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Winter Training January 19-26

This week was a recovery week for the club, but not for me (more on that later!).

We started out Monday with a short 25min tempo. Basic. Nothing crazy.

On the track on Wednesday, we worked on turnover. So it was fast, but fairly short so that the quality was kept high. 2 sets of 10x100m fast, 100m jogging. Coaching a workout like this, I'm not looking at times, just watching how they look: are they really sprinting? Good arms? Quick turnover? Once someone starts to look like he or she was fighting it, they were told to stop. We did do 10min of tempo in the warm up as well as the cruise test.

Saturday just an easy long run. Volume was lower overall this week, and we were only at about 40min of quality.

We also had a few university runners performing for their schools at the McGill Team Challenge. I always like to point out when our scholastic connections do well because I think it great to be able to work with good university and college coaches. Here are the results:

Mel 10:06.84
Jarry 8:42.07 PB
Dan 8:57.02 PB
Kazi 9:35.57 PB

Steph, Mel and Val ran, not sure of splits. Mel said 2:30 for her...

Val 1:42.24 (PB 1:42.43 last year)
Steph 1:53.52 (PB by .10 from before Christmas!)

Mel 4:45.79
Val 4:59.02
Jarry 4:06.78
Dan 4:17.34 (PB from 4:21.91)
Mohamad DQ for stepping on the inside line.

6 more PBs to add to our quest for 100 on the year!

As I mentioned, it was a recovery week for the club, but not for me. Most of my weeks are recovery weeks, in the sense I don't run very much these days. But last week (January to 12-18), mostly because we spent some time in Toronto, I manage to log about 450min! And workouts, too: I did some 400s and 800s on the indoor track at Monarch Park in Toronto with the Black Lungs, my Toronto club. They are basically a bunch of runners who train for real, and are pretty fast. You need to be able to run a sub-3hr marathon to join.

Anyway, this week, I followed it up with another 400min, so perhaps the tide is turning...

Fall Training December

We had a good year. 85 PBs for the group starting in April with 5 at the St. Laurent 5k, and ending with Shawn Kehoe’s 58:34 at the Boxing Day 10 miler. Best thing that happened this year though was my son Mike. He has definitely enhanced everything I have experienced this year. Onward to 2015, but first, let’s close out 2014 training:

The four weeks of December and the first into January were a sort of choose-your-own-adventure for our group. Various exam, travel, weather and facility schedules led to runners doing a series of workouts in a variety of orders. Here are the key sessions for the month:

Lots of tempo:

40min progression run: 4x10min increments starting at marathon pace, finishing at 10-15k pace.

3x9min intervals at tempo pace. This was a pretty easy one that most ended up doing on their own as there was a big snowstorm on the Wednesday night. Instead of slipping and sliding through intervals we just went for a run. The next morning conditions were fine for running faster.

10x2min at 10k effort, 1min recovery at marathon pace. There was some black ice at Summit for this one, but they decided to go for it. Turned out ok. Sometimes the conditions at Summit are not the same as at McGill. I let them decide if they wanted to go and they did.

Tempo and hills: 800m tempo, 4x10sec hill sprint, 1mile, hills, 1mile, hills, 800m. I like his workout as it is both mentally challenging (to ramp back to threshold after the hills) and has a useful physiological result (fast twitch fibre recruitment).

A couple interval sessions:

13x400m at 5k summer goal pace, 200m jog. The 800/1500m specialists did 300-200-100 or 4-6×400.

Mostly we did this one on a Saturday morning, since the McGill indoor track was closed for exams. It was the first time since I’ve been around that this was the case. I imagine it has to do with budget cuts, as other options may have incurred a rental fee.  As much as we in the track and field community found this to be a challenge (it is fine for distance runners: we can go outside most of the time. But sprinters, jumpers and throwers don’t really have any other options), we are relatively small in number, so I suppose the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. 

Early in December, during a week with no other workouts, we did the following: 1200m fast (1500m race effort) followed by 4-6x400m at the same pace, 3-4min rec. this was partly a test of fitness for some (the pace on a time trial 1200m is likely the pace of a live race 1500m), as well as a rare venture into anaerobic work. There are a few reasons why we don’t do a lot of anaerobic stuff. One is, as Greg McMillan (and Arthur Lydiard) have put it: we are still training to be able do the training. There’s no sense bashing out these kind of intervals on a regular basis at this point in the season. We are trying to build up the engine first. I am not a strict Lydiardite in that we don’t do a “pure” base season: we are doing some workouts. In order for those workouts to be executed properly, I prefer that the runners are not burnt out from interval work. The idea is that working on the aerobic side now will allow for a more intense anaerobic period later. So that’s why this workout was fairly isolated, with two days easy running before and four days after.

