1 2 3

Negative Splits: The Sandu Rebenciuc Session

Sandu Rebenciuc competes for the Greater Springfield Harriers these days. Back in the fall he was one of the key cogs in the GSH masters cross country machine that conquered New England and came in second at nationals. Sandu was 6th (and incredibly was only the 4th fastest on his team that day) at the New England XC championships, running 27:09 for 8k. A couple of weeks later in Kentucky he ran 34:45 for 10k (16th place), helping his team to a second place finish.

Courtesy of New York Road Runners

Courtesy of New York Road Runners

The workout Sandu chose for this segment comes from his time out in Colorado training under a former world record holder. It’s a nasty workout, done at altitude, and with a lot of firepower out there on the track with him.

The workout was 400m-2000m-1600m-1200m-800m-400m and it was given to me by my coach, and former 10,000m world record holder, Arturo Barrios. I did this workout in the spring of 2001, several weeks after moving to Boulder, CO. I also remember doing it on several other occasions, as well.

The reason I remember this particular workout, however, is because it was the first time that I was able to keep up with front pack, and feel like I was finally fully acclimatized to the altitude. Some of my teammates from the Army WCAP team and a few other runners in our training group had been living there for some time, so I had pretty much played catch up until that day.

The group that one day consisted of Shawn Found (28:30 10k), Clint Wells (27:56 10k / 8:23St), Silvio Guerra (27:43 10k and 2:09 Marathon), Teddy Mitchell (28:47 10k), Chris England (13:42 5k), Phil Castillo (2:19 Marathon), Tom Reese (8:40sh Steepler), myself and a couple of other guys who jumped in for a couple of laps at a time.

Although we were training for different events, everyone could benefit from this workout, especially since it was early in the spring. The workout was at Potts Field, the Colorado University track , and it started sometime around 8am.

400m – We started many of our workouts with a 64-65 sec. quarter just to get our legs going. At altitude you often need a “prep lap” to sort of ease your body into a workout that contains longer intervals. (2 min rest)
2000m – I remember running 69 and 70sec laps for the 2k with a couple of the stronger runners (Clint and Silvio) doing most of the work up front. I don’t know the exact time, but I think it was in the range of 5:48 -5:50, which is pretty decent at 5300 ft of altitude. (4 min rest)
1600m – I remember my exact time for this interval. It was 4:36 as we hit 68 and 69 seconds for each lap. The rest was three minutes and legs and lungs were burning right about then.
1200m – Our goal was to run about a little faster per lap than in the previous interval. So we ran in the range of 3:25 for what might have possibly been the most difficult interval of the workout. ( 2 min rest)
800m – We hit 2.14 for the half and I remember feeling quite comfortable running 67 seconds for the two laps. (2 min rest)
400m –At least a couple of the guys could run under 60 if they wanted, but we settled for a 62-63 seconds effort for the last interval.

For several weeks prior to that workout I had felt poorly, mostly because of the altitude, of course. I was very happy that I could finally do a workout in the thin air of the Rockies without hyperventilating and being lightheaded like a novice. I continued to “keep up” from that day on and ran a personal best of 8:32 later in the summer, at USATF nationals.

Courtesy of New York Road Runners

Courtesy of New York Road Runners

We normally like to get input from the coach, but it didn’t happen this time. Sandu explains:

I intentionally picked this workout to write about because I thought Arturo might comment on it; he pointed out a typo and said “it looks great” – that’s all I could get out of him:)

Oh well, maybe next time.

New Year’s Resolution: Bring Back Negative Splits

Hi from Level Renner. If you’re familiar with our site and/or magazine then you probably remember our weekly workout series Negative Splits. Unfortunately it’s been a few months since we’ve done it regularly but we really want to bring that segment back consistently.

In an attempt to line up as many segments as possible, we reached out to all of you to extend an invitation to be a part of it. Some of you have been a part of it before, but that’s okay.

So what do we need from you?

–       A detailed write up of a workout that you did
–       Some input from a coach or a training partner
–       A picture or two that you’re free to use (give photog credit where applicable and please no MarathonFoto-type shots)

We try to get recent stuff thinking that the details may be fresh in your mind, but the workout can be from anytime (as long as you can recall enough detail to make it work).

The goal of this is to not only provide training tips for our readers but also to get a glimpse inside the mind of the runner during one of their harder workouts.

For a look at a great example of one we did in the past, check out our Meagan Nedlo Session or the Brandon Newbould Session. Need to see more? You can celebrate our entire catalogue here.

If you’re interested, have any questions, or know of someone else who might be good for this, please email EJN.

We’re looking to restart this all in January (publish weekly on Thursdays), so please don’t hesitate!

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).

Negative Splits: The Katie DiCamillo Session

There’s a buzz in the air around Level headquarters these days. Items seem to be complimenting each other quite nicely, resulting in an infectious synergy, while at the same time the audience is expanding and creating even more opportunity.

