Swim: 2,500 m/90,745 m
Bike: 0/728.1 miles
Run: 8.2/222 miles
One of the reasons I started training for triathlons this year was that, for me, running was losing some of its luster. I had been running exclusively for six years, and getting much better along the way. But, as time passed, running was becoming something that I did more out of a feeling of responsibility rather than passion.
I’ve found that my traithlon training has had the exact effect I was seeking – it has rekindled my connection to running. Running has been the one area of triathlon where I’ve felt totally comfortable and confident. It’s been the rock I’ve held onto during the turbulent process of learning two other sports from scratch. I haven’t had a bad run yet this year – uncomfortable, yes, but not bad.
Part of the reason my love for running has been renewed is that I’ve been pretty successful at it this year, relative to my past performances. All of the cross training has paid off in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. My race season started strong with a 2-minute PR in a 10k race that I’ve run for many years. I captured second place overall at a local 5k – my very first race at that distance. And my fastest (non-track) run so far has been 2.2 miles at a 6:44 pace, which I ran just a few days ago.
My hope this year is t0 capitalize on my running improvements to set a major half-marathon PR this fall at the Richmond Half Marathon, which I’ve run every year since its inception in 2008. I may never have a better chance to meet my goal than this year, during which my training has been so focused and dedicated. To reach that goal, I will be following the FIRST plan outlined in the book “Run Less, Run Faster.”
The FIRST plan lays out three workouts each week – a track session, a tempo run and a long run. The object is to hit specific paces in each workout that are based on your goal race and your previous times in other races. I’m basing my training plan on the 43:12 I ran at the 10k in April, which translates to a 20:40 5k and a 1:35 half marathon, according to the book.
I’ve been ramping up my mileage and the frequency of my runs over the past month or two, and the 18-week training plan officially starts this week. Since I only need to run three times a week, it should fit in nicely with my training plan for my Olympic-distance triathlon in September.
The thing about running only three times a week and expecting to set a significant PR is that the training sessions are very intense. The idea is that you’re too tired from a run workout to do another the next day. Instead, the off days are filled with cross-training, such as biking and swimming.
I saw the evidence of that intensity yesterday when I completed the first workout of the plan – a 6-mile track workout including twelve 400-meter repeats with 90 seconds of recovery between each 400. My plan says 400-meter splits should be run in 1:30, or at a 6:00/mile pace. Talk about a reality check – this was a brutal workout! (To the ladies walking at the track – I swear I wasn’t crying! There was sweat in my eyes!) I was doing OK at the start and even hit 1:29 on an early split, but later in the session I was coming in closer to 1:32 or 1:33. I may or may not have been talking to myself out loud to push myself through the last few repeats. I dug deep for number 12 and hit that one in 1:31. In the end, I hit about a third of the splits at exactly 1:30 and the rest at no more than 3 or 4 seconds off my goal pace, which I consider a smashing success.
I’ve never done a track workout like this before, and they only get harder from here. And there’s no backing off in the other weekly runs, either – my tempo this week calls for 6 miles with three mid-run miles at a 6:56 pace, and the long run this weekend is 8 miles at 7:40. But I’m actually really looking forward to the challenge of meeting these goals, even though there’s also a little nervous anticipation about what it means if I don’t meet them. After reading the book and completing the first workout, I see that the calculations are based in reality and that these are times I can meet. It’s just not going to be easy.
As much as I’ve enjoyed my triathlon training this year, it feels good to be starting a training plan exclusively for a running race. And since it meshes so well with the tri training that’s already under way, the benefits will run both ways.