace. I think Magness will do the first 10min at marathon pace, but steady state is close enough. There is 2min of jogging in between. In his book, Magness suggests 3min recoveries. The terms “steady state” and “tempo” in our training refer to roughly 30k race pace and 20k race pace, respectively.

So this is a progressive tempo. It starts out pretty chill, as 10min at 30k pace is not much. 7min at tempo is getting a little faster, but still within reason. The last two are where there is the potential for a little more excitement, but they aren’t long enough to really burn anyone out for the rest of the week. I like this workout because it forces the runners to start easy. If we did just 25min of tempo, for example, then what often happens is it turns into a little time trial and the whole thing ends up being too hard, or the first part is too hard and the second part slows down and the runner feels crappy. If we did 5x5min at 10k pace, that has the potential to get rough as well, and impact the rest of the week. As a general rule, it’s always nice to get faster as you go, especially in the early season. It’s a good habit to get into. No need to get too crazy yet.

Wednesday the workout is another mostly aerobic workout. We did 2-3x6min with 2min recovery. The 6min were divided up as 2min cruise-2min 10k pace-2min cruise. “Cruise” pace is slightly slower than 10k pace: around your 15k race pace. After the 6min intervals, we went to the track and did 4x200m at 1500m pace, with 200m jog. The 200s were not really timed, and more like long strides. 1500m pace is basically code for: fast but not all out.

The fartlek part of this workout is sometimes called the “Foxy Frog.” I hope I will get the story right. I have never been shy about reaching out to other coaches to find out what their training looks like. I’m not even sure how it came up, but I was corresponding with Dr. Trent Stellingwerf about his wife, Hillary’s work. He was kind enough to send me a spreadsheet with her fall build up one year, and I noticed that one day there was an entry for “Foxy Frog.” I asked Trent and he explained it and apparently it was something Dave Scott-Thomas had thought up and the name was coined by one of the Guelph varsity runners at the time, Michaela McClure. I asked DST about the workout and he said the idea was that in cross country, you never really run even pace all the time, so changing pace in the middle of the interval was meant to mimic this specific xc issue. It’s not really much more than a fartlek, but having fun names for things is cool.

I suppose that contrasts with a workout plan I saw once which had all these different names for fartleks, but they were names of people who had supposedly invented them. As if a person, after much thought and consideration decided that the fartlek of 5x3min hard, 1min easy, 1min moderate was so particular, he needed to name that specific combination of minutes after himself. As if. But “Foxy Frog” is a good fun name.

Saturday’s workout was either an easy long run for the new folks, or for those who had been around all summer, we started another fartlek progression. This was 8x1min at 10k pace, 4min at marathon pace. This one I modified slightly from Renato Canova’s 400m/1k. Again, nothing controversial or spectacular here. The main point of interest is that the recovery is not at jog, but at marathon pace. This teaches the body to recover at a faster pace, which can help reduce the lactate at the race pace. The reason the newer runners didn’t do this is that it is somewhat advanced: you should have a strong base and have built up your tempo runs generally.

You may have noticed that all three workouts this week were in the aerobic range, with 25min, 18min and 40min of running, all but 5min of which (3min at 5k pace and 4x200m at 1500m) was at 10k pace or slower. There are two reasons for this. First, it is early in the season and there’s no reason to hammer just yet. We want to build the strength so that when we do hammer, we can do it right. The other reason is that I’m trying to do a bit of “block” periodization, which is, simply put, grouping a bunch of like workouts together, in order to achieve a bigger training effect.

One last thing: on Sunday, several of our runners participated in the Canadian 5k road championships. Ryan Noel-Hodge and Melanie Myrand were invited along with about 20 other elite runners, and about 200 competitive age-group runners including Les Landsberger, Marcus Tomiuk and Adam Shiri, to take part. The results showed that the training does indeed work. All but Ryan ran personal bests. It was Ryan’s first race after a summer of injury, so he wasn’t expecting a personal best, but he was happy to have hung with the leaders for about 3k, after which the wheels fell off a little. But those were rusty wheels and now he’s got a couple of weeks to try out some shiny fresh ones, in preparation for the Zoo Run, which is also the Canadian 10k road championships. Onward!

Next week, we will do some track only work, as well as, for some, a race!