Post By: Darren Brown – Husband/Father/Coach
PHEW! This past week was a full one. Not only did Sarah do her first two workouts back on the road since the onset of her PGP, but she also turned 29 on Thursday, which we celebrated by heading to the track for her first session of the 2015/2016 year. Now, I know what you are thinking … “Why would you get on the track this early?” Well, in spite of what some may think, just because you get on the track, doesn’t mean you have to be doing “speed-work” (although we sort of did … in a way … I’ll explain below in the training insights section).
We workout at what I truly believe to be one of the best facilities in the country, UCSD. You see, not only does UCSD have a great track, but it also has a beautifully manicured, 800m grass field attached on one end and 5mi worth of dirt trails beside it. We went to the track with the option of doing the session on either the half-mile grass field loop or the track. Either way, we would have the opportunity to warm-up and cool-down on the soft grass or dirt trails. After warming up on the grass, Sarah and I decided that we would be better off doing the session on the track, where she wouldn’t have to worry as much about soft, unstable footing and could instead focus on form and effort.
On top of Sarah’s birthday, hill session and first track workout, this week also marked the “World Championships of Elliptical Cycling“. The race is hosted annually by ElliptiGO out on Palomar Mountain, an infamous cycling climb just outside San Diego. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Palomar, it’s an 11.69mi, 4209ft climb that has a constant 6-8% grade the entire way up the mountain. With how much Sarah has been riding, it seemed like a great opportunity to get in a long, steady effort, but without the pounding that could aggravate her PGP. Plus, because of the height and consistency of the grade, we knew that Sarah’s pace up the incline would likely be around 9mph, a pace that while hard at that grade, is still slower than some of her runs. I made Sarah wear a HR monitor and required that she slow down or stop for a moment if her HR ever got above 175. Even with those restrictions, Sarah was able to take home not only the win, but also the course record, finishing in 1:20:28. This time was 10min faster than her first attempt at the mountain a few months ago and over 5min faster than my estimated time for her to finish. Her fitness has definitely improved and her HR averaged 170bpm for the majority of the ride, a perfect threshold replication.
Here’s what the rest of her week looked like and a few insights about her training:
- On Monday, we decided to try our first quality workout on the roads since Sarah’s PGP has calmed down. I opted for a short hill session that would remove some of the pounding of running fast on flat terrain and left the workout open ended with an optional quality ElliptiGO session after. We assessed the workout hill by hill and, despite only planning for 6-8 hill repeats, Sarah felt good enough to go for a full 10. Then, after a mile of easy jogging, she jumped on the ElliptiGO and did a mixed workout of 2x8min threshold w/5min recovery and 4x1min hard w/1min recovery. The best part of the workout … it didn’t aggravate her hips!
- On Thursday, we returned to the track to test out a 3mi in/out session. The purpose of this
workout was two-fold. Not only did I want to test her ability to handle flat terrain in a threshold setting, but I also wanted to see if we could engage some higher turnover work in short bouts without causing irritation of Sarah’s PGP. This (and hills) may be her “speed-work” for a while, so I want to see what tools we still have to work with. As mentioned above, in an effort to control as many variables as possible, Sarah and I opted to do the quality running on the track, but utilized the soft surface of the grass for the warm-up and cool-down. I did not assign Sarah paces for this workout, but instead asked her to run by feel, striding out on the straights and coasting through the curves. I was very happy with the outcome. Sarah ran a smooth 5:05 pace on the straights and comfortably filled the gaps with 6:20 pace on the curves, averaging 5:45 across the entire 3mi. What’s even better is that this workout didn’t aggravate her hips any further either. Progress!
- Saturday brought the World Championships of Elliptical Cycling. Her performance here was a great benchmark for just how much her fitness has improved since returning to training. Sarah did this same ride her first week back to training and reached the top in a very respectable 1:30:00, only 1min 30sec off the course record, which was set the year before at the World Champs by Brooks’ Deb Maier. However, on Sarah’s second time up the mountain – and this time under strict HR regulation – she was able to cover the course in a quick 1:20:28, taking home not only the win, but the course record. Her HR averaged between 165-172 for 85-90% of the climb, replicating the same physiological stimulus we would regularly seek from a 10-12mi steady-state run. While Sarah will not be riding outside anymore after this weekend, we already know we can replicate these efforts on the stationary trainer by utilizing a high gear, steady cadence and HR monitor. This indoor version will be a regular piece of the training puzzle going forward.
- On Sunday, Sarah closed out the week with a solid 2hr+ ElliptiGO Chaser, which consisted of a 10mi run straight into a 60min ElliptiGO Chaser. This was a slightly longer LR effort than last week and, given that she still feels good, leads me to believe that we will have no problem getting up to 12mi in the next few weeks. Only time will tell …
We are going to be trying a few new tricks/sessions this coming week, but we are also going to be traveling to NYC mid-week for a New Balance event, which means we will have to be careful as to how much we push her PGP. We will continue to seek manual therapy to help with any imbalances that arise during travel, but may also make some conservative adjustments, trading a day or two of quality running for weeks of healthy training down the road. Check back next week to see how we managed the looming obstacles.