>Fun with Speed Play

>So, I’m in the midst of training for 3 half-marathons in less than 3 months (see here for info).  As luck would have it, the training plan I’m following involves weekly speed work.  This is a good thing..and a not so good thing. 

Why a “good” thing?  Well…I’m not a fast runner.  I’m not glacial slow, but you’d never confuse me with a Kenyan.  It’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve considered myself reasonably fast.  I do remember, though, my HS track coach drilling in our heads that in order for us middle distance runners (800 & 1600m) to get fast, we had to do lots of speed work.  Back in the day, speed work meant one of two things.  Repeats on the track or fartlek.  I guess it worked back then…so hopefully it will work now and help me become a faster runner.

Why is speed work a “not so good” thing?  Well, where I live, the only tracks in close proximity are at two high schools.  Both are within a 5 minute drive from my house – and one is exactly 3 miles away…I could run there and use that as a warm-up run.  The sucky thing is that, for whatever reason, the Florida school powers-to-be decided that football fields (and thus tracks) must be locked up tighter than a Federal prison.  There’s absolutely NO WAY little old Tri Madness can get access to one of the tracks to do 400m repeats or anything “fun” like that.

So this brings me to the title of this post…Speed Play.  You see, fartlek is a Sweedish term for speed play.  What exactly is fartlek?  Well, for starters, it has absolutely nothing to do with yesterday’s Mexican dinner.  Basically, fartlek is a less structured way to do interval training than lap repeats on a track.  Instead of running set distances with a set time (for example, 400m @ 75 seconds with 200m recovery jog), you can run at a higher intensity or pacing for a pre-determined (and variable) time, and then slow to a recovery pace, again for a pre-determined time or distance.  Or, you can just pick up the pace between fire hydrants.  Light pole to light pole.  For city dwellers, block to block.  Fire ant hill to the next fire ant hill (OK…those of you that live in the south know that this typically is only one or two steps, and therefore not a good example). 

Saturday morning, I did a nice little fartlek workout.  Nothing too hard – a mile warm up, and then 2 miles of pick-ups.  They ranged from 2/10ths to 4/10ths of a mile (courtesy Garmin), with generally equal active (slow) recovery.  During my pick-ups I focused on form:  loose shoulders, 90 degree angles at the elbow, midfoot strike, easy breathing.  Things I try to focus on when I’m kicking at the end of a race.  Things Coach Arnold used to beat into my head back in high school.

Did I feel faster?  Not yet, that’s for sure.  Will I?  I sure hope so.  I’m kicking around some time goals for the 1/2 marathon series, and in order to meet them, I’ll need to get faster than I am today.

Thanks for reading.  Now go out and fartlek!

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3 thoughts on “>Fun with Speed Play

  1. >One thing to add to your "focus" during speed work (and really just about any run other than the super slow recovery jogs) is to count steps. Specifically, you want to maintain an even 90 footstrike per minute count. Start by just counting 45 strikes per 30 seconds and you'll start to get into a good flow. Its amazing how form will follow with a perfect cadence. For what it's worth, a former D1 collegiate runner (x-c and track) who coaches the youth team with me, didn't believe me until I had him count his own cadence. Time after time he came in exactly at 90. May not make you a D1 athlete but you'll look like one :)JB

  2. >That really sucks that you don't have access to tracks! I actually have one about 1.5 miles from my house and I do run there occasionally! Unfortunately, running in circles makes me feel like a gerbil on a wheel so I don't do it very often!Good luck with your speed work!

  3. >I never really understood the locking up of a track. I know a lot of places do. Thankfully I have two nice (probably the two nicest in the state) tracks 1 mile from my house that are open to the public when the school isn't using them.

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