Coach Mike using himself as the Case Study
My background: 5k PR 16:54, 10k PR 35:35, in the last few years I've been ironman training and ignoring most type of speed work. In 2003 I raced exclusively at the shorter distances. I was hoping to see a sub 38:00 10k at the end of my Olympic Distance Races. My open 10k time in May was 38:50 at the Bolder Boulder or 6:16 pace. At the Boulder Peak Tri my run time was 40:10 or 6:28 pace. 3% loss "pretty good" it has been established that 7% loss in run pace is very good so my 3% loss is even better. I would say that my LT work was good and my strength was solid. The issue becomes why aren't I running faster in an open 10K? Strength issues? No, we already ruled that out with the solid run off the bike in comparison to my open 10k.
How about lack of ability to old LT?
Nope, LT work was strong.
Low aerobic base?
No, I had run a 3 week cycle of 240 miles (80 mile average for 3 weeks).
So what could it be? How about foot speed?
Let's examine this a little further: When I was running at my peak levels of 18:00 5km times at altitude (1999) or 17:15 5km at sea level, I was running speed work almost every week. Speed work for me is defined as "going fast for short periods", not running mile repeats or 800s or anything longer then a 200m sprint. Speed for me means SPEED or RUN FAST, feeling like you are about to DIE, recover, and then repeat. So for my 2004 training I went old school, back to the basics. I started out with 4:30 second repeats. Then I did 6:30, 8:30, and lastly 4:30, 2x 60 seconds, 4:30 again. A few other times I did 4-8x 15 seconds as fast as I could. These hurt! My longest interval was 60 seconds over these 4-5 weeks. The next week I ran a 5k in AZ, I had about 4-6 speed workouts under my belt. No LT work. I was hoping to run under 6:20 pace or around 19:00. Here is how the race unfolded: Mile 1: 5:51, Mile 2: 5:31, mile 3 was 5:50 "finish time was 17:47" later found out the course was short .1 so call it 18:22 or 5:55 pace. Hmmm, I didn't do any LT workouts, nothing longer then a 1 minute pick up, so what was the difference in my pace? The short speed work. Keep this in mind when you feel like you're running is getting stagnant. The bottom line is: If you want to run fast, you need to run fast.
Michael Ricci is a USAT certified coach. He can be reached for personal coaching at email@example.com.