Thursday, 08 January 2015 10:37

Running Slower Will Make You Faster. Huh?

If you have been involved in endurance sports long enough you have heard the statement that running slower will make you faster about 1,000,000 times. 999,999 times you have ignored that advice but I am here to tell you that you should not ignore this advice. I am also hear to tell you that it is not that straightforward. I think when people here this statement about running slower they believe that all of their training should be done slower and that magically they will get faster. The fact is that you need variation and slow is definitely one of those variations. For the past 1.5 years I have been running slowly so that I can build up my endurance while also teaching my body to burn fat for fuel which in turn allows me to go longer as evidenced by the finish of the Lake Martin 100 Ultra Run amongst other ultras with distances varying from 31 miles to 50 miles. The training plans that I have put together are a mix of slow days, recovery days (not the same as slow days), trail runs and speed work that is not done on a track. In the rest of this blog post I will highlight various points for what I have done and why I think they have benefited me in becoming faster than I was 5 years ago.

Long Runs On Trails

When I decided to run ultra trail runs I knew that it would be imperative to get on the trails so that I could get used to the change in terrain but I did not realize, until recently, the effect that running trails would have on my speed. When you get on the trail and start running you are 'forced' to slow down in comparison to running on the road but what also happens is that you are more engaged with your core, you are strengthening your ankles and simultaneously doing speed work. How are you doing speed work? No trail is just flat. There are a lot of changes in elevation on a trail so you are doing hill work which is speed work in disguise. Along with that change in elevation you are going to be changing speeds and not on a set workout like 4x1 Mile repeats. This change occurs all the time and thus you are bringing in various muscles that you are not typically using on the road.

Speed Work During Your Mid-Week Long Run

Speed work is often thought of as taking yourself to a track and doing a 1 mile warm-up followed by some sort of repeat whether that is 400, 800, 1 mile and then a cool down. This is a terrific way to get faster but I find it unrealistic for trail or road races unless that marathon you are training for is on a track. Changes in the terrain are going to be all over the course that you run so doing speed work in those conditions will enhance your ability to recall those moments during training while you are racing. One of my favorite workouts is an 8 mile run that includes speed work. I start with a 1 mile warm-up where my pace is approximately 2:00/mi slower than the tempo pace I am going to attempt to execute. After that warm-up I head into 3 sets of 3x2:00/2:00 with 0.5 mile recovery. This means that after the first mile warm-up I go for 2:00 at my goal tempo pace, which is 6:45/mi and then 2:00 at a recovery pace. I do this 3 times which will total 10 minutes. Why not 12 minutes? The reason is that last 2:00 recovery is built into the 0.5 mile recovery pace before I do the next set. After 3 sets of this tempo work I cool down until I hit 8 miles. I have a loop that I run that works perfectly for this so I would suggest you have that type of loop and if it is shorter or longer make that adjustment.

Long Runs At Zone 1 / Zone 1.5 At A Consistent Pace

When I say long runs at Z1-Z1.5 I am referring to road runs that are 15-30 miles. My goal on these long runs is to have the fastest mile and the average pace per mile is within 10 to 15 seconds of each other. I do not want to go out and set records at the beginning and then bonk toward the end. I want to run efficient and effortless for the entire time and when I am done to look at the Strava app to see that the Heart Rate graph and Speed graph are flat regardless of change in terrain. This is a mindset and one that takes time to train but once you are able to conquer this thought process you can run 'forever' and being able to run for long periods of time allows you to teach your body to use fat for fuel and that means carrying less fuel which means that you have less weight on you and eventually you will run faster.

