Sunday, May 13, 2012

Run Less, Run Faster Success

I trained for my second marathon with the Run Less, Run Faster program. The plan consisted of 3 quality runs plus 2 aerobic cross training workouts per week. The three quality runs were (1) track repeats, (2) a tempo run (6 – 8 miles at a pace faster than my marathon pace), and (3) a long run. For my cross training, I choose to swim 60 – 90 minutes with a Masters team. I also strength trained three times a week, as encouraged by the book.

I improved my marathon time by 18 minutes, walked less during the race, and recovered more quickly. I believe that each of the components of the RLRF contributed to my improvements. The biggest improvements, though, were mental!

Track Repeats. The purpose of the track repeats is to improve max VO2 running speed and running economy. Since I did not measure my VO2 max before and after the training, I can’t claim an improvement. I do think my running economy improved, as I was much less fatigued during the race. My biggest gain from the track repeats was a mental tolerance of pushing past my comfort limits. My last mile of the race was my fastest. I was extremely uncomfortable as I sprinted the last .2 miles, but called upon my training experience to keep pushing.

Tempo Runs. The tempo runs aim to raise the lactate threshold so that the runner is less limited by muscle fatigue, resulting in the ability to maintain a faster pace. I saw concrete results. 2012 Flying Pig marathon paces (with 2011 in parentheses):

6.8 miles: 10:41 (2011: 10:43)
13.1 miles: 10:32 (2011: 10:42)
19.7 miles: 10:37 (2011: 11:11)
26.2 miles: 10:54 (2011: 11:36)
Last mile: 10:02 (2011: 10:39)

This year, I succeeded in maintaining a more consistent pace and a faster overall pace without overly fatiguing my muscles. I had the energy left for a strong finish!

Long Runs. Long runs improve endurance by raising aerobic metabolism. I did long runs last year, but this year’s runs were longer. (My plan had five 20 mile runs. I attempted three and completed two.) I didn’t feel an aerobic difference during this year’s marathon, but I had mental gains. Thanks to more experience with long runs, I better managed my pace, hydration, and fueling during the run. I also developed mental tolerance for maintaining hours of repetitive motion.

Cross Training and Strength Training. Cross training allows the runner to work the heart and lungs, while giving the running muscles a break. Strength training builds both the muscles directly used in running and those used to support the rest of the body during activity. I believe these activities made huge contributions to my performance. I was able to run hard, but less often, yet maintain my aerobic fitness in the pool. I stayed injury free by minimizing the repetitive motion and stress of running, working non-running muscles, and strengthening the muscles around my joints. I was able to maintain a strong running form, even during the last few miles of the race, thanks to strong abdominal and back muscles. My adductors and abductors (aching during the final five miles, last year) did not fatigue. The day after the race, the only soreness I felt at all was in my quadriceps. (Note to self: do more squats.)

As I wrote blog posts, detailing each component of the RLRF training, I made mental strides in understanding the science of running. By researching lactate threshold and glycogen usage, I finally understood why I should start a run at a slower pace. Starting the race at my goal pace and maintaining it minimized the lactate build-up in my muscles and spared my glycogen stores. I did not experience leaden legs and did not “hit the wall.” The concepts of metabolism are not overly complicated, but I never seriously considered them until I had to explain the concepts to others. Not only did I become a faster runner, but I became a smarter runner, too!

I will absolutely use the Run Less, Run Faster program, again. I don’t intend to complete another marathon (too many competing interests!), but the book includes plans for 5K, 10K, and half-marathon training. After the Pike’s Peak half-marathon, this summer, I will begin training for shorter distances and work on speed. I’ll be running less and running even faster.

Runner’s World Run Less Run Faster is written by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss. I first checked out a copy from the library, and then purchased my own copy on Amazon.

Sporty Sunday is a recurring feature in which I share my fitness routine and offer and solicit advice. While this content might seem a little out of place in an outfit diary, a healthy, strong body is the foundation of my wardrobe. I hope to inspire my readers to be fit as well as stylish!


Rachel S said...

Great article, like always! I am very much impresses with your work..

ismay said...

Awesome that you improved, and felt so much better on the run! Congratulations! I am curious though, did you have a goal in mind for pace improvement? Was the 19 min as expected/more/less that the training plan predicted?

Kasmira said...

ismay - my plan predicted 12 min miles, but I decided to go for my demonstrated 20 mile pace (10:40) on race day.

Reva said...

Hi Kasmira!
I am planning to go from walking to jogging very soon and do you have any sage advise or tips to improve my odds for success for this transition/ My knees and ankles are a bit weak. Surface tips or shoe tips?

monica said...

Congratulations on your improved run time. I have to agree with you that less but better quality training = better performance. Best of luck on Pike's Peak. We hiked part of the Barr Trail last summer and it was challenging.

Kasmira said...

Reva, my answer is a little long, so I'll respond in an upcoming Sporty Sunday.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. I've looked through the book and it is quite specific about how you taper the running in the couple of weeks before the marathon. It doesn't mention anything about tapering on the cross-training activity however. Did you taper off on the swimming before your marathon or did you keep up with the same swim workouts?

Kasmira said...

Anon - I did taper the cross training. I detailed my tapering plan for swimming and lifting here: