Training Update 4/3 through 4/15: Two Weeks Until Lusaka Half Marathon

The last two weeks of training have been solid. My body began to protest after three weeks at 100plus miles in 6 days and so these past two weeks have seen a reduction in volume, though no backing off in terms of intensity. It seems to have worked. The workouts have been good and my body has recovered well between sessions. In two weeks we head to Lusaka, Zambia for a half marathon, a test to see how all this training is paying off. Let’s take a closer look at the work from the last two weeks.

Monday, April 3rd – Fartlek session behind the Institute for Sport with Francis and a few others. We had a ladder planned for on the track, but we did two workouts on the track last week and it was getting old, so we moved off the track and onto the dirt roads of the grounds. Fartlek was broken up like this: 2,3,4,5,5,4,3,2 with half rest. Goal was to be running 5:00/mile or faster on the hard sections, with a slow jog between. We came close to that, with the few exceptions being some reps where we had to climb some nasty hills, but even those hovered only slightly above goal pace so all-in-all not too bad. Afternoon run of 3 miles netted me 18 total miles for the day.

Tuesday, April 4th – Recovery day. Morning semi-long run with 14 miles in 1:39:55, so 7:08/mile. Came back in the afternoon for a very easy 4 miles in 30:07 just to road out the day at 18 miles.

Wednesday, April 5th – We headed back to the Air-Wing this week for some more long tempo action. This week the total time climbed again to 60 minutes. Pace was a little slower than two weeks ago, but we started in a different place, which put the long climb in this loop right at the end where it hurt the most. But overall still a very good workout. We got in 11 miles at 5:26/mile. That’s the second fastest long tempo effort we’ve run this training cycle. Afternoon shake loose of 5.81 miles to get in another 18-mile day.

Thursday, April 6th – My body has rebelled against me. Morning easy run was a death march of 11.33 miles in 1:30:01, so 7:57/mile. Just tired, sore, and energy levels are low. Napped in the late morning and cancelled the second run for the day.

Friday, April 7th – Back at it today with speed work on the track. 15x200m with 200m recovery jog between. Goal was for these to be around 32-30 seconds. A master’s runner who’s been coming more frequently now decided today would be his day and blasted the first few reps. The rest of us hung back around 32-31 seconds. I assumed he would not last and was correct as by rep number 4 or 5 he was off the back. My splits for the session were 32,31,32,31,32,31,32,31,31,31,31,30,30,28,28. The 28s were a real surprise to me as I don’t recall the last time I broke 29 for a 200. A good sign that my injection of speed work every other week is keep the fast twitch fibers firing. Afternoon run was a broken up 4 miles as I ran to meet with a friend and then ran back after our meeting. 18 miles for the day.

Saturday, April 8th – Woke up feeling terrible. Stomach upset and bowel issues. Jogged a very slow 3 miles to the track, then after a terrible bathroom experience in the bush, decided an easy hour was all I was going to muster today and jogged back home. 8.05 miles in 1:07:20, 8:22/mile.

Sunday, April 9th – A very much needed rest day after a tough week. Got in around 91 miles with three workouts. Resting up this weekend as next week promises to be even more taxing.

Monday, April 10th – With the Lusaka Half Marathon approaching soon we’re tapping the speed again today with a short fartlek. 30 minutes of 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy. Francis and the master’s runner took me to a familiar course a short run from the institute. The rolling hills make for some challenging climbs but also some great downhill surges. My Garmin GPS watch had paces of 5:11 to 4:26/mile on the hard sections showing the range of difficulty or assistance this course can offer during simple 1 minute surges. During the 30 minutes we covered 4.53 miles. Easy afternoon 3-mile run to make it 14 miles for the day. As we approach the race I’m trying to balance the need to rest with the desire to not completely taper for this race. My last several weeks have been a study in consistency as each day has hovered around the same daily mileage except for the long run. With the need to recover thrown in Coach Mann has recommended I bring down the daily mileage on a few days, but leave a few full mileage days in each week to keep the legs from resting too much.  My pretty training log of 5 straight days of the exact same mileage will be no more, at least for the next few weeks.

Tuesday, April 11th – True recovery day. An easy 10 miles in around 1:13:30. No afternoon run as I let my legs recover from yesterday.