My Evidence That This Is Working

Here is the same loop from January 2014 in comparison to January 2015. You may say that the paces are the same but take a look at the suffer score from Strava. These runs were about a year apart at approximately the same time of the day and yet the suffer score is practically 50% less and that translates to having the run take place in Zone 1 versus Zone 2.5+. Being able to run the same pace with less effort will lead to faster times as I do not burn through glycogen as quickly.

running slower - run faster - training January 2015 - Suffer Score 37running slower - run faster - trainingJanuary 2014 - Suffer Score Of 70


On New Year's Day I ran a 20k at a pace of 7:31/mile with over 700 feet of elevation gain and my HR never entered into Zone 4. Approximately 50% was in Zone 2 and the other 50% in Zone 3 which is more evidence that running slower I have improved my running efficiency which has led to faster times for me.

Are You A Believer In Running Slower To Get Faster?

Published in Train
Monday, 08 April 2013 11:44

Do You Trust Your Speed?

Speed is a relative term because my speed may be faster or slower than your speed but what is common amongst all athletes is the trust in their speed.  When I first started in endurance sports my first race was a half-marathon that I ran in 2 hours 18 minutes or 10:34/mi.  My speed that day was on display from the outset but soon bonked and fought the good fight to the finish line.  That day created my reference point or what I refer to as my speed line. Through lots of training I brought that time down to  a PR of 1:36 or 7:21/mi for a half-marathon.  My speed line was 7:21/mi but my constant base runs were around 9:00/mi which was held at a 140 bpm.  Since all of my training is based on HR I typically just draw a connection between my HR and my paces.  I run with my watch set to total time and HR and nothing else so that I don't focus on pace and try to hit those speeds. Running isn't the only place where I have seen my speed line move from one spot to another.  Recently my swimming speed line has been consistently in the 1:45/100y pace and not feeling as if I am going to pass out from swimming so hard.  When I started triathlon that pace was typically around 2:00/100y.  The speed line has moved fast in the past few months and this is now where my dilemma regarding my speed line comes into play. [caption id="attachment_7819" align="alignright" width="270"]speed - triathlon - swimming - ironman Source: Triathlete Europe Magazine[/caption]

Do I Trust My Speed In The Water?

I ask myself this question repeatedly these days.  When I  jump into the pool and swim a 1:39/100y and not feel exhausted I wonder where this speed came from and if I can trust it.  Can I hold  1:45/100y pace for an entire 2.4 miles?  Is this something that I trust myself to do?  I have routinely would have said yes but based on a few race times like Ironman Arizona and 70.3 Puerto Rico it is hard to trust my speed.  Yes the open water and race are a lot different from the time spent in the pool, but here is where I have a counterpoint. Last year while training for IMAZ I was swimming 32:00-36:00 per 1.2 mile swims in the open water.  If you extrapolate that to the full Ironman distance you are looking at 64 minutes to 72 minutes.  I finished IMAZ in 90 minutes or WAY FAR OFF.  I trusted my speed going into the water in November and that proved to not be a great thing to do as I didn't hold that pace. Can I trust my speed these days? I am fighting a mental war between accepting the new-found speed and what has happened in the past.  It is not usual for me to question my ability but the breaking of new ground is causing me to ask myself if I can trust this speed. [caption id="attachment_7817" align="alignright" width="260"]speed - running - swimming - triathlon Source: Running Magazine[/caption]

Do I Trust My Speed In Running?

