I'm at a crossroads these days. I put in a 3 miler last night at a decent heart rate (80% of Max). The issue? 8:52 pace. What? That was the realm of my 10K PR pace just a few months ago. Now I'm running that pace during training? Yes. It seems I am moving a little faster. I'm not quite sure why or if I'm even doing it right though.
There are a few things I'm doing different this time around:
- Increased turnover: I am making a conscious effort to turn my feet over quicker. I'm not reaching with each step. I'm landing midfoot. It feels (although I have no data to verify) like I'm taking more steps per mile, but am moving along with a little less effort. It may be psychological, but I'll take it!
- Core workout: Three days a week, I am doing some active stretching followed by ab and core work. Right now my workout consists of crunches, leg lifts, planks, and bird-dogs. After a month I'm up to 75 crunches (3 sets of 25), 30 leg lifts (3 sets of 10, held for 10 seconds each), 30 second planks (3), and 15 bird dogs held 10 seconds on each side (3 sets of 5). It is amazing how incredibly weak I am in my core. Just look at this picture at the end of the Long Beach Marathon as proof:
- Increased intensity: My problem isn't speed. I know that comes with time. It's speed over a distance. This is a sign that my aerobic conditioning isn't what it should be. As I looked back at my last training cycle, it occurred to me that I spent a lot of time around 70% of my max heart rate. I know from past experience on the rowing machine, the best way to increase aerobic fitness is to work out long and steady at about 10 to 20 bpm less than lactate threshold. Assuming that lactate threshold occurs around 85% of max heart rate (about 160 bpm), I should be targeting something around 150 bpm (about 80% of max) on my easy runs. So I'm picking up the pace a bit. Also, on my long runs I had been trying to stay below 75% of MHR. According to Pfitzinger: "Long runs train your muscles to rely more on fat and less on carbohydrates at a given speed so your glycogen stores last longer. If you jog your long runs your body will adapt to burn fat at a very slow pace but will not necessarily be trained to increase the proportion of fat utilised at speeds approaching race pace." Hmmm. Time to pick up my long run pace a bit as well.
So, I'll have my head in the books over the next couple of days. Time to consult Pfitzinger and Glover again. At least things appear to be going the right direction again. Give me a couple of months and that cloud behind me really will be dust.....