In terms of synergy, our last edition of Negative Splits was a companion piece to the Bar Harbor article in the latest issue. This edition of also ties into the same issue, specifically Lesley Hocking‘s piece on the Natural Finish Line.

As far as the growth, we’ve picked up a lot of new followers since the last Negative Splits was published, and also developed a new relationship. Running-performance.com published our last Negative Splits and going forward they’ll probably feature something from Level Renner on their site every couple of weeks. This is a mutually beneficial relationship that we’re quite excited about!

This week’s edition of Negative Splits comes to us from Katie DiCamillo. Katie last appeared On The Level in a post about the Yankee Homecoming ten miler a couple of weeks ago. This is a workout that Katie did on Sunday August 19, 2012, in preparation for the NYC Marathon. We hope she wasn’t planning checking a bag!

It has been exactly one week since the Falmouth Road Race. It was a very hard effort for me; I worked on being aggressive early on in the race, which I tend not to do in the longer races. After the race, the coming week focused on building mileage.

On Wednesday I had my first twenty miler in preparation for the NYC Marathon! This will be my first marathon, so it is a completely new learning experience.  After, I had three days to recover and then a workout on Sunday. The twenty mile long run went well, but it took a lot out of my legs. They were craving a hard workout and something fast. This workout would hopefully loosen up the tightness from the long run.

Katie after the Yankee Homecoming 10 Miler

For this workout, I did not have a specific pace to hit. It’s simply running a hard effort for three minutes. As difficult as it is to just go out there and run, hoping that you are doing it right and making the most of your workout, I love this type of workout when your legs are tired from all the mileage.  It takes the pressure off hitting a specific time. This doesn’t mean I can jog around the park pretending to go fast -I have to do it like any other workout. My main goal for this workout is to get the past race and long run out of my legs; loosen them up so I can be ready for the next workout in three days. It is an effort in mental strength as much as physical-I am the only one out there who can push myself as hard as I can go. I think this type of workout will benefit me greatly when I start to train more for the long, grueling mental and physical trial that is the marathon.

Katie is coached by the one and only Ray Treacy, and he had this to say:

Every 14 days, we will do workouts geared towards 5k and 10k training…one week it might be 8x300m, 6x4mins, or 10x2mins. These helps to keep the legs moving fast while building up the mileage for the marathon.

Time to get ready for the workout, so back to Katie:

I got up somewhat early for a Sunday morning (I let myself sleep in until 830 am). It was a beautiful day with temperatures starting in the 60’s and not really getting any hotter than 72. So I decided to take my time and procrastinate with getting ready since I didn’t have to rush to beat the heat. I sipped two cups of coffee and I had something to eat to fuel for the workout.

I decided to do my workout on the Blackstone bike path in Lincoln, Rhode Island. This is one of my favorite places to run in RI, and I do most of my tempo runs and long runs here. The path is completely paved, is marked at every half mile, and has the river running along it on both sides.

The workout: 8 x 3 minute efforts with 2 minutes rest

I started with a 25 min warm up. My legs were a bit stiff, so I ran as long as it took to loosen them up. I did a little bit of stretching and put on my NB workout flats. After a few strides I was ready to workout!

As was mentioned earlier, the path is marked at each half mile. This enabled me to gauge how fast I was going for each interval. I would typically need to add another thirty seconds or so after passing the half to complete the full three minutes. Once I hit three minutes, I turned around and jogged back to the previous half-mile mark as a recovery before starting again.

The first few efforts were a bit slow and steady…my legs were very heavy but it felt glorious to be pushing hard and trying to run fast! Since I was doing these efforts on the road, I didn’t really know how fast I was going until I got to the half mile mark. I had to trust my instinct and stay comfortable for the first two minutes and pick it up in that last minute.  The last three reps were my best efforts. My times weren’t that much faster but I felt so much better than in the beginning.

The times for each half-mile were 2:34, 2:33, 2:35, 2:34, 2:33, 2:33, 2:32, 2:33, to which I then added an additional 30 seconds on each rep.

Overall I am happy with this workout. I started off shaky and not very comfortable at the beginning and I ended feeling much more confident and controlled in the reps. These type of short workouts help to flush out all the junk in my legs that make them feel heavy, and are amazing preparation for the long workout that will come later on in the week. It makes me excited to see how I’ll feel the rest of the week on my runs!

So much is made of the big, epic workout but it’s the smaller maintenance-type workouts that can be a difference maker. Not only was Katie getting in some quality running, but it was helping to set her up for a bigger workout later in the week. Although it’s not technically the same as what Lesley was getting at in her Natural Finish Line piece, it does share some similarities. Specifically, the fact that this one is getting you away from the monotony of the track and over-reliance on measured distances.

Thanks again to Katie (and Ray) and best of luck to her in NYC this fall!

Negative Splits: Special Edition

Well, we got stuck, and couldn’t quite line anybody up this week (I take full responsibility), but instead of just not giving you a workout, we decided to do something a little different. Two of the guidelines that I’ve set up for this are: 1.) don’t feature one of my workouts, since the Legion already hears enough from me anyway and 2.) try to showcase a recent workout. All guidelines went out the window this week!