In the case of running my trust in my speed is 100%.  I have seen that 9:00/mi pace at 140 bpm drop to 8:30/mi at the same heart rate.  While it hurts to maintain a Z2 pace these days I am fully confident that I can hold these paces for a long period of time.  For example, on Sunday I had a split workout where the first run was 1h15 minutes with the final 20 minutes at Z4.  The next set started nearly 3 hours later with a 1 hour spin on the trainer followed by a steady Z2 run for an hour. During the first run I was hurting big time during the tempo portion but that should be expected to be hard.  My HR for those 20 minutes never touched 160bpm and my pace was around 8:00/mi.  I was thrilled to see the pace when the run was done.  My overall pace for this entire run was 8:22/mi. Heading into the second set I had no clue what would happen but when I started running I thought there is no way I am going to be able to hold a 10:00/mi pace.  Since my Timex never picked up a satellite I couldn't even cheat to see the mile paces as the miles ticked off.  I ran with all my heart and my speed was just not evident.  It hurt so bad and the lactic acid was almost causing me to walk.  Downloading the data when I got home I saw a pace of 8:25/mi with an average HR of 143 bpm and a max HR of 160.  My speed line has been moved. I fully trust that if I follow a race plan at Ironman Texas that there is no doubt I will run a sub-4 hour marathon.  Why?  I am in the middle of build phase and holding these paces.  With a full taper I will have fresh legs to run on but as well all know it takes a smart ride beforehand.  I am not concerned about executing a proper race plan for the bike to set me up for the run. As you can see I have the mental ability to accept my run speed but not the swim speed that I have gained in the past three months.  I am not sure why this is the case but it is and the more I get in the water, both pool and open water, I will be able to gain the confidence in my swim speed.

Have You Ever Questioned Your Speed?

What Was Your Secret In Accepting Your New Found Speed?

Published in Train
Friday, 09 March 2012 12:34

Trust! When?

[caption id="attachment_5459" align="alignright" width="256" caption="Maybe If I Had A Speed Limit Sign I Will Swim Faster?"]triathlon_swim_paces[/caption] Trust is defined by Merriam-Webster as follows:
  • a:assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
  • b: one in which confidence is placed
I bring this up in regards to training and specifically speed.  At some point we all started at X:XX/mile pace and overtime steadily improved and are now running at Y:YY/mile pace.  You can substitute bike speed or swim speed as well.  There was a starting point and through hours and hours and miles and miles we got faster, but the question is at what point did you trust that was your speed? When I started this triathlon journey I would swim 100 yards in 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 10 seconds give or take.  I wasn't the slowest but I certainly wasn't the fastest.  I have worked at my craft to the point that I can swim my fastest of 100 yard set in 1 minute and 35 seconds and have that be fairly consistent but I still don't trust the pace.  Why? I'm not sure of that answer, but here is some background.  Earlier this year I did a 1,ooo yard time trial and I finished about 1:50/100 yards and felt like I wasn't winded.  It was as if I didn't try.  I will say that Coach always says to do these time trial sets as if it were a race.  In a race I go out and settle into a groove and that was what I did but I felt like I cheated myself and her.  I emailed her and gave her the splits but told her I had more in the tank.  The following month we did another and my pace decreased to 1:45/100 yards and yet I still felt strong at the end. Instead of doing another time trial test I just assigned a random number of 1:42/100 yards for all sets that she asked I swim at race pace for.  A moderate pace  was not going to be between 1:45 and 1:50 and a slow easy pace was going to be 1:50 - 2:00.  Every time I got in the water though I questioned if I could hold that pace for 300 yards or 400 yards.  Never mind that I had actually swam that pace for longer distances.  I didn't trust myself to swim at those times.  It has been an odd feeling. I can recall running my first half-marathon and marathon and just about dying at the end.  I know that I had to get better and I did.  I trusted myself to run faster and I did.  To the point that my first marathon was a 4:29 and most recently ran a 3:31 in December.  I trust that my speed for a long distance run like a marathon is 8:00/mile.  I know that a half-marathon can be run in sub-1:40 without pain and a 15k can be run in sub-7:25/mile pace.  I trust these numbers because they have proven to be true, but I also know that I'm training smarter and that those times will drop. On the bike I was an 18 mph rider but now I am a 20 mph rider.  I trust that speed.  I also question that speed to the point that I think I can hit 21 mph on the bike in one week in Puerto Rico.  I trust that I can ride that fast for 56 miles because I just rode 19.5 mph for 92 miles.  It has proven to be true and thus why I may question my speed in the water.  In two Half-Ironman races I have swam 40:37 and 40:08.  Almost identical times and so I don't trust that my current speed will translate to 1.2 miles.  I am questioning whether or not I can get down to somewhere between 36 and 38 minutes for the distance.  Time will tell and I will put my mind to the test because I am fairly positive that my body can. That is the key to this whole scenario.  Silencing the mind.  Telling the mind to shut-up when it questions whether or not I can go that fast.  I have a goal of 5:10 in Puerto Rico and that means that I MUST swim between 35 and 38 minutes otherwise I will have to ride faster and run faster than I have planned and trained for.  Trust the training that I have done and put the work to good use.


