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Don't Start Too Fast!

Posted by Matt Fitzgerald Apr 30, 2009

 

I ran intervals on the track yesterday. On my way out of the office, when I told my colleagues where I was going, they called me crazy. Why the heck was I running intervals just nine days after shattering into a million tiny pieces at the Boston Marathon? they asked. I told them I had my reasons. And I did.

 

 

The workout I planned was the classic 5 x 1000 meters with 400m jog recoveries. As for pace, I just planned to go by feel, since I had little sense of what I would be capable of. More important to me than running a certain pace was running a well-paced workout, which for me meant running each interval at least as fast as the previous one, running all five intervals within a few seconds of the same pace, and finishing good and tired but not exhausted.

 

 

I resolved to not even look at my watch for 400m splits. The fact of the matter was that I had been traumatized by most of the interval workouts I had done in the last 12 weeks before Boston. I was always chasing very aggressive target times and often slowing way down as the workouts unfolded as a result of going too hard in pursuit of these times at the beginning. Yesterday I just wanted to treat myself to the experience of a successful interval workout, even if my performance didn't set the world on fire.

 

 

I'm happy to report that it worked out perfectly. My interval times were 3:17, 3:16, 3:15, 3:14, 3:14. While I've certainly run this workout faster before, I consider the times not bad for me considering the fact that I had run a marathon nine days earlier and I hadn't run at this intensity for several weeks. Plus, my legs were still in a state of panic in response to the sudden imposition of almost daily bike workouts beginning a week earlier. But what made me happiest about the workout was that I did not slow downI sped up!and I did it all completely by feel.

 

 

It probably seems that I am making too much of this, but I am sick of slowing down, in both workouts and races. I got more than my fill of it in my disappointing last training cycle. I plan to make speeding up a big priority in my training and racing going forward, even if that requires me to set my sights lower for a while. In the long run, though, I believe, I will perform better as a result of getting back in touch with my limits and staying within them.

 

 

A new study relevant to this topic was recently published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Scientists from James Cook University in Australia had a group of cyclists perform a series of 30K time trials and time to exhaustion rides. Specifically, eight moderately trained subjects rode a pair of 30K time trials at a freely chosen pace and a pair of rides to exhaustion at a fixed intensity intensity that matched their average power output in the time trials. All of the rides were done on separate occasions in a rested state.

 

 

All of the subjects started faster than they finished, but some slowed down more than others. Interestingly, those cyclists who started at greater than 105 percent of their average power output for the full 30K were able to ride farther than 30K in a ride to exhaustion performed at their average power output in the 30K TT's, clearly indicating that they could have finished their TT's with faster overall times if they had started a little slower.

 

 

The authors of the study concluded, "The present investigation provided indirect evidence that a fast start pacing strategy decreases finishing speed and overall performance in TT30, and increased TT performance can be achieved by selecting a starting pace no more than 5% above TTAvg."

 

 

Thanks for the reminder.

 

 

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