That being said, this week’s workout is one that I did back on August 1, 2007. At the time, it was one of the tougher workouts I had ever done. Luckily I had enough in my training log to be able to go with it, making the age of it less of an issue. What also made this one jump out is it ties into the piece by me that will be showing up in the next issue of Level Renner (soon-to-be-released!). This the workout that caused ____, which unexpectedly  _____, eventually leading me to _____ and then to realize _______. If you want to fill in the blanks, you’ll just have to read the article. Basically it’s a companion piece, with all the details behind what set off a chain of events that changed the course of my life.

I hadn’t done a workout in a couple of weeks due to weekday races (Jim Kane Sugar Bowl on 7/19 & Blessing of the Fleet on 7/27), so it was gut-check time. My left foot was hurting so bad yesterday that I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do this today. I had never tried a road race longer than five miles in racing flats before, and by the end of the ten mile Blessing race, my feet were barking at me. I thought I might’ve needed a day off and ended up wasting about ten minutes or so attempting to ‘test’ my foot before leaving.

Finally was out the door for the warm-up, although it was questionable if one was even necessary. Temps were still in the high 80′s and it was VERY humid (at about 8:00 pm!). I was in the beginning of my mileage whore phase, so I didn’t let the weather alter the number that went onto the calendar (somewhat stupid now that I look back on it). I went to the usual spot, the sheep pastures and fields by Stonehill College, and tried to prepare the mind for the endeavor as the muscles warmed up (three miles).

My foot felt fine during the warm-up so now there was not even the slightest hesitation in my mind to go forward. At the track, I discovered the infield was crawling with activity. On a summer night at Stonehill I typically had the place to myself, but it didn’t matter since the kids (ended up being foreign exchange students) never got in my way. Anyway, on to the workout:

1 mi / 2 mi / 3 mi / 2 mi / 1 mi, all with 800 m jog rest

target splits: for the 1 mi, between 5:10-15, 2mi at 5:20 pace, 3 mi at 5:30 pace. here’s how it all went down:

1 mi: 5:12.2
2 mi: 10:40.3 (5:20.2, 5:20.1)
3 mi: 16:37.9 (5:38.2, 5:29.8, 5:29.9)
2 mi: 10:46.8 (5:24.8, 5:22.0)
1 mi: 5:05.0

This was done in preparation for the Chicago Marathon that fall and my ultimate goal was to run a 2:30 there. I wanted all of this done well under target marathon pace, and am just a fan of the ladder in general. I like getting faster work in early (making the legs tired for the longer intervals), followed up by more faster work on the other side (getting in faster work again after fatigue starts to set in). I think, if done right, this can be really helpful for a marathon.

I was more than a little worried about going out too hard in the beginning and putting myself in the hole for the rest of the workout, so I didn’t push for the 5:10. Pacing had always been a problem for me and I was new to these bulk workouts (and it was hotter than the devil’s taint out there), so I was more concerned with pace than usual. I just missed the target for the first mile, but it was close enough. The first one is always the toughest so in my mind I knew that hitting my targets should be much easier going forward. I’ll take a relaxed a 5:12!

The rest jog felt painfully slow and long (looking back on it, I definitely went heavy on the rest). I was ready to roll for the two mile interval, and I was able to stay relaxed here in hitting my goal of 10:40. I can see that the miles were pretty even, but that can be deceiving. I remember in this workout that there would always be one lap per mile that was off, and it left me sort of scrambling on the other laps to get back on track. I guess I liked making things harder on myself.

The three mile interval is where it got real interesting. I shot myself in the foot on the first mile of that interval (waaaay too slow). The rest of that interval was fine, although I did feel it more than I thought I would. I was tempted to to make the second and third miles of it faster to hit the overall target time (16:30), but decided against it because the 16:30 didn’t matter as much as hitting the individual 5:30′s did. The first was blown, no getting it back now, but I could still salvage the remaining two. So with a renewed focus, I made sure to hit my splits to close it out.

I was over the hump now, time to crank it up, right? Well, the second deuce wasn’t too bad. Again, the first mile was too slow and the second mile wasn’t too far off. I was happy that even though the first mile was slow, I was able to pick it up and bring it home respectably, as opposed to seeing the pace continually drop-off.

Now, it was time for the ‘cherry on top’, the last mile. I was torn between trying to rip it all-out, or just hitting my split. I was in the mood to find something out about myself and see what I had left (stupidity alert!!!). I decided to push it, but roll with it, so to speak; just see how the first lap went and take it from there. If I was feeling it, keep going after it. I went out in 76 and felt good, so I rolled with it. I was able to pretty much hit that split each time and felt pretty good in the process. It wasn’t an all-out, go the well type of effort, but i did push it. Finally done, I was filled with an excited kind of exhaustion. You alway want to end on a high note and that’s exactly how it felt to me.