** maybe its just the taper week crazies starting
Published in Train
Saturday, 29 May 2010 15:20

Great Way To Start Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend got off on the right foot this morning.  The training was great and the weather was just as perfect.

Today's workout consisted of a 60 minute ride at 90 RPM followed by a 20 minutes run.

As usual Robert and I headed out to Lake Grapevine around 6:30am to get our workout in.  The bike was awesome although I lost Robert after the first 2 or 3 miles.  The point of the exercise today was to keep a high cadence going and that cadence was to be 90+ RPM.

One of the best things about today's workout, or any workout at high cadence, is that you learn to use your gears in order to keep your legs spinning.  The lowest speed I averaged was 15.7 and overall for the 17.5 miles that I rode this morning I averaged 18.3 MPH which is 1.8 MPH faster then my time in Grapevine last year.  That has me very excited because that means that I should be shaving some good time off of my bike portion next week.

Here is a map of the ride:

The run that followed was to be a 20 minute run.  I took the HR alerts off to allow me to just run and overall it was not that bad for the two miles.  My HR averaged 158 with a pace of 8:29.  I covered 2.31 miles today and I know that if I push myself that my pace will be faster then last year's pace at the Tri Grapvine.

Here is map and some information on the run:

Overall I feel great.  I need to stretch but my energy is there and I don't feel fatigues one bit.  I actually told Robert that I could have run at least another 5 miles and maybe not at 8:34 but certainly could have gone at a 9:00 pace for the next 5 miles.  I'm thrilled with where I'm at after about 3 full weeks of training.

I'm prepared both mentally and physically to beat last year's time and to be able to compete in my age group and be close to my time of 1:18:53 in the Caveman Tri.

Now, onto stretching then the shower and most importantly time with my family at our pool bbq'ing and laughing.

Memorial Day here we are.
Published in Uncategorized
Today's training was a High Cadence Interval Brick. Essentialy this is high intensity where you are keeping your cadence between 90 and 100, whether you are going uphill or not. You want to keep your feet spinning and get the HR into an anaerobic state. So I start out with 10 minutes of warm-up with a HR between 135-145 then do 4 intervals of 3-5 minutes at 90-100 cadence followed by recovery for the same amount of time I rode at the high cadence then finish up the hour with a cool-down.

That is immediately followed by an easy run. An easy run is defined as being between 135-145 HR for me and that usually puts me at a 10:30 pace. That pace is very difficult for me to maintain not because it is so fast but the exact opposite. I'm used to running much faster then that so this pace is slow. The odd thing is that as soon as I get off the bike and start the run the HR jumps to 151 and I have to truly focus on slowing myself down so that my HR comes down.

Today was special because I got to do my brick workout with my wife. Karen came out b/c she had her own brick workout to do today with a 60 minute bike and 10 minute run. She did great and I think the cross-training will help her running in the long-run. Tomorrow we are going to run Katy Trail again and she will be running with our friend Barbara and I'll be running with our friend Robyn. It is going to be a great time.

In addition to being with my wife another friend of ours (Steffanie) came out on her bike to meet us. She is going to be doing the Grapevine Tri on June 5th as well a few other friends of mine. Check back on June 5th for the results right here: Tri Grapevine Results

I am hoping to finish in the top 5 of my age group. Last year, which was my first tri ever, I finished with a time of 1:26:53 and as you may recall my time from The Caveman (Caveman Triathlon Results) was 1:18:53 so an improvement of 8 minutes.

