Adding Intensity Back In

After my last post, my Maffetone experiment officially ended and I started adding in some intensity.  One thing I learned from my FTP test was that I might not need as much intensity as I’ve done in the past to maintain my threshold.  My threshold has been between 285-305 for several years now so I decided that this year, rather than beating myself up all winter hoping for a few more watts, I’d take a chance and let go a little bit on the bike and see if I could improve my running.  My bike is generally strong enough to get me to my goals, but my run needs work, and I’m banking on being able to get my bike fitness back quickly since that’s been my strength. 

In the few weeks following my threshold test, I did 3 hard bike workouts.  The rest were either easy or a mix of zone 2 and 3.  A month after my test, I did another FTP test…a spontaneous test.  I loaded a route on Cycleops Virtual Training and picked a couple of virtual partners to race against for a threshold workout.  I got going and felt really good so I decided to continue after the “race” ended and finish off the hour.  To my surprise, I held 310 watts for 60 minutes, an all-time PR by 2 watts.  Just 3 really hard workouts got me from 295 to 310.  Normally I do about 2 hard bike workouts per week, plus a ride that includes a mix of zone 2 and 3, so I was very surprised to set a PR on only a few hard workouts (lots and lots of tempo though – my entire 12 weeks of MAF).

You can see where MAF ended and my easier rides started because my avg drops quite a bit.

Running -  Rather than running the same intensity all the time like I did when I was doing MAF, I backed off a bit on my “easy” runs (easy in quotes because I only backed off a bit and am not running very easy anymore) and added some tempo runs as well as 800s.  I’ve also been using the treadmill more than in the past, partly because it’s winter in WI but also because the treadmill doesn’t beat me up as much so I can log more miles and recover quicker.  I’ve been doing my 800s on the treadmill, which has allowed me to target a really specific pace and finish the workout without feeling so beat up.  I’ve also been doing most of my long runs on the treadmill, which has been kind of nice because Courtney has been riding the trainer while I run.  We don’t get to work out together very often so this works out well. 

A couple of weeks ago we had some nice weather on a day I was supposed to do a tempo run at lunch.  I ran my usual route, doing a mile warm up, 6 miles of tempo and a mile cool down.  Normally, I’m between 6:50 and 7:10 pace for tempo on this route so I was really happy to hold a 6:32 average pace this time.  That’s a pretty solid improvement.  Maybe the Maffetone training worked, and it helped me rebuild from my injury and give me a big base to build off.

These are all my runs on my tempo run route.  They're not all tempo runs though.

Despite a good tempo run, I had some lingering doubt on my running improvements.  For weeks, I had been doing long runs on the treadmill.  I felt like I was getting quality workouts, but I do find the treadmill a little easier than outdoors so I feared that I was losing my ability to sustain the pounding of the outdoors for long runs.  With Ironman Texas less than 3 months away, this was starting to hurt my confidence, and one good tempo run wasn’t enough to build that back up. 

Fortunately, this past weekend we got a good blast of spring weather.  I’ve been doing my long runs on Thursdays after work and I mixed up my week so I could run long on the weekend in the warm weather.  My route was pretty flat and with 15-20 mph winds predicted I decided to do a double out and back so I wouldn’t have to deal with the wind in my face for a really long stretch.  

Double out and back on the bike path.

This was easily my best long run ever.  Normally, a good zone 2 long run would have me running a 7:30-7:50 pace.  I expected faster than that because my MAF pace at the end of my experiment was around 7:10 so I was hoping for that or maybe even a tad quicker.  What I didn’t expect was a 6:50 average pace for 14 miles.  I actually felt like a runner out there.  I felt smooth and surprisingly comfortable at a sub-7 minute pace.  It was a great run and really good for confidence. 

My Ironman run PR is 3:26 and I’d love to run 3:20-3:25 at Texas, but if I plan on running that pace in the heat and humidity after riding 112 miles I need to be able to (somewhat) comfortably hold ~ 7 minute miles on a 50 degree day with no bike before my run.  There’s still a ton of work to do in the next few months, but for right now I feel like I’m sitting in a good spot.