I did a very slow two mile “cooldown” before heading back home, where the real fun began…

With the benefit of hindsight, we can analyze further: the rest intervals were all between 4:35 and 4:56. I think it was too much, except for maybe after the three miler. It might’ve been more beneficial to do 400m jog rest for the other rest periods. An argument could be made to keep it at that since it was so hot.

Also, since I had the track to myself, I ran the first one mile and the three mile interval in the normal direction, and ran both two milers and last mile going the opposite direction. If you’re able to (i.e. the track is clear), I recommend doing during a longer interval session so you’re not over-stressing the left leg on the turns.

We’re trying to line up people for the next few weeks and should return next Friday with our usual Negative Splits.

Negative Splits: The Chris Hamel Session

Chris Hamel is a 2006 graduate of Springfield College, where he ran track and cross country. He is now a self-coached runner competing for Whirlaway. We exchanged a few emails after he won our Twitter contest, and it was then that he proposed this workout for Negative Splits. It had two elements that I loved: a solid workout (with good personal insight) and he approached us about it. We love it when people bring stuff to us, it’s hard not be a fan of that enthusiasm.

That was his winning Tweet, btw. Back on topic, here’s Chris telling us about his marathon of a workout:

This workout was supposed to take place the day before, however I postponed it due to nasty weather. As the legion knows, weather in the spring in New England is a variable you must account for, and Saturday brought heavy rain and 42 degree temperatures. I braved the weather for 11.5 miles, and pushed the workout to Sunday.

I drove home to Methuen on Sunday to run on some old familiar roads near my parents’ house. After stopping at The Whirlaway store to pick up a new pair of Lunaracers, I decided it was finally time to begin the workout just before 4:00pm.

I took the first two miles warming up and shaking off the 2 hour ride home while debating on what the total volume should be, number of reps, and the recovery. I finally settled on a workout that Ryan Hall had used as an “endurance run”.

The Workout:

Goal: 3 x 5 miles @ sub 30:00 w/ 1 mile float between

Actual: 29:22 [6:38], 29:57 [7:17], 30:12

This workout was done in preparation for the 2010 Vermont City Marathon. My mileage for the three weeks leading up to this week of training was 93, 108, and 98. My mileage during this particular week of the workout was 117 (highest ever).

Chris in action at the Stowe 8 Miler

The weather was a comfortable 60 degrees. I rocked a t-shirt and some half tights (for the ladies). The first rep went very smoothly as I traveled across town. There were some rolling hills, but nothing to skew splits too badly. It was early, but I was encouraged by my apparent fitness.  Although at the time I felt like I nearly blew the whole workout on this first interval, as I got a little too excited running downhill on Pleasant Valley. I went right into my float mile and within a couple of minutes my heart rate (HR) had come down and I was ready for the next rep to begin.

The second rep of five miles was a bit more challenging. This rep was mostly uphill with some strong wind and rain. My legs had some trouble finding sub-six minute pace and I had to focus in order to keep good form. I hit my splits and goal of sub 30 minutes despite running for 3.5 miles uphill. At this point, I was 15+ miles in and feeling pretty tired. I took advantage of the second float mile, running just under 7:20 pace.  I also took a GU to practice for race day since I typically have trouble taking in calories during the marathon.

During the float mile I gave myself every reason to not do the next five miles of hard effort. I’m not sure what the determining factor was, but it could have been that the Boston Marathon was the following day. I sucked it up and went for it.

The third set was by far the most challenging and outright brutal of them all. The rain picked up and the temperature dropped a few degrees the entire time. My legs felt like jello through the first mile and into the second. My quads were burning just as much from the running as they were due to the rain. Some hope appeared in mile three as I transitioned through a rough patch into feeling relatively good. This feeling did not last long. Right around the fourth mile, my vision became a little hazy and it seemed as if curtains were being drawn from the periphery. I was starting to bonk. Having not eaten since before noon, with nineteen miles in the bank up to this point and not taking in any water, was taking its toll. I trudged on with my eyes fixed on the white line that marks the shoulder of the road as my guide. It took a lot of extra focus and concentration to make it through the end of the 5 miles. I finished the third and final set 12 seconds over my goal of 30 minutes.

There would be no cool down as I essentially stumbled the half-mile home.

A few hours later, after rehydrating and replenishing calories I was able to analyze the workout. I came to the conclusion that I was in pretty good shape (little did I know, the best shape of my life up to that point). I had a sense of accomplishment as I completed this workout at the end of my biggest mileage week ever.  I credit this workout as giving me the confidence I needed to run a PR at VCM.

Direct from Chris’ 2010 training log:

Really glad I got in this effort. There’s no more hiding. I’m in decent shape, but I can’t quite put a number on it. I could always start a “Predict my time for the marathon based off of this workout” thread on the R2W or Letsrun message boards- but I’ll pass. Vermont City Marathon 6 weeks from today.

