Two weeks ago, I started a new training program called FIRST. The basic premise of the program is you do three focused runs each week — tempo, speed and long — with 2 cross-training days sandwiched in between. Each run is highly customized to your own performance (based on your time from a past 5K or other race distance). Through the meticulously planned program, which is provided in detailed tables in the book Run Less, Run Faster (Runner’s World Press), you are assured of getting in a full set of high-quality runs while avoiding the “junk miles” that don’t lead to improvements and can even cause over-training.
My first speedwork session was a killer. (See the report.) No doubt some of that was due to it being my initial speed session of the year, so I didn’t let it scare me away from session #2. In fact, throughout the day last Wednesday, I became ever more eager to get started.
Session #2 called for 4×800 meters in 3:00 with 2:00 rest between. On paper, that looked downright easy compared to the 3×1600 with 1:00 rest of session #1. I’m comfortable running 800s. Last year, I did several sessions of “Yasso 800s,” which are sessions of 800-meter repeats run in a target time that corresponds to a time in which you want to complete a marathon. That is, if you want to run a marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes, you run your Yasso 800s in 3 minutes 30 seconds.
Yasso 800s are named after Bart Yasso, the “Chief Running Officer” at Runner’s World. After conducting research with several runners of many different levels of speed and talent, Yasso discovered that whatever time you can consistently record for 10 runs of 800 meters (about 1/2 mile) roughly equates to the time you can record for a marathon (26.2 miles). If you can run the 800s at a consistent pace of 3:30 (that’s 3 minutes 30 seconds), you are in shape to run a marathon in 3:30.00 (that’s 3 hours 30 minutes). Odd, I know, but it’s been tested and proven accurate time and again.
So with that background in 800s, I was confident taking on this FIRST workout, even if the pace was considerably faster than I ran 800s last year. Hey, I was only running four of them — how tough could it be, right?
In session #1 of my FIRST speedwork, my poor sense of pace killed me. I started way too fast, which led to suffering on the last lap of each set of 1600s. I was determined not to do that in session #2. As usual, I set my Timex Ironman to beep at 1:30, which was the time I should turn for each lap. If it beeped before I got back to the starting line, I was going too slow. If it beeped after the line, I was too fast.
- 1st set: On the 1st lap, I crossed the start line ~2 seconds ahead of the beep. A smidge too fast, but within reason. I finished the set in 2:59, 1 second ahead of goal.
- 2nd set: Again, 1st lap ~2 seconds ahead of pace. Finished the set in exactly 3:00.
- 3rd set: The 2-minute rest went by faster, I swear. Still, the 1st lap was dead on pace, as was the 2nd.
- 4th and last set: The end is near, no need to hold back. I wanted to air it out a little without going crazy; an important element of speed training is to get a solid feel for pacing. I decided to try for perfect-pace 1:30 on lap one, then cut loose on lap 2. Lap one came in at 1:29, followed by 1:27 on lap two.
Okay, so shaving 2 seconds off the last lap isn’t exactly “cutting loose,” but it was a solid, fast pace. FIRST speed session #2 left me feeling happy and strong.
Distance: 4 miles total, including 1 mile each for warmup and cooldown
Target Pace: 3:00 per 800 meters x 4
PE : 9
Gear: Puma Complete Concinnity, InSport Polartec T-shirt, InSport full-cut shorts
Weather: 68 F, sunny, 5 mph wind