Reflecting on 80/20 Training and the Kaiser Half

The first half of this post, reflecting on my Kaiser race, may just be navel gazing. Please forgive me if so, and feel free to go straight to the second half of the post. But it’s been useful putting down in words my thoughts on what I did ‘wrong’ at Kaiser and how I can run better next time.

Reflections on Kaiser

Race report…here.

I’ve said before that my ‘strategy’ for Kaiser was to positive-split the race, not the standard practice. I’ve mulled over this in the past few days but I still think this was the right plan – it’s pretty much inevitable due to the stonking great 2-mile downhill in the first half. I knew that the first half would be fast and fun and the second half would be tough. I was right.

Going into the race, I had the very distinct feeling that I was in pretty good shape, NEARLY as good shape as when I PR’d last year but I felt that I didn’t quite have the speed this year. I think I was proved correct. I was nearly as fast as 2014 but not quite. In addition, the last 10 days were EXHAUSTING. I was sleeping really badly, studying my socks off for my new courses and out late at classes two nights per week. I think that definitely contributed to a missed PR. Sleep = important.

More of this.
More of this. (More sleep, not more babies)

I’ve wondered over the past few days about whether or not I pushed the first half too hard and thus had nothing left in the tank for the second half. Jess  is an interesting comparison. She finished just 6 seconds ahead of me. I passed her in M2 and she passed me in M12 where she looked effortless and comfortable, whereas I was dying inside. Her splits were MUCH more consistent and she had a better race experience than I did.

I’ve mulled this over and I can’t decide. I definitely ran fast  in the first half but I always felt comfortable with the speed I was holding.  I think that my race fell down in two main ways.

1) Fuelling. I didn’t. I took half a chocolate gu at about mile 6 and could barely swallow it. So I didn’t take any more fuel on board. I need to experiment with other fuel in race environments.

2) I didn’t have the endurance. I just didn’t have the legs to stick it out. When all I needed to do was hold a steady pace for 6 miles, I did not have the endurance to do so.

Which leads me to reflect on 80/20 Running – the training plan I used for this training cycle.

Reflections on 80/20 Running training

This is Matt Fitzgerald running as far away from my 80/20 claims as possible
This is Matt Fitzgerald running as far away from my 80/20 claims as possible

Confession Time

Matt Fitzgerald would have a fit if he heard me claim to have done 80/20 running. I used the basic principle of 80% slow, 20% fast. I used a lot of his workouts. However I missed a lot of the ‘extra’ stuff he prescribed. I did no doubles workouts (apart from where I needed to fit in a missed run). I did negligible amounts of cross training. I may have done my last long run too close to the race. I think that all of these things made a significant difference to my performance.

I didn’t use a heart-rate monitor, using ‘feel’ to determine my zones. HRM are pretty crucial to 80/20 training.

Also, 80/20 depends on significant base mileage. My mileage increased by about 15 – 20% overall, but I think that I should have run many more miles to get the best out of it. I should have had some weeks of 40+ miles. Thus I didn’t build up the endurance which 80/20 should give you – and I felt that lack on race day.

What I liked about 80/20

  • I liked how it got me running 5 days/week pretty much painlessly and without injury.
  • I liked how it increased my overall mileage pretty much painlessly and without injury.
  • I liked having a guideline at how much ‘hard’ running I should do. I started 80/20 after I overworked my legs and exhausted them. 80/20 is definitely a great way to avoid that happening.
  • I liked some of the workouts that I found in the book. Always fun to shake things up a little.
  • I like running at an easy pace. It’s so nice.

What I didn’t like about 80/20

  • It takes a LOT of time. Slow runs require patience and take up more time than faster runs.
  • Combine that increase in time taken with the increase of miles required and you are suddenly spending a LOT more time running. I was lucky that I was able to find that time. Now I’m studying, I literally can’t spare that time!
  • If I’m honest, I didn’t quite trust the plan to get me race ready. Thus I modified it. I’m not sure if I was right or wrong to distrust it. I’m not sure the missed PR was 80/20’s fault or my fault.  I wonder, if I’d followed the plan exactly and increased my mileage more, would I have run better? I think probably yes.

