Nature’s Bin 5K: Does strength = speed?

Amazing what a difference a month came make. On September 4 I ran an o.k., but nothing special 5 mile, feeling like I should have been about 10 seconds faster per mile than I was. I felt like I was in pretty good shape, but all the pieces weren’t there. After that race, I made the decision to focus on strength in order to get ready for the Club Nationals Cross Country race in Charlotte in December. Since that Labor Day Weekend race, I’ve done three sessions of long intervals (mainly mile repeats) on grass paths, three progressive 8 mile tempo runs,  several long runs, and a really good mixed pace fartlek session this past Wednesday. All good quality workouts, but certainly nothing 5K-specific. I felt like I had been lacking aerobic power, and today I proved myself right, running my best 5K of the year by 18 seconds, hitting 17:06 (5:30 pace on the nose) at the Nature’s Bin race in Lakewood. The winner, Curt Bachus (also a masters runner) ran 17:02. The conditions were pretty ideal. 53F and some light rain. Curt took it out hard and after I passed the usual crew of misfits who sprint at the beginning of races, I found myself in second place trying to chase him down. I hit the mile at 5:35 and was probably about 6 seconds behind at this point. I was feeling really good, and didn’t ease up at all during mile two but couldn’t close the gap. Curt was definitely running hard as well. He told me after the race that he could hear my footsteps splashing in the rain the whole time, which forced him to keep redlining it. I hit 11:10 at 2 miles and still felt like I could maintain pace. The last 1.5 miles of this course is very fast as it is a straight shot down Lake Avenue with no turns and you almost always catch a bit of a tailwind here.  I REALLY tried to close the gap at this point and I think I may have got as close as 3 seconds or so with 800 to go but couldn’t quite seal the deal. In any case, I’m really happy with the race and feel like I have my groove back.

Now for the second part of the entry. Over the years I’ve noticed a pattern where I seem to race my best 5Ks when I’m not really training for the 5K. When I do 5K specific workouts like 400s and 800s at those V02 max zones, I seem to lose power and general fitness. It doesn’t really make sense, but I seem to gain speed when I don’t really focus on speed. I think there’s something pretty magical about the 10K/tempo pace zones, especially for older runners. We don’t recover as fast as the youngsters, so I think that may be the best way to stay consistent over the long haul. Anyway, my big goal for the fall is cross country, so I’ll be at Lakewood Park again this Wednesday lacing up the spikes for some mile repeats.At this point, I’m waiting to find out if I’ll be able to get into a college XC race at Oberlin on Oct. 16. That would rock!

Here are some strength workouts that work for me:

1) 4-5 mile repeats at 10K effort  with 400 jogs (or 2-3 minutes) for recovery.
2) 8 mile progression run, starting at normal conversation pace and trying to drop 10-20 seconds per mile. If you do this workout right, you should be running somewhere between 5K and 10K pace during your last mile. I usually start at 8:00 and do something like 7:40, 7:20, 7:00, 6:45, 6:30, 6:10, 5:40-5:50.
3) 6-5-4-3-2-1-30 fartlek w/ half-time recoveries: This is one that I read about in Running Times magazine that the Zap Fitness team does. After a decent warm up, run 6 minutes at about half-marathon race effort, jog 3 minutes and then run 5 minutes slightly faster, jog 2:30 etc. Basically, after each surge you get half-time recovery, so while the reps become shorter, you have to run them faster, and you get less time to recover. This is a great race simulation, especially as you get down to the one-minute and 30 second segments at the end.


One comment

  1. nice work Ben! Yep, I think strength = speed. I think the speed is there already, it is just unleashing the speed over the end of the race because you have built up distance and good aerobic strength so you can pull the speed off at the end!


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