Getting In Shape For Spring Running Races

FasterSkierMay 22, 2004

After the nordic ski racing season wraps (Michigan Cup races went through
March 21 this year due to excellent late season snow), I try to get in shape
to run the 5/3 (Sponsoring Bank, Fifth Third Bank, isn't that something ?)
25km River Bank Run in Grand Rapids, MI, concurrently the USATF 25km
National Championship. I normally have a tough time getting my road running
mileage volume up in time to add speedwork, while avoiding sickness. It
follows a pretty demanding ski season which seems to take a lot out of me.
This year I made some changes to my training and set a Personal Record.

In the past I had tried a 3-week taper from my marathon training program.
However, without the 18 week buildup, I lacked the depth of training to
benefit from the taper, and I was flat on race day. Last year I tried a 2
week taper, from a higher mileage program, in effect not a taper. Tough to
tell if it worked for sure. Race day 2003 was 60F, sunny and 100% humid –
not my favorite weather – give me a 20F snow day anytime ! It turned into
the “Run to the Hospital.” I spoke with one racer / victim after the race
this year. He was not able to get into shape for this year's race, as he had
been in the hospital for 3 days, taking on 15 bags of IV's after last years
Run to the Hospital. He was basically still recovering from last year's race

This year I followed Hal Higdon's Half-Marathon training plan from It only has you out there 5 days a week, and peak mileage
was only about 35 miles per week. So I compensated for it by adding a
distance day on one of those off days, training six days a week, to which I
have grown accustomed in marathon & ski training. I also sprinkled in
distance in various places in order to get the mileage volume up a bit (like
taking the long way to the track & home). However, I trained less time,
mileage, volume & frequency than in the past. I made up for it with fewer
long runs, but far more more intensity. Each week I had a goal pace run, a
threshold run, track intervals, two long runs, one recovery run, and one day
off. That was a busy schedule !

I knew this plan would give me the best opportunity for success at the 25k
distance. What I cut out were the 18 to 20 mile runs, and the attending
longer recovery periods. I would go out for a tough hilly fast 14 miler one
day and follow it up on the track the next, with a threshold workout the
next day. Bam, bam, bam. No room for Lydiard hard – easy theory. I knew that
this would increase my anaerobic / lactic threshold and also increase my V0
max. I would need these more than I would for a fall marathon, so I didn't
worry too much about not getting in my 20's. I got a couple 16's and 17's
though. And I ran at least a 14er each week. And I ran two 5k road races as

My peak week was “only” 58 miles, but it was intense:

Monday 5 miles – SMF, or Super Mellow Five I like to call it
Tuesday 4 x 1600 repeats @ 90 – 95% on the track, with 10k warmup / cooldown
Wednesday 14 miles – not slow nor easy – finishing at goal pace @ 80%
Thursday 0
Friday 5 miles – at goal pace on a measured rails to trails paved path to
calibrate race pace w/1.5 mile warmup & cooldown
Saturday 5k race flat out as much as possible
Sunday 17 mile run

Race day dawned just barely rain-free & 48F, but windy. I actually wore
gloves the entire time, but also wore the singlet. I left my HRM @ home, and
I eschewed splits for the first time. It was freeing to race on the roads
like a ski racer. On the Birkie trail, there may be the occassional
kilometer splits but we don't check those because they include things like
Bitch Hill that throw off the math, so we don't bother. Plus, I tend to
panic when I see an uphill split and it is slower than I wish. So I just
raced by feel and it felt much purer and I was able to focus more. I was
able to get to the turnaround after mile 6 feeling the best ever, the top of
Maynard hill before mile 10 without the typical lactic lockdown, and run
smoothly through the 5k of rollers into downtown with still enough in the
tank to run the final 3.5 miles at a pace that was 7 seconds per mile faster
than my average for the race. Importantly, I was able to reel in fellow
racers in the closing 5k which is a sign of good training & a well run race.
Chip time had me at a PR by over 4 minutes, and best yet, I beat my time
from exactly 20 years before, when I ran as a Junior in High School (while I
was training for the 800m !) 181st overall leaves just 81 runners to knock
off next year to meet my next goal for this race. Very pleasing results.

Summer plans include: sprinkle in weekly rollerskiing, attend the June John
Aalberg clinic hosted by my ski club GRNST, and pile on the road miles as
much possible to prepare for Chicago on October 8, while maintaining core
strength & upperbody strength, while balancing work & family.

Dell Todd


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