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Running Fast To Race Fast

Posted by kevin leathers on Mar 15, 2010 8:15:19 AM

The first (speedwork) session of the season is like getting a flu shot--a little shock to the system that provides help with subsequent exposure. ~ Running Times


In endurance sports the idea is to build a large endurance base (or engine) by increasing your mileage base over a period of time.  Then you take that big engine and start to fine tune it by incorporating more race specific efforts, faster workouts and higher heart-rate sessions.  If this is done properly you can finish up with a proper tapering phase and arrive at your goal event rested and ready for a great performance or “peak”.


Sharpening: to develop a cutting edge or fine point.                             


I have transitioned into the first phase of “sharpening”… and it has been… uncomfortable.   I spent the winter training for and racing in two 50K trail runs, so I’ve got the base built.  Now I have a 10 week sharpening-phase mapped out to get me into the triathlon season.   The first week was… painful.  Right now I can knock out a 20 mile trail run with no hesitation.  But ask me to run a set of 400 meter intervals at 5k pace… yikes... and ouch!



  • Incorporating race specific training
  • Gradually increasing speed volume over several weeks                                                                                         
  • Increasing specificity of pace and terrain as your goal race approaches
  • Allow 6 – 10 weeks for adequate adaptation


I made it to my first big group ride of the season this weekend.  I can ride all day at a steady pace right now.  My lack of tempo work, however, had me hanging on for dear life at each attack or hill.  When I tried to keep up with the big accelerations there was no response from the engine room.  So I will spend March and April struggling and gasping to keep up.  Hopefully it will pay off by May and I will be closer to fighting shape.


My favorite sharpening workouts?


Pace Runs & Tempo Runs

  • Pace Runs: at race GOAL pace;  Tempo: slightly faster than race GOAL pace
  • Learn to run/ bike/ swim efficiently at race pace
  • Optimize “lactate threshold” – the ability to race faster for longer periods.
  • Learn race pace “feel”



  • Very Flexible – distance, duration, terrain, speed, recovery, etc…
  • Repeated hard efforts with rest in between: (4 x 800meters with 2:00 recovery between each)
  • Short intervals: 200 – 800 meters for aerobic strength
  • Long intervals: 800 meters  - 2 miles: for running economy, optimized lactate threshold and race pace judgment.


The base building phase instills a sense of security that there is a deep well of endurance to draw from.  The sharpening phase will hopefully build a sense of confidence and pace judgment that will help me reach optimum performance once the racing season begins.


Remember, there is not really a beginning or end… just cycles: Basebuilding, Sharpening, Racing, Recovery, repeat….



Read more at:  Can't Stop Endurance

for more information on developing a sharpening plan:

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