Ever since I began racing back in 1978 I have tried to learn as much as I can about training properly to maximize my performances. I've done this by studying the coaching techniques of many of the great coaches of the 60's and 70's and others that have learned and advanced what they had learned from their mentors. I've read dozens of books and literally thousands of articles over the past 33 years on training theory, techniques and strategies and applied the knowledge I've gained to my training. Over time I have learned a lot of things that don't work too well for me and others that have given me success but I am still always tweaking things. This is especially important now as I have moved into the Grandmasters age group. And as the old adage says, we are all an experiment of one.
Which brings me to the point of the title of this post. A big part of making a training plan after choosing an event is to decide what type of workouts to do and secondly, what pace should those workouts be performed. Over the years I have used different charts and formulas that are usually based on times from recent races. This has been much easier the past few years thanks to some really nice tools available over the internet. My two favorites are located at McMillan Running and Runners World.
Each of these websites feature a training calculator that you just input a recent time for a certain distance and then it tells you at what pace different types of training should be used to maximize your racing potential. Both are based on formula's that have been studied for many years and I know that at least in the case of McMillans they are based on the charts in Jack Daniels Running Formula books.
Another feature of these tools is that after you put in your time for a recent race at certain distance it can predict how that performance relates to how you may run at another distance. Of course in a wide range of distances the predictions are not always going to be right but at least they can give you an idea of what to expect. You will also need to adjust your training to the distant you are competing in to maximize performance.
One very interesting thing that I have noticed in both of these tools is that I probably should focus more on 5k's instead of marathons and beyond. Based on my past two marathons this year which I ran in 3:45 and 3:44:30 I should only be able to run a 5 k in about 23:02 to 23:26 but I have already raced a 5k this year in 21:33 with no training specifically for a 5k.
Conversely, if I input my 5k time of 21:33 into the calculators they predict I should be able to run a marathon in 3:26 to 3:30. I wish ! Despite training specifically for a Boston qualifying attempt my best time of 3:35 was in 2006 and I ran a 21:12 5k that year. What this tells me is that although I love the marathons and ultra's, my body is actually better suited to running faster paces over shorter distances. And I must say I do love getting on the track and doing intervals and I do love doing the mile repeats and tempo runs on the streets and greenways but I haven't not done any true speedwork aimed at improving at the shorter distances in over 20 years.
So knowing this, am I going to go from being Ultraman and marathon pacer for the ladies and start racing more 5 and 10k's ? Not hardly. I do enjoy jumping into a few each year for fun and to see how I'm still doing speed wise but I'm not going to focus too much energy on it. I could focus all of my training on becoming as fast as I can at 5k and still come no where near my times from 25 to 30 years ago. Sure, I may be able to pick up an extra age-group award now and then but I get lucky and do that a couple of times a year without trying anyway and I'll never beat the fastest guys in my age-group that show up at the big races.
No, I love the long runs so that's where I will focus my running and see just how much better I can do before age and time win the battle and I have no choice but to slow down. I still firmly believe I have a marathon pr left in this body and without a doubt my 50k and 50 mile pr's will fall and hopefully when I go back to the long stuff next year it's only a matter of time before I go back after a 100 mile pr. And who knows? My half marathon pr from the early 80's was a pretty soft 1:34 and with my goal of a pr at Boston, that half pr may fall too on the right day.