As you may have noticed, Allison McCabe (GBTC) has been tearing it up on the roads lately. She won the Jim Kane Sugar Bowl in Dorchester way back in July, then placed third at the Carver USATF-NE Grand Prix race. You may have also seen this interview from Carver:
Allison’s current situation seems to be pretty unique, especially for someone winning races. It seemed appropriate to add a little more (as far as background story goes) to this one, as I think the training plan overall would be an interesting read, in addition to this specific workout that is the focus here. Let’s let Allison tell us how she does.
My most recent stress fracture healed in the winter, so I returned to running in January. Since January I have been only running 3 days a week. I do the team workouts on Tuesday and Thursday and on Saturday either a race or short tempo run. I substitute runs with cross training. I’m in the pool Monday, Wednesday, Friday and bike on Sunday. I do no regular runs and no long runs. When I do run, it’s a workout or race. I try to do only quality running. I do about 17-18 miles per week.
The doctors say I’m at high risk for continuing to get stress fractures. I went many years with no injuries and then recently got 3 stress fractures within 15 months. I plan to continue this run/cross training cycle. As the cross-country season nears, I will join the distance team for Tuesday workouts, which will be longer intervals with less recovery and lower intensity. I will add longer tempo runs on Saturdays, but I still plan to keep my mileage low.
Dave Callum is her coach over at the GBTC and he had this to say about her current situation:
Allison came off running a PB in the 1500 in June of 2010 and has since battled several foot stress fractures due to some abnormal foot anatomy. We lowered her weekly mileage significantly, replacing it with mostly pool training, in hopes of minimizing the risk of further fractures. Prior to this series of injuries, Allison would balance her weekly training with one 800-1500m workout with the other being a longer 3k-5k oriented workout. We thought focusing on the speed and lower volume might keep her injury-free over the long haul, so she began training with the 800m group at both practices each week.
Essentially, her only mileage is now just on the track during twice a week workouts, and so we have focused that time on specificity and speed. Certainly this made training with purpose even more important considering Allison was used to getting in as much as 60 plus miles per week. Her aerobic work is now focused in the pool.
Since returning to running with this modified training plan, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to keep my fitness up. Especially since other distance runners do so much mileage. When I first talked with coach Dave about this plan, we weren’t sure if I’d be able to run the 1500 and thought maybe we should stick to the 800m. I only did a few races in the winter and they were not that great. Then I took time off in March and April due to sickness. I was still feeling sick in mid-April and I didn’t think I’d be able to race at all. I thought for sure I would end up missing another track season (luckily by the last week in April I finally starting feeling better).
I had many doubts about being able to keep up in workouts and how my limited running would affect me in a race. But in each workout I was able to keep up and run reasonable times so I was surprised. I found that the cross training helps me recover more quickly and my legs always feel fresh. It will be interesting to see what I can do in cross country, since the research always says its important to have a base and do lots of miles. I haven’t had a decent base in awhile.
If the cross training keeps me from getting injured, then I am sticking with it. Some running is better than no running.
This is a workout I did on Tuesday evening, June 19 in preparation for Club Track Nationals. I did this at the Madison High School Track in Roxbury. This was a Greater Boston Track Club practice night and I trained with the 800m group. On this particular night, I was with Jessica Klett and Chris Blondin.
I started with a 20 min. warm up followed by 4 x 100m strides. Then Jess and Chris and I met with Coach Dave Callum to discuss the workout plan.
The workout was:
1000m (3 min. rest)
200m (1 min. rest)
200m (6 min. rest)
800m (3 min. rest)
200m (1 min. rest)
200m (6 min. rest)
My goal was to run the 1000m under 3:10 and the 800m under 2:28. My paces were:
1000 – 3:06, 200 – 34, 200 – 34, 800 – 2:25, 200 – 34, 200 – 34, 600 – 1:48
Coach Dave, about this workout specifically:
This workout is one of my favorites. We will often do variations of this work during the season, leaning toward race simulations at the end of the season and in the earlier months we replace the 200s with longer distances (like 500s and 400s) to push those acidity limits. Our goal is to become comfortable with race paces, become more confident in running at goal pace, and build lactic threshold.
Back to Allison, to take us through the details:
Chris and Jess led the workout and I followed closely behind. I was especially pleased with the 800m because our first lap was a 74 but we were able to come back in a 71. For the longer intervals I finished with Jess and Chris and it felt comfortable. However, Jess and Chris were ahead of me on the 200s. My raw speed isn’t as good as it used to be.
Up until this point I hadn’t done many intervals over 600m so I really wanted to run decent times for the 1000m and 800m. I was training for the 1500m, so being able to run two longer intervals close to mile pace gave me confidence. With Coach Dave Callum we do a lot of split 800s or split 1000s which I really like. This helps stimulate the feeling of a race, when you need to pick up the pace the last 200m while still being tired from the previous interval.
We were trying to get max recovery for the longer intervals. The goal for the 600m was 1:46-1:50. However, I wasn’t really sure what I could do for the 600 since it was at the end of the workout and I was feeling pretty tired. My goal was to run under 1:50 and I did, so I was satisfied. I usually tend to focus on the longer intervals as opposed to the shorter, since it will give me more confidence to race a 1500m.
Overall I was pleased with the workout, even though I didn’t hit the goal times for the 200s. The target paces for the 200s were 32-43 sec, so I was still in the low end of the range, but my teammates were running about 31/32. In the past I would’ve been able to hit 32 easily.
This workout was a confidence booster since I ran decent paces off little running. After this workout I felt much more confident and ready for club nationals. I then told myself not to worry about my mileage and that I’m still capable of racing a good 1500.
At Club Track Nationals I ended up finishing in fifth place with a 4:33.59, which is about four seconds off my personal best of 4:29. I ran aggressively, put myself in good position from the start and was on PR pace until the final 200m. I struggled in the end of the race and fell off the lead pack; my legs just locked up. However, I was happy that I went for it. It would have been nice to stay with the pack, but I did my best and it’s just where my fitness is now. Hopefully next year I’ll have more of a base to help me. I was satisfied with my performance considering my training has been limited over the last couple of years.
Closing thoughts from Coach Dave:
Considering the change in training, I thought the transition might be tough for Allison, but she has responded very well by season’s end. A fantastic new PR in the 800 of 2:14 in June was a big improvement, and ending the season with her 4:33 was quite decent as a 5 second season best and just 4 seconds off her lifetime best. Now transitioning back to road racing, her long distances have been quite good as she continues to train carefully, specifically and with purpose. I am quite pleased with Allison’s progress in her first year back from her injuries and look forward to a solid XC before getting back to the track this indoor season!
So now you know why you may not see her out on the roads on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean she’s not somewhere busting her butt to make sure she’s ready to roll come race day. Hopefully this approach continues to pay dividends for Allison at future races, and hopefully we see more of her here.