If I finish at 1:18:53 again I will be 3rd in my age group which will be a great accomplishment. I believe that I can do that since I am more efficient in the water and thus will have more energy on the bike and run. Throw in a better bike and a better training program and nutritional guide and the stars are aligned with a 1:18:53 finish or better. I am not going to get psyched up though as the true test of this tri is to be better at the swim and not necessarily in time, but in efficiency.

Team iRuniTri news:
Coach C was competing in an Xterra down in Waco today and I sent her an email after the brick workout to wish her luck and if the race was over how she did. Her email came back with the news that she WON in the female category and finished 2nd overall in the race which is downright amazing. I am more and more impressed by Coach C everyday on how well she runs her business and still is able to compete at a high level. You can find her results here: Xterra Trail Run Results

Coach C is really Claudia Spooner and I recommend her to anybody and everybody who is willing to put in work to get the best results out of their body and be prepared to succeed because she builds your training around you and your lifestyle.

Her website is iRuniTri and you can just click and be on your way to a leaner, stronger, more efficent body and excellent race day results.

Tomorrow she has 3 athletes competing in Waco with 2 of them shooting for Nationals and the other being her husband whom she says is doing it for fun, but once you toe the starting line your adrenaline takes over and your body is ready to attack so it becomes a race.

I can't wait to hear about the results for our team members on Team iRuniTri.

The rest of today is going to be great as Karen and I head to the Ballpark at Arlington for a fun day of watching Texas Rangers baseball. The Chicago Cubs have come to town and we will be in the stands cheering on the home team. Will post pics tomorrow or later tonight after we get home from the game.

Tomorrow's run will be followed by another trip to The Ballpark for me but this time with another triathlete/friend of ours. Once that is over it will be time to come home and spend some time with Karen before we head to the gym for my evening swim workout. Another Sunday with 1850 yards of swimming and I am pumped. I have gotten so efficient in the water that 1850 is no longer a daunting task nor is a straight 300. I am ready for this swim as I am now focusing on getting to Grapevine and beating the 6:55 that it took me last year to swim 300 yards.

Until tomorrow please remember that SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE
Published in Uncategorized
I had a friend of mine video me in the water yesterday so that I could send to my coach to have my 'technique' broken down and to get help with my swim since this is by far my worst discipline.

I am posting this awful video so that as I get better I can see the transformation. I want this as a reminder of where I started.

I will post more about my training today after the election party tonight. Hopefully the election party is a celebration party.
Published in Uncategorized
Saturday, 08 May 2010 03:42

Ugly Swimming This Evening

Headed up to 24 Hour Fitness to have my swim stroke filmed by my buddy with his underwater camera. I have known that my stroke is inefficient and just plain awful. I know that I just try to power my way through the swim and get out of the water as quickly as possible, but what I saw on video makes me thankful that Toyota is not until October 10 and that California is still a little under a year away.

What I saw was a lot of flailing and plain ugliness. Strokes were not in rhythm and neither were what you could call kicks. I am a little disappointed in myself right now in that I am just not that good at the swim portion. Hopefully with some training I can turn that around. Anywhere I can make up time I am looking for.

Stay tuned for the video as I will post it as soon as I have access to it. I am going to post it as a reminder of how bad I was. Yes, was because I am determined to get faster.

One positive I can take out of this is that while I did the first 50 I felt faster and I was trying the technique that my trainer had spoken of on Monday. I am going to go back to the pool early Sunday morning to put in training and not try to be a speed demon b/c that is where it falls apart.

Heading to bed now b/c tomorrow will be a training day of 4 mile run, 20 mile bike, 4 mile run. Trying to train myself that when I get on the bike, winded and having done some aerobic activity, to get the legs turning over. After that the bike-run brick will take hold and allow me to get through that feeling of your legs not cooperating at the start of the run.

6am start love it.

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