Chris ran his marathon PR six weeks after this workout, running a 2:35:48 for 15th place overall at VCM. I love the excerpt from his training log and had to add that in. “There’s no more hiding,” reminds me of the line from Once A Runner about showing up on race day and being a man without an alibi. I also enjoy the thought of him starting that time prediction conversation on the Letsrun message board. Can you imagine the garbage that people would come back with there? For every serious answer he probably would’ve received about 200 obnoxious (or even insulting) ones. Nice workout Chris, thanks for sharing that with Level Legion!

Negative Splits: The Allison McCabe Session

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.

Allison continues:

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.

Allison finishing 3rd at Carver, courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky

Workout time!

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.

Negative Splits: The Jacob Edwards Session

I met Jacob Edwards back in 2010 at the Vermont City Marathon, and came away really impressed by him. He was only 23 at the time, but he still ran a 2:31 and came in tenth overall. Like I said, impressive! It made me think: ‘what was I doing when I was 23?’ Oh yeah…I wasn’t even running (another couch phase for me). Anyway, Jacob is now under the guidance of Scott Bessette (speaking of Scott, what are you doing on August 5th?) and looking to bust out some (even more) serious times in the near future.

A little about Jacob and this workout from his coach, Scott Bessette:

When I initially agreed to advise Jacob I quickly came to realize that he had some amazing talent (after all he is Johnny Kelly’s grandson). While Jacob had some impressive PR’s none of them jumped off the paper and we agreed to take a long-term approach to his overall goals. Getting Jacob to remain consistent over a 24 month period was the singular goal in order to take advantage of his hard training. The marathon build up in preparation for the Chicago Marathon in the Fall of 2011 was executed perfectly and we both believed he was capable of running sub 2:26. Between 30 and 35k Jacob had a GI issue that reduced him to a walk (effectively ending his race). Disappointed, he wanted to attempt another race to validate his training. Jacob ultimately decided on running Philly six weeks later. While the effort was present at Philly he never truly recovered from Chicago and the last miles were well off. Usually this is not a plan that I agree to, but in the end it is Jacob’s running and I am going to support his decisions.

Jacob crossing the line at the 2010 VCM.

Training leading up to this workout and upcoming 1/2 marathon had been “fine”; I think Jacob was continuing to feel disappointed about the Fall season races. This workout is a Ray Nelson special, I have been lucky enough to call him coach and absorb his knowledge and workouts over the last 6+ years. I have completed this workout at a few different times most notably the week of my best 1/2 at what used to be the Philly Distance Run.

Here’s Jacob to take you through his workout:

As a runner, repetition in workouts is never something that I have enjoyed. You might find this strange, as running by nature is a sport where you drive towards a singular goal with the same repetitive movement. However, my coach (Scott Bessette), has labeled a few workouts as “key” indicators to my fitness and gauges I can use to create some confidence when confidence is needed. Here is a story of one of these workouts.

My training was a bit lagging going into my first attempt at the half marathon for 2012 as two failed and emotional fall marathons caused a small chip in my left cuboid. This led to sub-par winter training and no serious work getting done till the last week in February. I got fit as training was going well through March, which was credited to a quick bump in miles (mid 90s) and very hard, long workouts. Moving into mid-April Scott and I were looking for a gauge to construct a race plan that we could take into the half. After a few long conversations, the workout Scott gave me was quite familiar; it’s been a staple in my pre-race training plan since he starting coaching me in 2010.


3mi with dynamic surges, easy mile, mile hard


3 mile 15:37, breakdown per mile of 3 laps @ 80 sec, 1 lap @ 72 sec

mile @ 4:45-4:52

For further clarity on this, the workout is essentially a three mile tempo run where the first 1200 of every mile is run at 5:20 mile pace then the fourth lap of the mile is run around 4:50 pace. This is repeated till the three mile is done. Then the mile jog is done slow and I get to run another mile on tired legs (not all out just hard).

Five days before my race (Tues. Apr 17) I rolled out of bed at 5:30AM and threw down some coffee and Peach Tea GU chomps (2x caffeine). For the first time all year the morning was not cold, in fact it was close to 60, but I still warmed up in a jacket and spandex, as I did not take the time to check the weather in the morning. My calves kept the knots in them from the night before and I just could not shake them loose with light running.

I always start from my apartment to a little track about 2.5 miles away and, due to the early morning runs and cramps I am always plagued with, I ideally spend a lot of time warming up. I jogged twenty minutes slow, then ran two miles on the track in 11:22, (5:44 for mile 1 and 5:38 for mile 2). This two miler before the workout is something that I have been trying in this training cycle with a lot of success. It is a big help to get limber and gives me a feel for a faster pace before hitting something hard. After the two mile, I took the jacket and spandex off, leaving me in shorts and a tee shirt, and run 3x100m strides on the infield, skipping 100m in between the fast strides. Then I am on the line.