(Check out Tim’s comment on my race report. He followed an 80/20 plan in many respects – long, slow miles – and nailed his race).  

So in summary – I actually have more confidence in 80/20. If I’d stuck to the plan properly and done it wholeheartedly, things may have gone differently. I definitely think it’s worth giving it a shot.

So what’s next?

The Spring of 10ks
The Spring of 10ks

I’m done with racing half marathons for a while now. I’m running a half with my lovely friend Nicola in Vegas next month but that’s for fun. I’m going to be concentrating on shorter distances until June or July. I’m aiming to do one 10k every month and training for that distance. I need to think a little more about how I’m going to do it. I am really excited about it, and kind of relieved not to be training for a half. It’s nice to take a break. First up will be the Oakland Marathon Relay at the end of March!

Welcome to the Spring of 10ks!!

18 Comments Add yours

  1. Layla says:

    I’m not familiar with the 80/20 plan, aside from your posts, but it sounds like like maybe you need a few more of those miles to be at race pace. Maybe, instead of running 16 miles and having no energy left for the “fast finish,” you could have cut that to 13 miles and managed the fast finish. Then again, I’m a big fan of fast finishes in training and racing, and I’ve also been injured for 15 months…

    I also think you were dead on about the lack of fuel. No wonder your body was done at mile 10! Now, if you had trained without fuel I wouldn’t advise it during the race, but I remember you had an aggressive race fueling plan, so I have a feeling your body was expecting it. (Everyone is different, but I do best when I eat a gel at miles 4, 9 and 10..)

    All this said, I always think that any experience is worth it if you learn something from it. Now you know so much more than you did before the race, and before this training cycle. That’s the beauty of learning: We never have to stop!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I don’t usually train with fuel (up to 12 miles) but I’ve used a gel on my longer runs. I def think the lack of fuel contributed. I also think I should have run more base miles and (proportionately therefore) more fast miles. More miles please!!! Oh well, lots to work on next time.
      Your sign is up in my living room and makes me smile every time.

  2. Hey Cathryn
    Great discussion on 80/20. I have thrown all my eggs into that basket so reading your insight was very helpful. And Tim’s response helps as well. I’m only into the second week of training and did most of the Quick Start program. My biggest challenge will be diet. The training shouldn’t be a problem for me. If this program alleviates any injuries that harder running causes then it should also benefit the race run. I have a long way to go until race day, May 31. Traditionally I run a marathon every six years! This will be the first time I’ve run in back to back years and I’m planning a fall race as well. Pretty ambitious plans for me but again, if 80/20 does what it professes to do, then I have no worries. Right?
    Stay injury free and enjoy your 10k’s.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks. On reflection, I think 80/20 is pretty good,I think my execution of it was what went wrong – as I detailed in the post. Tim’s training and race experience points to there being a lot of good in it. I also like how I was able to increase miles/frequency without injury too, which should help you. (Check out Hokas too.). Do let me know how your race goes. Good luck!!

  3. Nic J says:

    Considering where you were starting from (legs completely shot, and no energy), I think the 80/20 was a good move for you. However, your analysis seems fairly spot on in terms of your ‘tweaks’. Would the training transfer to a 10k so could you test a more ‘pure’ application for a shorter race?
    Good point about the fuelling. I’ve not even given that a thought, so might track down some jelly babies at the weekend and take a couple of those on the next long run, as it’s scheduled as an 11 miler! Run Vegas?… #THISGIRLCAN!

  4. Tim says:

    First things first, 20 seconds away from a PR is fantastic, and shows that your training plan was good. There are so many variables on race day – weather, how well you slept, whether breakfast settled, first-mile crowds, fueling, etc. – that you easily could’ve been looking at a PR.

    I’m flattered that you referenced my previous comment; however, I have to give credit where it is due. A post by the SFRoadWarrior (Angela) back in November of last year (and her earlier post that she references therein) is what really got me moving on the slow-and-low training (I tried to link directly to that post but WordPress keeps eating my Comment so I’m going to try without the link). And yes, I have graphs that show a marked improvement in miles-per-beat over my last 3 months of training (with the Kaiser Half having the highest value!).

