A Specific Block and Frustrations on the Lakefront Path

Last week I did a (Renato Canova-style) Marathon Specific Block.  This was one of the most important days of training in my Chicago buildup, and was probably the hardest day of training in my life thus far.  The Specific Block is basically a super-compensation workout where you really work your body hard in two marathon specific workouts (an AM and PM session) and then make sure you get plenty of recovery in the days to follow.  It's an especially useful tool in the marathon context because you're trying to teach your body how to use its fuel properly to not run out of glycogen until the end of the race.  You do this by letting your body know, repeatedly, through a LOT of marathon specific pace work, especially late in runs, that it will be asked to run a long time at a fast pace (i.e. marathon pace).  Then, instead of burning too much glycogen at MP, like an improperly trained runner's body would do running MP (thus running out of glycogen before 26.2 miles is reached), your body can properly allocate the fat and glycogen it is burning to carry the whole race distance. The specific block is especially good at accomplishing this training stimulus because you are 30 miles into your day by the end of the second session and have done a lot of marathon pace or slightly slower running.

Anyway, the workout... I originally planned on doing the same session in the AM and the PM, which was 6 miles at 5:45 pace straight into 6 miles at 5:20 pace (MP).  Not a killer single session, but doing two of them is plenty to handle.  However, I feel like I haven't gotten in quite enough long workouts so far (had to drop a long run after the 10k race, etc.), so I mixed it up with a different AM session.  The AM session, like the original planned workout, was taken from Canova's marathon pamphlet.

AM - Goal: 1 mile w/u, 15 miles at 98% MP (~6 sec./mile slower than MP), 1 mile w/d -- Hit the 15 miles on the lakefront path (about 2/3 on gravel) in 1:21:31, or 5:26 pace.  Had splits for the three five mile segments: 27:17, 27:03, 27:11.  Very solid run, and I liked getting the extra length in, but I was pretty destroyed from it.  Walked around some afterward to loosen the legs up, then took a short nap.  Felt pretty rough all day and really doubted my ability to hit the evening session.

PM - Goal: 1 mile w/u, 6 miles at 5:45/mile, 6 miles at 5:20/mile (MP), 1 mile w/d -- Felt pretty rough on the opening 6 miles and was not feeling real optimistic for the workout.  Ended up working through it alright though and hit 34:15 and 31:51 for the two 6 mile segments, which is 5:42/mile and 5:18/mile pace, which was a touch better than I hoped for.

So, for the day, I had 31 miles, 27 of which were quality miles, with an average of 5:28/mile for those 27.  Really, this should be a pretty good indicator that the Olympic Trials standard of 2:19:00 (5:18/mile) is a realistic goal.  If 5:18 pace wasn't about what my MP should be, I wouldn't have been able to get through the workout.  Some shorter MP workouts, you can bullshit, and kind of fake it at too fast of a pace, but with the specific block, that's not really possible.  The one thing that throws a kink into the equation is the mile markers on the lakefront path, which brings me to the second topic of this entry. 

The mile markers on the path heading north from my apartment (at State and North Ave.) wind mostly on gravel and some on the main paved portion of the path.  There are a few markers missing (though CARA has occasionally put up signs, supposedly where the marks should be), but I thought I more or less had it figured out where the markers were supposed to be.  I knew that some miles were a little off, seemingly short in some places and long in others, but it seemed like the overall distance more or less balanced out to be accurate--hence me giving 5 miles splits only for the 15 miler, and not mile splits.  These markers have been difficult to verify via gmaps pedometers because it is hard to tell from a satellite aerial view where they are.

Adding to the confusion, new markers were put in early this week (partially following the old route and partially on a new route).  These markers also seemed off to me.  I got on gmaps pedometer and was able to verify this; the new route and markers are averaging about .02 miles long each mile, which is about 7 sec./mile when running MP.  Best I can tell, the old markers (which I used for the Specific Block) are fairly accurate in the aggregate, though maybe a touch short (something like 1-2 seconds per mile when running MP).

Bottom line, the measurements on the old route are close enough that the Specific Block I did still instills a lot of confidence... particularly since most of the path is on crushed gravel, which is slowing me down a bit to be sure.  It is just very frustrating that whoever is measuring these routes can't get it right.  The path is basically the only place for tens of thousands of people to run, here in the third largest city in the country, and we have no accurate mile markers.  Just pathetic and inexcusable.  As is the fact that there isn't a normal track within 5 miles that I can get to, but that's another rant altogether.

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