Saturday, February 16, 2013

Riri vs Treadmill

I have been thinking a lot about this post and how to phrase it, literally. This year, working on the treadmill has been very depressing for me and not only because I'm claustrophobic and I feel that I cannot breathe indoors without a fan blowing air in my face, but also because it made me discover my limits and as a result it feel like a huge failure. I know that I should not be so hard on myself, but what can I do, I am very competitive, especially with myself and I want to see results and I want to see them now, dammit!

My coach has been trying to make me work harder and faster, so I can improve my running speed. Maybe the method is not good for me, or the numbers are not appropriate to my current fitness level, or I am just a big wimp, but every time I've been trying to do these interval workouts on the treadmill I have been crashing hard, especially inside my head. I even cried like a baby a few times. Exhibit A, the last Tempo intervals workout geekery:

I was supposed to do the following: 5 min @ 6mph, 5 min @ 8mph, 5 min @ 5mph, 5 min @ 8mph, 5 min @ 5mph, 5 min @ 8mph, 5 min @ 5mph cooldown.

As usual, I could not complete all 3 "hard" intervals at 8mph, I could only run for 3 minutes in the last one. If you look at my heart rate, it is always close to max (192bpm) during those intervals and my cadence ends up above 200 strides per minute. I am way up there in Zone "Off the charts", when I should probably be in high Zone 4. I think I should not even run for more than a minute or two in that zone anyway. Yes, no?

By the way, here are my heart zones:

Note that my max HR is 194. When I run at 6.5mph, my heart rate is already in Zone 5. See last night's "relaxed" run on the treadmill again, Exhibit B:

Here I did 6 min @ 6mph, 25 min @ 6.5mph and 5 min cooldown at 6mph again. For almost the entire interval at 6.5mph, I was above 170bpm, with a cadence of 186. When I run "slowly" at 5mph, I usually run at a cadence of 180 strides per minute, so unlike other people who are training hard to reach this number, I am already there out of habit (and forefoot strike, methinks). Or short legs. Did I mention that I am 5'3"? But then, Mirinda Carfrae is also 5'3" and she runs a 2h53 marathon. Or Nicole, she kicks my ass with an average of 5:52min/km pace in training and is shorter by what... 3 inches? Seriously girl, how do you do it??

And since I'm comparing myself to everyone else (can't help it, sorry), here's the same type of workout, done by hubbs, with an average page of 4:30min/km, nonetheless. Because he can.

For crying out loud, he's making these look way too easy!!

So, back to my so called failures, am I pushing too hard, too soon? Am I killing myself with these intervals? I feel defeated, that's for sure. I don't know where to go from here, I know that I hit a limit, but should I push through and HTFU or accept it and dial down a bit? Coach is going to make me start hill repeats next, but my inquiring mind still wants to understand what is the limiting factor for me here, or rather what I should improve to go over this hump. I think that I should lengthen my stride so I don't go as high as 200 strides per minute (and once I get there, the heart should also slow down and magically I will be able to hold that pace... wishful thinking is a powerful thing). All this looks like madness to me right now. I wonder how the pros do it. Rinny, where are you when I need you? Bottom line: I am scared and I wish someone would tell me "you're going to be ok". Maybe this IS what it takes to get faster afterall...


(Going back to crawling in a fetal position and cuddling with my heating blankie)

UPDATE: I came across this excellent post on Training Peaks Blog: How to Get Faster with Interval Training. I found it very informative and it answered most of my questions on the subject. An excerpt is below:
The timing of your efforts is very important. If the efforts are too long, lactic acid will accumulate, VO2 max is stressed too much and you will be forced to slow down or not be able to complete the workout as planned due to undue fatigue. If they are too short, the total time at the optimal intensity is condensed and gains are reduced. Keep in mind that the goal is not to go as fast as possible for the work portion but rather to accumulate time at the desired pace. By completing these efforts at the correct intensity, namely 80-95% of VO2max, you will begin to notice significant performance improvement.
I think I know where to go from here: dial down the top speed and work on bringing the cadence down. Sounds like a plan.


  1. You are going to be okay. Intervals are supposed to be hard. I would love to try to do that run with you and you can see me die a slow death of fast running as well. HA. I have no idea what my stride/min rate is... I'm guessing I must be close to the "recommended" 190/min, but who knows? Remember, you will gain from these even if you have to split them up to smaller bits (3 mins, 1min rest, 2 mins). Also your training is way different then mine. I'm about getting faster in the run. You are looking at three sports and endurance. You can do it and you will. I may be faster then you today, but you'd kick my ass all over the pool and on the bike. The good thing about hills is that they are short. Embrace that! ;-)

    1. Haha, I have not used my CPR skills in a long time! Forget about death workouts, when are we going to do a run together, that won't slow you down too much? ;-) I'd love to meet you.

  2. Me and Jeff discussed this a bit today. Other than the obvious thing that going out of the prescribed zone means you should adjust the speed, we both have found that our consumer-grade treadmills are a more difficult run than actual pavement. Maybe it's something about how much bounce they build into the bed. You might find that running outside, or even at a gym on a commercial-grade machine, you can keep up with the prescribed speeds.

    1. Hey guys, thank you for giving me some perspective on this. As an FYI, I do all these treadmill runs on gym equipment. I tried 3 different treadmills at two separate gyms with the same result. I think it came to what you said, running out of the zone. Problem is that I wasn't given a zone, but a speed and obviously the speed is too fast for me. The treadmill bounce is nice on long runs though, it makes the landing softer.