After a successful provincial xc championship that saw 4 of our club runners move on to national school championships (Jullien Flynn, Melanie Myrand, Francois Jarry to CIS and Nassim Ennabaoui to CCAA), we moved back into build mode for the next two weeks. The goal of this block was to max out our aerobic work for the fall, and build the strength to be ready to shift to some slightly different stuff in the new year.
Monday we went to Summit Circle, a road loop of about 2.4k in Westmount, a neighbourhood that is well-off and so their roads are low-traffic and well ploughed. It's not snowing yet, but this will be a key spot for us in the winter months. The workout was a simple 30min run at steady state pace. This is a fast aerobic pace between marathon pace and half-marathon pace (aka tempo), let's call it 30k race pace. The idea with it being a little slower than traditional tempo is that we can build up the volume of it a bit more. Asking people to run (eventually) 40-50min of tempo is not too bad for some high end runners, but steady state is close enough for our group. People tend to run at a natural pace for the load given, however, so even if I say "30min steady" for some that just means "30min at a pace that you can handle for 30min." It's not a race pace, but it is probably faster than the prescribed effort of about 30k race pace. That's fine. Some were not able to handle 30min of sustained running at this sub-maximal pace. So they did between 20 and 25min. Again, the pace they set for themselves filled the time. It's kind of like when Lydiard was asked "how fast are they doing those intervals? How many will they do?" and he replied: "I don't know, and they will do enough." Or something like that.
Wednesday we went to Jeanne Mance park, another loop, this time about a mile around on a sidewalk/bike path. It can get a little busy but the advantage is that it is close to McGill and it is lit. There's a bit of a gradual hill on either side which is nice to get some variation in. The workout was divided into two groups. The longer distance group did 8-10x1min at 10k pace and 2min at marathon pace. The shorter distance group did 10x10sec fast and 50sec steady. The trick was they had to yell "Gear up!" and "Gear down!" at each change of pace. I asked them to do this for two reasons. 1) Sometimes this workout tends to flatten out, and people end up just running somewhere in the middle. That's ok: it would be a tempo run. But the goal here is to move back and forth across the threshold, purposely faster and purposely slower. So the change of pace is important. 2) It puts their mind on something else. It's not complete dissociation, but it makes them think of yelling instead of hurting, which kind of just automates the hurt. If you can automate the hurt, you can race pretty well.
Saturday the group was joined by the remaining varsity runners. Despite the painfully early hour of 9am (gasp!) they rolled the workout just fine. This one was a bit complicated in execution, but amounted to essentially a fartlek. Here's what we did: 12min, 9min, 6min at cruise pace. Recovery was jog back to the start of the 1500m loop (a tough, hilly, gravel loop on the mountain). The catch is that you MUST run in your assigned group (divided by fitness) except on certain spots (the hill in the middle, the loop at the far end, the hill near the start) where you are allowed to surge. The idea is that each segment (12min, 9min and 6min) is a mini race, but you can only race in certain spots. This gets the mind used to the common state one might find oneself in during a cross country race of being stuck. The goal of the workout is to give you a specific spot where you can get unstuck. So you worry less about it the whole time, and again, the decision is automated. You don't keep making bargains with yourself: I'll hang here until the next turn, ok the next hill... You have a pre-determined time when you attack. Anyway, it seemed to workout nicely. The feedback was positive from the group.
Next week the plan is more long workouts. :)