The early pacing is always a problem for me so I try to check my watch at each 200 meter mark for the first 600 meters. For my first lap I was out in 77 seconds, which obviously was not great pacing. The good news was that the calves felt better and I could start coming off the pace. The pick-up lap is dreaded the entire workout because it does not allow you to settle in to any sort of pacing and after it is hard to control the breathing again. When I hit the first 1200 in 3:57 (after 2 consecutive laps of 80) I felt good, so my obvious thought was why should I pick it up? This 5:20 is close to race pace and a 70 second pick up could mess this ‘good’ feeling up. The next 400 was done in 72, crossing the mile in 5:09. Now, my legs were wobbly and the breathing had elevated a lot. I remember cursing in my head trying to recall what 80 second laps felt like but I dialed it back in and crossed the next 1200 meter in four minutes flat. Then, I clipped off another 72 second lap for a 5:12 mile and 10:21 through two. The breathing was now the toughest part to control. The next 1200 was scraped together in 4 minutes flat again and I was pumped to see two perfectly paced 1200s in a row. I started really working the last 400 but my legs did not want to move and I ran a 74 last lap, 5:14 for the mile, and 15:36 overall for the 3 mile.

I started jogging the mile and a random person who was watching joined the interval with me. He asked a lot of questions about my training, my race plans, how fast I was going and so on. I am not sure why but I get this a lot when I’m working out. I am very grateful that people are curious about my running but what a bad time to be answering questions. I never want to be rude but at that point being tired and trying to analyze the first set of the workout selfishly occupied all my thoughts. He did not seem to mind my lack of attention anyway. I hit this slow rest mile in 7:30, parted ways with my new friend and then it was time for the last mile.

Often, as is the case when I am tired, I just try to let myself run and try not to worry about the splits. I start and stop the watch but I try not to glare at it during sets; I just want to run. Also, getting caught up in splits can affect the workout and get into your head for races. I keep telling myself “the work for the race is done already, just relax, be tough, be smart”. I started the watch and just let myself run, and hit a 4:59 for the closing mile. A little slower then planned but not bad. Then I stopped, put the clothes on and ran 20:37 for the nearly 3 mile cool down.

Five days later I ran a PR of 1:08:41 for the half marathon! That’s a 5:14 mile pace, the same split as mile 3 in the tempo.

Coach Bessette wraps it up:

I always enjoyed this workout because of the changing of paces. It stimulates racing while allowing you to settle back into a pace that I thought Jacob could run for 30k.  The continuous running forces you to adjust your paces to a manageable effort and to train your body to become a metronome.  At times Jacob has had some difficulty in racing with pacing and there is nothing better than getting on a track to address this weakness.  In this cycle we also added his longer warm up that incorporates a few miles at 5:45 pace to warm him up as he was having some issues with cramping.

After the warm up, he does some dynamic stretching and strides and gets into the three mile interval.  The workout really is geared to establish pace and forces you to scale back after the 400 meter pick up.  If not you will pay for it later on, I will promise you that.  This is not meant to be gut busting by any means but to show confidence in a pace that physically and mentally you can handle.  Jacob was a bit tired going into the final mile but still that last mile is icing on the cake.  He finished confident and ready to race…what it did was establish a new PR when he thought his training was lagging.  The confidence that came has him planning on major things this Fall.

Personally, this is a workout that I’m really looking forward to incorporating into my training once I can get going again. Pacing has always been a problem for me, and once I got my hands on a Garmin, I think it just got worse. Being able to comfortably slip into a rhythm, especially in a longer race like a marathon, is just so important, and you’ll have a much harder time trying to do that if you don’t have confidence in your own pacing abilities. Good luck to Jacob this fall!

Negative Splits: The Helen Dinan Session

Helen Dinan is a Whirlaway teammate of mine, and her name came up a while back when I was talking to Reno about his own Negative Splits piece. Reno had mentioned her a few times and spoke glowingly of her and the way she runs. I know she’s a talented runners and was curious to see for myself just what she was doing and what exactly Reno had her doing.

After contacting Helen and setting up this week’s segment, I got in touch with Coach Reno, who had this to say:

Helen was a basketball star in college and is new to running. Doing the speed was to help bring out that speed she had as a basketball player and to make the longer races feel easier. Having that speed background, it was just a matter of time before she became very comfortable [doing speed work]. Now the speed is showing up in her longer intervals and long runs. With two shorter races in the Grand Prix coming up I expect her to set some PR’s.

Helen at the Newton 10k back in June (courtesy of Krissy Kozlosky)

Here’s Helen Dinan on her speed workout from this week:

Up until the past year (when I started working with Reno), the shortest intervals I would ever do on the track were 800′s. I figured that I was training for a marathon, so what good would anything shorter do? Besides, I hated going short and “fast”. Short distances always made me feel so slow! By the time I got into a groove and was finally able to get the legs going, the interval would already be over.

Things have changed a lot since then. Short intervals have become a regular part of my training now. Once a week I will hit the track for a workout that consists of anything from 200′s to 800′s. This past Tuesday the workout was a simple 8×400 with a 200 recovery. Here’s how it went:

3:50 AM – Wake up (Yes, that says AM…I’m one of THOSE people and will do anything to not have to run late in the day unless it’s an easy run.)