    Prior to this change in training I had a run-every-mile-at-9:00min/mile-or-faster regimen. This left me with tired legs, tired body and poor race results. Training at 149bpm or less leaves me less tired and more effective for the rest of the day/week. Also (on the admittedly small sample set of one race) it is awesome that I could run 2:00min/mile faster on race day.

    This is probably already too long, but for anyone still reading a couple of other thoughts: I didn’t really do the ’20’ part of 80/20 – no reason other than too lazy to work it into my runs. I run 20-25 miles a week. I didn’t fuel (other than water) on Sunday during the race (again, lack of planning more than anything else).

    1. Tim says:

      OK – so now I have confirmed that WordPress does in fact eat Comments with URLs. I’ll try this: search for Angela’s post on 11/22/14 at sfroadwarrior dot blogspot dot com.

    2. Cathryn says:

      This is all such useful information, thanks so much for sharing!

  5. ErinAMG says:

    really interesting! I think still coming within 20 sec of a HM PR is fantastic, personally. 20 seconds can literally come down to kinda silly things, like not taking tangents as tightly as possible or spending just a few too many seconds at an aid station or two. It can be really unnerving to completely trust a new training plan, especially if it’s so different from what you’re used to, but I think it’s great that you’re willing to give it another shot. and fun! 10ks! I’m excited to see what you do 🙂

  6. Jen says:

    I agree that the new school schedule (especially not sleeping) and lack of fueling probably didn’t help your chances on Sunday. However, I haven’t seen your splits, but I have a feeling your endurance base was OK (just based on your training). I say this because my own lack of endurance became evident in the last 3 miles — I ran 10 seconds per mile slower with each mile, despite increasing effort significantly. I had done only one 12 mile run before Kaiser and one 10-miler. Before looking at my Garmin, I would’ve sworn my pace for the last mile was closer to 8:40-8:50, instead of the 9:30 I ended up running! The crowding at the start definitely didn’t help things either…

    Anyway, like many above have mentioned, 20 seconds is nothing over the course of 13 miles. Good luck with your spring of 10Ks!

    1. Jen says:

      Also, I wanted to mention that, in my experience, being unable to take fuel is a very bad sign of an impending bonk. This is why I always fuel early and often during half and full marathons now. (Usually a gel or clif blok at 3-4 miles.)

      1. Cathryn says:

        Usually I take a gel at M4 and M8. But M4 coincided with the start of the downhill and I was having too much fun. You see what happened. I think I might try the whole blok things next time. Maybe they’d go down better than the gels.

      2. Jen says:

        I like bloks, but the trouble with them is that they’re too big (especially when breathing hard through your mouth) and you have to eat at least 2 to have the same amount of calories as 1 Gu.

      3. Cathryn says:

        Yeah, the whole chewing/breathing thing did strike me as potentially problematic.

      4. Jen says:

        Yes, especially late in a race! I supposed you could cut them up into smaller pieces…
        What has worked well for me for marathons is alternating between bloks and gels, every 2-3 miles.

    2. Cathryn says:

      I’m interested about the whole sleep thing. That week was one of my most knackering weeks for a long time, I just wonder how big a part it played. Oh well.

  7. Jess T. says:

    Just getting to this post now. I agree with all others that being within 20 seconds can be explained by soooo many other variables that you’ve addressed (sleep, fueling, weather – it was toasty out for feb). I don’t think it doesn’t mean you weren’t prepped to PR, because clearly you can. Great job out there!! I’m not sure planning a positive split was a good plan, because that out and back in the sun was super tough!!

    I’m glad to know that I looked strong, because I felt like I was barely holding it together. It required all my focus to keep my pace steady at the end. And actually, I was searching oncoming faces for you to cheer you on, and I would look down and notice I was getting off pace. With all that being said, I train slow. Upwards of 90% of my running is done in what I consider Aerobic Base, and no where near race pace.

    1. Cathryn says:

      That whole slow training thing is VERY interesting. Good race though, Jess. You really nailed the pacing.

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