Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Bobcat, the Wolf, and the Bear

No not on the trail (at least not today!)  Rather I'm alluding to the very difficult workout I've got coming up on Wednesday.  First a little background info - 

Anybody remember the Cub Scouts??  It was the precursor to the Boy Scouts for I believe 11 and 12 year olds.  Although I never went on to be a Boy Scout (no shocker there!) I did spend those 2-years in the Cub Scouts.  What I remember most about the Cubbies (aside from making and racing the wooden cars to see whose car could get down the ramp the fastest) was our little award system.  Towards the end of the first year, if you completed all of the requirements you got your first big badge - the Bobcat badge!!  Mom would sew that puppy on your little scout uniform and you wore it proudly.  Sometime during the second year you became eligible for the second and more prestigious award - the Wolf badge.  (which was sewn right next to the Bobcat on the uni)  And then at the end of the 2-year deal, you could obtain the single greatest award a Cubbie could receive, yes the incomparable Bear Badge!  (think Congressional Medal of Honor for 12-year olds)

Tomorrow is another Threshold day at the track.  Two weeks ago it was 3 x 1-mile w/ 1-minute breaks.  Last week was a 3-mile Tempo Run.  This week it's 2-mile repeats w/ 2-minute breaks.  This workout demonstrates the real value of Cruise Intervals - volume.  Tempo Runs are meant to be about 20-minutes in length.  Anything longer than that, and you're supposed to slow the pace down a bit.  For example - according to the Daniels book, if I run a Tempo for 25-minutes I'm supposed to slow down my overall pace 5-seconds/mile compared to the original T-pace.  If I run a 30-min Tempo, I should slow down about 8-seconds per mile compared to T-pace.  Not so w/ Cruise Intervals.  Here, regardless of how many miles I'm running, all of them are at the original T-pace.

So this workout coming up 3 x 2-mile gives SIX miles at T-pace.  Yes I get the two 2-minute breaks, but we're talking DOUBLE the volume of the previous workouts w/ no let up in pace. 

And that brings me back to the Cub Scout reference.   Typically the first 2-miles of this workout are tough, but OK.  Then the 2-minute break comes - after that the third mile is usually OK as you're just coming off the rest.  But Mile #4 starts to get tough towards the end because the total volume is more than what's been done before.  I call this mile the "Bobcat Mile".  The first mile that goes beyond what's typically done for Threshold pace (unless your T-runs are run @ 5:00 pace or better!)  Although the back half of this mile is usually pretty tough, you do have the next break to look forward to so getting thru this mile is usually doable.

The second break just never seems long enough, and before you know it you're back out there.  Unlike Mile #3, Mile #5 is not comfortable in the least.  The benefits of the short rest usually fade within 400-600 meters and then it's very difficult.  Knowing you still have 7-laps or so to go just makes matters worse.  As you might expect - I call Mile #5 the "Wolf Mile", the next step beyond the comfort zone and the next level of pain. . . . and that leads to Mile #6 which is just a Bear.  Tough to put into words how much this mile sucks.  Legs hurt, can't breathe, everything is in slow motion, and you're thinking of anything you can to get your mind off of the sheer hell even if it's just for 5-seconds.  Anything to get you through.  

Should you make it through this torture chamber, the confidence gained is immeasurable.  (I mean, you're running almost a 10k @ something only slightly slower than 5k pace w/o any race day adrenaline - that'll do wonders for your confidence!)  

However, this workout is so challenging for me that my first time thru I do not expect to get thru all 6-miles.  For tomorrow, I'll be satisfied w/ anything longer than 4-miles.  If I run a 2 x 2-mile and then say just a 1000m, that's OK.  It's still over 50% more volume than the previous workouts.  Should I get 5-miles in, I'll be very happy.  I don't expect to even begin the "Bear Mile" tomorrow.  And again, this is fine - this workout is on the schedule again in 3-weeks.  If I get at least 4-miles + 1000m in tomorrow, I'll attempt to finish all 6-miles next time around.

No matter how much volume I get in tomorrow, I know one thing for sure - this will be the toughest workout I've done in a long long time.  Wish me luck!


9/22:  No running,  Lifting (Upper-A, abs, legs) + deadlift and squat

9/23:  AM  4-miles @ 7:54
            PM  5-miles @ 7:24  HR - 149


Thomas said...

But keep in mind, it's the tough workouts that really get you into shape.