4:10 AM – 4 mile warm-up run over to the track. There’s a nice little uphill that rattles my confidence about the upcoming workout. Maybe next time I’ll drive over. I say this every time, but every Tuesday I seem to find myself trudging up that damn hill.

4:40 AM – Arrive at track for some quick stretching and a couple of strides. I’m already drenched in sweat. VERY HUMID, 70+ degrees and the sun’s not even up. I’m glad it’s one of Reno’s “short and sweet” workouts.

4:50 AM – Begin workout: 8×400, 200 recovery jog

(1) 1:23
(2) 1:19
(3) 1:18
(4) 1:18
(5) 1:17
(6) 1:18
(7) 1:17
(8) 1:16

The first repeat is always my slowest, but this one was just awful. My legs felt really sluggish despite the strides. Apparently I should have taken Reno up on his suggestion of doing one or two 200s beforehand just to shake the legs out. After all, it’s only 5AM. How much can I really expect?!

The second one felt MUCH better, and I was happy to see that it was a smidge below 1:20. The next two were similar efforts, but I was able to knock off another second. On the 5th repeat, I pushed a little harder and was able to hit a 1:17 which matches the fastest I’ve ever hit in one of these workouts.

After the hard effort, the next one seemed a little more difficult and I lost a second. With only two more to go, I made the decision to push it. I was happy to see the 1:17 again. During my recovery jog, I wondered if 1:15 was a possibility. I was tired, but I wasn’t dead. I went for it. I didn’t see the 1:15, but I finished pretty close with a 1:16.2. Maybe next time!

5:15 AM – 3 mile semi-fast cooldown home (7:00 avg pace with last mile at 6:45)


Overall, I was very pleased with this workout. It’s not a fancy workout by any means, but sometimes simple can be just as effective, if not more! My times seem to be improving with every workout. Just a few weeks ago, I was working hard for 1:20s and 1:21s in the same workout. Now I’m consistently at 1:18 and 1:17. I wouldn’t consider myself fast, but I’m definitely getting fastER! The shorter intervals are improving my speed, and I notice a difference when I run long now too. Things are starting to feel easier. Reno prescribes longer intervals for my workout later in the week, but my preference seems to have changed. Now I dread the mile repeats more than the 400s!

The Level respects that type of effort, that’s what it is all about! Gonna be a hot day? Wake up at 3:50 am! It’s very interesting to see how she progressed (and quickly at that). Good luck to Helen, hopefully we’ll see that speed work pay off for her in her coming races.

Negative Splits: The Ian Nurse Session

Back at the end of June, I was sitting in Harvard Square with the Level Brain-trust when Joe Navas started telling us a of race he ran that morning. The race was the Chatham Harbor Run 10k, and Joe’s chief competition (as is typically the case there ) was the one and only Ian Nurse. The light bulb flickered on, and right then I knew I had to get Ian involved in one of these workout segments. He’s a nice guy and a fast runner and totally On The Level, so he was perfect for it.

I approached Ian with this and he was very willing to help, offering this:

One workout that has become a bit of a staple for me during my marathon build-up is the 10 mile warmup/10 mile marathon pace run. I did it for the first time in 2007 with Terry Shea at the Harvard 10 miler.

Sounds perfect! Some quick background stats on Ian:

Marathon pr: 2:26, CIM 2010

1/2 Marathon pr: 1:09:31 Run for the Roses 2009

total number of marathons: 18

Winner of the 2011 Portland, Ore marathon (2:27), Second place finisher at 2011 Seattle marathon

Ian crossing the line victoriously in Portland

Here’s Ian and his nasty workout:

I still remember the shock and disbelief I felt when my two running coaches (and best running friends), Terry Shea and Pat Callahan, told me the plan for the upcoming weekend long run:

“You want me to run a 10 mile warm-up and then go run a 10 mile race?” I’m sure I’m leaving out a few choice words that were exchanged but you can sense my doubt in their logic. Did they not realize that I was in the midst of a very high mileage cycle in my training for the New York City Marathon and hoping to just make it through a long run in one piece? I was six weeks out and struggling! I had just run 125 miles the week before and this week was shaping up to be over 130. How about a little pity, guys?

The answer was, sadly, no. It was time to push; to test myself and see how my legs would respond. Thankfully, I would have company in this prescribed misery. Terry, a 2:20 marathoner and two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, would be joining me. For some reason, that didn’t quell my apprehension.

Despite my protests, the plan was set: Terry and I would arrive early to the Harvard Applefest 10 Miler and do a progression run on the course before the actual race. We would time it perfectly so that we would have just enough time to change into our racing flats, grab a drink and gel and then get on the line with the other 400+ runners, some of which were the best in New England, as the race was part of the Grand Prix that year. There was a catch in the plan though. Despite the fact that I was lining-up against some of my favorite competitors, I was not to run faster than my desired marathon pace of 5:40 min/mile (I had just broken 2:30 for the first time in London that spring and wanted to PR in NYC).