The runners were also instructed to take two weeks of just easy running and strides. For most this would take place over the holidays, though some chose to take it during heir exam period and do the workouts over Christmas. We are 4-5 months into the training year. I find this is usually a good time to take a break, but not completely off. Unless a runner is injured or really mentally burnt out (neither of which happen as much when anaerobic intervals and racing are limited…see above) there’s no need for a full break. Just removing the structure of weekly practices and the intensity of the workouts is enough to refresh, usually. And taking a week completely off can mean needing another couple weeks to ramp back up upon the return to training.

Fall Training November 17-23

We are right back at it this week. Since cross country season for us is a means to an end, there's no need to take more than the cyclical down week as a break. In December we will take a two week "no workouts" break, but the group will still run.

Monday: straight forward steady state run. 35min of running at between 25k and 30k race pace. Then jog back to the indoor track and do 4x200m as "long strides" and then some core. This is really a bread and butter workout in the sense that it is very simple, and not that hard, but you need to get it done on a regular basis. We are building the length of the steady state right now. In January, we will crank it up a bit and focus more on 15k-20k pace on these Monday runs, but for now, it's just a solid aerobic push. The 200s help keep in touch with some turnover as the weather starts to turn. We had a fair bit of ice and snow on this one, so it was more effort-based than pace-based. That's winter in Canada.

Wednesday: We went on the indoor track for the next progression in the summer goal pace series of workouts. The workout was 8x400m-200m at 5k summer goal pace, with 200m jog between each one. So 4800m of 5k pace work (400 at pace, 200 jog, 200 at pace, 200 jog, 8 times). Again, just gotta groove that pace. It's not that hard, but it is getting the legs used to running at the desired pace. Once we push this up to 600, 800 and 1k repeats, it will get  hard. But for now, we are just prepping the legs, as it were.

The middle distance group did 3-4x800m as 400m 1500 pace, 200m cruise pace, 200m 800m pace. The cruise pace is the killer here as it doesn't really let you recover for that fast 200. But it's also only a 200. So this is another "do-able" workout though a little more intense, relatively, than the 5k group workout.

Saturday: This was another big aerobic day. Warm up to 1500m loop. 2x4-4-4, 2-2-2. 2x400m loop fast at the end, full recovery. So they move from 4min cruise, to 4min 10k pace, and back to 4min cruise (that's 15k pace, so slower than 10k pace). Another way to write this would be: 12min-6min-12min-6min with 2min recovery. For some reason that's a little more intimidating. It doesn't change the load to write it down in a more friendly way.

This week I was at another coaching meeting. This time it was for coaches in Quebec. We got some general information, then had our endurance group meeting, and finally were treated to a talk from one of the great Quebec coaches: Ben Leduc. Ben coached almost all the fast Quebecers during the "golden age" of the 70s and 80s (and into the 90s). What was great about his talk was that he was pretty clear that the main determinant of success in his group was hard work. The guys and girls who worked really hard got fast. It's also heartening to hear that our respective training philosophies align fairly closely. His concept of "demi-train and trois-quart de train" aligns pretty well with what we are doing: lots of sub-maximal work.

Ben also had interesting things to say about developing  young runners. First, he said, he preferred to recruit the kids who finished 4th to 12th as kids because they have room to grow. He would start the CEGEP-aged runners on double runs, not just for endurance, but so they could understand what it meant to do work. By university he felt he was able to push them more, but felt like he may have underestimated the durability of some athletes. Still, better to err on the side of caution and have people coming out of the system runners for life and enjoying themselves, vs quitting because they were burnt out. (If I've misinterpreted any of this, that's on me, by the way).

He had a lot of success with that model yet here we are today with a great emphasis on winning at a young age, focusing on high quality workouts over volume of work, and athletes whose careers peak in their late-teens or early twenties. The solution is there for those who want to grab it and run with it.

Note: the photo is from a 1980s version of the Maski-courons road race.

Fall Training November 10-16

This week was a pretty light week. We did a fairly easy tempo on the Monday, 20min as 10min out, 10min back on the canal. Fun to do in a group as, in theory, if everyone does it right, we will all finish together. It actually worked out pretty close, except for the fact that a couple of the ladies were pushing it, but it was fun to see.

Wednesday in lieu of a workout we had a goal setting session. The idea was to get everyone in a room and share what we wanted to achieve in 2015. Once everyone's individual goals were shared, we decided that our group goal was going to be 100 PBs. In 2014 we achieved 84 personal bests in our training group. 100 is a nice round number and certainly do-able with the group we have. The nice thing about the group PB goal is that it is the same all around. So for example the 3:48 John Corbit ran over 1500m for his fastest time in 5 years is worth the same as Nicole van Klink's 46:22 10k.

We finished off the week with a group long run on Saturday morning. I wasn't there because I was taking part in Athletics Canada's Performance Coach course, as a learning facilitator for the endurance group. It was very cool to work with some of the best coaches in Canada, and share ideas and training thoughts with them. I am a big advocate of coach education. Some consider them hoops to be jumped through, but I have never done a course where I haven't felt like I've learned something, and that includes this one where I was the teacher rather than the student. If you are a coach, take the courses to get your levels and follow up with the evaluation process. It will only benefit you and the athletes you coach.

