a return to blocks of four

lonely road – original image © https://pixabay.com/photos/street-road-desert-dry-drought-351481/

Still in the midst of no man’s land ‘training’, I found myself back in the familiar context of blocks of four this weekend. It wasn’t my idea – “an older boy told me to do it!”

Blocks of four is the training run model that distilled from all my experimental long runs last year. After much trial and error of breaking up 18-to-22-mile runs into different segments, the 4-mile block of effort with a brief rest between is what worked best for me. I adopted it for my last official marathon too as a race strategy and although the day didn’t go 100% according to plan, it did result in a significant PB for me.

Long runs however, relatively speaking, are not a thing at the moment. So, for this ‘long run’, a 14-mile route was chosen. Eight miles of a 14-mile effort at target pace or below. That fits my basic model of >50% of the long run at target pace.

analysis

In recent weeks I have tried to focus on even and consistent pacing for my runs throughout the week. Success is observed in summary view of these runs, mile splits very close together irrespective of hills. On closer inspection though, the ebb and flow of pace is very apparent, even on the flatter sections of splits.

Thus the splits below, while looking reasonably tight on first glance, must be exposed as ‘bouncy’. The first of the blocks of four was the best. The second might look tight with respect to the times, the average almost identical in fact, but the heart rate gives it away. I worked so much harder and suffered greatly to sustain what should be a comfortably uncomfortable pace for me.

even pacing has been my target recently and these two blocks of four aren't entirely awful
even pacing has been my target recently and these two blocks of four aren’t entirely awful

The charts below illustrate the session perfectly as I remember it. The blocks of four largely indistinguishable due to the erratic pacing and then that cliff edge at the end for the two-mile cool down. Sure, it didn’t have to be run any faster but the problem was I couldn’t run it any faster. Performance Condition scores paint a dim picture from early on, dropping sub-par nearly as soon as the warm-up ended.

a complete and utter suffering, just look at that heart rate data!
a complete and utter suffering, just look at that heart rate data!

Heart rate in context of zones… I don’t know what to say or even where to start. Just awful; truly awful. I will not even attempt to explain it, I suffered terribly and inexplicably (view Garmin data).

Zone 4 for nearly the entire session with six miles taken easy – that's a very bad day at the office
Zone 4 for nearly the entire session with six miles taken easy – that’s a very bad day at the office

summary

A bad day at the office – that’s about the only way to sum it up. We all have them; I’ve had them before and I’ll have them again. That’s all part of any sport. In my mind there were considerations perhaps. I was preparing for a small medical procedure on Monday and it was weighing on me somewhat. It’s no excuse of course, 14 miles at that pace should have been comparatively comfortable. After all, last week I ran much faster, continually, over almost the same distance in the half marathon speed check. Recuperate and go again!

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