By Kristen Barry
As we grind through the cold, dark, and snowy winter months I thought it would be fun, informative and perhaps inspiring to ask a few top New England area runners about their favorite workouts and glean some insights from their training. Below are three workouts from well-known athletes and what each likes about the workout they chose to share.
Dirigo R.C. (Portland, Maine)
Gomez had a stellar 2013, earning him New England Runner’s Maine Runner of the Year. His performances included a 2:22:53 at the Boston Marathon, a win at the Maine Marathon, and sever-al blazing 5ks, including a 14:18 at the Westfield Fast 5k.
Favorite Workout: Gomez’s favorite workout is marathon-specific. He begins with a long warm up of 5-7 miles and then runs 4 x 5k at progressively faster paces with a 3 minute jog in between each 5k. The 5ks are broken down like this:
Target marathon pace (MP) plus 5 seconds per mile;
Target MP minus 5 seconds per mile;
Target MP minus 10 seconds or more per mile without going into total fatigue.
Gomez finishes this workout with a two mile cooldown to bring the total mileage to 21 to 23.
When: 4 to 5 weeks out from a target marathon. Gomez warns to use this workout sparingly, “I do this workout once. It’s a heck of a workout and it requires some mental fortitude and this certainly wouldn’t be my first meat and potatoes workout for my marathon build up.”
Why: “Each time I’ve done this workout I’ve gone from ‘I’m really not confident about my goals for this race’ to ‘I can do this.’ It’s a hard but not impossibly hard workout and if I can complete it, it’s a huge confidence booster.”
What he likes about this workout: “The harder efforts are coming after I’ve already taxed the body and legs for a while, so it mimics the kind of effort I’ll need to put in during the later stages of the marathon. It also gives me confidence to go faster than my goal pace within the context of the race. If I have a fast mile in the middle of the race I won’t freak out about it. Finally, finishing that last 5k hard simulates the kind of kick I’d like to have at the end of a marathon.”
Central Mass Striders (Lowell, Massachusetts)
Jenkins has been one of the top runners in New England and the nation for years. His accolades are too numerous to list but include a 7th place finish at the 2008 Olympic Marathon Trials (2:14:56) and being named New England Runner of the Year multiple times.
Favorite Workout: Jenkins’ favorite workout is any form of alternations. He explains, “This is a workout where you run intervals but you run the recovery at or near tempo pace, turning the whole workout into both an interval session and a tempo workout.” The workout can be tailored to fit the specific needs of any race. For a 5k Jenkins might do 3 miles alternating 200s at a quick jog and 400s at around 3k to 5k pace. A marathon workout might entail alternating 1000s at marathon pace and 1000s just a bit slower than marathon pace for 20k.
When: Jenkins uses these workouts liberally, about once every other week, with the specifics changing depending on where he is within a training cycle. “Exactly what type of alternation I might do depends on what type of race I’m preparing for. In general this type of workout gets you ready for most anything from 5k to the marathon.”
Why: Alternation workouts closely mimic the demands of racing. Jenkins explains, “In intervals you can often force yourself to run very fast but not improve nearly as much when you race. A workout like this provides three major benefits: 1. it makes the effort and stress of intervals more specific to the challenges you face in races; 2. you work your body in multiple ways in one session— you work on aerobic fitness while still get-ting some work at race pace and some anaerobic work as well; 3. finally, recovering at a fast pace — within 5% to 10% of marathon pace — has a massive impact on your fitness.
What he likes about this workout: Jenkins sees rapid improvements in his fitness by incorporating alternation workouts. “When you first try these workouts you get crushed but very quickly your body figures out the new demands and you learn to recover at a faster pace and see monster improvements. My first cycle of these I took my half marathon PR from 1:07 to 1:04. No other workout gives results like this.”
Dirigo R.C. (Falmouth, Maine)
Piers is a three-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier and a two-time national masters marathon champion. She was the top American and 10th overall finisher at the 2012 Boston Marathon. Her PR is 2:36:59.
Favorite Workout: Piers’ favorite workout is 10 x mile at half marathon goal pace with one minute rest between each mile and two minutes rest between miles 5 and 6.
When: Piers performs this workout about 3 weeks out from a goal half marathon.
Why: This workout is a classic cruise intervals workout. Keeping the rest interval short provides a stimulus to increase lactate threshold because lactate levels remain high throughout the entire session. But, the brief recovery allows Piers to tackle more volume than she could during a straight tempo run.
What she likes about this workout: Piers likes this workout because she amasses a high volume of miles at goal pace. “When I finish this workout I feel ready to run a half marathon. I typically end up racing right around whatever pace I averaged for the repeats. It’s a high quality workout that leaves me feeling well-prepared for a half marathon. When things get tough during the race my mind wanders back to this workout and it helps me get through any rough patch I might face.”
This article originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 2014 issue of Level Renner. Get your free subscription today (box in upper right portion of screen). Next issue drops in a matter of days.