Fall Training November 3-9

This week was pretty big in terms of volume, as despite most runners being done their xc seasons, we are still in build mode. We'll touch the track a little in a couple of weeks, but for now: more bread and butter.

The first workout of the week is a simple progression run. The group run up to Summit Circle, and the plan was to run 3 loops total, each one faster than the last, starting at about 30k pace, through 20k pace, and ending at about 15k pace. For those who last week only managed a couple loops, it provided an opportunity to run three full times around Summit's 2.4k loop.

On Wednesday we did circuits and short intervals. The photo from last week is actually from this workout. Two sets of 10x200m with the recovery being one of many lovely circuit exercises. This would be a long version of the Brazilian. I don't know if Joaquim Cruz ever did it like this (he said he did it with fast 400s though, so probably), but anyway, we can still call it a Brazilian.

Saturday's workout was the biggest of the fall. On the very tough 1500m loop, most of the group did: 3x8min cruise, 3x6min cruise, 6x1min 5k effort, 1min recovery between everything. Total running time around 2hrs (20min warm up, 60min workout (48min of quality), 40min cool down. This was the longest run of the fall for many (though not for the marathoners).

Not everyone was training, though. Mel, Jullian and Jarry were getting blown around Pippy Park in St. John's. They survived, and even thrived on a very tough day.

The race of the fall, however, went to Nassim, who after finishing 7th at the Quebec College XC Championships, reloaded and ended up 10th at the national championships! It was a down and up season for Nassim, but it ended up two great races, so we won't worry too much about the early stuff. He is a talented and hard-working young man, and always performs at his in the big races. There is something to be said for that. Any races that aren't championship races are means to the end. Congrats to Nassim for his top ten finish and his team (Champlain College) for their bronze medal.

Fall training October 20-26

This week we switched things around a bit because of the provincial cross-country championships on the weekend. Monday we hit the track, Wednesday was pretty light, and Saturday was race day.

Monday we went back to the repeat 200ms we did a few weeks ago, and just tried to do the same again, only more or have it feel easier. So last time not everyone made it to 25 at goal 5k pace, but this time, most did. For those on the 1500m side of things, we added a few, getting up to 10-12 of them at goal race pace. This isn't a particularly hard workout or anything. The goal is simply to engrain the pace in the legs. The more time you spend running the pace, the better the connection between the brains and the muscles. The pace becomes "known." Later, when we extend this to more difficult lengths, that knowledge will come in handy, allowing the runner to put off fatigue a little longer because he or she will be in a state of normalcy for more of the interval. Then when it does get long, that work will fatigue the body and get it used to running both at the pace, and while tired.

Wednesday we really took it easy: 4x2min at cross country race pace, then 4x200m on the track. It was so easy, I actually did the workout. Now, for us, the provincial championships is not necessarily a peak race or anything. This was our easy week and we were resting up anyway. For a lot of people it would be the only xc race of the year, or maybe just the 2nd one. Cross country is a season to build. So we took our regular easy week and went into the race feeling good. Next week, we are right back at training.

Saturday we raced. Results are <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. Highlights are that we had 34 people racing. Some ran for their schools: Champlain, McGill, Concordia, André-Laurendeau, proving once again that clubs and schools are entirely compatible if coaches are open and communicative. The highlights from a results standpoint were Nassim Ennabaoui's 7th place in the college race (and correspondingly 4th place in the club junior standings). He ran his best race of the year to date, and moved up steadily during the race. He qualified, with his college team, to the CCAA XC championships in Calgary on November 8th. His goal there is top 14. 

Jullien Flynn won the university race for women and finished 2nd overall in the club race. The women's club team finished 3rd out of 14 clubs, one point back of both CAUL and CNOR who were tied at 20 points. It was a very close race and we look forward to competing with these two great clubs again next year. Mel Myrand (8th) and Val Sicard (11th) were our other scorers. Yes, the only score three women. It is very lame and the rules will change next year.

The senior men's club team was also 3rd (91pts), helped by new recruits Max Lebeouf and Oliver Babineau. These two guys live in Ottawa and train on their own, but wanted a "home base" club in Quebec. We were happy to oblige. François Jarry and Dan Kelly, two club members who have been running for the varsity team, were the other scorers. We were 60 points back of CNOR and 75 back of powerhouse CAUL, but it would be fun to see what we could do with our best runners around (Noel-Hodge, Lecointre, Pagé, Mcelligott).

The masters men's team defended our title, with a big help from new recruit Shawn Kehoe. He won the race outright, I maintained my second place masters spot from last year, and Anthony Franchini, riding a big summer of marathon training, helped us sweep the podium. It would be great to see more masters runners out for this because, as nice as it is to win, surely there are better runners out there. But you can't win if you don't play!