Negative Splits: The Sara Slattery Session

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve brought you a Negative Splits weekly workout, but I think we came back pretty strong with this one. If you’re not familiar with Sara Slattery, the former University of Colorado standout, then this little excerpt (from a Colorado Athletics website) might sum it up quite nicely:

Slattery is no stranger to the University of Colorado as she was a 10-time All-American as a member of the cross country and track & field teams. Slattery is a two-time national champion as well, winning the indoor 5,000-meter run title in 2003 and the outdoor 10k in 2005. She was also a member of two NCAA Cross Country Championship winning teams in 2000 and 2004. While at CU, Slattery set four school records in the mile (4:40.35), 3k (9:07.16), 5k (15:39.25) and the outdoor 5k (15:24.97).

Wow. It’s humbling having an ass-kicking machine such as her on our site. Enough rambling, let’s let Sara take us through an 800m workout she did back in 2007.

A few weeks before the Olympic Trials this summer, I tore my hamstring and was not able to compete in the Olympic Trials, summer track or the summer and fall road races. It has taken me most of the summer to recover and rehab from this injury. Currently, I have been building up my mileage and have not been doing any interval sessions or workouts.

So, I decided to include a workout that prepared me for one of my best performances. In 2007, I won the Pan American Games 10,000m in Rio de Janero, Brazil. The previous winter, I was injured with a stress fracture from falling on the ice training in Boulder. Because of that injury I was fitter later in the season and the timing worked out well with the Pan American Games.

Sara at the 2007 CVS Downtown 5k, courtesy of Scott Mason Photography

The Workout: 8x800m with 2:30 recovery trying to descend each interval so your last interval is the fastest interval. I did this workout in Boulder, Colorado (which is at 5400ft elevation) with Shayne Culpepper, who I often trained with in 2007. I was preparing for both the 5K and 10K that summer and this workout is a great strength builder. The workout starts at 10k race pace and goes down to faster than 5K pace by the end. Shayne and I alternated leading intervals. It was so nice having her there, which made the workout go by very fast and it was much easier than doing it on my own.

Interval 1: 2:31. Shayne led this interval. I felt a little sluggish and was breathing harder than I thought I would. It is funny because I often feel better as the workout goes on and the first interval can be the hardest for me.

Interval 2: 2:30. Oddly enough it felt easier leading the interval. I guess that is not odd as I am often a front-runner. I felt a little looser on this 800 and my breathing was much more smooth.

Interval 3: 2:28. It is really nice alternating leads and is great practice for race situations and getting comfortable sitting behind other runners and relaxing into a pace. I could tell both Shayne and I were feeling much more comfortable.

Interval 4: 2:26. My legs are starting to turnover much easier and I negative split this interval going through in 74 and finishing in 72. Shayne was right with me and we work really well together.

Interval 5: 2:25. We went through a little faster in 73 and finished in 72.

Interval 6: 2:23. This interval my legs were getting a little tired but the faster pace started to feel better.

Interval 7: 2:19. The last intervals make me nervous sometimes because I used to push too hard in the early intervals and blow up at the end of the workout. That is why this workout is so great for me and others, because it really makes you practice starting more conservatively and increasing the pace each interval so you are finishing fast. This interval felt great and I was excited for the last one.

Interval 8: 2:17. This last interval I went through in 70 and finished in 67. It felt great and I had great leg turnover at the end of the workout.

Photo courtesy of Lance Koudele and Native Eyewear

This workout gave me a lot of confidence. I felt very strong and ready to run a 10K, but also felt confident I had the strength and speed for the 5K. I ended up winning the 10K at the Pan American Games in a meet record performance of 32:50 (in 85 degree weather and 80 percent humidity). I also ran the 5K in Stolkholm, Sweeden two weeks later in 15:17 and was second to Shalane Flanagan at the CVS 5K Road Championships in Providence, Rhode Island. Workouts like this really helped me maintain my strength and speed.

Man, she came back strong after some down time that winter. I love a good negative split workout! Ratcheting up the pace little by little so you’re producing your fastest splits at the end will not only get you race ready physically, but mentally as well. You always want to end on a high note and that’s exactly what Sara did here.

We wish Sara a speedy recovery from that torn hamstring and look forward to seeing her compete again in the near future. Sara is currently sponsored by Native Eyewear, and can be found on Twitter (@SARASLATRUNS).

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