With 4 weeks until race day. This is the peak training block. Training changes a lot.
Two key points for this block:
1. Develop race pace
It feels amazing when you race well. The last block of training included the 10km cross country and Half Marathon at the Victoria Police & Emergency Services Games. Those races proved to myself I had made some big improvements.
The main goal of that last block of training was to improve my pace for the Wings For Life World Run. As a result there was a good amount of running at faster paces. My body responded and absorbed the training like a sponge. It went into over drive and the fast stuff became too easy.
My body wanted was hitting peak fitness. Unforunately that’s too far out from the WIngs For Life World Run. To try to capitilise on the my fitness gains, but delay a racing peak I dropped the speed and upped the volume, followed by a few very easy runs. It feels like it has worked. I’m ready to hit some specific training to peak on race day.
All the preparation work has been done. The focus of these last 4 weeks is only on being ready for race day. My goal is to make the WIngs For Life World Run an ultra marathon. That is run further than 42.195km before the car catches me.
This goal means I have to run a marathon under 3:10. Then keep it going for as long as possible. That will be my 3rd fastest marathon. It’s been over 9 years since I was in that shape. As result it means I’m treating most of the training as marathon preparation.
Two key points for this block:
1. Race Pace
It’s important to be efficient at race pace for all long distance running. For a marathon this applies extra. The length of the race adds in extra elements. Being able to run efficiently under significant fatigue is paramount.
Overriding is the balancing of fuel use. Burn too much carboydrate at a your race pace and say goodbye to holding that speed for the entire distance.
The base training and long runs over the last few months play a big role in getting ready. Now it’s time to make the most of that and get everything in tune for my race pace. This calls for long runs at or very close to race pace. They are almost race simulations. Difficulty lies in the sessions being long enough to force the body to adapt to improve the fat to carbohydrate ratio, while not be too long to require a crazy amount of recovery.
These runs are big sessions. Too many will have likely be detrimental. Getting it right should lead to some big improvements. Only 5 key runs are being scheduled, all occuring in the first 3 of the 4 weeks. There will be an 8 day taper encompassing the 4th week.
Most of the training in the previous months has been focussed on getting the feel right. Times have been very secondary. This is flipped around for the key runs. In these key 5 runs the aim is to hit the paces as closely as possible. Let’s get into those runs…
All 5 runs begin with an easy warm up of 10-15min. I will try to keep it the same as what I aim to do on race day. After each run I will perform a very easy cool down of 15-20min. All runs will be over similar terrain as the race.
1. Specific Long Intervals 4 x 5000m / 1000m
Each 5000m repeat will be run at or just above race pace. That’s 100-102% of race pace. So if targeting 4:25/km then the range will be 4:25-4:19/km.
These repeats dial in the feel and rhythm of the top end of speed for the race. It is important to know what this feels like to control pacing over the distance. It also provides time training near the crossover point of fat and carbohydrate burning. Running faster switched the metabolism too heavily towards carbohydrate and will miss most benefits in fine tuning the balance of fuels.
The main set ends after the 4th 5000m repeat. After each of the first 3 repeats there is a 1000m recovery. Pacing the 1000m is important. It isn’t a simple jog aiming to take full recovery. Instead I will be looking to drop the pace down to about 90% of race pace. For a race pace target of 4:25km, that gives 4:51/km for the recovery. So the speed is still up there. It should provide just enough time for a mental reprieve to take stock of how the 5000m repeat went. There is also a sense of pacing that is enhanced when a small drop like this is practiced.
A total disance of 23km for the main with 20km at or slightly above race pace.
2. 30km Long Run @ 98-100% Race Pace
It’s as simple as it sounds. Between a warm and cool, run 30km at slightly slower to right on race pace. Using a race pace of 4:25/km this long run will be between 4:30-4:25/km.
This should develop fatigue resistance specific to racing. Sense of the slower side of race pace is enhanced. This will aid in preventing inadvertant drops in speed on race day.
The end of the run is likely to challenge carbohydrate stores. This should force the body to adapt and become more efficient in sparing carbohydrate at race pace. Holding the pace all the way through is paramount in this run. Being able to do so requires as much mental effort as it does physical.
3. Specific Long Intervals 5 x 5000m /1000m
Exactly the same outline as the 4 x 5000m in key run 1. Just extending out with an extra 5000m repeat and another 1000m. It is more important to be close to race pace than to run faster. The progression in race efficiency will come from. running further at this speed.
Jumping up to a total of 29km for the main set. Combined with the easier 1000m in between, the average for the full set should be right on race pace.
4. 32km Long Run @ 98-100% Race Pace
Exactly the same as the 30km long run for key run 2, just with an extra 2km. By now my body should have absorbed and adapted to at the first couple of key runs. Here I would any difficulty in maintaing speed to extend our closer to 32km. It will be a good guage to if I’m on track.
5. Specific Long Intervals Descending 7,6,5,4,3,2,1km / 1km
The last big run. Similar concept to the 5000m repeats in key runs 1 and 3.
Each fast interval will again be at 100-102% of race pace with a 1km repeat in between at 90% of race pace. After the warm I will begin with 7km at 4:25-4-19/km. Then 1km at 4:51/km, and moving into 6km interval.
If feeling good once down to the interval of 3km I can increase the speed slightly of 1km recovery, maybe to 4:40/km. On the final fast interval of 1km the aim will be run slightly faster than all other repeats just a few seconds. Maybe 4:16/km.
Will I hit those times?
I hope so, but that is 3 weeks away. It is the aim, but we’ll see how it goes. This last run is big. 34km as the main set. It won’t be performed closer than 8 days out of the race.
To perform the specific race sessions properly you need to be fresh enough. This is not the time to carry over fatigue into key runs. The key runs are big and create a substantial recovery cost. So my recovery between them is extra important.
I’m moving beyond my usual 1-2 days of easy running between key runs. For this block, the easy days will be 3-4 days. Yes, that’s right.
The running on these easy days will be exactly that… easy.
Easy doesn’t always mean slow, but it usually does. Most runs will be between 5-13km at a very comfortable pace. Occasionaly, I may throw in a few short intervals to kick up the nervous system and remind the few fast twitch fibres they are needed. The rule is each run should have me feel better after running. They should not add a recover cost.
At the end of the this block is ultimate period of recovery. Eight days of taper. All runs will be ridiculously easy. The legs will turn over around race pace on occasion, but the runs will be short. Absolutely nothing should add a training load. The training is done.
I’m looking forward to this block. When I’m feeling this is the type of training I love. Big sessions with no pressure in between. How do you approach your last few weeks before big race?