“This was not a race!” This was a “workout” in preparation for my main goal, and I could not lose sight of it. Terry and Pat stressed this point so much that Pat actually bet me dinner that I couldn’t stick to my pace. The challenge had been laid.

As my sister lived in Harvard, I was familiar with the beautiful yet hilly roads of this central Mass town. Neither of us had ever run the race though so Terry thoughtfully printed off a map to carry with us. We set off on our first lap of the course, map in hand and a seventy minute cushion to get back and ready for the race. Terry turned out to be not only an excellent navigator but also a torrid pace setter. The progression run soon turned into a six min/mile gallop. Despite the challenging course, we were done before we knew it, finishing the loop in 1:03:00 (and giving us seven minutes to spare). After a quick shoe change and some re-fueling, we were back on the line. I remember looking around at my fellow runners at the front and thinking, “They look a lot fresher than I do!” I reminded myself a few times that, “this wasn’t a race”. I had to stick with the plan! A few teammates had heard what Terry and I were planning and looked at us with mixed expressions of admiration and pity. My own expression was mixed as well as part of me wondered if I would be able to keep my competitive side in check while the other part of me questioned whether I would even have enough energy to maintain my goal pace.

As the gun went off, I realized just how different this race would be for me. It was a relief not to be chasing after my competitors and immediately strategizing as to which pack to join. I was running my own pace regardless of how I placed in the race. Instead of the usual stress I experience in the first few miles of a race as I settle into my groove, I felt encouraged to have so many people surrounding me in the middle of a workout. The ten mile warm-up seemed ages ago. As the miles fell by, I found myself running with lots of different people. I tried to help each runner (and myself) by giving him or her some company for a little while. Just like in cycling, there is strength in numbers and I could feel myself feeding off their energy. Only a few times did I have to check myself not to try and accelerate as I saw a runner up ahead. “Stick to the plan! Don’t let Pat win the bet!!” With a mile to go, I was right on pace. Again, I was tempted to give into my competitive side and try to pass all the runners that had gone out too fast in the opening miles and were paying the price now. At the same time, I was definitely starting to feel the long warm-up and was ready to have this workout over.

As I crossed the finish line, I looked at my watch; I was two seconds over my goal time!! I had not only won the bet with Pat but I had finished one of the hardest workouts I had ever done. I rejoined Terry who had run his own pace for the race (way faster than mine) and we jogged one of the shortest cool down runs ever! It was great. After so many miles already in our legs, an easy mile was all we needed to flush out the legs.

Six weeks later, I would PR in New York. It wasn’t by much, but considering the difference in courses between London and NYC, I was not only happy but sold on the importance of my new favorite workout. Despite my initial fear and doubts, the “10w/u-10mp” workout has become a staple in my marathon training.

Before the Portland, Ore. Marathon this past fall, my training partner, John Keane, and I ran a similar type of workout four times throughout our twelve week training cycle (see below for exact workouts). The roles were now reversed and it was funny to see John’s initial reaction when I proposed the idea. I think his exact words were, “You’re crazy!” Crazy or not, I have no doubt that those marathon specific workouts not only gave us a physical edge but also a mental one over our competitors. I remember thinking to myself at mile 16 as I took the lead for the first time, “Just another 10 mile marathon pace workout”. After John and I placed first and second at the race, his initial questioning of the “10w/u-10mp” workout, too, was erased!

Pre-Portland Long warm-up workouts:

Weeks out from Marathon

W/UP miles

MP miles








12 of a ½ marathon race*










*Workout was supposed to be a complete ½ marathon but, unfortunately, we were directed off course at mile 11.

Some important tips:

  • Find a fun race that will also have lots of people running your goal workout pace so you have people to help you.
  • While somewhat boring, it’s really helpful to run this workout on a loop course if you can’t include a race. By doing so, you will be able to plant fluids and gels along the way so that you can access them at different points of the workout.
  • Challenge yourself to get as close as possible to your goal pace. It’s easy to get caught up in the competition of a race and loose track of the overall goal.
  • Give yourself enough time to get ready for the race but not too much time. Getting back to the start with 5-10 minutes is ideal but may affect your ability to use the bathrooms. Keep this in mind.
  • This is an ideal workout to practice using gels. Test out what flavors you like and how you want to carry them.
  • It’s okay to run the warm-up slow! The most important component of this workout is stressing your legs when they are already tired. Running a slow warm-up will definitely fatigue your muscles enough to achieve this. Running your goal pace in the workout portion is the key.
Wow, that was one heck of a workout. I’m finding it very hard to keep reading and posting these things without feeling the urge to lace ‘em up and get right out on the roads to try them out myself. Until I can do that, I’m going to have to keep living vicariously through Level Legion. Keep on nailing the workouts, and let us know how you do!
Contact Form Powered By : XYZScripts.com