Update on my 800m training – Feb 2021

What a block of training this has been! You’ll recall from my previous update that I’ve been following an 800m plan written by Jack Daniels and in his notes he said this phase would be the most demanding. He didn’t lie. In the previous update, most of my workouts were short intervals at paces between 5:30 – 6:30/mile to get the legs used to running faster. The rest of my week was easy running to recover. It never felt too bad as my legs have always liked faster running and coped very well with it.

What I hadn’t appreciated about my fitness was … the huge gap in it. Before starting this training I did three months of easy running where the majority of it was 8-10 min/mile. My long runs for example were averaging 8:30/mile in November. Along the way I clocked a few miles close to 7:30 (but only a few) and this is where the gap opened up. I had nothing to connect me between those autumn runs, at 7:30 or slower, to the 800m speedwork at 6:30 or quicker. Bridging the gap is what this phase aimed to do as you’ll see when I explain JackD’s T-pace and I-paced running.

To begin the recap let’s rewind to mid-January and the start of this phase. The first thing was to up the paces to account for (hopefully) improved fitness coming off of the previous block of training. This meant where I’d been running 200s at 48secs they were now expected to be run in 47 secs. Faster 200m repetitions quickened up from 44 to 43s and the other short interval distances were all increased using equivalent paces to these.

The sessions focused on what JackD terms I-pace training which are longer intervals at your predicted 5K pace. These began at three mins (where I managed 700 metres) and incrementally stretched out to five minutes (1,200m). I like what he says on p.108 of his 3rd edition book about how this “adds an aerobic stress but not any faster running speeds, which would be an additional new stress for the body to deal with.” i.e. you only add one stress, not two.  My I-pace has been 6:50/mile (4:15/km).

The T-pace (Threshold) running should have been around 7:20/mile but I’ve found myself running them at 7:10-15 fairly comfortably. I think my recent years of endurance training probably made this easier to achieve than expected. There was also one 40-minute run at M-pace (Marathon) which I ran at 7:45/mile but could feel myself flagging in the last 5-10 minutes. Another gap filler.

There were still lots of 200s, 300s, 400s and 600s being run at fast paces but not the 100+ efforts of last time. Once again I’ve summarised it all in a table below and you can see, while the shorter efforts were generally successful, I struggled on the longer 400s and 600s. I think this is because my legs were often still recovering from the I- and T-paced sessions which totalled well over 45km.

Target timeOn targetMissedEffortsFastest
Stats for those who love them!

What’s been most interesting is Sundays have alternated between doing a Long Run one week, and a workout the next. By the time I’d run warm-up, efforts, jogged recoveries and warmed down home; the Sunday workouts were close to ten miles – not far off my standard 11-12 mile Long Run.  Some of the midweek workouts have also been in the 8-10 mile range.

The first couple of weeks had their usual slump as the legs got used to the new regime. There were some aches and pains occurring especially in my left knee and right calf but these disappeared about three weeks in. My body began to feel comfortable with the training but I fatigued after a heavy fourth week. I found myself sleeping more and the fifth week of training was the toughest I’ve encountered so far. Thursday of week 5 was the workout where I physically couldn’t run fast enough on a set of fast 400m efforts missing target by 2-3 seconds. Fortunately in week 6, my legs perked up and I reaped the benefits of all the training so far. In the final workout I recorded my three fastest 200m times since I started – hurrah! Arriving home my Garmin promptly corrupted the workout so it wouldn’t upload. Fortunately I’d done a cursory review of the numbers in the kitchen. Frustrating but not the end of the world.

My overall mileage stayed about the same as previously and the six weeks resulted in 45 / 45 / 42 / 45 / 41 / 46 miles. These have been achieved with 6hr10 – 40 mins running each week depending on how my other commitments allow.

Weatherwise the training was a nightmare. As a golfer I’ve always found the end of January / start of February to be the worst conditions and I usually took a month off to stay warm at home. But, as a runner, you need to be getting out as often as possible so it’s a case of wrapping up warm, wearing the right gear. This year’s weather was rather diabolical – a combination of high winds, minus-figures temperatures, almost some snow, and two weeks of heavy rain. It seemed to dominate the forecast for every scheduled workout but there were one or two nice sunny days jumping out from nowhere to give surprise relief. Even so, when you’re struggling with fatigue, it’s not encouraging to go into a session knowing high winds will be suppressing your pace. But it’s already beginning to feel like “Spring is here” with mornings getting brighter and even birds tweeting!

The next six weeks focus on T-paced work which so far I’ve found fairly easy, but it includes fast repeats out to 600m which are going to need to be run in 2:06 – the fastest I’ve run so far is 2:13. I’m not looking forward to those but let’s see what happens ..

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