Brett Ely has come back with avengence since her injury induced DNF at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston.  If you thought she was done, you were wrong.  Dead wrong.  Ely has run some pretty fast 10k’s recently, winning both the James Joyce Ramble and race #4 in the USATF-NE GPS, the Newton 10k.

In the below recap, Ely recounts a workout that she did the Wednesdsay prior to her Newton 10k victory.  Below Ely’s recap, Terry Shea, her coach offers the thinking behind the work.  Coach Shea and Ely herself share specific details about the workout that led to her victory.  Shea, at the end of his report, offers us some bonus material.  He recaps what Ely did yesterday, just three days removed from last Sunday’s race.  And don’t skip over Shea’s footnotes at the end of the page.

Ely at the 2012 marathon trials. Photo by Mike Davi.

First, let’s hear from Ely.

Our BAA team track workouts are every Wednesday night, and Terry sends out an email on Tuesday evening so we know what’s on tap. The scheduled workout for the evening was two sets of 1k-2k-1k or alternately a light fartlek run for those just returning to workouts. Upon arrival to the track on Wednesday, it turned out that due to various recent races and travel, I was the only one looking to do the track option. Enter Teresa McWalters, an Impala transplant, honorary Unicorn, and stud runner who was warming up with us before doing her own workout: 3x2miles on the marked loop of the Charles River. I quickly checked in with Terry and we both agreed that T-Mac’s company couldn’t be passed up, so I switched my plan to the 2-mi repeats. Since I had a 10k race in just a few days, he suggested capping my workout at 2 repeats.

It is interesting to note Ely’s flexibility in her workouts.  Obviously, she is not married to a particular session.

After a 3-mile warmup and a few light strides, we began our first interval along the first 2 mi of our 4.2 mi loop. The goal was ~5:45 pace and we comfortably clicked off splits in that range (5:43,5:48) while navigating our way through bike commuters, couples out for an evening stroll, and puddles that the recent rain had left behind. We followed up with a 2-minute jog and began the next repeat at the 2-mi mark. Our goal was to stay controlled, but to ease the pace down a little. Our first mile was 5:39, and we stayed on that pace through 1.5 (8:28) before picking things up in the final half mile to hit 5:34 for the second mile. At this point I still felt good and wasn’t quite ready to call it a day, but didn’t want to overwork and use up my race effort for the week. So, I split the difference and went one final mile. I tried to keep the pace steady (especially since Teresa was doing a full 2-mi and I was conscious of not messing up her workout), and our first half mile was similar to the previous repeat (~2:48). I opened up a little in the last half mile and finished the repeat in 5:28, feeling like I put in some good work but that I’d be able to bounce back quickly.

A true sportswoman, Ely works with her training partners as opposed to against them.

I finished up by running the loop to meet Teresa at the 2-mi mark and then cooled down back with her. I don’t mind working out on my own, but I also really appreciate having ‘battle buddies’ in my BAA teammates and other Boston-area women. We’ve got a good group who can work together toward a common goal without creating an overly competitive environment for workouts.

In all, I got in five miles of work averaging  just faster than 10k race pace, and each successive interval got quicker. Feeling the relative comfort of the splits in the 5:30s gives me confidence that I can improve on my Newton 10k performance at the BAA 10k next weekend.


11:32 (5:43, 5:48)      11:13 (5:39, 5:34)          5:28

Now let’s hear from Shea, who offers an insightful look at the workout.  Pay attention, you can certainly learn a thing or two about training philosophy.

Last week’s workout was a bit outside of the norm.  It was altered from the original plan of…

2 x ( 1k-2k-1k) with 1 lap (2:00) within sets and 2 laps (4:00) between sets.  Paces:  5k race pace on the 1k and 10k pace on the 2k

…to 2m repeats off the track. 

The basic rationale behind the above (originally planned session) was simply to get practice at 10k rhythm (in anticipation of the BAA 10k which is coming up) as well as to precede and follow that 10k pace work with some more intense 5k effort.  Brett has no lack strength at 10k and above paces, and an excellent sense of the appropriate effort for the 10k-pace assigned 2ks, so it was really more the 5k pace intervals to challenge her and force her out of her comfort zone a bit more.

Teresa conveyed to me a few days in advance of her goal of 3 x 2m for some day during the week, either at usual Wednesday night practice time or possibly some other time during the week.  She did not have a strict time goal, but anticipated something in the 5:30-5:45 range. 

