A little background. As you may know, I’ve fried my legs by running too fast too often. My average speeds have decreased, my tempo speeds have decreased and my legs just feel heavy and tired all the time. Clearly my home-made training plan wasn’t as great as I thought it was.
Enter Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 running. Tucked up on the bed nursing my cold over the past fortnight or so, I’ve been working my way through it with a highlighter. I am pretty much brand new to ‘scientific’ books about running and science is not my strong point at the best of times, but basically…the author takes about 4 chapters to say that:
- Elite sportsmen and women from many disciplines all do 80% of their training at low intensity (he calls it ‘below ventilatory threshold’ which is slightly below the more commonly used lactate threshold) and 20% at high intensity.
- He quotes many studies from around the world which back up the benefits of doing this. The arguments are pretty strong.
- He makes the point that most hobby joggers train too much in either high or mid-intensity zones and not only fry their legs but also sabotage their own chances of good racing results. (Ahem). Notably, what we usually think of as ‘easy’ runs are generally more ‘moderate’ – we always underestimate the effort we’re putting in.
- The main gist is that if we recreational runners followed this 80/20 rule and ran 80% of our runs below ventilatory threshold and the remaining 20% at high intensity then we should see miraculous, exciting PRs and significant differences off our racing times.
He then goes on to explain how to gauge your own low/moderate/high intensity zones and then there are 12-week training plans – three plans per distance (5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon).
I was somewhat reluctant to be persuaded. I don’t want to run slowly – I want to effortlessly cover the ground with the grace and speed of a gazelle. I’m also dubious – it makes no logical sense that, by running slowly I can race faster. But his arguments are compelling. So I’ve been focussing on running really slowly for a few weeks now and I’ve been listening to an e-book of ‘Finding Ultra’ by Rich Roll in which the author actually starts using this very method for his training. Listening to him expound the training- method I’ve been considering and then moan about how slowly he felt he was running as I crawled along was kind of funny!
The crux of it is…I’m in. I’ve decided to give 15 weeks (see below) of my running life over to one of his plans and see what happens. I’m going to be an 80/20 guinea pig.
If it works, I’ll have a shiny new half-marathon PR in the Spring in time for my 40th birthday.
If it doesn’t work…frankly I haven’t lost much. I’m not an elite runner. My livelihood doesn’t depend on my results. I might feel a bit shame-faced on this blog and I’ll be a bit dejected and miserable heading into my 40s but that’s hardly a big deal.
I was initially planning to follow the plan for a 10k PR and to aim for that. My friend Maggie made the comment that she thought focussing on shorter distances would be good for me, and I actually really agree with her. But I didn’t find a suitable 10k within the correct time period on the race-finders and then came RnR SJ and my disappointing time, and it lit a fire in my belly to go out, train my socks off and run my heart out. I love the half-marathon distance, I really do, and if I could improve one PR as I turn 40, it would be that one. So half-marathon it will be.
(I am however planning a Spring of 10ks! And I’m already super-excited about that!)
Back to the training plan. I have a few concerns.
- It involves a LOT of slow running. More miles and slower speeds. This will take extra time and I’m a little nervous of the additional time that I’ll be having to find for running. October and November (oh November) are likely to be extremely busy although it should calm down a little after that. I think some discipline over early nights will be necessary and some discipline over early mornings too. But discipline is good for me.
- I’m nervous that I won’t accurately gauge my low/moderate/high intensity zones and thus muck up my training. I’m reluctant to wear a heart-rate monitor although I accept I may have to. I’ll just have to work hard on that particular step!
- I’m signed up for a trail race mid-December. I’m going to run that however I feel on the day!
My chosen goal race is (drum-roll)….the Kaiser Half Marathon on Feb 1st 2015. I chose Kaiser for many reasons.
- I’ve run it once already and I know the course.
- The course is supremely PR-able!
- It’s five days before I turn 40.
- Lots of local runners run it – and if you’re a local runner, I think you should sign up too and come and run my Birthday Half-Marathon too 🙂
- I can go to Crepes on Cole for French Toast afterwards and that will make my day.
Kaiser is 15 weeks away – the training plan is for 12 weeks so I need to start training on Nov 10th. This gives me some time to do lots of slow running to build up my aerobic base and to enjoy my parents’ visit over the next few weeks.
I’m actually quite excited about it. I like the idea of following a plan and being told what to do and when. I very much like the idea of a shiny new PR 🙂
Let’s do this!