Wednesday, April 12th – Another recovery day, though mileage is back up today. Morning run of 12.27 miles in 1:27:49, 7:10/mile. Afternoon brought some G.I. problems and my run was cut a little short as I rushed home for the bathroom. 3.95 miles in 29:33. Daily total around 16 miles.

Thursday, April 13th – Three days of fun starts today. A few years back Coach Mann came back from a High Altitude Training Conference with a new training idea. Super-compensation (Supercomp for short) was working for the cross-country skiers, why not distance runners? Supercomp basically involves applying a heavy training load on the body for three days, then resting the following three to four days to let the body completely recover from the load. The body feels this sudden increase in workload and responds with an adaptation. The work, if carried too long would lead to injury or exhaustion, but if done right and allowed to recover properly you see a nice bounce in fitness. We usually do this about 14-15 days out from a competition and have been some good results. I’ve also tried to come back too quickly and been toast for a week after. We’re shooting for the good results this time.

So today is day one of Supercomp. Workout is 3×15 minutes at Tempo Effort with 5 minutes rest between each. With two days of recovery before this I was feeling fresh. It became clear rather quickly that I was not the only one. The first 15 minutes was both amazing, but also the death of my workout in the later stages. We ran 3.02 miles, roughly 4:58/mile. I haven’t seen much sub 5 work on the roads since coming to Malawi, so this tells me the work is paying off. Unfortunately, I did not see any more sub 5 pace on this workout. The second 15 minute rep was respectable, 2.84 miles around 5:17/mile, but as we climbed a hill during the final few minutes I felt my legs giving out on me. The final rep was a nightmare. 2.67 miles at 5:38/mile, including a terrible climb where I read 6:00/mile for a long stretch of it. Overall 8.53 miles in 45 minutes of running, around 5:16/mile average. The quick first rep cost me later, but it felt good to get the legs moving. Easy afternoon shake loose of 3.21 miles to get in 17 miles for the day and get the Supercomp started right.

Friday, April 14th – Day 2 of Supercomp. Today we headed to the track for 10x1000m repeats with around 1:30 rest. Francis crushed yesterday’s workout but early on during this one it became clear he may have been racing yesterday as he struggled to hold on after the first few reps. I was looking for some redemption after the blow up yesterday and hoped to make these fast. I shook the junk out of my legs with a first rep of 3:04 and then things picked up. Splits were as follows:


10K worth of work with an average of 2:59/KM. This was exactly what I was looking for. We had run 12x1000m 4 or 5 weeks ago and had run around 3:02/km on similar rest. I was hoping to improve upon that, even though we had run the hard effort the day before. Got in 12 miles in the morning and took the afternoon off.

Saturday, April 15th – Final day of Supercomp. We always finish the Supercomp with a long run. Somewhere between 16-20 miles. I remember the first time we ever tried this I crawled through that long run. Today I had other plans. My body was tired, but I felt my energy levels were good and as I headed towards to the track to meet Francis I quickly pushed the pace down into the 6:30 range. I ran on the track for a while as I waited for Francis to arrive. Benzo, an 18-year old Malawian who’s very talented, was already at the track and I knew I’d have someone to help keep the pace quick, at least in the early stages. Everyone arrived and I gave them a few minutes into the run to get warmed up, but soon I was pushing and Benzo was right there with me. The pace heated up even as we climbed through the villages and headed out of town. Benzo continued to push and I began to see the pace dip below 6:00/mile. I was feeling good and wasn’t about to let him go so I ran a step behind and let him carry me along as children screamed and chickens and goats darted away while we tore through the sleepy villages. Here’s how the run broke down:


We had a long downhill stretch that really helped get us rolling, but we had to climb our way back out over the second half of the run. Francis and I found ourselves alone shortly after that 5:15 mile in the middle. All-in-all a very satisfying finish to the week. 20 miles in 2:01:26, 6:04/mile. I jogged a short cool-down back to the guesthouse just to keep from having to walk the whole way and  bring the weekly total to 90 miles. 90 looks so much more pleasing in my mind than 89.4. I’ll be resting tomorrow, no running, complete rest. Then the beginning of next week will be several days of easy running to recovery from the heavy work of the last three days. By Thursday I hope to be recovered and ready for our last big workout before the Lusaka Half Marathon. The biggest challenge between now and Thursday will be getting enough sleep and convincing Francis to stay calm on the easy days so we get a full recovery.


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