I was fully on board with Brett to switch things up by going from the track to the River to join Teresa.  First, Brett knows herself very well and she could see this as a workout that 1) was appropriate for her current fitness level and 2) fit into the training goals for the remainder of this road racing season.  Second, while a plan is good, and generally sticking to a plan even better, I also think having some degree of flexibility is needed, especially to maximize the benefits of group workouts.  This was clearly a situation where two athletes could come away each with a better session in the books compared to doing two different things alone.  And third, 2 mile repeats rank highly among my favorite workouts ( 4 x 2 mile tempo intervals with 2min rest is a staple workout for our team).

I emphasized focusing on 2 x 2mile, giving the option for the proceeding beyond the 2nd interval but only if the first two were fairly moderate efforts.  Knowing Teresa, if she gives a range from 5:45 down to as fast as 5:30, chances are the workout will get to 5:30 and possibly start off right there.  And if that was going to be the case this particular evening then a full third interval at that pace might be a bit overboard (capable of, but maybe not needed)*, especially with a “moderate-priority” race (my own classification) coming up on Sunday (Newton 10k).

As for the rest between intervals, it was really going to depend upon where the paces fell in that 5:30-5:45 range.  I encouraged Brett to help control pace to more the 5:45 end at least on the first one.  In this case, I felt that 2 minutes would be sufficient and they would be ready to go at that time.  However, if the first was more aggressive, then she was given anywhere from 2-4 minutes rest in order to match on repeat number what was hit on the first interval.**  In the end this is how things played out, with needing just 2 minutes rest after that first interval.

This was a night where I stayed on the track, saw no checkpoints on the River, and so I only got the report once the workout was complete.  Brett looked great as I saw her jog back to the track.  I suspected it went well even before she said a word.  It was great to hear the workout had gone so well, both in terms of the times run and how they felt.  As it turned out, Brett found a nice compromise with going beyond 2x2m by joining Teresa for the first mile of the 3rd repeat, to make it a 2m-2m-1m.

The workout validated her good groove of recent and was further confirmed by her splits.  Brett was coming off of a great week of running while out in the Bay area and all that time on the west coast appeared to be spent feeling good/strong while running (be that easy runs or the light effort-based workouts).  The data generated by this workout demonstrated that her good feelings were legitimate.  Furthermore, she did this alongside a woman that raced a 32:50 10000m earlier this spring.  The times that our athletes have been able to complete workouts with Teresa produce confidence in their own fitness levels.  I suspect that after Brett did this workout with Teresa she felt that she could go into Sunday (Newton10k) feeling ready to race anyone that might show.  And now we see that was in fact the case.

Ely at the 2011 Rhody 5k. Photo by Ted Tyler.

And now Shea gives The Level some bonus material: Ely’s workout that was completed yesterday.

In the end, Brett would end up getting a mix of 10k and 5k pace efforts (the original plan) the following week.  Done on the River (so a bit slower than if done on the track by about 5-7s per mile) the following workout was done on Wednesday 6/13 (this time Teresa tagging along with Brett on the planned group workout):

2 x Mile @ 10k, 1/2 mile recovery, 1/2 mile @ 5k, 1/2 mile jog

on the 2.5 Charles River loop with TMac. All continuous for ~5.1 mi total.

mile.  5:39     3:24 (rec)

½.  2:38     3:50 (rec),      36s back to start

mile.  5:38     3:29 (rec)

½.  2:35      3:29 (rec)

From L to R: Shea, his wife Carly, and Ely. They may eat cupcakes but their workouts are anything but. Photo by Mariko Neveu.

 * Footnote 1 - For most workouts (~80%-90% of workouts) I prescribe an 80-90% overall effort guideline.  This means that the workout ends when the athlete has reached 80-90% of what they have on that night.  For instance, if there is a marathon pace tempo planned for a target range of 10-12 miles, then the workout should only go to 12 miles if the athlete feels they have another few miles in them.  I typically do not want to see one go to the well in a workout (only on occasion should this happen, and usually those select cases are to gain more mental toughness than any physical benefits that might be gained from one single session).  This extra 10-20% that is not tapped into then gets bottled up and goes toward the eventual race.  Racing and workouts (most workouts at least) should be two distinct efforts. 

** Footnote 2 - I mention “matching what was just done” (or something like that).  Basically I always want the workout to be run evenly or progress to slightly faster paces as the workout goes along.  Going backwards is generally a sign of a poorly executed (or poorly planned-out) workout.