Grellan said...

Nice analogy Mike.

However I question the "slightly slower than 5k pace" as T-Pace. It's just that 3 x 2 miles at 5k+ pace for me feels so far off the radar that I checked my version of Daniels which gives T pace as roughly halfway between 10K and HM pace (i.e. what you can sustain in a race for about 50 or 60 minutes).

Looking forward to hearing how you get on.

bricey said...

good luck with the workout. It's the anticipation of the pain that's the worst part. I'm sure you'll make it through just fine. Just remember that afterwards (once your heart rate returns to normal) you'll be thinking "that really wasn't so bad afterall"....

Mike said...

Grellan - interesting point. I'd love to discuss this, as I've found several discrepancies in the Daniels book when it comes down to paces. I'm aware of the statement you gave - the 50-60 minute rule.

However, I believe this is more for marathoners or long distance specialists in general as opposed to shorter distance guys. As an example, Daniels has separate pace tables for 800m runners - and even then he changes the pace depending on whether you're a 400m-800m guy or an 800m-1500m guy. For the guy who runs a 2:10 half mile, his T-pace is 5:56 for one guy and 6:12 for the other, that's a pretty large spread! And that's just for 800m runners! (both of those tables are then different from the general VDOT tables)

What I go by is that T-pace should give you approximately 88%-92% of max HR for the duration of the effort. Because I'm not highly endurance trained at this time, if I were to go out and run say a 10k race, my time would be so-so. If I then used that 10k race time to come up w/ my T-pace it would turn out that running T-workouts at that pace would NEVER get my HR to 90%.

Here's another thing that becomes confusing for me. If I run a 10k and get x-time and later go out and run an all out mile and get a time, I'll come up w/ VDOTs that are different by maybe 3 or 4 levels. The subsequent delta in T-paces is then about 20-seconds! Daniels says use your BEST race to get the T-pace, but if I do that the T-pace is too fast for me.

The whole thing seems to have a lot of variation to it. So what I go by is the pace that gets me to the correct HR, whatever pace that is. Now, in my case, I don't have enough endurance to hold that pace for an hour, but for the purpose of the workout my HR is where it's supposed to be.

If you're a marathoner or a highly trained endurance guy, my guess is that you can hold your 90% max HR pace for 50-60 minutes, but at this point I can't do that. But if I drop the pace to something I can sustain for an hour then it's too slow to get my HR to ever hit 90% during the workouts, make sense?

Like I said, I'd love other opinions on it. This is just what I've discovered reading the book (the 16-second delta just for 800m runners already gives a huge range) I'd love to hear other experiences trying to determine your exact T-pace.

Mike said...

Here's another way to look at it. Let's say I have two athletes, one is very highly endurance trained and the other is much faster, but less endurance trained.

Let's say endurance guy's times look like this:
Marathon - 2:45
Half - 1:19
10k - 36:30
5k - 17:50
mile - 5:15

And the speed guy looks like this:
Marathon - 3:05 ** maybe even slower**
Half - 1:24
10k - 36:30
5k - 17:10
mile - 4:50

I don't think this is unreasonable. Clearly a fast guy w/o a ton of endurance training can have a profile like that. The endurance guy might be a guy who has run a lot of miles annually for several years but just doesn't have the same level of speed as the other guy.

Well, clearly the endurance guy will have a much faster pace if we look at what each athlete can sustain for an hour. They have the same 10k time, and anything longer than that the endurance guy wins. So if we were to follow Daniels' rule, the endurance guy should have a faster T-pace.

However, most tempo runs are in the 20-minute range. Well, the speed guy is faster at runs under 35-minutes in duration. So even if their T-paces were equal the speed guy has an easier time of it on the tempo run. If we then slow him down compared to the endurance guy because of the 50-60 minute rule, and each guy does a 20-minute Tempo Run then the speed guy isn't working NEARLY as hard!!

So IMO if Daniels is going to state that T-pace is something that can be sustained for 50-60 minutes, or 35-45 minutes or whatever. . . . he HAS TO have a specific aerobic profile in mind! In my estimation the profile he's using is that of the more endurance trained guy.

Clearly if we're trying to have each of these athletes get the same workout intensity from a 20-minute T-run, the speed guy needs to be doing his run at the same speed or faster than the endurance guy. But the 50-60 minute rule would suggest the opposite - and I don't see how that could be correct for these two athletes.